With two in-depth trips over the last twelve months, Humboldt County along California’s northern coast now has more articles here on The Royal Tour than anywhere other than my home of Los Angeles. And deservedly so. The place is beautiful, home to rocky coastlines and sandy beaches, beautiful mountains and the world’s tallest giant redwoods, stunning Victorian homes and regenerative farmlands, and some truly wonderful people. It is a destination worthy of all the publicity it can get, and of a visit from you.
In this guide, we will explore all of what Humboldt County has to offer, and how to make your perfect itinerary, beyond just driving through to see the redwoods. Each link will take you to a more detailed article here on The Royal Tour, so make sure to click around. Oh, and if you enjoy this guide, click here to visit all of our Ultimate Guides from all over the world.
The Ultimate Guide to Humboldt County
Humboldt County is home to a very small airport. The entire thing has two gates. However, flights come from as far as Denver, so via United you are really only a single stop away, no matter where in the country you start. You can also fly American from Phoenix, or Avelo from Burbank. (Click here for my review of Avelo Airlines.)
However, most visitors to Humboldt will come via car, seeing the place as part of a driving trip along the California coast from the Bay Area (about six or seven hours) or southern Oregon. Eureka is the main city here, with about 30,000 people, with the suburbs of Arcata (15,000) and McKinleyville (another 15,000) making up the major metro area, sitting astride US 101, which runs from Los Angeles to Olympia, Washington, via San Francisco.
You’ll need a car, unless you only plan to stay in Eureka’s historic downtown. (While cool, you will definitely want to see more.) If you drive, that’s easy. If you fly in, Enterprise and National share a small rental car counter and lot at the airport.
Humboldt County is fairly spread out. While the aforementioned cities are all within about a ten mile radius, the two main redwood spots (more on that in a bit) are 45-60 minutes’ drive north or south, and the mountains the same distance to the east. Fortunately, parking is plentiful even in Eureka’s downtown, so you’ll never really have to worry.
A note here: US 101 is a surface street with lights and cross-traffic in Eureka, and a freeway elsewhere through the populated areas. Just keep that in mind when driving through.
Where to Stay
If this is your first visit, stay in Eureka. Hotels range from historic inns to a Holiday Inn Express. If you prefer quiet solitude, an Airbnb in Trinidad, north of Eureka, might be in order. Or for some awesome home hospitality, try Patsy’s Place in McKinleyville. The hosts will truly make you feel welcome.
I have stayed at the aforementioned Holiday Inn Express and Patsy’s Place, as well as the Victorian Inn in Ferndale, south of Eureka. You might also want to try the Scotia Lodge if you are here in the county for a cannabis vacation, as it is currently the only cannabis-friendly hotel.
What to Do
Let’s start with the redwoods, because the odds are that if you’re planning a trip to Humboldt County, this is the reason – and rightly so. In the northern part of the county sits Redwood National Park (click here for my guide), while Humboldt Redwoods State Park and the Avenue of the Giants are to the south (click here for my guide on those). If you only have time for one, the national park is probably your first choice, although from a personal standpoint, I preferred the relative quiet of Humboldt Redwoods, even though the trees aren’t quite as tall.
Exploring Eureka is a must. Start with the famous Carson Mansion (click here to read about it), the outline of which became the Adams Family house. While you can’t go inside without an invitation from the Ingomar Club, it is still worth a few pictures from outside. The rest of the city is cute (click here for a guide to Eureka), with highlights being Humboldt Bay itself and the amazing old buildings of downtown. Take an hour to just walk around.
Let’s talk about cannabis for a moment. This is where some of the best in the world is grown (click here for my guide to Humboldt’s cannabis tourism) and you can not only visit a dispensary to obtain some, but you can even visit a farm or two, have a THC massage, and more. And if you are not a cannabis user and you worry that it will be over the top, it isn’t, and you will have no problem just ignoring this aspect of the county while here.
Trinidad, about a half hour north of Eureka, is one of the most lovely seaside towns I’ve ever visited. You can click here for my guide to a day spent there. Or head south of town to the Lost Coast for some sandy beaches in complete solitude.
Finally, a visit to Humboldt County isn’t complete without a farm experience. Try visiting Foggy Bottom Boys just outside Ferndale, south of Eureka. (Click here for my guide to Ferndale and the local farms.) I milked a cow – well, I hooked a cow up to a milking machine – for the first time, helped sort eggs, and was licked by a calf. These sorts of experiences are amazing for a city kid like me.
What to Eat
I’ll get to restaurant recommendations in just a moment, but let’s start with oysters. More than 70% of California’s oysters for consumption are farmed here in Humboldt Bay, and you’ll want to try some. (Click here to learn more about Humboldt oysters.)
If you’re down in Ferndale, try a charcuterie plate from The Boardroom. In Eureka, make sure to get the mushroom cobbler from Brick & Fire, and quail egg shooters from Phatsy Kline’s. If you’re in Trinidad, fried shrimp at Seascape are great, although the place is known for its fresh crabs (expensive, though).
Other Useful Information
It can be cold and foggy along Humboldt’s Coast, especially in the mornings. Dress in layers, as when the fog recedes, or you go a bit inland, it can be sunny and warm.
Cruise ships have just started coming to the area. So if you dock here, make sure to arrange a trip to whatever means most to you, or just walk around the city and have some oysters!
One more note on cannabis: while totally legal in California, it might not be where you live. Be careful when taking products back home. I had no issue with TSA at the airport here, but it is technically not legal to fly with, especially if flying to a state where it is illegal.
A quick word on politics. While the county as a whole leans left, making it one of the few rural counties to do so, some of the small towns definitely do not. You are unlikely to have any issues, but just be aware that there can be some closed-minded bigotry around, as with anywhere.
Before the pandemic, I had only driven through Humboldt County once to see Redwood National Park. Now, after two amazing trips, I can safely say this is one of my favorite places in California. You will love it here as well. As I tell people, come for the redwoods, but stay for the variety of incredible experiences you will be assured to have. A few days or a week, you’ll have no trouble filling your days with some amazing beauty, wonderful activities, and warm people.
Thank you so much to Visit Redwoods for hosting me on my most recent trip, and for helping arrange much of my itinerary on my first visit. They will do an amazing job helping you plan your trip also.
Like it? Pin it!