Head to the tippy top of California’s northern coastline to see this sea-faring city with two lighthouses, redwoods, and an ever-changing wildlife show of sea lions, harbour seals, pelicans, and even river otters at Crescent City Harbour.
Discover the Battery Point Lighthouse
In some ways, the 1856 Battery Point Lighthouse, in the town of Crescent City, is pretty impenetrable: It was built to withstand squalls, gale-force winds, and even the occasional tsunami. It’s not easy to get to, either—California’s northernmost lighthouse is perched on a tiny near-shore island that can be reached only at low tide and on foot.
But it’s totally worth the effort. When the ocean recedes, you can walk across a causeway, climb the narrow spiral staircase to the lamp room, then crawl up a ladder and through a trapdoor for a spectacular 360-degree view. While you’re in this North Coast town, don’t miss these other cool experiences.
Ogle the Old-Growth Trees
Pitch a tent in the shadows of towering redwoods at Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, a few miles northeast of Crescent City. An 86-site campground sits beside the emerald Smith River in a lush glade filled with ferns and old-growth trees. Walk from your tent to the 100m-tall Stout Tree and its ancient redwood brethren, or go for a drive on spectacular Howland Hill Road, a 16km winding dirt road through stands of magnificent old-growth woodland.
Paddle the Smith River
The Smith is California’s largest free-flowing river system as well as the fertile home of huge chinook salmon and steelhead. Hook up with an expert guide from Redwood Rides and you’ll learn about the unique geology of the Smith River watershed while you paddle through Class I and II whitewater and even a few small rapids. Want something tamer? Sign up for the company’s Redwoods by River kayaking trip, and float your inflatable craft along the lazy river in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park.
Taste cheese downtown
Wander the shops and restaurants in Crescent City's quaint downtown, and stop by Rumiano Cheese Store to sample the natural and organic products from California's oldest family-owned cheese company. Ask to learn more about Rumiano’s hand-dug cellar, where they age wheels of dry Monterey Jack and Peppato cheese covered in a special blend of pepper and cocoa powder.
Sample Local Suds
You can’t go wrong with brick-oven pizzas, cheese curds, and well-brewed craft beer. Dogs and kids are welcome at Seaquake Brewing’s on-site brewery and tap room, where specialties include a complex blonde ale, a coastal pale ale, and an IPA.
Romance finds a home in this idyllic coastal region, where ocean fog rolls in from the ocean to blanket hushed redwood forests, and whales spout offshore. Along the coast, artists set up their easels to paint scenes of crashing surf and whitewashed cottages wrapped in rose filled gardens.
Each year, December through May, look to the sea to witness roughly 15,000 gray whales swimming south for the summer.
It is also a place where a new generation of farmers and wine makers focus on preserving the land as well as producing amazing food and wine. Favourite escapes include the romantic hamlet of Mendocino, roughly a 3-hour drive up the coast from San Francisco, and Eureka, a former logging town 2 hours further north, and the gateway to breathtaking Redwoods National and State Parks.
It may measure less than 50 square miles/130 square kilometres, but San Francisco justly ranks as one of the greatest cities in the world. Famous for grand-dame Victorians, classic cable cars, dynamic diversity, a beautiful waterfront, and a soaring crimson bridge, the “City by the Bay” is the...
Tucked into an ocean-facing fold of Mount Tamalpais, the signature peak just north of the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County, Muir Woods National Monument protects the last stand of uncut old-growth coast redwoods in the Bay Area, where loggers had all but denuded the region by the late 1800s....
With more than 3,000 wineries statewide, California lets you sample award-winning wines almost anywhere you go. These classic and up-and-coming wine roads—some too packed with wineries to tackle...
You can learn a lot about a place at its local festivals. Consider the Kinetic Grand Championship, a cosmically silly three-day battle between human-powered works of art (imagine a speeding dragon...
Start your trip to one of the world’s great cities. For a novel way to explore “the City by the Bay” park your car and explore by foot, bike, and unique public transportation. Pedal bikes across the Golden Gate Bridge and back, then explore the lush Presidio, a former military base that’s now a...
The last stop on this spectacular road trip ends at the very last city in California. Only 20 miles south of Oregon, sea-faring Crescent City is home to the northernmost of California’s lighthouse stations. Overlooking the town’s harbour, the 1856 Battery Point Lighthouse, built with 22-inch/56-...