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12 Best Things to Do in Eureka, California

12 Best Things to Do in Eureka, California

It’s no surprise that the definition of “eureka” is “a cry of joy or satisfaction when one finds or discovers something,” as the city of Eureka, California, is sure to bring a lot of joy to anyone who visits.

With so many unique things to do in Eureka, California, the city is often a stopping point for travelers exploring the Pacific Northwest. It’s the largest city in Northern California between San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, and nestled between the redwood forest and Humboldt bay.

Eureka is accessible by sea (Humboldt Bay), air (the Eureka-Arcata Airport aka California Redwood Coast-Humboldt County Airport), or car via the Redwood Highway, but once there, many of Eureka’s areas are best traveled by foot.

There are things to do in Eureka for everyone, from shopping to outdoor activities and museums and gardens to visit.

The area has a rich history, with its native American heritage, the Gold Rush, and the redwood logging industry. Eureka is a vibrant seaport city with a lot to offer the local community and tourists alike.

Many buildings in Eureka’s historic district consist of Victorian architecture or are part of the United States National Register. Some are made from local redwood trees.

The city is also widely known for its art community, bringing artists from all over to the Eureka Street Art Festival.

If you are wondering what to do in Eureka this guide will give you a lot of good ideas!

TLDR – Things to Do in Eureka, CA

If you’re in Eureka and looking for some quick tips, take a look at the top highlights below:

 Best & Fun Things to do in Eureka, CA

1. Redwood Highway

Redwood Highway

Address: US-101 from Cresent City south to Leggett

The Redwood Highway begins north of Eureka and goes south to Leggett. Surprisingly, the 175-mile journey on the Redwood Highway is not all forests with Coastal Redwood trees. Instead, there are groves of redwoods between canyons, ocean views, and towns.

These are not the same redwood forests that are in Yosemite National Park.

Whereas the ones in Yosemite have very thick trunks, the Coastal Redwoods on the Redwood Highway have trunks that are only 16-18 feet wide. However, the Coastal Redwoods are the tallest trees on Earth, some reaching 350 feet.

The massive height combined with the small width makes them look incredibly thin.

In addition to the redwood forests found on the Redwood Highway, you’ll find a generous showing of roadside souvenirs and tourist stops, including:

  • A gondola ride through the forest at Trees of Mystery (north of Klamath)
  • Bigfoot souvenirs and the One-Log House (near Garberville)
  • The World Famous Gravity House and Ripley’s Believe It or Not’s “World’s Tallest Free-standing Redwood Chainsaw Carving” at Confusion Hill (in Piercy)
  • A drive through the middle of the Chandelier Drive-Through Tree (near Leggett)

It’s important to know that parts of U.S. Highway 101 between Crescent City and Leggett are only two lanes with no shoulders, so you might want to pack your patience. Slower drivers should use the turnouts, but unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

The Redwood Highway is a fun way to experience the northern Californian coast for all, whether you’re traveling with children, friends, family, or solo.

See Related: Most Exotic Places in California to Visit

2. Lost Coast Trail

Hiking in Lost Coast Trail
image by Rick McCharles is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Address: Mattole Trailhead: Lighthouse Rd, Petrolia, CA 95558

The Lost Coast Trail is worthy of any hiker’s bucket list with its challenging 25-mile trail along the undeveloped coastline. With its remote location in the King Range National Conservation Area of Northern California, the Eureka waterfront trail is among the most rugged in the United States.

The King Range NCA has miles and miles of trails with hundreds of potential routes, including inland trails. But the standard Lost Coast Trail is the area from Mattole Beach to Shelter Cove.

The trail includes black sand beaches intermingled with 4,000-foot mountains. The terrain consists of soft sand and rocks.

Although the hike is relatively short, the main challenge is avoiding high tides, which can make sections of the trail impassable at times.

The hike is as challenging mentally as it is physically. Therefore, this trail is not recommended for young families, as high tides can be extremely dangerous, even for adults.

Most people take about 3-4 days to hike the Lost Coast Trail from Mattole Beach to Shelter Cove. While you need a permit to hike the trail, you don’t need to plan for campgrounds, as you can camp anywhere along the route. There are plenty of sites and water sources along the way.

The trail is so popular that it’s a good idea to snag a permit when they are released on October 1 for the following year. Permits are offered through Recreation.gov only- no walk-up permits are allowed.

