Occidental may be one of the least-known yet cutest little towns in western Sonoma County, if not all of Northern California. This small place, with a two-block-long main street is a perfect place for a relaxing escape, and it's only a 90-minute drive from San Francisco.
Founded in 1876 when the railroad went in, Occidental began as a commercial center, but soon became popular with vacationers looking to escape San Francisco's fog or Central Valley heat. Two Italian restaurants were founded a few years later and they still vie for diners, sitting across the street from each other.
You can plan your Occidental weekend getaway in a jiffy using the resources below.
Will You Like Occidental?
- Take a look at a few Occidental Pictures.
- Occidental is popular for quiet, relaxing weekend getaways. It's great for a romantic escape, or just to unwind.
Best Time to Go to Occidental
Occidental is far enough inland to avoid the dreaded "June gloom" that keeps oceanside communities under a shroud of day-long fog in early summer, and almost any time is a good time to go. On winter weekdays, you'll find it particularly quiet.
Osmosis Spa: Just five minutes' drive from Occidental in the even tinier town of Freestone, this Japanese-style spa offers unusual enzyme baths, massages, beautiful gardens and other relaxing experiences. Make it your first stop and you'll feel de-stressed all weekend long. They're often open as late as 9:00 p.m., so for maximum relaxation make an early escape and stop on your way.
5 Great Things to Do in Occidental
- Browse and Shop: Occidental's main street is only two blocks long, but you'll find some nice shops along it, selling handmade crafts, interesting imports and nice art work.
- Occidental Farmers Market: Held Fridays from 4:00 p.m. until dusk, June through October.
- Musical Interlude: The Redwood Arts Council hosts regular chamber music concerts in the Community Church, praised for its excellent acoustics.
- Zip Through the Forest Canopy: Take a zipline through the treetops with Sonoma Canopy Tours.
- Wine Tasting: The area around Occidental and Freestone is coming to be recognized as one of the best places to grow pinot noir grapes in California. Joseph Phelps Freestone Vineyards have their own tasting room in Freestone.
Other points of interest in the area include Western Hills Rare Plant Nursery (Coleman Valley Rd., 707-874-3731) and Wishing Well Nursery (707-306 Bohemian Hwy., 707-823-3710)
If you stay at the Inn at Occidental, breakfast is included. AAA's Via magazine says Howard Station Cafe can be a destination in itself.
For other meals, Pignoli and Bistro Des Copains, both in town offer a good variety of tasty fare. There are also two Italian restaurants in town, perhaps the last bastions of old-fashioned, checkered-tablecloth-style Italian dining left in the San Francisco area.
In nearby Graton, you'll find Underwood Bar & Bistro and its sister restaurant Willow Wood Market & Cafe which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Both are well-rated and serve excellent meals. Food and Wine magazine listed Underwood as one of America's 50 Most Amazing Wine Experiences in 2006.
Isn't It Romantic?
Occidental is a great place for smooching (and more) - and my friends have a beautiful baby boy to prove it.
Where to Stay
- During summer and on holiday weekends, reserve your spot at Osmosis a couple of weeks in advance. Reserve your hotel room and make dinner reservations at K&L Bistro at least a month ahead of time.
- If you failed to get a reservation at Osmosis, try the New Dawn Day Spa in Sebastopol.
Where is Occidental?
Occidental is located west of Sebastopol on Bohemian Highway. To get there from San Francisco or the South Bay, take US 101 north to Highway 12 west, through Sebastopol to Freestone, then turn right onto Bohemian Highway. For a more scenic route, take CA 1 north to Bodega Highway east and turn left onto Bohemian Highway.
Occidental is 68 miles from San Francisco, 113 miles from San Jose and 117 miles from Sacramento.