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15 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Eureka, CA

Written by Brad Lane
Updated Feb 15, 2022

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Eureka is an eclectic and charming seaport town on the northern California coast. It's the largest California coastal city north of San Francisco and is approximately 80 miles south of the Oregon border. This location is nearly in the middle of Northern California's Redwood Highway, and these towering trees offer reason alone for a visit.

But spend some time in Eureka and discover a community where many feel like they belong. The Historic Old Town district of Eureka, with Victorian architecture lining the streets, sets the tempo for a culturally rich experience. The numerous artworks and murals in this part of town also add to its artistic appeal.

When it comes time to explore the beautiful landscape surrounding Eureka, adventure is in every direction, from the ancient trees along the Avenue of the Giants to the wildlife inhabiting the adjacent Humboldt Bay. Make sure you clear some space on the camera when visiting.

Plan your sightseeing in and around this seaside town with our list of the top attractions and things to do in Eureka, California.

Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.

1. Historic Old Town & Waterfront

Historic Victorian homes in Old Town Eureka
Historic Victorian homes in Old Town Eureka

Victorian architecture lines Historic Old Town Eureka, adjacent to Humboldt Bay at the edge of the city. This charming area of town dates to its fishing and industrial days of the 1850s. Today, it's listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and numerous local restaurants, boutique shops, and modern works of art occupy the storefronts.

Numerous community celebrations take place each year in Historic Old Town, including the new Eureka Street Art Festival, which adds fresh murals to Old Town each year. This area of town is also home to the Old Town Farmers Market, occurring midday on Tuesdays between June and October.

Alongside the festival murals that adorn many storefronts of downtown Eureka, the collection of paintings found throughout Opera Alley offers hidden gems of attraction. Other downtown things to do in Eureka, the Morris Graves Museum and Clarke Historical Museum, each offer unique insight into the community.

Old Town waterfront, Eureka
Old Town waterfront, Eureka | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

A fun thing to do in Historic Old Town is walking the boardwalk adjacent to Humboldt Bay, where local ice-cream shops and seaside restaurants encourage time out of the day. Here, enjoy the view of the water, and walk toward the Carson Mansion, bookending the north end of Old Town.

Official site: http://eurekamainstreet.org/

2. Redwood Highway

Avenue of Giants, Redwood Highway
Avenue of Giants, Redwood Highway | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Eureka is right on the path of the world-famous Redwood Highway, a 230-mile route that stretches from the community of Legget in Mendocino County to Crescent City and the Oregon border. This scenic automobile tour primarily follows the 101 and cruises through countless redwood groves along the way.

State parks, drive-through attractions, and friendly cities like Eureka line the route, offering great places to spend the night and plenty of fun things to do outside. Starting from the southern terminus of the Redwood Highway, one of the first major stops heading north is the neck-craning Humboldt Redwoods State Park. This world-famous state park encompasses the largest tract of ancient redwood forests in the world.

Redwood Highway
Redwood Highway

The 32-mile Avenue of the Giants runs parallel to the Redwood Highway within Humboldt Redwoods State Park, providing a slower speed limit to enjoy the grandeur. Visitors from Eureka can reach Humboldt Redwoods State Park with a very scenic 30-minute drive.

North of Eureka on the Redwood Highway, more ancient groves reside in Redwood National and State Parks. This collection of national and state parklands includes ocean views, secluded campgrounds, and many trees dating back before the time of Christopher Columbus. Crescent City, just shy of the Oregon border, is another fun place to visit along a Redwood journey.

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3. Sequoia Park Forest & Garden

Sequoia Park Forest & Garden
Sequoia Park Forest & Garden | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Sequoia Forest & Garden is a treasured city space filled with family-friendly things to do. This public park encompasses a total of 67 acres, including 40 acres of an original redwood grove. The park is also adjacent to the Sequoia Zoo, where families often enjoy watching the resident wildlife.

The grove of redwood trees at the heart of the park is the central attraction and biggest reason to visit. Hiking and biking trails meander throughout this hometown grove with other sights to see, including intricate gardens decorated with dahlias, gazebos, and water features. The entrance to the park, with a redwood-infused playground and picnic area, is also a favorite place to gather.

Red Panda at the Sequoia Zoo
Red Panda at the Sequoia Zoo

The adjacent Sequoia Zoo is one of the smallest accredited zoos in the country and the oldest in California. Driven by a mission to instill public wildlife appreciation, animal experiences at the zoo include a free-flight aviary with exotic birds, a barnyard filled with petting animals, and a redwood habitat with red pandas. The on-site Zoo Café offers casual fare throughout the week, including burgers, salads, and wraps.

