The North Coast and the Redwood Empire
Empire is a relatively sparsely populated area of California, which
is one of its main attractions for those who want to get away from the
hectic city life in other parts of California. There are several small
towns in the area, each with their own unique character (see the Links
page for links to some of these):
Bodega Bay - This scenic bay town's biggest attraction is its bay and harbor. It's becoming a northern version of Monterey, with a Fisherman's Wharf, many inns, restaurants, and resorts.
Jenner - This small town is situated at the mouth of the Russian River. It's a gateway to the Russian River area and the North Coast. A sandbar near the mouth of the river here is often covered with sea lions. Fort Ross is just north of here.
Healdsburg - Situated inland on the Russian River, this warm, sunny town has shops, wineries, and B&B's. Parks along the Russian River offer swimming and canoeing.
Cloverdale - Situated at the junction of Hwy 101 and 128, this small lumber town has facilities for travellers and is the gateway to the Anderson Valley.
Boonville - This tiny town in the middle of the bucolic Anderson Valley on Hwy 128 is unique in all of California. It's the only town with it's own language. Called "Boontling," the dialect was invented by locals many years ago. The town has become famous for its surprisingly good restaurants, some of the best in the entire state according to some critics.
Mendocino - One of the most beautiful coastal towns in California, Mendocino looks so much like a Cape Cod seaport village, that it has appeared as such in movies and TV. It's a primary tourist destination, with B&B's, restaurants, shops, and art galleries galore. It's much like Carmel and Laguna Beach in that it has attracted many artists, writers, and other creative people, who have made the town a colorful, vibrant place. The lovely town harmonizes with its incredibly gorgeous natural setting. (See Mendocino Headlands State Park below.)
Fort Bragg - This hard-working no-nonsense lumber and fishing town just north of Mendocino is in sharp contrast to its more artsy, genteel neighbor. It isn't known for its scenery in-town, but it has lumbermill tours, motels, fast food eateries, and is the terminus for the Skunk Train (see below). Sportsfishing and commercial boats leave from Noyo Harbor, which also has some great seafood restaurants. The Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens (see below) is a must-see.
Scotia - This is one of the few company towns left in America. It is entirely owned by the Pacific Lumber Company, which has been the center of the hot controversy over the Headwaters Forest. The town is dominated by the enormous lumbermill, which is open on workdays for self-guided tours. The town also has shops, a hotel, and a museum on lumbering.
Ferndale - This historic, picture-perfect Victorian town is off Hwy 101 near the mouth of the Eel River. It has been designated a State Historical Landmark. Many of the well-preserved houses here are B&B's.
Eureka/Arcata - The largest town on the North Coast with a population of 27,000, the city of Eureka sits on the inland side of huge Humboldt Bay. It's economy is based on lumber, fishing, and tourism. It has lots of motels, stores, and restaurants. It's most famous for its Victorian buildings, particularly the famous, elaborate Carson Mansion. The Samoa dunes are sandy spits of land that form the seaward side of Humboldt Bay. They offer picnicking, fishing, kayakking, surfing, and OHV recreation. The neighboring town of Arcata, lying between Humboldt Bay and the Mad River, houses Humboldt State University, which lends a decidedly liberal and environmental consciousness to the town. One of their innovations is Arcata Marsh, which uses marsh plants to treat waste water and provide a sanctuary for wildlife at the same time.
Trinidad - This is probably the most picturesque of the coastal towns north of Mendocino. The town sits on coastal bluffs high above the crescent-shaped harbor. Tall, rocky Trinidad Head shields the boats in the harbor from the ocean waves. The whitewashed Trinidad Lighthouse is perched on the cliffs, overlooking the harbor. This is a romantic getaway spot, with several inns & B&B's. Nearby are Trinidad State Beach and Patrick's Point State Park.
Crescent City - This is the northernmost city in California, with a population of 4,400. A working class lumber and fishing town much like Eureka, Crescent City was devastated by tidal waves caused by the 1964 Alaskan Earthquake. The town has since been re-built, so many parts of it are relatively new. Ocean World (see below) is its biggest commercial tourist attraction. The Battery Point Lighthouse, built in 1856 and still working, sits on a rocky mound outside the harbor and has a small museum open to guided tours. It's only reachable at low tide.
Glass ornaments in a Mendocino store window
Bridge over Noyo Harbor, Fort Bragg