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.
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