These Humboldt County towns all have their charms: especially in the form of grand, well-maintained Victorian mansions and homes. Each of the towns’ growth and prosperity was funded by a different source:
- Arcata earned its initial fortune by selling mining supplies to aspiring gold prospectors;
- Eureka’s wealth came from lumbering, its Trinity gold mine and to a lesser extent, fishing; and
- Ferndale funded construction of its “butterfat palaces” from dairy farming.
All, however, have generally recovered from bad times, rebuilt their heritages and now attract significant number of tourists. Each town is charming and well worth a visit.
Arcata has its central Plaza, university (Humboldt State) and wildlife sanctuaries.
Eureka has its Victorian Old Town with museums and historic parks. Eureka is also home to wonderful North Coast Coop with its wonderful variety of fresh produce, meats and seafood. The Kinetic Sculpture Museum (now permanently closed) has examples of a number of the more artistic and elaborate of the contraptions from the decades of races. See our post on the 2015 Kinetic Sculpture Race.
Ferndale appears to be the most affluent of the three. It is also its own history museum and historic park. The entire town, in fact, has been designated as a state historic landmark. It’s attractions include its large number of beautifully restored Victorians, and an amazingly landscaped, terraced cemetery that climbs a hill across from a pretty church.
Each of the towns, and indeed the entire region, however, does share a common thread. Humboldt Country, which has become the cannabis-growing capital of the country, still vividly reflects the hippy heritage of the its 1960-era settlers. A disproportionately large percentage of residents are in their 60s and 70s, long hair, long beards, jeans and flannel shirts are universal and the aroma of marijuana seems to perfume the air.
301 Restaurant (Eureka)
We have often eaten at this restaurant in the Carter House Inn. The food is always good and it serves a nice variety.
Cafe Waterfront (Eureka)
In 2023, Joyce had a very good snapper sandwich lunch (with much more fish than in Jack’s sandwich) and Tom had a huge bowl of rich, creamy oyster stew with several huge oysters. Good but not memorable.
On a previous trip, we ended up with beer-battered halibut and chips; and a crab melt sandwich with tomato and jack cheese on sourdough toast, which came with a cup of tomato soup. We enjoyed both of the dishes. After exploring many of the options, we returned for Sunday brunch. Although our halibut cakes with eggs were less than we had hoped, the seafood scramble (with scallops, shrimp, tomato and dill), was more interesting and tasty.
Jack’s Seafood (Eureka)
We began with a disapprovingly weak and salty bowl of miso soup with mushrooms followed by small but tasty fried oysters and a grilled halibut sandwich that was good even though it had relatively little fish.
Sea Grill (Eureka)
We enjoyed our dishes at the upscale seafood restaurant. The fried oysters with aioli were big and juicy. The snapper amandine with beurre blanc sauce and toasted almonds was also tasty. We were surprised to find a Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc on the wine list. (While it is not unusual to find Châteauneuf-du-Pape reds on U.S. wine lists, we hardly ever find white ones.) We had to order it. The 2020 Dom Vieux Lazaret with a blend of Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Clairette grapes was soft with peach notes and went very well with the snapper.
One a previous trip, we ordered two entrees. The Alaskan King Crab legs were previously frozen, but still quite good, without the excess of salt that we have come to expect with this dish. Joyce had less luck with her halibut with garlic butter sauce. The fish on the first plate was dramatically overdone. While the replacement was done perfectly, the garlic was so strong as to totally obscure the fish. Since we ordered a bottle of wine in the lounge, before seeing the menu, we ended up with a Clark and Telegraph Belle Glos Pinot Noir that, while wonderful, was a bit much for the dishes we ended up ordering.
Shamus T Bones (Eureka)
We shared a rack of ribs, a cup of beef chili, and mac ‘n cheese at this steakhouse. Unfortunately, none of the food was memorable or worthy of further mention. From the limited wine list we ordered a bottle of Ferrari-Carano “Siena”, a blend of Sangiovese, Malbec, Petite Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Victorian Inn (Ferndale)
Ferndale does not have a lot of choices for food. We have had mixed results at the Victorian Inn.
In 2023, we ate here despite mixed feelings from our previous visits. Joyce had a moist, tasty (albeit more medium than the medium rare she requested) king salmon fillet. Tom succumbed to an adolescent comfort food favorite of chicken mushroom pot pie which was certainly good enough to finish, but not to return for (unless he has another caving). He should have read our previous review below of this dish. However, as this dish as been on the menu for many years, it must appeal to others. The Willamette Valley Domaine Drouhin Dundee Hills Pinot Noir was a nice compliment to the meal.
Previously we had enjoyed our dinner of a fried calamari (lightly breaded and fried with a nice soft texture) and dungarees crab cake (lots of meat, lightly pan-fried and good taste). These with a light Handley Pinot Gris made for a nice combination.
But we were not as happy when we returned the next day. What a difference. The chicken and mushroom pot pie had a thick, gloopy, artificial tasting sauce. Joyce tried twice to get a medium rare burger. Both times, it came out well done. Interestingly, not only did our server not stay at the table to see if the second was okay, she never even returned to the dining room! After waiting for 20 minutes (by which time Tom had eaten all he could of the pot pie) we called another server who took the burger, gave us our check (sans burger but no word of apology for the kitchen) and left.
Carter House Inn (Eureka)
We usually stay in Eureka at the Carter House Inn and have never been disappointed. We once spent a glorious night in one of its victoria houses. As we were the only guests in the building, we were free to explore the wonders of all of its meticulously restored and decorated rooms. While it is a little pricy, it is a very comfortable stay.
Victorian Inn (Ferndale)
As an alternative to Eureka, we have also stayed in Ferndale at the Victorian Inn. The charming older victorian building is at the end of Ferndale’s main street and has plenty of street parking. Our room was at the top of a set of stairs (no elevator). In the morning you come downstairs to get your grab and go breakfast bag to take back to your room. Comfortable stay.