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Eye On The Bay: Daytrip, Occidental

Brian Hackney and Thuy Vu head out for an overnight day trip to Occidental California, where they zip line through the canopy of the Sonoma Forest, have dinner in an historic hotel, shop the local shops, visit the radio station in town and bed down at the beautiful Inn at Occidental.

VIDEO: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3




Nobody should ever argue the claim that the San Francisco Bay Area has more daytrip itineraries than any region in the country.  Please, don't argue it, it's true!  One can go from ocean, to mountain, to tiny village, to hidden wineries all in a matter of half a day.  Just think what you can tack on if you invest a few more hours.


Occidental is a daytrip set for those who either want a calm afternoon in the redwoods, an adventure flying through the trees, or a stroll down its very small main street in search of relaxed dining and a little "mom and pop" shopping.  Plus, everything in this town is historic – the buildings, various remnants of the railroad and logging eras – so that's worth soaking up as you get "Bay Area" educated.  Here's what we tackled:


You don't have to be a thrill seeker to try this once in a lifetime eco-tour adventure.  Sonoma Canopy Tours is a fairly new operation, located a few miles north of Occidental proper and boy, do they have the business model figured out!  Participants are treated to a two and a half hour stunning experience, taking them on seven ziplines, with one reaching a spiral staircase, wrapped around a massive redwood.  Great way to soak up nature and have the time of your life!  ($79 weekends, $69 weekdays)

Eye On The Bay: Daytrip, Occidental
Eye On The Bay: Daytrip, Occidental

Sonoma Canopy Tours
6250 Bohemian Highway
Occidental, CA 95465
(888) 494-7868


While there's not a plethora of dining options, let's say that per capita, you're covered.  And the options are both historical and intimate.

For lunch, we stopped at Howard Station Café, which offers tasty salads and sandwiches, that all have that "little something extra in the taste" that makes Howard's a wise stop!  We feasted on a scrumptious Chinese Chicken Salad, recommended by wait-staff.  And if you're lucky to get there for breakfast, we hear they live up to the awards they've received for… "Best Breakfast in Sonoma County."

Howard Station Café
3811 Bohemian Highway
Occidental, CA 95465
(707) 874-2838

For dinner, we hit up a family style experience at the famed Union Hotel, which opened in 1879.   Owned by the same family since 1924, they serve hearty portions and tout there creamy polenta and unique pizzas.

Union Hotel
3703 Main Street
Occidental, CA 95465
(707) 874-3555

Tucked inside a small and cozy little building is another great stop if you're looking for authentic southern French cooking.  While we stopped at Bistro des Copains for dessert – try the amazing Mocha Pot de Crème – we've heard great reviews of what they have in store for the main entrée!

Bistro des Copains
3782 Bohemian Highway
Occidental, CA 95465
(707) 874-2436


Wandering through the streets of Occidental puts you in touch with a town from another era.  Bring your camera, as there are countless photo opportunities – from 19th century churches, to redwood laden and often misty panoramics.

Eye On The Bay: Daytrip, Occidental
Eye On The Bay: Daytrip, Occidental

The Galleria is a great mom and pop "something for everyone" store, filled with great items sourced from many California artists.  This is the kind of store you stumble upon while daytripping where you might say, "I need some sort of unique gift for Susan's birthday."  Well, here's the place you won't find anywhere else around the Bay.


Sometimes the daytrip turns into a weekend getaway, especially if that great Chianti at the Union Hotel goes into effect (and in that case, grab a room at the Union, since, "hotel" is in its name.)

We bedded down at the Inn at Occidental, which serves as a romantic, charming, and cozy spot, just off Main Street…well, everything is off Main Street.  This dog friendly establishment offers a lovely cheese and wine spread in the afternoon and a hearty breakfast.  The "Eye on the Bay" crew often spends the night at B&B's while on the road and this place is tops on our chart!

Inn at Occidental
3657 Church St
Occidental, CA 95465
(707) 874-1047


Occidental is nestled in the southern Russian River region, roughly 70 miles north of San Francisco.  While some might choose a longer drive from up or down coastal Highway 1, the most common route takes you west from Highway 101.  Head west on Highway 116 when you reach the town of Cotati (about 8 minutes north of Petaluma.)  Travel approximately eight miles into downtown Sebastopol, taking a left on Bodega Avenue, which becomes the Bodega Highway.  Continue for approximately six miles and turn right on the Bohemian Highway (at the town of Freestone).  Occidental is about four miles north.

Google these possible name places, map out, and add on to your Occidental Daytrip:  Duncans Mills, Washoe House, Bodega Bay, Town of Bodega, Freestone, Osmosis Day Spa, Jenner, Monte Rio, Guerneville.

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