Address: 3414 W Street, Eureka, California

Official site: http://www.sequoiaparkzoo.net/visit/sequoia-park/

4. Carson Mansion

Carson Mansion
Carson Mansion | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

High up on a hill overlooking Humboldt Bay, the Carson Mansion is a beautiful remnant of the city's industrial past. It's one of the most photographed houses in the country, and a perfect example of old Victorian architecture. this 1885 mansion was built by a local lumber magnate, William Carson.

Most visits to the Carson Mansion entail appreciating and photographing the architecture from beyond the fenced property line. A membership to the non-profit and private Ingomar Club is required to tour the lavish interior of the mansion. Membership also provides opportunities to experience fine dining or overnight visits within the historic home. Visit the Ingomar Club website for information on how to become a member.

The Pink Lady Mansion
The Pink Lady Mansion | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Across the street from the Carson Mansion, the J. Milton Carson House, known as the Pink Lady, offers similar historic appeal and photogenic charm. This renovated mansion expects to open to the public in early 2022 with dining, tours, and venue rentals.

Address: 143 M Street, Eureka, California

Official site: https://www.ingomar.org/

5. Humboldt Redwoods State Park

Humboldt Redwoods State Park
Humboldt Redwoods State Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Encompassing over 53,000 acres and the largest expanse of coastal redwoods in the world, Humboldt Redwoods State Park is an international destination with growing appeal. The Visitor Center at the park is a good first place to stop for trail conditions and information about the surrounding forest.

The 32-mile Avenue of the Giants tours the giant trees and popular attractions of Humboldt Redwoods. Notable stops along the way include the Gould Grove Nature Trail and Founders Grove, home to the fallen 360-foot Dyersville Giant. The Avenue of the Giants also parallels much of the South Fork of the Eel River, providing numerous pullouts to enjoy the refreshing banks during the heat of the day.

Over 250 campsites accommodate tents or RVs at Humboldt Redwoods, spread throughout three different campgrounds. All overnight guests at the state park have access to flushing restrooms and coin-operated showers. All guests also have quick access to redwood forests, with an extensive trail system just across the street.

Burlington Campground, Humboldt Redwoods State Park
Burlington Campground, Humboldt Redwoods State Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Hiking, cycling, and horseback riding are some of the most popular things to do at the state park, with over 100 miles of trail available. The 10-plus mile Johnson Camp Trail is a strenuous hike that navigates through many habitats of the park.

Address: 17119 Avenue of the Giants, Weott, California

Official site: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=425

6. Morris Graves Museum of Art

Morris Graves Museum of Art
Morris Graves Museum of Art

The Morris Graves Museum of Art is the central repository for art and inspiration in Eureka. It's operated by the Humboldt Arts Council and within a Historic Carnegie Library near Old Town. Alongside housing several works of art, the museum and Arts Council have several ties to the community, with workshops and events.

The museum primarily focuses on the art of the Pacific Northwest but does showcase works from around the world. The main emphasis of the permanent collection is on the museum's namesake artist, Morris Graves, who resided in Humboldt County for the last 40 years of his life. The museum regularly rotates all of its works, offering something new to see with each visit.

Community events sponsored by the museum range from art talks to afternoon jazz sessions. The Arts Alive gatherings are worth noting on the calendar. These receptions occur on the first Saturday of each month and feature live music alongside free admission.

Official site: https://humboldtarts.org/

7. Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Shorebird Loop Trail, Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Shorebird Loop Trail, Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

South of the city, Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge provides over 4,000 acres of vital natural habitat. It's popular with land-based mammals like sea lions, porcupines, and river otters, but is particularly teeming with numerous species of migratory birds. This abundance of wildlife and natural space also makes the refuge popular with photographers, hikers, and anyone looking to step away from the city.

The Richard J. Guadagno Headquarters & Visitor Center in the Salmon Creek Unit of the refuge is the most accessible area to visit. The visitor center has binoculars and field guides available to check out, as well as interpretive information about the refuge. It also features a universally accessible boardwalk and back porch that overlooks the wild landscape.

The 1.7-mile Shorebird Loop Trail extends from the visitor center and features bird blinds and access to other trails in the area. Here, take a seat with a camera or binoculars and watch undetected as several birds and animals come into view.

Address: 1020 Ranch Road, Loleta, California

Official site: https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Humboldt_Bay/

8. Kinetic Museum Eureka

Kinetic Museum Eureka
Kinetic Museum Eureka | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Highlighting the homegrown and unique Kinetic Grand Championship of Eureka, this non-profit museum is dedicated to this annual event dubbed "The Triathlon of the Art World." This creative endeavor spans the three days of Memorial Day Weekend every year.

