Rustle up a picnic blanket, some wine glasses, a loaf of bread and that main squeeze for a North Bay picnic like none other. Whether you crave wide open spaces or seclusion, breaking bread as a two-some or in a crowd, these spots are guaranteed to make you stop and smell the roses or the beach … or whatever yummy dessert you’ve brought to share.
One Drakes Beach Rd.
Inverness, CA 94937
Regulars visit this fabulous beach knowing full well that the weather can change in an instant, and that it’s always totally worth it. The picnic tables are set well back from the waters’ edge as rogue waves are known to sneak up on unsuspecting visitors to the water’s edge. Three days a week you can buy picnic fixings nearby from Drakes Beach Cafe. The rest of the week, bring enough food and drink to last the day because with ample free parking and breathtaking sunsets, you’ll find it hard to leave.
7500 Red Hill Rd.
Petaluma, CA 94952
When you crave a bucolic setting, there may be no better choice than this pond ringed with free picnic tables just adjacent to the Cheese Factory. Share the space with a few resident ducks, but chances are you won’t be able to resist visiting the factory first. Known for its generous array of cheese samples and interesting tours, the Marin French Cheese Company has all the cheese, crackers, wines and condiments you need for a grand picnic. It’s an especially popular spot on the weekends, so stake your claim to a table early and watch the wildflowers grow. Rent a barbecue pit to make a day of it.
Related: Golden Gate Park Pop-Up Picnic
4200 Skaggs Springs Rd.
Geyserville, CA 95441.
Warm Springs Price: $50 group picnic sites
Yorty Creek Price: free sheltered picnic tables
Two hefty rainy seasons have filled this lake to near capacity, making it once again an attractive option for boaters and picnickers alike. Landlubbers can also find picnic tables at two parts of the lake: the Warm Springs and Yorty Creek recreation areas. At Warm Springs, the picnic areas also include volleyball courts and a playground site. Nearby Milt Brandt Visitor Center and Fish Hatchery are worth a visit for getting a good overview of the lake’s wildlife and vegetation. Should you need to stock up on supplies, Lake Sonoma Marina has a convenience store where you can buy sandwiches to go, ice and a variety of beverages. At the uppermost part of the lake, access the Yorty Creek area by traveling up a steep winding road. The views make it worth the climb. Here there’s plenty of room for a party of two or a family reunion with several large, sheltered, free picnic tables, a grassy knoll and a small beach with cordoned-off swimming area.
498 Sycamore Ave.
Mill Valley, CA 94941
Wide expanses of sky and water greet visitors to Richardson Bay. People watchers will have a field day on the large open grassy areas that are inviting places for soccer, frisbee, volleyball and joggers. Grab your picnic table, batten down your table spread — it can get windy — and take in the scene. Leash laws ensure that you won’t have to share your sandwich with a St. Bernard. Should you want an area more secluded and tree-shaded, consider either Boyle Park or Old Mill. Both offer group rental spaces.
V. Sattui Winery
1111 White Ln
Saint Helena, CA 94574
With two and half acres of shaded picnic grounds, this Napa Valley winery has become a mecca for folks who want to kick back in a vineyard setting. Its Italian marketplace has a large selection of picnic-ready items, but during the weekend it’s worth it to treat yourself to Sattui’s Barbecue, Wood-fired Pizzas & Mozzarella Bar. Here you can buy a wide variety of seafood and meat delicacies and nosh to your heart’s content at picnic tables or on its expansive lawn areas. The winery also boasts tons of repeat visitors for its super reasonably priced wine tasting menu.
Related: Best Parks in the South Bay
Patricia Kutza is a San Francisco Bay Area-based travel, business and lifestyle journalist who writes for a wide variety of regional, national and global titles. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.