Traveling the Northernmost California Coast – Visiting Eureka And Special Places Nearby

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As soon as my feet hit the sand at Clam Beach just outside of Eureka, California, I was instantly transported back to my childhood. I could almost feel the pure exhilaration I had felt all those years ago, climbing out of my mom and dad’s Grand Wagoneer and running, arms wide open, into the ocean breeze.

Now I was preparing to lift my 2-year-old son out of our car for his first glimpse of the ocean. My 14-year-old stepson was already running for the surf, his abandoned iPad and headphones on the backseat proving that even the most technology-bound child can’t deny the pull of the ocean.

The next three days were some of the best I can remember. Our family rented a dog-friendly apartment that we found on airbnb.com, which offered all of the conveniences of home for a traveling family. My husband and I enjoyed having a kitchen for cooking and a washer and dryer to keep beach clothes fresh and sand-free. We packed lunches every morning and returned at night for dinner sans the hassle of controlling a 2-year-old at a restaurant.

A vacation rental was definitely the right choice for us, especially since we were traveling with pets. If your goal is to travel with dogs but also experience all the California coast has to offer, look for a vacation rental that allows  dogs to remain on the property in a designated fenced area. Finding a veterinarian’s office to provide daycare is a good alternative.

Beaches

Eureka and the surrounding areas offer a fantastic array of options for beachcombing, tide pooling and sandcastle building. One of my favorites is Clam Beach (20 minutes north of Eureka). This dog-friendly stretch of coastline offers a tremendous amount of sun and sand with a nice parking area, portable toilets, and a nice mix of tourists and locals. The waves can get big enough for surfing, which is fun to watch. As with any ocean beach, small children must be watched closely but the area is rarely crowded and always beautiful.

Another favorite is the coastline at Trinidad (about 26 minutes north of Eureka).  If you prefer a more secluded place, Patrick’s Point (33 minutes north of Eureka) and Crescent City (about two hours north of Eureka) offer beautiful beaches, lodging and points of interest all their own. Shelter Cove (about 2 hours south of Eureka on the Lost Coast) is another wonderful place to explore. The small town has many wonderful attributes including tranquil beaches with calm water, creating a safe place for little ones to explore tide pools.

My favorite spots:

art-0601-travel1The redwood forests are arguably the most beautiful, serene places in the world. Walking amongst these ancient, hushed giants brings immeasurable peace to the soul. However, doing so with a 2-year-old can be a challenge. That’s why I have fallen in love with Eureka’s Sequoia Park. This beautiful, expansive park boasts a large, unique play area full of wonderful play structures nestled in an outcropping of the redwood forest.

Just steps from the swing sets are the entrances to a somewhat short but truly exquisite pathway down through the trees. The dog-friendly path ends in a grotto full of beautiful flowers and a pond where ducks and geese swim. Just beyond the grotto is another, small play structure and a portable toilet, just in case!

Adjacent to the park is the wonderful Sequoia Park Zoo, where folks can enjoy otters, red pandas, a wonderful bird enclosure and much more. The quaint little zoo exudes love and care, and the friendly, knowledgeable staff members are absolutely wonderful with kids (sequoiaparkzoo.net).

For a world-famous look at the redwoods, try Avenue of the Giants (50 minutes south of Eureka). This gorgeous stretch of old Highway 101 offers a breathtaking drive through truly amazing redwoods, which are wonderfully accessible should you choose to pull over and get a closer look (www.avenueofthegiants.net).

If you have some time on your hands, try Trees of Mystery (1 hour 22 minutes north of Eureka). This park offers giant Paul Bunion and Babe the Blue Ox statues for the kids, a wonderful path through gorgeous redwoods and a sky tram for the more fearless explorer. The tram features gondolas that soar on a cable through and above the redwood canopy. The ride ends at an observation deck where the ocean and occasional bald eagles can be viewed (www.treesofmystery.net).

art-0601-travel3For the movie buff, Fern Canyon (1 hour 20 minutes north of  Eureka) offers a sneak peek into one of the on-location sets for Jurassic Park II. The relaxed walking path winds through canyon walls, completely covered in ferns. Bring a backpack for smaller children who may not be able to traverse uneven ground. 

For a curious and impressive spectacle, be sure to check out the famous “One Log House” (1 hour 15 minutes south of Eureka). A 42-ton section of a 2100-year-old redwood tree was hollowed out in 1946 and converted into a home. It now rests at a quaint little tourist location, complete with a cute espresso and gift shop (www.oneloghouse.com).

For a wonderful in-town experience, go to old-town Eureka where fabulous shops, restaurants and cafes line an active harbor. For a sweet treat, be sure to check out Living The Dream Ice Cream & More right on the boardwalk. This unique spot uses fresh, organic, locally sourced ingredients and updates its amazing menu daily. At night, musicians play for tips in the glow of old-fashioned light poles while fishing boats return from time at sea (ltdicecream.com).

For an expanded overview of things to do in the Eureka area, visit http://www.redwoods.info.

No matter where you go along the California coast, you are sure to find a place near to my heart. The beauty, natural wonders and friendly towns are nothing short of national treasures. Grab a map, some flip flops and your favorite sun hat, and make some memories of your own this summer!

Elizabeth Tyler
About Elizabeth Tyler

Elizabeth Tyler is a mommy, a step-mom and a wife. She lives in Northeast Shasta County nestled between the snow-capped mountains of Northern California. She is also a blogger, public relations professional and community activist.

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