Friday, August 26, 2016

Why Humboldt Should Be Your Next Roadtrip

The past week we took a small four day road trip up to Northern California. We are in Northern California you say? Well, I mean the very north, Northern California, Humboldt County.

This area of amazing natural beauty, often referred to as being behind the 'Redwood Curtain,' is a 6-7 hour drive north of the Bay Area and yet remote enough that most Californians have never been. 

Long ago in the era of the family road trip, the 'redwoods' were something one did with the family, preferably in a station wagon and most likely in the 1970's. Now the luxury of time and long family road trips seem almost a bygone era. People want to get to their destination via plane and fast. To all those who have never done a real road trip of multiple days, this is your spot! Do you want to see ancient redwood forests, fern canyons and foggy beaches with a few VW buses thrown in? Humboldt has all this and more!

Flights can be expensive costing as much as a trip to Hawaii and prior rail services that connected here have been sadly been retired. Car is the way to go and it's a pretty drive.

Leaving from the Bay Area, stop in one of the cutest town on the way up, Ukiah for a lunch.

Our favorite bakery Schats in quaint downtown Ukiah.

This Dutch bakery has at least 40 sandwiches on the menu and makes fantastic bread and sweets. I think The Verdict is the most popular sandwich on their amazing Sheepherder bread. (Did I mention they are across from the courthouse?)  Afterward pop into the wonderful Mendocino Book Company around the corner with it's expansive selection of books, cards and all kinds of lovely things I just can't find elsewhere.

Back on 101 you'll pass through some other small cute towns like Willits and Laytonville, and follow the aptly named Eel River which meanders along the highway for a large part of the trip.

Our first stop is always our Arcata.

We were lucky to stay in Arcata at our stepmom Marguerite's home. She has an amazing yard with a sunny deck and apple trees and backs up to the redwood forest.

She could run a Bed and Breakfast she is an amazing gourmet cook and host. I never want to leave.

We picked tons of sweet organic apples and helped set up for a big family dinner the next night.

Isn't this pretty?

Her front doors! 

Arcata where Marguerite lives is a college town, home to Humboldt State University and is perhaps the most charming of the three with a historic main square and a thriving funky cool artist community. 

A great weekend in Humboldt can be kicked off at The Arcata Farmer's Market  on Saturday morning! I love this market with fabulous sellers, and an interesting mix of people from students to garden nerds and organic farmers to new age hippies. 

The fruits, vegetables and plants are amazing! I was just wishing we had more room to take some of these home in the car.


The people watching at this market is 20 out of 10!

I loved this cute student's ensemble- fair isle sweater, heart glasses and Bernie bag!

Dreads are a popular look up here for both men and women.

Kale is just the right accessory for your hippie chic look!

My oldest son bought a Bonsai tree from guys we call the Bonsai nerds. They gave us the lowdown on everything we need to ever know about those little trees. Some wonderful honey sellers here too.

Pitcher plants and goat's milk handmade soaps!

They always have an art project going on where anyone can participate. This one was being run by Boy Scouts.

People were working on paper floating lanterns here. This guy's overalls were so Humboldt. 
Love it.
Many impromptu picnics.

There's also a hula-hoop area where everyone from toddlers to seniors are giving it a go!

While at the market check out the shopping around the town square.

  The Garden Gate has inspired and beautiful items locally made. 

Giraffe bud vase anyone?

This trip I bought some thick striped raw linen dishtowels there that I'm crazy about.

They also sell some amazing comfortable chairs that are popular to try out as you can see.

 Plaza is another must and one of the best curated stores I've ever been in! Gorgeous home goods and they are famous for their hand poured colored glass tableware which has a cult following it's so unique.

In Arcata two lunch spots are great, Rita's authentic Mexican food on 8th right by the plaza and also Cafe Brio, a wonderful bakery and restaurant if you can find a table. Coffee from Jitter Bean Coffee Company, also on the plaza is a requirement before a stroll through the market!

Another must while in Humboldt is Los Bagels, something you won't find anywhere else- a combo Jewish/Mexican bakery cafe with the best organic bagels you'll ever have. It was begun 32 years ago by Dennis Rael who came from a multi-cultural Jewish and Mexican family. It soon became a Humboldt institution that everyone loves. We never miss a chance to go here and get a slug- their long seeded bagels, and fresh creme cheese. They also have challah, empanadas and fresh guacamole and more bakery items plus great artsy T-shirts and bags. There are two more locations, one in Old Town Eureka and on the Humboldt State campus. 

I had to have this cute white shopping tote, one of many fun things they sell.

Eureka is the largest town in Humboldt, is famous for it's Victorians and it's cute Old Town. It sits on the waterfront of Humboldt Bay and has many nice seafood restaurants and cute shops.  The Carter House is one very nice hotel to stay in here with it's pretty Victorian buildings.

Interesting note-Eureka is the home of the original Restoration Hardware which began as a supply spot for the many Victorians being renovated and sadly is no longer there or anything like the original store. This pic is from Wikipedia as I did not get to Eureka this trip, but shows how charming it is. While in Old Town check out HollyGoLightly, a darling vintage boutique and also Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate.

 Trinidad is the cutest little secret beach town in California ...At least that's what Sunset Magazine said and I agree.

Trinidad was a historic whaling port and it's also where my husband Max grew up. It sits in a bluff overlooking the prettiest little harbor. There is still a population of around 400, about the same as it was when he grew up here in the 1970's.