3. Sequoia Park Zoo

Otter in Sequoia Park Zoo,
image by stevieyt/TripAdvisor

Address: 3414 W St, Eureka, CA 95503 (in Sequoia Park Forest)

The Sequoia Park Zoo is nestled within the beautiful redwoods of Sequoia Park Forest in the small town of Eureka. If you are interested in animals, conservation, and education, you’ll find this zoo a fantastic experience.

One of the unique features of this zoo is the Redwood Sky Walk, which offers a fantastic view from 100 feet above the forest floor.

From this height, you can experience the mature redwood trees closer than ever. In addition, the Sky Walk is roughly 1/4 mile to the end and back, which makes it the longest skywalk in the United States.

In addition to the Sky Walk experience, there are exhibits galore, such as a walk-through aviary, frolicking river otters, painting pandas, and Crested screamers.

The Sequoia Park Zoo describes its flamingos as high drama and their next-door neighbors, the Patagonian cavies. But, of course, you can also laugh at the snouts of the Chacoan peccaries or the Black-headed spider monkeys.

The Sequoia Park Zoo is a hit for families with the zoo’s interactive Kids’ Koop. Children can pet and brush sheep and goats in the Contact Corral and meet alpacas, donkeys, and rabbits.

The zoo is in the process of developing a black bear and coyote exhibit that will provide a natural and enriching habitat for both. Visitors can view both species by crossing the 5-foot-tall boardwalk. This 400-foot-long boardwalk allows zoo visitors to see the animals from a higher viewpoint.

When you’re done at the Sequoia Park Zoo, you can venture around Sequoia Park Forest or Sequoia Park Garden for more outdoor fun. Eureka provides so many outdoor activities, and the zoo is just one!

  See Related: Best Things to Do in California

4. Old Town Eureka

Old Town Eureka
image by DominusVobiscum is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Address: 1st, 2nd, & 3rd Streets, between B and M Streets

The city of Eureka, California began as a settlement on the edge of Humboldt Bay, where Old Town Eureka is today.

Eureka was established in 1850 as a transportation and supply center for the Gold Rush. So, naturally, a business district developed along the Humboldt Bay shoreline with offices, shops, and saloons, since Humboldt Bay was the source of all commerce.

These restored commercial buildings now contain bookstores, coffee houses, galleries, restaurants, museums, and boutiques.

Old Town Eureka or the Eureka Old Town Historic District includes First, Second, and Third Streets, between C and M streets. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, many of the 150+ buildings have Victorian-style architecture.

Some of the more popular Victorian-style buildings in Old Town Eureka include:

Some of the architectural styles of Old Town Eureka include Classical Revival, Greek Revival, Italianate, Eastlake/Stick, Queen Anne, Second Empire, Mission Revival, and Sullivanesque. You will love the old Victorian architecture of these historic Victorian homes and businesses.

Many events occur in Old Town, including Blues By the Bay, First Saturday Arts Alive!, and the annual Fourth of July street fair and fireworks show.

Old Town Eureka is perfect for everyone. With so much to do and see, you won’t be disappointed.

If you’d like a unique experience around Old Town Eureka, you may want to consider the Old Town Eureka Waterfront and Street Art Bike Tour

5. Clarke Historical Museum

Clarke Historical Museum Exhibit
image by Loyal Fox/TripAdvisor

Address: 240 E St, Eureka, CA 95501

The Clarke Historical Museum’s mission is to interpret, preserve, and share the varied history of Northern California. The Clarke Historical Museum sits on the shores of Humboldt Bay, specifically Native American land that belongs to the Wiyot peoples.

In the Wiyot language, the land is known as “Jaroujiji,” which means “where you sit and rest,” while Humboldt Bay is known as “Wigi” after a story about how it became a saltwater bay.

The Clarke Historical Museum was founded by Cecile Clarke, a local history teacher. Clarke used to store all of her local historical items at the school, but when the school ran out of room for her collection, she sold her family’s ranch and bought the old Bank of Eureka building.

This building became the Clarke Historical Museum. The museum then continued to grow with donations from other Eureka residents.

The museum is an enjoyable experience for history buffs and curious children. Permanent exhibits include an extensive mineral collection, historic firearms, beautiful baskets, and a recreated Victorian room.

