The Perfect Family Getaway – California’s North Coast
I recently embarked on a terrifying undertaking: our first family road trip. We had no idea what to expect and over 1200 miles of road to cover between home and Northern California. One destination that was absolutely not negotiable for our youngest son was the Redwood Forest, so we made California’s North Coast our last stop. Not only were we awed by the beauty and power of the Redwoods, but we were pleasantly surprised by the other adventures we discovered along the way.
The Avenue of the Giants is a great place to start your discovery of the Redwoods. Running parallel to California’s HWY 101, 31 miles of twists and turns run through the tallest trees in the world. You can pick up a visitors pamphlet at the entrance to plan your stops along the way. There are plenty of hikes, camping sites, and photo opportunities to fit each visitors’ needs.
The Trees of Mystery is another great place to see the Redwoods, especially if you have little ones along for the ride. The trail through this attraction is about one mile long and includes a gondola ride to an observation deck where you can see the Pacific Ocean. As the gondola slowly soars through the canopy of the Redwoods it gives you an entirely new perspective of how tall the trees really are!
The last part of the trail brings you to intricate wood carvings depicting the story of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox – a huge highlight for kiddos.
Humboldt Bay is the second largest natural bay in California and is used for commercial and recreational activities as well as a conservation site. Check out the Humboldt Bay Wildlife Refuge to learn about the local plant and animal life and then head over to the Aquatic Center to rent a kayak or paddleboard so you can see the wildlife up close.
Since we were staying on the North Coast, we definitely wanted to enjoy the coast. We headed to Patrick’s Point State Park and started at Agate Beach where a steep, winding trail opened onto a long stretch of coast. It is a beachcomber’s paradise. You can find smooth agates in an array of color as well as driftwood and other stones as you walk along the sand.
Also in Patrick’s Point was Sumêg Village. Built in the 1990s by the Yurok people, Sumêg Village is used for youth education and sharing the Yurok culture with park visitors. It features family dwellings, a sweathouse, a redwood canoe, and a dance house. You can explore the traditional village and learn about historic and present-day life along the North Coast for Native Americans.
Eureka! I found it!
Eureka, located right on Humboldt Bay, is the largest coastal town between San Francisco and Portland, OR. The city’s Old Town is a nationally recognized historic district due to the high number of Victorian homes. Carson Mansion is a beautiful example of classic architecture. It is a private estate so you can’t enter the grounds, but it has an impressive presence from the sidewalk, nonetheless. You can take a walk along the waterfront or learn more about the city’s history while taking a carriage ride through Old Town.
Sequoia Park Zoo is the oldest zoo in California and features exhibits of both local and non-native wildlife. Feedings and zookeeper talks happen every hour and we were lucky enough to catch a bush dog swimming for her lunch! The real highlight was the sea otter exhibit because we had seen these adorable critters swimming in Humboldt Bay. The zoo also includes a red panda exhibit and a petting zoo with farm animals.
Being a coastal town, Eureka has plenty of seafood restaurants to choose from. Jack’s Seafood has waterfront dining and Humboldt Bay Provisions is a perfect spot for oyster lovers. If seafood isn’t for you, or perhaps you’ve had your fill of crab cakes for one day, Humboldt Smokehouse offers a delicious selection of barbeque with all the fixings. Our kids devoured their BBQ chicken burritos and I would highly recommend their pulled pork and mashed sweet potatoes.
Explore the North Coast
There are endless activities along California’s North Coast so you are only limited by the number of vacation days you can take! Whether you can visit for an entire week or just a couple days, during the heat of the summer or the frosty winters, the trip is well worth it.