It reminds me a little of East Coast Beach towns.

Now however, it's a bit more upscale with many beautiful vacation rentals, inns and three cute cafes. This pretty one below is Trinidad Bay Bed and Breakfast which overlooks the harbor.

It is a great little village to walk around.

The Beachcomber Cafe is my favorite spot with it's organic fare and green ethic.

Those cool bikes parked in front belonged to biking backpackers.

Food is organic, local and delicious. The breakfast bean bowl was tops. Bring your own cup for coffee here. They don't do paper cups, but you can buy a to go glass for a dollar.

A walk around Trinidad brings you to a few cute shell shops and to the harbor with another landmark spot, The Seascape. It's right at the bottom of the harbor and you can watch the fishing boats go out if the fog isn't too thick. Their traditional fare is actually tasty and it's a cozy spot on a cool day.

Trinidad State Beach is the walk to do here and it begins with a pretty trail down to the sea.

This is where my husband played all day as a kid in these woods!

Banana slugs may be sharing the trail...

The fog blows in and out all day here in the summertime so dress warmly and in layers. It's magical this mist!

Patrick's Point is another great coastal trail in Trinidad if you have time. Agate Beach is also a favorite spot to find agates.

The beach below of the Trinidad lighthouse is also lovely, seen below.

 Most of these beaches require a little hike down a trail so bring good shoes with you.

If you have an extra day, drive up the coast an hour to the town of Orick to see Lady Bird Johnson Grove, some of the most remarkable old growth redwoods ever. Here's a pic I took a few years back at LBJ..

 Not far from there is Fern Canyon, a stream canyon through fern covered walls where Jurassic Park II was filmed. Both are worth adding another day to your trip and fortunately are close to each other and can be done in one day.
This shot in Fern Canyon from a few years ago on the same trip...
It's a blast to walk along all the boards through the creek and along the canyon. You need shoes that can get wet here.

For lodging near to all this in Trinidad check out View Crest Lodge, which has spacious rooms for families and good prices and is central to all these spots north and Trinidad. 

Trinidad has a very famous and unique restaurant, Larrupin' Cafe. Wonderful local food and a beautiful cozy decor make it a perfect ending to a weekend up in Humboldt!

For more information visit this  Visit California site which has a good overview of the redwood parks as there are so many.

The coast redwoods are the tallest living things on earth and really have to be seen to be appreciated. No photos can capture the beauty or the smell of the redwood forest. I hope you all get to see this amazing part of the world one day. The little towns that surround this area are charming too and feel a bit like another place and time, which I love and highly recommend as a getaway!


Photos all Northern Cal Style, except where noted. 


  1. Love this post Kim and I was so excited to see you mentioned Ukiah too - my home town. Schats is one of my faves along with Ellie's, The Bottle Shop,& Mario's Restaurante next time you're there. You're so right how it's so easy to live in Nor Cal and never make it up as far as Eureka, but like you mentioned Road trip is the way to go. I love the pics you captured from the redwoods to your sons enjoying the coast. Looks like you all had a great time! People watching in new cities is always the best. ;)


    1. Dale, Thanks I was thinking of you in Ukiah! It must have been a sweet town to grow up in! Thanks for those recommendations. I will check them out next time I'm up there.
      xx Kim

  2. What a beautiful area! I haven't been that far north but the beaches look magical and completely uncrowded. All of those towns look so charming and they look like they are from a different era for sure. What a nice change of pace to head up there for several days and such a special place for Max to grow up. I'm sure he appreciates it more now than when he lived there, right!? Road trips with the kids are great and such a nice change of pace.

    1. April, Thanks I think you'd really enjoy the great shopping and interesting restaurants and yes the beaches !! Maybe a road trip someday?
      P.s. This post was published at 2 a.m. and I messed up the title! Ugh I learned my lesson never to write at night.

  3. What a great family rosd trip, so different that flying to a major city. A change of space and another world. I have not been past Mendocino but you gave a good tour, beautiful country.

    1. Thanks so much Sheila! It really is lovely and just a different pace of life up there which I loved!

  4. I thought maybe the SON was attending college up THERE!Where is HE going?I think YOU already told me!YES< gorgeous NECK OF THE WOODS!GREAT POST..............makes me want to jump in the FIAT 500!

    1. Elizabeth, He will be going to Santa Clara, closer to home. I thought of you as there are so many very cool stores and vintage ones! The Fiat would like the road trip there! xo

  5. I've never been to Humboldt, but it's been on my "list" and your post has moved it up! You are so right, road trips are GREAT! Pinned the post for future planning! :-)

    Andrea’s Wellness Notes

    1. Andrea, You have to get there. It's amazing. Thanks for pinning it. I hope you get there soon! Kim

  6. The Humboldt style overall guy is my son. Thanks for the great picture of him! Your fantastic article reminded me of how blessed we are to live here--you captured its charm perfectly. Beauty is everywhere in Humboldt.

    1. Hi Heather! I thought your son was adorable. Hope he was okay with me using his photo. I agree you are blessed living in Humboldt! It truly is magical and maybe it being hard to get to is one reason it stays that way. Thanks so much for your kind note. Kim

  7. It's been years since I've been to Humboldt (1981) eek! Glad it hasn't changed too much. Beautiful area.

  8. I have never been to Humboldt, but have been to Ukiah and Eureka many years ago. You made me want to put this on my bucket list!!