Making the short 2 hour drive from San Francisco to Santa Rosa is always a popular way to start any California Wine Country adventure. After all, the Sonoma County city is one of the best located destinations for anyone wanting to get away to the country side and really dig into some of the most iconic winemaking regions in the USA.
Although Santa Rosa may not have the level of luxury accommodation of the iconic Napa Valley, the quaint and relaxed city certainly has a strong case with the The Astro Motel. Yes, it’s a motel – a category typically thought of as last-minute budget lodging. But this classic converted motor lodge, a sordid history which dates back to 1963, shows some serious creative flair, and presents a meaningful challenge to any preconceived notions.
Shining bright after a $10 million renovation a few years ago, The Astro is now an incredible example of little bit of ingenuity going a very long way.
The Astro sits unassumingly by the main road leading into Santa Rosa, vaguely surrounded by plenty of trendy artists’ studios. SOFA (South A Street Arts District) is the name for this area, although its barely a stone’s throw from the main square of Downtown Santa Rosa. Walk past the welcoming Juilliard Park and you’re in the heart of Santa Rosa’s small but strong dining scene, with restaurant dotted all around Old Courthouse Square.
This also means that you’re within walking distance of Santa Rosa staples like Russian River Brewing Company, and only a short drive from must-visit estates like Kendall-Jackson and La Crema. If you’re up here for a short few days away from San Fran’s bustle, then you’ve picked the perfect base.
Amenities & Dining
The Astro may be stunning, but it’s also quite straight-forward. Owned by the same crew behind local dining institution Spinster Sisters, it has no on-site restaurant of its own (Spinster Sisters is just one street over), no fitness centre or pool, but it does have a highly ornate common area.
Pastries and good quality coffee – free to all guests – can be found in this relaxing space, which echoes a love of colourful vintage that connects the property to its humble beginnings. Guests even receive a $15 voucher that they can use towards a meal at Spinster Sisters. Although it may seem paltry, it’s more than enough given Spinster Sisters is close enough to be considered an on-site restaurant.
There are 6 categories across 34 rooms, all facing a beautifully maintained garden courtyard with various fruit trees. Rooting The Astro firmly in the Arts District, local creatives were bought in to create personalised amenities throughout each room, ensuring that no two are exactly the same.
The result: stunning. Wooden headboards, large beds, quirky light fixtures and period furniture. Everything here was acquired at local auctions, arranged in a spectacular blend of kitschy 60s and modern glam. It’s luxury, without the price tag.
Notably, everything in the rooms is also available for guests to purchase should they fall in love with any particular piece. The staff will even ship it. I do have a feeling that no one over the age of 5 would be able to stand the tiny working desk for long, which is shockingly uncomfortable to sit at if you’re anywhere near 6″ tall.
Seeing as this is one of the most bountiful places in California, The Astro’s rooms feature plenty of nods to local makers in the mini bar. All of them are reasonably priced to, so its worth biting into a treat and then tracking down the local brand.
I found the few staff on duty to friendly and enthusiastic, especially when I told them I was visiting from Australia. Within seconds I already had a list of helpful suggestions to get around town, and the welcome certainly helped me settle in immediately.
Given Santa Rosa is prime territory for biking enthusiasts, The Astro also rents out sturdy Shinola Bikes to guests. The start of the 3.44km Santa Rosa Creek Trail is just a few minutes from the property, so it’s worth ditching the car and rolling around the city’s most scenic route to explore.
Funnily enough, Astro also offers basic on-site bike repairs should anything go wrong. It’s a nod to one of the property’s investors, Andrew Hampsten, who is famed as the only American cyclist to ever win the Giro d’Italia.
With current rates (time of publishing) hovering around the AU$214 mark, it’s highly unlikely you’ll find better value anywhere else. An excellent location, playful personality, and comfortable rooms in such a central wine country location is worth far more than this, so lap it up before more people find about The Astro.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Address: 323 Santa Rosa Ave, Santa Rosa, CA 95404, United States
Contact: +1 707-200-4655
The writer stayed as a guest of The Astro Motel. All opinions are that of the writer’s.
Feature image supplied.