If you have not made it up north in California to see the Redwoods, I encourage you to go for a weekend get away. It’s not only about the Redwood National and State Parks (yes, the National and state parks are combined here); it’s about the entire area. There is a threshold you cross when heading into Northern California up highway 101 where it goes from being a bustling metropolis to a beautiful wine country to rural and old California. I don’t know quite how to describe it but it’s a step back in time. Highway 101 turns into a two-lane road where you are likely to see someone traveling the highway on foot with a pack on their back. It’s no frills. It’s wild. There is a clear sense of poverty and struggle amid the beautiful and stunning lush forest landscape. It’s real and it’s beautiful. If you don’t like gritty, maybe it’s not for you. But if you are searching for an experience of authenticity, this is one of the places left in California to go (I also recommend traveling throughout the gold country as well).
I’d love to be able to tell you exactly where to go and what to see but this is your adventure, not mine. I will list out some highlights of my experience and encourage you to create your own unique road trip and discover new and unique treasures at every stop along the way. Please feel free to share your trip tips and best/worst experiences below.
Victorian Village of Ferndale
This is where I like to stay in the area. This Victorian village sets the stage for an all American Town. You step back in time amidst the Victorian architecture and small town feel. The town is quiet and quaint with some unique and interesting shops to visit. Don’t miss cocktails and dinner at Hotel Ivanhoe Restaurant and Saloon where you can get a martini or glass of wine from whichever bottle has been opened that day, while chatting with locals. If you can book a room, stay the night in Ferndale and really take in the experience of staying in a small town. There are several cozy Victorian style lodgings available where you can enjoy a good old fashioned evening playing board games, reading a book, visiting or just spending time in a quiet atmosphere relaxing.
If you have time to browse the shops, be sure to visit BeAnn's Jams, the jam is delicious. Sadly the last time we stopped in the shop was closed for the day so if you get the opportunity, pick up some jam!
Redwood Suites Hotel (run by the Victorian Inn): These have full kitchens and are a good option if you would like to cook.
The Old Rectory (House rental run by Victorian Inn)
Gingerbread Mansion Inn
Ye Olde Danish Inn: We didn’t get to stay here but when we called to book last minute in the evening they advised we call earlier so they could have warmed the room for us, which was so sweet. I wish we had the chance to experience this!
Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park:
There are lots of hiking options from easy afternoon walks, day hikes or longer. I did not make it to Fern Canyon but highly recommend it. There is an 11-mile round trip hike to get there or an unpaved road you can take to get closer and shorten the hike, you can find more details here.
Trees of Mystery:
This is an ode to the earlier days of road travel when people worked hard to create attractions to make money. While it was fun to take the tram through the trees and meander along the set paths, you can do the same in a more natural setting and skip the fee. Another created roadside attraction in the area is Confusion Hill
The Avenue of the Giants
Breathtaking and you can see it all from your car or pull off at one of the many stops for a walk or hike. Once you step into the giant woods, you’ll be reminded of the wonder the world has to offer. The towering redwoods will make you feel small.
Redwood National and State Park website
For detailed drives and information check out the 2017 Redwood National and State Parks Visitor Guide
Map of California Coastal Redwood Parks
The Lost Coast & Shelter Cove
We took the road from Ferndale to Petrolia and continued on to Shelter Cove. The drive took several hours, no food, rest stops or cell phone service along the way but plenty of beautiful coastal views, picture points and potholes. If you’re up for it, be prepared with food, water, camera and the willingness to be alert driving around large potholes (we drove an average of 17 mph). You don’t need a four-wheel drive but just need to be very attentive and cautious throughout as the road turns to dirt several times and is bumpy. If you are backpacker many people hike the coastline over several days and I imagine it would be a worthwhile experience.
Shelter Cove is another great spot. This is the perfect place to quietly enjoy unspoiled views of the ocean for hours, very romantic. If you enjoy watching a sunset along the ocean in the evening with a glass of bubbly or waking up and watching the waves crash along the coast as you sip your coffee, spending the day seaside reading a book, this is the place for you.
If you decide to stay for a couple of days be sure to bring food with you. There is only one restaurant currently in Shelter Cove with Pizza and Lasagna. There is a grocery store with limited supplies as you head into town but if you want to save a little money go to the store in Garberville first to stock up. The road into town is very steep; you will need to drive in low gears. Take your time, enjoy the ride and get ready to relax.
Shelter Cove Lodging:
The Tides Inn: This is where we stayed. It was clean, offered a full kitchen and comfortable accommodations. There are DVD's and books in the main office that you can check out during your stay. I would definitely stay here again.
Inn of the Lost Coast:
Spyglass Inn at Shelter Cove:
The Oceanfront Inn: I've stayed here in the past, the rooms were somewhat dated but may have been upgraded since that time.
Shelter Cove Dining
Delgada Pizza & Bakery: They have one table indoors and several outdoor tables, so be prepared to take your meal to go if it’s cold out.