The Kinetic Grand Championship is a 50-mile race where entrants include fantastic and intricate pieces of movable art. Accompanied with costumes, festivities, and family-friendly things to do, this homegrown science experiment has grown into a 50-year cherished tradition.

On-site at the museum are several past mobile sculptures, including some of the first entrants produced by metal sculptor Hobart Brown, the creator of the event. Curators at the museum are happy to share the history of the Grand Championship and encourage anyone to make plans for Memorial Day weekend to check out the festivities.

For those with some artistic prowess and imagination, the curators also encourage potential racers to begin training/creating for the 50-mile race.

9. Fort Humboldt State Historic Park

Fort Humboldt State Historic Park
Fort Humboldt State Historic Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Fort Humboldt was built in 1853, constructed high on a bluff overlooking Humboldt Bay. A primary reason for the creation of the fort was to diffuse tensions between Indigenous populations and the surge of pioneers and settlers flocking to the area. The most famous soldier to take quarter was the future general of the Union Army and the 18th president of the United States, Captain Ulysses S. Grant.

The fort was abandoned in 1870, and the hospital building is the only remaining structure at this State Historic Park. The museum within the historic hospital is filled with details about the life and times of this military installation, including information about the native people that inhabited the area for thousands of years.

Further interpretive information is spread throughout the rest of the park, as well as plentiful outdoor space for family picnics and afternoon strolls. The Outdoor Logging Display at the park displays many of the turn-of-the-century tools and processes of generating redwood lumber without modern machinery.

Address: 3431 Fort Avenue, Eureka, California

Official site: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=665

10. Headwaters Forest Reserve

Elk River Trailhead, Headwaters Forest Reserve
Elk River Trailhead, Headwaters Forest Reserve

Headwaters Forest Reserve is a towering example of community activism and grassroots conservation. Following public demand, the state and federal government acquisitioned over 7,000 acres of this redwood forest south of Eureka, preserving many ancient groves from continuing lumber operations

Today, the Bureau of Land Management operates Headwaters Forest Reserve. It's a day-use area to explore and subject to special low-impact regulations. Two trails navigate the thick forest, including the Elk River Trail leading to a magnificent redwood growth loop.

Address: Palco Road 1, Fortuna, California

11. Arcata Community Forest

Arcata Community Forest
Arcata Community Forest | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Immediately north of Eureka, the equally historic city of Arcata is worth a visit. Among a lively central plaza and fashionable storefronts, the town maintains nearly 800 acres of redwood forest within minutes of its small downtown district.

Arcata Community Forest is a favorite spot for locals, and receives recognition as a "Model Forest" for its conservation efforts. It also offers a sprawling network of trails accessible via the developed Redwoods Park. These meandering pathways navigate lush surroundings and steep inclines, quickly inducing the feeling of stepping into nature.

Address: Park Drive, Arcata, California

12. Gold Bluffs Beach

Gold Bluffs Beach at sunset
Gold Bluffs Beach at sunset | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Golds Bluff Beach is a stunning part of Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, approximately 50 miles north of Eureka. It's an exemplary area of redwood coastal attractions, with big trees, beaches, and a unique fern canyon to explore. It's also home to a rugged campground set against ocean sand dunes.

A winding dirt road comprises the last six miles of the drive to Gold Bluffs Beach. RVs and larger vehicles should avoid this narrow drive. This challenging access lends to the beach being less crowded for those that can make the drive. It also tends to leave the 26 campsites more available.

If you're making the trip to Golf Bluffs Beach, be sure to save some time to explore Fern Canyon. This unique waterway is at the end of the road leading into Gold Bluffs Beach and features 50-foot walls draped with fernery. Traveling the creek canyon often involves stepping in puddles, and water shoes are advised.

13. Trinidad State Beach

Trinidad State Beach
Trinidad State Beach | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

While the views of Humboldt Bay are stunning, to see coastal landscapes in Eureka, it's best to head north towards Trinidad. This small, incorporated city is a 30-minute drive from Historic Old Town Eureka and is home to one of the most stunning beaches on the Northern California coast.

The massive ocean features of Trinidad State Beach are quickly spotted while descending the open meadow bluff leading to the sand. It's a particularly enchanting area come sunset, when the western horizon casts a glow across the entire ocean scene. Low tide is also a good time to visit, offering the most beach to explore.

Mad River Beach
Mad River Beach

For more coastal appeal and things to do near the ocean in Eureka, Mad River Beach County Park is another popular place to explore. This county park is popular with boaters, anglers, and beachcombers with access to sand dunes, calm surf, and the banks of the Mad River. A large parking area slightly inland from the beach offers a wide boat ramp to access the water.