Some Humboldt County residents became wealthy through shipbuilding and the lumber industry- these individuals were called Victorians.

They valued and flaunted their wealth in their ornate, elaborately decorated homes. The Victorian room shows how the Victorians lived in Eureka during the late 19th Century.

However, the museum also includes items from local Native American cultures, the lumber industry, the gold rush, and local farms and ranches. Walking through the museum’s period rooms, you can experience Humboldt County’s rich and diverse past.

If you like history and nature, you may also enjoy Fort Humboldt State Historic Park.

 See Related: Best California Road Trips

6. Carson Mansion

Carson Mansion
image by Cory Maylett is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Address: 143 M St, Eureka, CA 95501

During the gold rush, William Carson came to Eureka hoping to make his money in gold, but he found his fortune in the lumber industry. In 1855, Carson shipped his first cargo of local redwood lumber from Humboldt Bay.

Having achieved financial prosperity, William Carson set his sights on creating a truly unique home. So, in 1884, the Carson Mansion was built. Ironically, he built it during an economic slump in the industry, but he did it (partially at least) to keep his workers employed.

It is now one of the most recognizable Victorian mansions in the United States with its eclectic design, ornate gingerbread detail, columned porches, multiple gables, and the mansion’s towers and turrets.

Carson asked the respected San Francisco architects, the Newsom Brothers, to design a home reflecting his social stature and wealth. So, the Newsoms combined multiple styles during that period, such as Eastlake, Queen Anne, Stick, and Italiante.

The Carson Mansion was built to overlook Carson’s lumber mills and is considered a point of pride for the city.

Although Carson used local redwood to construct his home, he also imported almost 100,000 feet of white mahogany and other exotic woods from Central America and Mexico.

It’s not just the exterior architecture that makes this mansion so elaborate – the interiors of the Carson Mansion include carved ornaments and stained glass.

Unfortunately, the public cannot enter the Carson Mansion as it is now privately owned. However, visitors are welcome to take photographs of the exquisite exterior from the sidewalk.

7. Morris Graves Museum

Morris Graves Museum Entrance

Address: 636 F St, Eureka, CA 95501

Located downtown, the Morris Graves Museum of Art is dedicated to the regional artists of Northwestern California. Named after its patron artist, Morris Graves, the museum has seven of his major and minor paintings as part of the permanent collection.

He lived in Humboldt County until he died in 2001, and in 1999, he endowed the art museum in his name.

The Morris Graves Museum is located in the old Eureka Carnegie Library Building, initially constructed in 1904. It has a permanent collection, including works from Romano Gabriel, Bruno Groth, Glenn Berry, and Melvin Schuler.

Current exhibits include sculpture and drawings by Kit Davenport, Recent Humboldt County Landscape Paintings in Gouache by Jim McVicker, and California Atmosphere by Erin Lee Gafill.

While you may not recognize these regional artists’ names, their amazing and unique art is also worth viewing at the Morris Graves Museum:

  • Vicki Barry
  • Julia Bednar
  • Jim Lowry
  • Paul Rickard and Jody Bryan
  • Sara Starr
  • Patricia Sundgren Smith
  • Kim Reid
  • Claudia Lima

If you want to support these local artists, stop by the Humbolt Artist Gallery inside the Morris Graves Museum for a unique gift.

If you want to learn more about Eureka’s art, culture, and history, consider the Eureka Scavenger Hunt: From Wood To Wonder!

  See Related: Best Museums in the US You Need to Visit

8. Lost Coast Brewery

Lost Coast Brewery Building
image by Management/TripAdvisor

Address: 1600 Sunset, Eureka, CA 95503

Lost Coast Brewery was one of the first microbreweries in California before craft beer was popular. At the time of its foundation, no one thought it could compete with the giant beer companies. However, Barbara Groom is doing just that.

After a short stint of selling Avon and a more extended period of being a pharmacist, Barbara Groom decided to make beer. Not only did she enjoy it, but she was also good at it. Very good!

So, what started as a crazy job experiment grew into a small brewery in downtown Eureka. Now located just south of Eureka, Lost Coast Brewery is brewing out of a custom-built brewery ready to expand with growth. As well as brewing mouthwatering beers, it is now one of the best local restaurants in Eureka.

