Eureka, California is a historic port town on the Northern California coast. Its attractions include towering redwood forests, abundant wildlife, and hearty food. A trip to the “Lost Coast” is a perfect multigenerational getaway.
Eureka, California, is a great central spot to base a tour of California’s north coast. This 19th century seaport town was built by farmers, miners, fishermen, and loggers. Today, Eureka lures visitors with a mix of dining, shopping, and outdoor diversions.
This vibrant Northern California seaport is famous for teeming fisheries and towering redwood forests. Families can experience a Victorian-styled Old Town, water sports on the bay, and plenty of natural beauty all around. We found our getaway in Eureka was the perfect destination for a multigenerational adventure.
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Exploring Old Town
Old Town Eureka is one of the nation’s best preserved, original Victorian era commercial districts. The Victorian storefronts of Old Town along 2nd Street between C and G Streets are filled with an interesting collection of shops.
One of our favorite shops on the Eureka Boardwalk was Living the Dream Ice Cream at 1 F St. There were 20+ flavors of handmade ice cream on the menu. All of them are created on site using local ingredients. Some of the flavors were pretty unique—everything from maple bacon to chocolate lavender. Fresh ice cream and waffle cones are made daily! There are even dairy-free options.
I found an eclectic assortment of antiquarian books, maps, and photos during a peek inside Eureka Books, 426 Second St. It is a great place to poke around.
A stop in at the Humboldt Bay Tourism Center at 205 G St. is the perfect way to find the best the area has to offer. The Center offers information on area tours and adventures—from river rafting to horse-drawn carriage rides to oyster farm tours. Visitors can also virtually explore the region on the Center’s iPads—all custom-loaded with apps and links to local lodging, dining, and activity options.
Every Sunday from 6-9 p.m. the Center hosts local artists, chefs, farmers, adventurers or brewers to share their craft with locals and visitors alike. They have presented everything from sampling gourmet hot chocolate to slideshows on local river rafting adventures. This is a great way to rub elbows with the locals who make Eureka and Humboldt County interesting.
You will also find Taste, the all-local tasting room, at the Humboldt Bay Tourism Center. Taste is open 12 to 9 every single day. We found they poured local beers, wines, ciders, and kombucha (a fermented sweetened tea) by the glass, the bottle or a tasting flight. They also served cheeses, meats, breads, and desserts that are all hand-crafted locally. The oyster bar serves raw and broiled oysters with a variety of gourmet sauces. (If you do a social media shout-out you can get a free oyster.)
A Tour of the 19th Century Victorians
Eureka has hundreds of ornate Victorians that hark back to the lumber trade that boomed in the area in the 1850s. A self-guided walking or driving tour of the historic Old Town district brings you face-to-face with dozens of grand Victorian and Queen Anne buildings—such as the Eagle House. Many of them are open to visitors.
Not technically in Old Town but a few blocks away is the world renowned, castle-like Carson Mansion (143 M Street). This beautiful Victorian beauty is a not-to-be-missed experience. Unfortunately it is not open to the public, but it’s still worth ogling this gem from the outside.
Attractions for All Ages
Sequoia Park and Zoo is Eureka’s pride and joy and a must-see for anyone. The park features walking and bicycle trails through the redwood forest, meadows, a duck pond and two small creeks. Shaded by an ancient redwood grove, Sequoia Park Zoo—the oldest zoo in California—is home to white-handed gibbons, alpacas, peccaries, and more. The zoo has a snack bar and gift shop. (Children under 3 are free and Wednesdays are half-price).
After taking in the zoo we enjoyed a walk down to the duck pond and then continued meandering along the trails through the ancient redwoods. The park has a lovely playground and BBQ picnic area. Just outside the zoo is the Sequoia Park Garden, a gorgeous collection of dahlias and other colorful blooms. It was nice to stop and admire the beautiful flower garden. Relaxed, casual and peaceful are the words that to mind when I visited this park and zoo. It was the perfect place for a family fun day
A visit to the Blue Ox Millworks (1 X Street) is another perfect diversion while in Eureka. Seeing the lovely Victorian and Queen Anne buildings in town set the stage for our visit to Blue Ox Millworks. It was fascinating to see what went into producing authentic moldings, redwood gutter, corbels, gable decorations, Victorian gingerbread and other Victorian reproductions. Fans of old-fashioned machinery and Victorian architectural detail will particularly enjoy Blue Ox Millworks and the living history park.
A Taste of the Redwood Coast
On our drive north to the Redwoods National and State Parks we stopped for breakfast at the Samoa Cookhouse, 908 Vance Ave, Samoa. The Samoa Cookhouse is the last surviving logging camp–style dining hall in the West. In operation since 1893, it serves three hearty, old-fashioned meals a day in a simple dining room that we learned hasn’t changed much since the lumber company employees ate here. We were seated at long tables with red-checked oilcloth coverings, elbow to elbow with other hungry guests. Our breakfast was served family-style.
This is a great place for hungry tweens and teens. They can fill up like lumberjacks on an all-you-can eat breakfast of biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, bacon and/or sausage, and pancakes. Breakfast was a loud, happy affair. Our waitress was friendly and give us some great pointers on what not to miss seeing and where to look for Roosevelt elk in the parks. Another of her great suggestions was take a quick drive past the cookhouse and into the former Hammond Lumber Company town of Samoa to see where the lumberjacks and other workmen lived during the areas logging heydays.
A Family-Friendly Place to Stay
We stayed at the Red Lion Inn, 1929 Fourth St., while visiting Eureka. The hotel is very family-friendly. It is the largest hotel in the area with 175 rooms. They have two family-sized rooms that sleep eight (furnished with a king and two queen beds). Cribs are also available upon request.
I loved the service from the reception staff. They provided excellent service. They knew the area well and made great suggestions for family-friendly activities and dining. They printed our google maps without being asked. Believe me, we were thankful for those maps—cell phone service is almost non-existent in the redwood forests.
The hotel offers shuttle service to and from the airport and around town. Best of all, they have bicycles and helmets available for FREE. Biking Eureka is a great activity for teens and adults but I don’t recommend it for younger children because the town is not really bike-friendly.
TMOM Tips for Visiting Eureka, California
- If driving to the area, allow extra time to reach your destination before dark. Parts of US 101 are two-lanes, winding and hilly.
- Make sure to bring motion sickness remedies if anyone in your group suffers from motion sickness.
- Reserve ahead for holiday weekends and during the Humboldt State University graduation.
A day, a weekend or a week, Eureka and Humboldt County will keep a family entertained and wanting to return again and again.
This post was written by Maria Perez. She has been traveling for more than 60 years. She took her first cross-country trip before she was two years old and if you ask her when the next one is, the answer might be “tomorrow.” Planes, trains, automobiles – she loves all modes of travel but the best trips are those with her children and grandchildren.