This lively seaport town, the largest coastal city between San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, has a split personality charm: a sense of history in the handsomely restored, Victorian era Old Town district, a still working seaport where crusty fishing boats chug in and out of a protected harbour, logging trucks rumbling through town, and an eco conscious college vibe thanks to Humboldt State, in the nearby town of Arcata. Hundreds of ornate 19th century homes, like the Carson Mansion, a paragon of Queen Anne architecture now housing a private club at the end of Second Street, reflect the prosperity of Eureka’s formative years, when lumber was king. The entire city is a state historic landmark, a captivating mix of nature and culture with a small town feel.
Start your visit on the waterfront, where a pretty esplanade provides nice views of the harbour and adjacent Humboldt Bay. Visit the small maritime museum, then board the MV Madaket, a snug ferryboat plying the bay since 1910, for 75 minute guided cruise. In adjacent Old Town, make a beeline for the outstanding Eureka Visitors Center, where you can sample local wines, beers and oysters, ask for tips on nearby galleries, gift shops and restaurants, and book guided tours and adventures.
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’s also a place where a new generation of farmers and winemakers focus on preserving the land as well as producing amazing food and wine. Favorite 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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