Help me make my drive from Oakland airport to Healdsburg memorable...
April 20, 2017 7:41 PM   Subscribe

Catching an early (0600) flight from PDX to OAK next week and would like to kill an extra hour or several en route to our hotel in Healdsburg. Suggestions on interesting sights or spots to see along the way would be appreciated.
posted by docpops to Travel & Transportation around Sonoma, CA (16 answers total)
The direct route up 101 is not too interesting. You can take the "wine highway" 128 instead, as Healdsburg is only a little south of where it meets 101. If you haven't been to wine country before, a drive all the way up 128 will help you get oriented and is very pretty. The wineries won't be open that early of course but it's certainly a beautiful drive and I think you should be going generally against traffic... Dean & Deluca in St Helena is on 128 if you are interested in (costly) food tourism and they're open early in the morning.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:17 PM on April 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Morcom Rose Garden in Oakland is quite nice, although depending on the route you take, a little out of the way. I used to live in Oakland and Healdsburg was my wine stop of choice. Santa Rosa is good for a pit stop -- cute little downtown area, get a nice IPA at the well loved Russian River Brewing. That being said, Healdsburg itself is a CUTER downtown area. I recommend Willi's Seafood restaurant downtown (AND, AND Willi's Wine Bar in Santa Rosa). In fact, do both! Enjoy! It's wonderful up there.
posted by ellerhodes at 8:21 PM on April 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

Definitely go up via 128. If you're arriving on a weekday, you may catch some rush hour traffic (although by the time you get off the plane, get your stuff, get your car, it may be mostly done).

If, when you get to Napa, you feel like stretching your legs and having a snack, you could do worse than stop by the Oxbow Public Market, which is basically a fancy and tasty covered food court with some farm stands in it, too. Tons of local stuff for eating and drinking.
posted by rtha at 9:26 PM on April 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Seconding the Napa Valley route. You don't say if 6:00 AM is when you leave or when you land. Assuming it's when you land, you're not likely to actually get into the car before 6:45 AM. It's around an hour and a half to Napa that time of the morning, so you could stop somewhere for breakfast in Oakland or Berkeley first, or just trek to Napa and eat breakfast there. By the time you get to Napa and eat breakfast, it will be 9:30 AM or so, and the wineries open at 10:00 AM. It would be pretty easy to spend as much time as you'd like in wineries before you get to your hotel.
posted by cnc at 9:48 PM on April 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Have you crossed the Golden Gate Bridge before? A little indirect, and you will definitely face some traffic, but it is kind of a quintessential tourist thing.
posted by ericales at 9:55 PM on April 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

The exact timing of your landing / actual leaving from OAK influences the answers a lot because of morning traffic.

If you go north to 128 you only have to cross one bridge bottleneck, not 2 if you go through SF.
posted by bradbane at 10:21 PM on April 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you did do the long way up via the Golden Gate, I'd stop to get oysters in Tomales Bay.

Enjoy Healdsburg! The Dry Creek Valley is one of my happiest places on earth.
posted by padraigin at 10:26 PM on April 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

Yeah, the Golden Gate would mean crossing the Bay Bridge in commute direction, but going that way could mean cutting over to highway 1 and the coast, take that up to Bodega and cut back into Sebastopol. Maybe I'm jaded, but there's only so much vineyard I find interesting, especially this time of year, and if you're staying in Healdsburg you'll see the Dry Creek wineries.

1 would give you the back of Mt Tam, the Pacific Coast, Tomales Bay, a few cute towns with good bakeries...
posted by straw at 6:14 AM on April 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you're looking for breakfast in Oakland (make sure it's a weekday or super early on weekend), I would heartily recommend Brown Sugar Cafe for their scrumptious grits or fried chicken & waffles. So delicious.
posted by ellerhodes at 6:19 AM on April 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Yes, definitely get oysters in Tomales Bay.
posted by BibiRose at 7:33 AM on April 21, 2017

These are wonderful and helpful suggestions. I'm torn between taking the GGB and up to Tomales Bay v. heading up 128 but both are clearly preferable to the route Google Maps recommends. We will probably be getting more than enough time in wine country and since we never see the coast (despite being in the Willamette valley) we may just play tourist and do the bridge/bay/oyster thing. Trying to make this as romantic and memorable as possible and so appreciate the help.

We would likely not be on the road before 830/9 am after landing and getting our rental car, if that affects traffic significantly.
posted by docpops at 8:00 AM on April 21, 2017

Weekday traffic around 8:30am is terrible, I'd do anything to avoid trying to take the Bay Bridge in to SF at that time. (Weekends are fine). I mean right now, 8:45am Friday, Google says 75 minutes for 25 miles. If you decide to go the coast route, going north to Richmond and then across the Richmond-San Rafael bridge (I-580) will be much, much better for traffic. You can then easily get over to Tomales Bay or if you really want, drive back south to get a view of the GGB from the Marin Headlands (Google: 60 minutes for 40 miles). Driving across the bridge is not nearly as interesting as seeing it from a vantage point or getting out and walking.

If you feel more like wine country touring then yeah, 128/121 through Napa is your ticket. But I'm guessing you'll be getting a lot of that near Healdsburg. Napa is fancier, Sonoma is more chill.
posted by Nelson at 8:48 AM on April 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you take Hwy 1, consider stopping at Point Reyes or the Bodega Head - both very nice places to enjoy the ocean. Bodega Head also has the UC Davis Marine Lab, which you can tour on Friday afternoons.

I grew up in Santa Rosa shortly before they started sprucing up the downtown and haven't spend much time there since, so I don't know what it's like these days. But if you pass through Sebastopol, be sure to visit Screamin' Mimi's for fantastic ice cream.
posted by sibilatorix at 9:23 AM on April 21, 2017

That Hwy 1 route up from the GG Bridge is beautiful but extremely winding, long and motion-sick-making. Like even as a driver I get sick on it, much less as a passenger. Just FYI. It would be worth it if both of you have strong stomachs for motion. Fog can be an issue in the morning too, but that's just a roll of the dice I think...
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:47 AM on April 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

The only issue with the Richmond-San Rafael bridge route and out Sir Francis Drake (maybe detour for a stop in Roy's Redwoods is that although you'll get Tomales Bay, you won't get raw Pacific coastline. Unless you maybe continue on Highway 1 up to Jenner (look for the Bald Eagles that hang out at the mouth of the Russian River) and then take 116 in (which would give you very little Highway 101, which would be good, but is a long trek).

That'd be a super picturesque drive, and fill much of a day, but it'd be an awesome "this is Northern California in a nutshell" experience.
posted by straw at 11:10 AM on April 21, 2017

So, a chunk of Hwy 1 in Marin that goes down the Muir Beach is still closed. It was closed by landslides/retaining wall failure a few weeks ago, and is slated to open May 1. See the map here, and zoom in on Marin county, near Mill Valley. You can still drive that way, sort of, but you'd stay on the Panoramic Highway (which runs on the east side of Tam) rather than dropping down to the coast there. It's still gorgeous.
posted by rtha at 11:19 AM on April 21, 2017

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