A fairytale come to life, the remote Humboldt County village of Ferndale features carefully preserved Victorian-era century homes, a visual and architectural feast, all close to the redwoods (while here, a trip to nearby Humboldt Redwoods State Park or Redwood National and State Parks is a must). On a peaceful foggy morning or sunny afternoon, stroll Main Street to see buildings in all their gingerbread finery; many buildings now house B&Bs, artisan chocolatiers, galleries, and craft shops. (Holidays are especially magical, with locals stringing twinkly lights everywhere, and horse-drawn carriages giving clip-clop rides around town.)
But no, this is no façade dressed up for show only. Ferndale is very much a working town, the provenance of Scandinavian, Swiss-Italian, and Portuguese immigrants who settled the tucked-away community in the mid-1800s, drawn here by the booming dairy industry. Read their names in Ferndale’s 1868 cemetery, one of the state’s most beautiful burial sites. Take in sweeping views of the one-square-mile town. Let your eyes follow the Eel River westward to the sea, five miles away—a view little changed since those settlers came here long ago.
For a town of such modest size (population 1,366), there’s a lot to check out. The Ferndale Museum will take you on a deep dive into Humboldt County history, and the arts have a major presence here as well. A half dozen galleries and studios, like Artisan Alley Studios and Ferndale Arts Gallery, feature paintings, ceramics, textile art, photography, and more from the thriving local scene. Fans of live music should see what’s going on at The Old Steeple, a former Methodist church that’s been converted into a music venue that also hosts the occasional comedy show.
A mere six miles away is the Lost Coast Headlands National Monument, famous for hiking, bird watching, and spectacular views. Though much of the Lost Coast is inaccessible due to steep coastal bluffs and all-around ruggedness, visitors looking to get their toes wet can indulge at Centerville Beach County Park, five miles due west of town.