The brewery also serves delicious food, including burgers, sandwiches, salads, and other specialties. So, if you’re craving a Black and Blue burger with your Lost Ghost Hazy Double IPA, Lost Coast is the place for you. Or, if you like a fruity beer, you can try their Raspberry Brown or Watermelon Wheat.

The Lost Coast Brewery is fun for date night, but also great for families, with options such as root beer, fountain drinks, burgers, and spacious seating.

Come by Lost Coast Brewery to recharge in the all-local tasting room after a trip to Fort Humboldt State Historic Park.

9. Elk River Trail

Elk River Trail
image by mypubliclands is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Address: Elk River Trailhead on Elk River Road, Eureka, CA (in Headwaters Forest Reserve)

The Elk River Trail is the main attraction of the Headwaters Forest Reserve. The Headwaters Forest Reserve supports a number of endangered species, including the northern spotted owl, marbled murrelets, and coho salmon.

The trail starts as an old logging road gently undulating up and down alongside the Elk River. Then it turns into a single track that switchbacks up a hill through redwoods, ending with a short loop. The trail is well-maintained and can usually be traversed year-round.

One of the benefits is that the trail is in a relatively narrow canyon with no traffic noise or signs of modern civilization. As a result, the sound of the Elk River is the only thing you can hear on the trail.

The trail is popular for Eureka residents who want to hike with their dogs or go for a run. Because of this, the small parking lot can fill up quickly on the weekends.

Mountain biking used to be possible on the first few miles of the trail, but with the occasional landslides, parts of the course have been rerouted. Sometimes the new sections involve steps or stairs and are often muddy, making mountain biking difficult.

If you want to explore these hiking trails, plan a 10-minute drive from Highway 101.

Head south from Eureka and take the Elk River Road exit (you will see small brown Headwaters Forest Reserve signs). Turn left, cross over the freeway, and turn right onto Elk River Road. Go to the end of the road, where you’ll find the parking lot and trailhead.

  See Related: Best National Parks in the USA to Visit

10. Redwood Discovery Museum

Redwood Discovery Museum
image by Dominique/TripAdvisor

Address: 612 G St STE 102, Eureka, CA 95501

The Redwood Discovery Museum is a children’s museum offering thematic programming and interactive exhibits. The programs allow for hands-on discovery and learning in art, technology, science, and culture.

The museum’s mission is to provide positive family experiences, bringing joy to the lives of the families and children they educate. In addition, they encourage young minds to ignite their imagination and spark their creativity.

The learning experience is run entirely by parents, teachers, and Early Childhood Development professionals.

Hands-on exhibits include a grocery store with grocery carts, life-like produce, and other items. The store also has a check-out area with a pretend cash register for children to weigh fruits and vegetables.

Other hands-on exhibits include:

  • making and testing kites
  • making potato prints
  • playing with magic squares
  • learning about heat transfer
  • seeing double through spectacles and lenses
  • learning about static electricity with a Whimhurst machine and static wands

In addition, the museum offers hands-on summer camps, learning STEM through education and play.

If you want to stay longer in the area or stay in Eureka for a few more days, it is ideal to look for hotels or accommodations through Booking.com and VRBO to get the best deals.

11. Trinidad State Beach

Trinidad State Beach Aerial View

Address: 19 miles north of Eureka, CA, just off Highway 101

Trinidad State Beach has a long stretch of sand near Trinidad Harbor. It is an excellent place for sunset photos, with two sandy beaches between Trinidad Head and Elk Head on the west side of town. A massive rock near the shore, Pewetole Island, divides Trinidad State Beach into two coves.

Trinidad State Beach offers restrooms, picnic tables, parking areas, and hiking trails. The main beach is accessible from three parking lots, which makes it a great place to stretch your legs.

For incredible views of the ocean, you can hike the Trinidad Head. The trailhead is at the south end of the parking lot.

If you’re looking to kayak, head to Indian Beach, which is just south of Trinidad Head.

The northernmost section of the beach is College Cove, with sheltered waters that are usually safe to enter.

So if you’re looking to explore tidepools or remarkable rocks, College Cove is the place. However, it is a short hike through the woods and across open bluffs down to the beach. Low tide is the best time to visit, with a natural arch near the north end.

