I have lived in California for my whole life so I have a lot of fond memories of spending time at California beaches and swimming pools over the years. It all started with sandcastles and running from the waves, then underwater somersaults and tea parties at my neighborhood pool. When I was a teen I remember walking my dog on the beach in a bikini and feeling so cool until the dog took a crap in front of a cute boy! Then there were the naked midnight sprints on the beach. What on Earth were we thinking?
Now that I am a Mom, I want to recreate the swimming memories for my kids, minus the dog pooping on the beach, of course! So I have my own list of favorite beaches and other swim spots in Sonoma County and am happy to share them with you. Thankfully in Sonoma County, the weather is mostly warm in the summer and there are plenty of places to enjoy the water.
How to reserve: JohnsonsBeach.com
Nearby Goodies: Nimble & Finn’s gourmet ice cream and pie
Johnson’s Beach is on the Russian River and conveniently located in the middle of downtown Guerneville. Since COVID times, they have started taking reservations for rentals and beach spots online. You can rent canoes, and inner tubes. There is a public boat launch at Johnson’s Beach but if you want to hang out at the beach when they are open, then you will need to rent a beach spot online. A beach umbrella is included, which is a really nice bonus. There is no snack shack in 2021, but there is a food truck on the weekends and downtown Guerneville is within 2 blocks so you can easily get lunch and ice cream in town.
Monte Rio Beach
Nearby Goodies: Mondo Truck Shave Ice (located at the Mondo Plant Nursery, formerly Lovett’s Nursery)
Monte Rio Beach is a large beach on the Russian River, about 5 miles downriver from Johnson’s Beach. Located in downtown Monte Rio, it has a large parking lot and boat rentals in the summer. Since it is a public beach, there are no reservations needed. There are also places nearby in downtown Monte Rio where you can walk to buy drinks and food. On weekends you can find a shave ice truck called Mondo Truck (@mondotruck), located near the beach parking lot at the Mondo Garden Plant Nursery, formerly Lovett’s nursery. As of August 2021, there is abundant algae, which may be difficult to avoid when going in the water. Most years, there is significantly less algae.
Rio Nido Roadhouse Pool
Nearby Goodies: The Rio Nido Roadhouse restaurant and pool snack bar have all you need!
The Rio Nido Roadhouse is a community gathering place and tourist destination in the town of Rio Nido, located about 2 miles upriver from Guerneville. They have a swimming pool, a restaurant with a large lawn, and a hotel. During the summer they have outdoor live music on the weekends. The pool season begins over the Memorial Day Weekend and goes through Labor Day Weekend. The day pass for the pool is $10. How fun it would be to check out the pool in the afternoon, then have dinner on the lawn while listening to live music?
Spring Lake Swimming Lagoon
Nearby Goodies: Fru-ta Natural Artisan Ice Cream
The Spring Lake Swimming Lagoon is located at Spring Lake Regional Park in Santa Rosa. It is a classic summer swim spot where the kids and parents can have tons of fun for a cheap price. Swimming season runs from July through September. The lagoon is filtered and chlorinated. Since it is a Sonoma County Regional Park, the entrance fee to the park is $8 per car, but there is no additional fee to swim at the lagoon. You can also borrow life vests for free. There are free bbq pits and you can rent tubes to float or kayaks for paddling in the nearby big lake. The weather is also slightly cooler at Spring Lake which can be quite a relief from the hot summer days in Santa Rosa. During non-COVID times, half the lagoon has a water park with jump houses and there is a snack bar. Hopefully the water park and snack shack will come back for Summer 2022.
Morton’s Warm Springs
Nearby Goodies: Ice Cream is available daily at the on-site cafe
Located in Glen Ellen in the Sonoma Valley, the geothermal Morton’s Warm Springs is nestled in an oak tree forest just outside of town. They have two geothermal mineral spring pools, and a large grassy area that is perfect for picnicking. There is also a third geothermal wading pool for infants and toddlers. The temperature ranges from 85° F to 88° F. They also have a snack bar called Cafe 108°. Some days they only offer drinks and soft serve and on others there is a full menu (see CAFE 108° SCHEDULE). You are welcome to bring picnic food with you to BBQ and enjoy at the springs!
Francis Ford Coppola Winery
Nearby Goodies: The winery has 2 restaurants on site, including a poolside cafe.
Farther north in Sonoma County, in the Alexander valley wine region is the amazing upscale pool at the Francis Ford Coppola Winery. Listen to the relaxing tunes of Brazilian Bossa Nova as you sip a wine slushy while the kids play under the dancing fountains. Two pools totaling 3,600 square feet are surrounded by lounge chairs, and European style cabines. Be sure to plan very far ahead if you want to enjoy the Coppola pool. During COVID, there are no day passes, and all guests are required to have advanced reservations.
Doran Regional Park
Nearby Goodies: Captain Davey’s Coffee and Ice Cream
Located in Bodega Bay, the long and wide Doran Beach is a lovely spot for families to enjoy playing in the ocean in the summer. Because it is south-facing, the waves are usually gentle, and it is the only coastal beach in Sonoma County that is safe for swimming, boogie boarding, and surfing. In the winter especially, keep an eye out for high surf warnings which would render the water unsafe.
The water is on average a frigid 53 degrees so you may want a wet suit which can be rented at a local surf shop. Be sure to bring layers and prepare for both sun and fog, because you could have either or both on the same day. On holidays and hot days, Doran Beach gets crowded, and when the parking lots fill, rangers will turn visitors away. On those days, plan to arrive before 11 a.m. or after 3 p.m. to get parking. Parking is $7 or free for Regional Parks members.