Official site: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=418

Read More: Things to Do in Trinidad, California

14. Lost Coast Trail

Hiking the Lost Coast Trail
Hiking the Lost Coast Trail

The Lost Coast Trail provides a unique backpacking opportunity on the coast. The 23-mile trail follows the steep shoreline created by the adjacent King Mountain Range crashing into the ocean. This scenic section of the coastline is so rugged that no other development exists, offering a unique stretch of solitude found in few other places on the California coast.

Wildflowers, tide pools, and wildlife sightings line the trail. Tide charts are an essential part of any trip along this wilderness coast to avoid being pinned by the ocean. An average trip takes three days and typically occurs in the summer months.

Official site: https://www.blm.gov/visit/search-details/267873/1

15. Bayshore Mall

Bayshore Mall
Bayshore Mall | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The Bayshore Mall is the largest indoor mall within a 150-mile radius of Eureka. This regional shopping center has a large collection of big-name box stores alongside several local vendors. It also has dining choices, with an ample food court and nearby restaurants including drive-thru and sit-down options.

The mall has seen some transitions over the recent years, but its presence as a multi-store shopping experience remains. Among the 60-plus stores at the mall, a few of the larger retailers today include T.J. Maxx, Sportsman's Warehouse, and Kohl's. Other shopping outlets cover clothing, home goods, and electronics.

Where to Stay in Eureka, California for Sightseeing

Historic Boutique Hotels:

  • Within Old Town and a short walk from the Carson Mansion, the Carter House Inns offers historic accommodations with modern amenities. The property has five different buildings to spend the night, including the Carter Hotel, designed from an 1885 blueprint for a Victorian home in San Francisco. Overnight spaces range from unique guest rooms to private cottages, and all come with the sense of history that helps define Eureka.
  • The Inn at 2nd & C is another charming hotel in Eureka's historic district. Housed in the Historic Eagle House, established in 1886, this family-owned hotel is full of old Victorian style and modern amenities. Alongside a generous collection of standard and deluxe rooms, as well as decadent suites, the Inn at 2nd & C is also home to the Grand Theatre Ballroom and Phatsy Kline's Parlor – two staples of Eureka's nightlife.
  • Kitty-corner from the Morris Graves Museum of Art, the Eureka Inn, Trademark Collection by Wyndham offers another modern stay in a vintage hotel. This property dates back to 1922, and today, it features a hip and historic vibe with comfortable furnishings. The hotel offers standard and deluxe rooms and spacious suites. Also on-site is an outdoor pool, breakfast area, and the Rib House restaurant for casual fare.

Mid-Range Hotels:

  • The newly remodeled Best Western Plus Humboldt Bay Inn offers several resources for couples to enjoy a few nights in Eureka. The location alone, in the heart of Old Town, is very conducive to date night without a car. However, one of the top features of the hotel is the new Oasis spa area. This comfortably decorated indoor and outdoor space features fire pits, lounge chairs, and a beautifully hardscaped pool.
  • A mile south of the downtown district, the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Eureka is a popular choice for business travel. This dependable hotel offers standard guest rooms with modern amenities like fast Wi-Fi, flatscreen TVs, and plenty of outlets. And the on-site business center helps guests stay connected. The hotel is also conveniently located close enough to downtown for easy exploring between office hours.
  • South of historic Old Town near Fort Humboldt State Historic Park, the Best Western Plus Bayshore Inn is a reasonably priced choice for family travel. It's an ideal location to discover Eureka's outdoor treasures, including the abundance of redwood forests a little farther south. Amenities that make family travel easier include quiet rooms, free Wi-Fi, and complimentary breakfast in the morning. For a little extra space, the hotel also offers two-room suites with up to three queen beds.

Budget Hotels:

  • For good value near historic Old Town, the Town House Motel offers a great deal and a great location. It's between Old Town and the Carson Mansion and is within easy walking distance of both. The hotel has an excellent reputation for its clean and comfortable standard rooms and customer service. The hotel also offers spacious two-bedroom queen suites and a king whirlpool suite. Every overnight accommodation at Town House Motel features free Wi-Fi, cable TV, and in-room coffee makers.
  • Off Highway 101 North near Old Town, the Days Inn by Wyndham Eureka CA also offers tremendous value and an excellent location. With clean and comfortable rooms at an affordable price, it's a popular spot for all types of budget-conscious travelers. The hotel offers 40 non-smoking rooms and is pet-friendly. Guests are welcome to free Wi-Fi, complimentary breakfast, and a parking spot for no extra charge.
  • The Super 8 by Wyndham Eureka is one of the least expensive hotels in town, with a good reputation for dependable overnight stays. It's only a few blocks from the Carson Mansion and the rest of downtown, and free parking is available. The rooms have a simple yet modern touch and include amenities like a thermostat and flatscreen TV. A free light breakfast is available in the lobby each morning.

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