It’s time for part three of our exclusive California series, in which we get the inside scoop on the best places to go and things to do in California USA with Allie Sparr, who works together with Californian tourist boards to promote the destination around the world.


The California sun ‘n’ surf lifestyle is revered around the world, but it turns out California’s best beach is one you might never have heard of. And did you know that the Napa Valley has a hot contender snapping at its heels when it comes to the ultimate Californian winery escape? It’s California’s best-kept secret, Sonoma County, located 30 miles north of San Francisco and a gold mine of 425 wineries.

Scroll down to watch the interview and read some of Allie’s top tips.

What makes Sonoma County different from other wine regions?

Of course, we’ve got amazing wineries (425 wineries), but beyond the wine we’ve got California coastal redwood trees and nearly 90km of Pacific coastline, so there’s beautiful parks, whale-watching, hiking paths. We’ve also got the Russian River, so beyond the wine you have this range of outdoor, really active experiences and different landscapes you wouldn’t get in other wine regions.

Sonoma County
Sonoma County

How easy is it to get to Sonoma County from San Francisco?

It’s amazingly simple, it’s actually only 45 minutes. You drive over the Golden Gate Bridge and feel like you’re in a totally different world. I would recommend driving, it’s the easiest way to get there – however, there is a daily flight between San Francisco and Sonoma County which takes only 15 minutes, or there’s a shuttle from San Francisco Airport.

Farmhouse Inn Sonoma County
Farmhouse Inn

Name some of the top luxury hotel experiences in Sonoma County.

My three favourites would be firstly the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa, a beautiful luxury hotel. They’ve got a 3,700 sqm spa which is all built around a natural mineral hot spring in a historic California mission building with a Michelin-starred restaurant on the property.

Secondly, the Farmhouse Inn was recently named number three hotel in California by Travel&Leisure – it’s one of the top hotels in the world. It’s absolutely perfect – chic and sophisticated but cosy and comfortable. It’s a converted farmhouse but it’s perfectly done.

Farmhouse Inn Sonoma County

Dining at Farmhouse Inn

They have a restaurant on the property that’s had a Michelin star for more than 12 years. Their lead-in rooms have their own sauna in the room, to give you an idea of the level of luxury we’re dealing with here. Last but not least, I would say Timber Cove. It’s in quite a remote part of Sonoma County so it’s where you go to relax for a couple of days, but it has incredible views right on the coast with binoculars in the room so you can whale-watch with private yoga lessons, beautiful views and hiking paths.

Huntington Beach
Huntington Beach

Why should you make Huntington Beach an addition to your California road trip?

Huntington Beach was recently named the best beach in California so certainly if you’re looking for southern California beaches, that is the one to check out. You get the same calibre of destination, accommodation and experiences that you would get in some of the bigger-name southern California destinations, but it tends to be a bit more affordable. It’s only 45 minutes from LA and 25 minutes from Disney, so it’s actually a really great option for families who want to explore Disneyland but want a bit of reprieve, a little break, to come back and have a nice beach and a beautiful view and a great hotel, so it’s a great option for that as well.

Huntington Beach
Huntington Beach

Stay tuned for the fourth and final instalment of our California Series, during which Allie takes us to Yosemite National Park and Greater Palm Springs.


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