Few other places on the planet inspire as much wonder as California’s North Coast, a perfect destination for families. Folks of all ages can’t help but marvel at the epic size of the jaw-dropping redwood trees stretching from the mountains to the sea.
Needless to say, families will find plenty to keep them entertained in this northernmost stretch of California.
Though this itinerary is best enjoyed with a week–especially since the drives between attractions are quite long for squirmy young-uns–it is possible to pluck the highlights out and tackle the region in a long weekend.
We recommend basing yourself in Eureka or Arcata, so that you can access both the Northern Humboldt (NoHum) and Southern Humboldt (SoHum) redwood parks.
The best family friendly hotel we’ve found in these twin cities is Eureka’s Best Western Humboldt Bay Inn.
Redwoods are the main attraction for most travelers to this neck of the woods. The sheer majesty of walking beneath skyscraping trees over 2000 years old is a humbling experience. Opt for at least two or three days to immerse yourself in Redwood National and State Parks.
To the south, the 31-mile Avenue of the Giants is just under an hour from Eureka, making it an ideal day trip for families with younger children. Pair a visit to the park with the Shine Drive-Thru Tree and the Immortal Tree.
At the end of the road in Garberville, Nacho Mama is a decent lunch option.
Love the SoHum vibe? Stay a couple nights at the Benbow Inn.
An hour north of Arcata, Redwood National Park will blow your kids’ minds. Hike through Fern Canyon. Spot elk grazing in meadows. Another fun pit-stop is the Klamath’s Tour Thru Tree and the Skytrail at the Trees of Mystery.
Note that the food options up this far are pretty non-existent so pack snacks, and if you plan to stay a couple nights, be sure to bring lots of food.
Both Eureka and Arcata offer accessible redwood parks to explore. The Arcata Community Forest, just above campus, has easy trails, with plenty of fallen branches for tree climbing, plus a lovely meadow and playground. In Eureka, the Sequoia Park and Zoo allows kids to check out 100 animals on five redwood-hugged acres.
The Redwood Coast might be chilly, but her 110 miles of coastline are sure to inspire exploration. Families with older children should head to Patrick’s Point State Park to hike to Agate Beach. Close to town, Samoa Dunes Recreation Area is a popular surf beach. Or head to the Lost Coast’s Shelter Cove to possibly spot bears wandering on the sand.
With foggy, or rainy, days, your fam might be on the prowl for some indoor destinations. Head up to Willow Creek to the Willow Creek China Flat Bigfoot Museum to learn about old Yeti’s stomping ground. Up in Trinidad, check out the touch tanks at HSU’s Telonicher Marine Labratory.
Most North Coast restaurants accommodate families. In Eureka Lost Coast Brewing Company pleases the whole clan. Nearby in Samoa, fill up those bellies at the gut-packing Samoa Cookhouse. Arcata’s Los Bagels and Renata’s Creperie are two sound options for families.
If you’ve made it up to the far north, Patrick Creek Lodge has been slinging hearty steak dinners for decades.