  See Related: Best Places to Visit in Southern California & Things to Do

12. Humboldt Redwoods State Park

Humboldt Redwoods State Park
image by Dougtone is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Address: 17119 Avenue of the Giants, Visitor Center Weott, CA 95571

Humboldt Redwoods State Park is one of many state parks in California. It is located along the Avenue of the Giants at the southern end of Humboldt County.

It is California’s largest redwood state park, with almost 20,000 acres of old-growth coastal redwoods. This acreage is the largest remaining forest of old-growth coastal redwoods worldwide.

Not only is this the most significant number of coastal redwoods worldwide, but the trees have never been logged and are estimated to be thousands of years old. While there are other state parks in California, none of the others have these ancient redwoods.

The Humboldt Redwoods State Park includes:

  • The Rockefeller Forest, home of the Giant Tree (over 350 feet tall!)
  • Founders Grove and the Dyerville Giant
  • Shrine Drive Thru Tree (one of the last remaining drive-thru trees)

The park also includes picnic tables, restrooms, hiking and biking trails, equestrian trails, and horseback riding.

Be prepared for any weather, regardless of when you decide to come. The park receives quite a bit of rainfall between October and May, usually between 60-80 inches. Trails may close due to safety issues if rain is too heavy.

In addition, summer often has morning fog, but it usually burns off my lunchtime. Finally, the park can experience a 30-degree temperature difference between the north end (closer to the ocean) and the south end (30 miles away). Therefore, it’s always a good idea to layer your clothing.

Wintertime doesn’t usually bring snow, but if you’re planning on being in the higher elevations, be prepared just in case.

Getting around Eureka, CA

Eureka is accessible by air, car, and boat, but once you’ve arrived, it’s a good idea to know what transportation is available.

Check out Door to Door Airporter if you want a shuttle service from California Redwood Coast-Humboldt County Airport to your hotel.

However, renting a car at the airport is a good idea if you want to be able to go places on your schedule, as rideshare opportunities like Lyft and Uber are very limited.

If you’re flying to Humboldt County Airport, you can rent a car through National or Enterprise. Both Kayak and rentalcars.com have information on rental cars.

There is public transportation through Humboldt Transit Authority if you are more flexible with your itinerary.

The Gold Route is operated by Eureka Transit and serves Eureka, Bayview, Pine Hill, Bayshore Mall, and Harris St. To look at routes, stops, or to purchase passes, go to Humboldt Transit Authority.

However, much of the city is walkable, so that is always an option in addition to public transportation.

FAQ

What are things to do in Eureka, CA with kids?

Eureka is full of family activities, both indoor and outdoor. Indoor activities include the vast array of museums, like the Redwood Discovery Museum, Fort Humboldt State Historic Park, Morris Graves Museum, and the Clarke Historical Museum.

Outdoor activities include everything from Humboldt Bay, Humboldt Botanical Garden, or the Sequoia Zoo.

What are some places to visit in Eureka, CA?

Eureka has many fun things to do, from fine dining to multi-day hiking and camping.

Check out Fort Humboldt State Historic Park, Humboldt Botanical Garden, Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, or Arcata Community Forest. You can go to the Eureka Visitor center or the Humboldt Bay Tourism Center to learn more about local events.

What are the best things to do in Eureka, CA when it’s raining?

While many of the activities in Eureka are outdoors, there is still fun to be had when it’s raining! Historic old town Eureka offers shops, restaurants, boutiques, and coffee shops. You can also plan your day by going to the Humboldt Bay Tourism Center.

The Pacific Northwest is infamous for rain, but also for fine dining and museums. You’re sure to find the perfect spot to relax and enjoy your time!

What is Eureka, CA known for?

Many historical places in Eureka are worth seeing, such as buildings that are on the United States National Register. Most of the Victorian architecture is located in Old town Eureka.

In addition to architecture, you should check out the Redwood Forest, the Humboldt Botanical Garden, or Fort Humboldt State Historic Park. If you’re having difficulty choosing what to do, head to the Humboldt Bay Tourism Center for more local information.

Is Eureka, CA worth visiting?

Most definitely! Eureka is an awesome city on Humboldt Bay. Eureka tourist attractions and activities include hiking and biking trails through the redwoods, art and history museums, restaurants, shops, and old Victorian buildings.

There are also many free things to do in Eureka including walking tours looking at all of the ornate Victorian architecture, driving through the redwood forests, and walking along the Humboldt Bay seashore.

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