Occidental and Sebastopol in Northern California. A West Sonoma County experience
Updated: Sep 13, 2019
A simple guide on how to explore West Sonoma and its many colorful towns.
A secret town in Sonoma County that doesn't get that much attention but I just realized this is how locals want to keep it. So don't tell them about me telling you. Keep it a secret.
Wineries, restaurants, shops, galleries, redwoods, apple orchards, bakeries, spas, just to mention a few things that you can find in this small but mighty area.
Located in the west side of Sonoma County, just in between Sebastopol and the Pacific Ocean, 20 minutes from each of these places, makes it so convenient for you to experience so much in such a small area.
To be honest, I hadn't experienced Occidental or Sebastopol much until recently and I'm surprised that people don't talk much about them, but locals like to keep it that way. There is a big sense of community and being part of Sonoma County, for that reason everywhere you go people will be friendly and greet you with sincere appreciation. Locals take a big pride on living here and sharing with others visiting, so keep that in mind when visiting.
Here are some of my new favorite finds in the area, like I said, there's so much to do so my list is just based on my experiences and there's more to see around!
To Eat (in Occidental)
Barley & Hops
Low key restaurant with outstanding food. Located in an old western-victorian home where the bar is lively, decor is simple, and you can grab your own table but expect to have a delicious dinner with comfort food and local organic ingredients. I've had many dishes here and the Prime Rib, if available, should be a highlight of your dinner. Honestly, I think it's the best Prime Rib that I've had and I live in San Francisco.
A classic western-hotel that has been with the same family since the late 1800's. It's a large property with multiple spaces. The restaurant has a great menu and serves very generous portions with more food that you can eat at once. Bread, minestrone soup and meatballs are just some of the authentic recipes that will make you come back for more. The Saloon is a great lively place to go for drinks and some food. Locals seem to gather there and it gets busy in the early evenings. Great drinks, good comfort food. While at the Union Hotel don't forget to check out their bakery which is famous for its bread but also has amazing sweet treats like blackberry and apple tartlets.
Negri's & Joe's Bar
I personally like the bar side better as they have an extensive menu, simple but filling, of traditional american-italian food. Drinks are good, very good selection of tap beer. It's just a very casual bar with good people and where locals hang out. Stop by anytime for lunch, breakfast or just drinks and you won't be disappointed.
If your thing is brunch then this is the place. Usually with lines outside the door on the weekends but the wait is worth it. Their menu is so long, with so many sweet and savory options for breakfast/brunch. All home made, natural and organic ingredients from the area. This is what used to be the old train station in Occidental, you can see where the ticket counters used to be, old hardwood floors throughout the space and a very homey feeling. Bring cash as they only take cash, but they also have an ATM inside the restaurant.
This is a restaurant that could be easily in San Francisco not only because of its menu but because of the entire experience. Very well and quaintly designed to fit right in the heart of Occidental. The menu is simple yet delicious. Farm-to-table experience with local meats and produce as well as the vegetables in season. In California we get access to great produce year around and Hazel definitely takes advantage of that with a really thoughtful menu, and sourcing all ingredients around the Sonoma county. Great food, make sure to make a reservation because it's a popular destination.
With the Barlow in Sebastopol, we get great shops, breweries, distilleries and now a great bar/restaurant that offers really sophisticated cocktails that could be found in New York City. From the moment you walk in you'll experience a great sense of design and decor, surrounded by natural plants and ferns of course. Food has a mix of California cuisine with tweaks that keep you interested throughout the meal. Definitely a great variety of meals and all locally sourced and organic. This is a trendy spot in the area and I'm so happy to have it as the menu is extensive so many options for anyone to come over again and again. Kind of a mix of mid-century meets East Coast greenhouse with very good crafted cocktails.
Ideally you should make a reservation in advance as this is a popular attraction, specially during the summer days. You can do the tour during foggy and overcast days as well, I've heard the views from the redwood trees nestled with the fog could be breathtaking. Get ready to jump and swing between the tops of redwood and Douglas fir trees. It's fun, if you like heights and adrenaline this is your place. Don't worry, it's very safe and the staff really knows safety protocols that will make you feel safe.
What a surprise to find something so unique, trendy and still traditional. Twelve acres of old warehouses, barns and industrial buildings turned into an outdoor walking shopping district with beer gardens, breweries, wineries and wine tasting, concept stores, amazing plant stores, organic markets and more. It's right in Sebastopol, easy to find parking and you can spend a few hours just walking around and tasting the local produce, wine and beer from local businesses. It's an authentic Californian setup for wine tasting enjoyment. A true food and wine mecca.
This is a great find, located off of Joy Road it's a quick drive from Occidental. It's a small redwood forrest located on top of a hill with younger trees thriving there alongside vineyards and views of West Sonoma valley. Check out the carved-in cave into a large redwood which seems to have survived a fire from a while ago and instead created a natural cave in the trunk.
I'm not a big spa fan but this one is something special. The cedar enzyme bath is so unique that Osmosis is the only place in America that does it, just like traditional Japanese experts do it. Jump in a pool of cedar enzyme, just like saw dust and cover yourself up to the neck to cleanse your skin and body from toxins. Then have a rejuvenation or Osmosis massage for 75 minutes and will leave you ready for a whole new year of work. Seriously the best massage that I've had. Not to mention the Japanese-inspired installations as well as the Japanese garden in the back. So much to absorb and relax about. Make an appointment as it's a popular destination in the area and only ten minutes from Occidental.
There are many wineries in West Sonoma county, any road between Sebastopol, Graton and Occidental will host local wineries run by proud locals that make the art of making wine a true destination for this area.
Some of my favorites in the Sonoma County area include: Gary Farrell, MacRostie and J Vineyards.
Just a few reasons why my partner and I love Sonoma county so much and now with a part-time residency in Occidental we feel even more connected to the people, towns and all the great experiences in the area that make it a most-visit destination in California.