Starting in the 1870s, Monte Rio was a stop on the North Pacific Coast Railroad connecting Cazadero to the Sausalito, California ferry. Redwood lumber from local sawmills was shipped to build San Francisco. After the sawmills left, the area became known as Vacation Wonderland with trains transporting San Franciscans to summer cabins and even a seven story hotel downtown. Despite heavy logging during the second half of the 19th century, the Sonoma Lumber Company preserved a 160-acre grove of old-growth redwood trees, which was sold to San Francisco’s Bohemian Club in 1899. This private club purchased dozens of other parcels in the area, and now owns 2,712 acres, which it uses for its summer retreats.
The Village Inn & Restaurant, built in 1906 as a private home, served as the site of several scenes in the 1942 Academy Award-winning film Holiday Inn, starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. The Highland Dell Hotel, also built in 1906, hosts the local OktoberFest. Watch a movie at the Monte Rio Movie Theater, housed in a colorful mural-decorated World War II-surplus Quonset hut, or visit the Monte Rio Amphitheater, an outdoor showcase for concerts, theater, and events. During the summer, a concession on the river rents kayaks and paddleboards and serves food. The town has a grocery store and a couple convenience stores as well.