Nature and culture merge in an art-fueled Victorian seaport
Things to do
Places to Eat & Drink
The lively seaport town of Eureka, the largest coastal city between San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, has 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 harbor, 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 elaborate 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 along the waterfront, where a pretty esplanade provides nice views of the harbor 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, beeline to the outstanding Eureka Visitors Center, where you can sample local wines, beers, and local oysters; ask for tips on nearby galleries, gift shops, and eateries; and book guided tours and adventures. Kids love the Discovery Museum, where hands-on exhibits explore art, technology, and science, and the free Kinetic Museum & HQ is a fun look back on the more than half-century history of the local Kinetic Grand Championship sculpture race.
The city is also home to Sequoia Park Zoo, the oldest—and one of the smallest—zoos in the state. With animal residents that are on the smaller side—red pandas, river otters, and gibbons, to name just a few—the zoo is perfect for small children, and can be fully experienced in an hour or two (you can view a map of the zoo here).