Travel in Humboldt Co. California |Eureka, Arcata, and Redwood Forests


We have lived in Portland for 4 years now and somehow, even though Andrew is a lover of all plant things, we had never made a trip to California to visit the Redwood Forests.  So with nothing to do with our extended time off over Thanksgiving, I booked an Airbnb, packed our bags, and loaded everything into my trusty Mini Cooper (Buster) and we took off on a road trip. Eureka, CA is about a 6.5 hour drive from Portland.  We left on Thanksgiving morning expecting there to be heavy traffic, but it seemed that nearly everyone had done their traveling the day before.  The only delay that we had was that it managed to rain the entire 6.5 hours of our drive.

We drove past Trees of Mystery and it was highly recommended that we stop, especially for the Sky Trail.  However, one of the downfalls of traveling on Thanksgiving Day, was that a lot of places ended up being closed. So instead we stopped at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.   This was a beautiful scenic drive through the Redwoods that had several different trails that you could pull off at to explore.  The rain really picked up when we got to this area so we hopped out of the car quickly on several occasions, but didn’t do any long hikes or exploring.  It is definitely worth it to stop, the “Big Tree” sign is one of my favorite photos of this trip.

We wanted to get to our Airbnb and see Old Town Eureka before it got dark so after taking a few breaks to explore we hopped back on Hwy 101 and continued south.  We rented our Airbnb through Redwood Coast Vacation Rentals. It was right in the middle of Old Town Eureka and had a great view of the bay and the small shops in the area.  The room was located in a mixed use building with a couple other Airbnbs and some Eureka residents who used it as a live/work space.  The bathroom was shared with others on the same floor, but we never had a problem with cleanliness or the ability to use it when necessary.  Our room was beautiful.  It had original hard wood floors, exposed brick, and floor to ceiling windows that looked right out on Humboldt Bay.  I would definitely stay in this room or another rental with Redwood Coast when we return to Eureka.

Since it was Thanksgiving most places around Eureka were closed.  We ended up grabbing wine (2 minutes before Bevmo closed) and making a vegan charcuterie board for dinner.  We spent some time walking around the Bay and getting an idea of where we may want to eat the next day before settling in and watching Netflix for the rest of the night.

The next morning we woke up early to get a head start on trip through Avenue of the Giants. We started the morning with breakfast at Los Bagels and Coffee from Dutch Brothers (clearly we’re from Oregon).  We drove south on Hwy 101 for 34 miles and got off at the North Entrance of the Avenue of Giants.  At the entrance there’s a spot for you to pull off and grab a map of the Avenue.  We stopped along most of the points of interest on the map, but our favorites were Founders Grove, Redwood State Park Visitor Center, and Drury-Chaney Grove. We passed the Shrine Drive Through Tree, but the line was long and we wanted to get the most out of our daylight hours as possible so we kept driving.

We got back on Hwy 101 and headed toward Redway.  Our next stop was Shelter Cove.  The drive to Shelter cove was thrilling.  There were lots of twists and turns and it was great driving our Mini Cooper through them, but there were also lots of pot holes and bumps that didn’t bode quite as well.  Shelter Cove was pretty, but not quite what I had expected.  Everything around it had a run down feel to it.  We explored the coastline for a while, got some cute pictures of sea lions, and made our way back toward Eureka.

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We had more daylight than expected so we got off at the South Entrance to Avenue of the Giants and decided to loop back through to Rockefeller Forest and the Giant Tree.  This, in my opinion was the most beautiful part of the drive.  The road was less trafficked and it was an incredibly peaceful, serene drive.

By the time we got back to Eureka I was starving.  We snacked on some leftover hummus and crackers while we changed and then went to get dinner at Bless My Soul (I’ll do a full review of all of the food we ate on a separate post). I hadn’t had Cajun/Creole food in ages and Bless My Soul offered several vegan options.  The wait for our food was long, but that was clearly indicated on the dish I ordered, sorry Andrew, so I devoured everything as soon as it arrived.  I always love good local cider so after dinner we walked the Humboldt Cider Company Tap Room.

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I had a late night reservation Finish Country Sauna and Tubs.  We made the quick drive up to Arcata in spent an hour relaxing in a private Jara wood tub. You can make reservations for an hour or half hour. I get bored and am terrible at just relaxing so an hour was a bit too long for me, but Andrew loved it.  Just a heads up, the tubs are private so it’s clothing optional!

We decided to spend Saturday morning exploring Eureka and Arcata a bit more.  Everything was kicking off for the holiday season so we participated in the “Snowball Drop” in the Old Town Square.  This seriously made me miss living in a small town!  Everyone gathered at the Gazebo and they shot ping pong balls out of a snowball cannon.  Each ping pong ball had a local business and a discount that would be given to the lucky winner. We started the morning off slowly with coffee so I was ready to grab lunch by the time Café Nooner Too opened.  I got a vegan burger, Andrew got a veggie sandwich, and we shared a basket of fries.  Highly recommend coming her for a fantastic vegan burger!

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We seriously spent this last day of vacation just relaxing. Our Airbnb happened to provide $10 to one of the local casinos so after watching some college football we took a short drive to the Casino, spent an hour gambling with the provided money, and walked away with some extra cash for dinner.  I was hungry again by this point so we thought we’d grab a snack.  Our snack turned into a huge meal after ordering sandwiches at Hole in the Wall . After stuffing our faces we decided Andrew had yet to try any of the local beer so we stopped at Lost Coast Brewery.  He tried their IPA and enjoyed it, I’m not a huge beer person and tend to stick with cider.  There was only one cider option available and it was, meh.  That night we packed up our Airbnb and prepared to head back to Portland early in the morning.

Before leaving Eureka we made one last stop at Los Bagels for breakfast and a snack on the road.  We decided that we wanted to make one for stop on our trip home and took some time to explore Fern Canyon.  I thought the drive to Shelter Cove was risky UNTIL we pulled off the main road to get to Fern Canyon.  The potholes were huge and the road was narrow.  I thought things would improve after we paid and entered the park, but the potholes actually got worse.  Some covered the entire road and I could have sworn we were going to rip off the bottom of my car.  There is also a small creek that you need to either a) drive through which goes against everything I was taught re: turn around, don’t drown, and b) walk an extra 1.5 miles to the canyon.  We drove through it after several minutes of speculating and talking to the 2 other cars at the water’s edge.  I definitely recommend this drive for a car MUCH larger than my poor Mini Cooper.

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