Once upon a time, Eureka was a vibrant seaport, rivaled only in importance by San Francisco itself. While many city folks may find themselves wondering Where's Eureka?, the Humboldt County seat is making a comeback among tree huggers, art buffs, and foodies craving oysters and craft beer.
The quaint Victorian Old Town that fronts Humboldt Bay has plentiful art and dining scenes and an authentic Barbary Coast vibe. Weekend warriors, meanwhile, can make the city home base for explorations of nearby wild beaches and ancient redwood forests. Now is a great time to visit, so take this guide, go forth, and conquer.
With natural beauty out the wazoo, Eureka and its surrounds just beg for a sativa-fueled adventure—this is Humboldt County, after all. Once you've tired of hiking and kayaking, check out the museums where you can learn about local Native American tribes and more.
(Photo: Ocean Malandra)
Row, Row, Row Your Boat
Well, technically those are kayaks, but you get the picture. At Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center, located on the waterfront just east of Old Town, you can rent a kayak or standup paddleboard by the hour or for a full day. Paddle out to Indian Island, home of a huge egret rookery, or around the many sloughs and canals of the bay’s wetlands. // 921 Waterfront Drive, www2.humboldt.edu
Hug Big Trees
You don’t have to go all the way to Redwood National Park to commune among some of the most majestic trees in the world. Sequoia Park has more than 60 acres of gorgeous old growth redwoods. Take a hike, then check out the small zoo—it's the oldest zoo in California. // 3414 W St., sequoiaparkzoo.net
(Photo via Corey Drieth)
Get schooled in the art of the Pacific Northwest at the Morris Graves Museum of Art (MGMA). Housed in a grand former library, the museum celebrates regional artists including its late patron Morris Graves, who lived and worked in nearby Loleta. The MGMA is operated by the Humboldt Arts Council, which also organizes Art’s Alive, an every first Saturday gathering with art and live music. // 636 F Street, humboldtarts.org
(Photo: Ocean Malandra)
Learn Some History
Gold Rush–era artifacts, mockups of Victorian life, and the intricate basketry of native Karuk, Wiyot, and Yurok tribes are among the items exhibited at The Clarke Historical Museum, which was founded in the landmark Bank of Eureka building in 1960. // 240 E St., clarkemuseum.org
Lovers of Victorian arcitecture and antique furnishings will be in heaven at Eureka's two most stylish spots to crash.
(Courtesy of Carter House)
Something Old, Something New
The luxe Carter House, located in a quiet residential part of Old Town, may have been built in the '90s, but its design was taking directly from blueprints of an actual 19th century home in San Francisco. The large yellow mansion has modern amenities and historic details, as well as a spa and farm to table fare at Restaurant 301. Also check out Carter's sister cottages, complete with full kitchens for longer stays. // 301 L St., carterhouse.com
(Courtesy of The Eagle House Inn)
The Real McCoy
Clawfoot bathtubs, high ceilings, antiques, and chintz galore await you in the historic The Eagle House Inn, which has presided over Old Town since 1886. If you are traveling with friends, rent out the adjoining suites on the top floor to have a penthouse apartment all to yourselves. // 139 2nd St., eaglehouseinn.com
Foodies rejoice: Humboldt is the land is freshly shucked oysters, craft beers, locally made cheeses, meats, and more. Eat up!
(Courtesy of Taste Humboldt)
Eat (and Drink) Local
Nearly 70 percent of California’s oysters come from Humboldt Bay. Have them freshly shucked at Taste Humboldt, the all-local tasting room inside the visitor’s center. In fact, this is the place to try all kinds of local flavors, with tastings of everything from chevre to charcuterie, and craft beer to kombucha. // 205 G St., taste-local.com
(Photo via Alexander M. / Foursquare)
Get Your Java On
For Eureka locals, mornings begin at Old Town Coffee. Grab a hot cup of house roasted Red Rooster and a bagel with local salmon lox to fuel up before exploring the bay. // 211 F St., oldtowncoffeeeureka.com
(Photo via Redwoods.info)
The Must-Try Fish House
Fresh fish is on order at Café Waterfront, where seafood lovers will find the morning's bounty caught at Woodley Island marina. At the foot of Old Town’s bayfront boardwalk, this historic oyster bar and grill also serves classics like a hangman fry. Sunday jazz brunch is fueled by mimosas. // 102 F St., cafewaterfronteureka.com
Meat and Literature
Legend has it that Jack London once had a fist fight with a local timber baron at Old Town's gorgeously restored Oberon Grill. Specializing in Humboldt grass-fed steaks and freshly caught seafood, the Oberon also has a large ornate bar. // 16 2nd St., facebook.com/Oberon-Grill
(Photo via North Coast Journal)
Here's Your Sweets Fix
Grab a pot of tea and a berry scone or indulge in something a bit more decadent (a chocolate triangle cake, perhaps?) at Ramone’s Bakery and Cafe. This cozy little spot with a fireplace and couches also does great soup-and-sandwich lunch specials. // 209 E St., ramonesbakery.com
Let's Do Lunch
The Middle East meets New Orleans at popular local lunch spot Café Nooner, where you may find yourself tossing a coin to choose between a deluxe mezze plate and the pulled pork po’boy that had Guy Fieri doing backflips in glee. On sunny days, grab a seat on the pretty little patio on Opera Alley. Despite its name, Café Nooner is also open for dinner on weekends. // 409 Opera Alley, cafenooner.net
Craft beers may rule around these parts, but there are plenty of slick spots to drink a glass of wine, hear live music, or even see some belly dancing. Have fun!
(Photo via Indulgery)
Live jazz and blues and award-worthy cocktails make it hard to keep the SpeakEasy a secret, even if its tucked away in a clandestine spot down Opera Alley. Slip into a booth and enjoy a sazerac. // 411 Opera Alley, facebook.com/speakeasyeureka
(Courtesy of Pearl Lounge)
Show off Your Moves
Hit the sleek night spot Pearl Lounge early for drink specials and thin crust pizzas from Five Eleven next-door. Stick around for DJ dance parties that start hopping after 10pm. // 507 2nd St., pearleureka.com
The Siren Song Tavern is a Barbary Coast–themed lounge with hundreds of craft beers, ciders, and wines from all over the world. Unwind on a plush vintage couches and chill out to music from local and touring bands. Themed shows range from burlesque to belly dancing. // 325 2nd St., facebook.com/TheSirensSongTavern
As you might expect from a small town in Humboldt, books, vintage, and crafts line the shelves in local stores.
(Courtesy of Eureka Booksellers)
Ye Old Book Shop
New York Times bestselling author Amy Stewart (Wicked Plants, The Drunken Botanist) owns Eureka Books, and old school–style book palace. Stock up on guidebooks and maps, or browse the collection of rare and collectible tomes. // 426 2nd St., eurekabooksellers.com
Peruse the Merch
Mens and Womens vintage clothes are on offer at Little Shop of Hers; next door at Seymour’s, run by the same owner, antique toys and novelties are to be had. // 416 2nd St., facebook.com/The-Little-Shop-of-Hers
If you're looking to take a little bit of Humboldt home, shop local artisan and international craft items at Many Hands Gallery. // 438 2nd St., manyhandsgallery.net