The endless summer in Humboldt lasts well into autumn, when seasonal winds and currents bring the driest air and warmest ocean temperatures. Take advantage of this cyclical quirk, whether swimming on the Eel River, tide pooling at Patrick's Point or paddling with the otters in Stone Lagoon. For a more civilized outside experience, take a mural walk in Old Town, root for a wooden bat league baseball team, mutton bust at a rodeo or cocktail cruise on Humboldt Bay. For repast, pop over to dine on one of our sunny restaurant patios. To round out the day, get board in Humboldt's liveliest skate park or tie one on with aerial silk acrobats.

Outdoorsy Type

Whether coastal fog or inland heat, here's how to beat either summer extreme as Humboldtians have for decades. Grab your trunks, kids and sandwiches, and wind down along the Avenue of the Giants to the California Federation of Women's Clubs Grove. Besides a four-faced outdoor fireplace, picnic table slabs the length of a decent RV and a giant redwood carcass that resembles a beached blue whale, the grove sports a short trail to one of the gentlest, most swimmable sandy bends on the scenic Eel River. For a summertime bonus, cross the seasonal footbridge and hike along the Bull Creek Flat, from which rises the densest stand of old growth giants in Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Before a dip, check local river conditions. (The Eel can be too swift in spring or too low in autumn.)

Motor to Patrick's Point State Park, a lushly forested coastal headland 30 miles north of Eureka, and you can wake to birdsong at one of three spacious bluff top campgrounds under the trees, sans bugs, and within short walks to several beaches and coves. Agate and Abalone campgrounds require reservations ( or 800-444-7275). For those on bike or foot, there is a walk-in campground to reward you for your mode of locomotion. Patrick's Point, acre by acre, packs in more than most state parks. Choose from a recreated Yurok Indian plank-house village, a ceremonial rock, a wedding rock, an agate beach, a tidepool-ing cove and three promontories overlooking the ocean. Or mix and match, as picturesque trails connect them all. Be advised that unpredictable waves and strong tides make caution mandatory next to the ocean. But should you insist on a quick dip, 5 miles down Patrick's Point Drive is College Cove, a pleasant bowl-shaped hideaway whose shape moderates the extremes of the Pacific, whether wind, wave or current.

A few miles south of Redwood National Park, a watery paradise known as Ryan's Cove awaits those who paddle across Stone Lagoon. Arrange for kayak drop-offs from Trinidad Kayaks, or rent car-top ones from Pacific Outfitters or the Humboldt Aquatic Center in Eureka, then launch from the gravel parking lot at the old Stone Lagoon Visitor Center. The middle of three coastal lagoons, Stone Lagoon is the de facto Goldilocks pick of the group, not as tempestuous as Big Lagoon, not as placid as Freshwater Lagoon. Rather, it promises a just-right natural experience that may include a visit from an otter family, a glimpse of a herd of Roosevelt elk or the cacophony of thousands of cormorants. The payoff? The Ryan's Cove Campground, a boat-in only spot with campfire rings, outhouse and stunning views of lagoon, ocean, forest and mountains, which no doubt will be your crew's alone for the night.


click to enlarge Slider with bacon jam from Smokin’ Barrels. - SAM ARMANINO
  • Sam Armanino
  • Slider with bacon jam from Smokin’ Barrels.

Smokin' Barrels Burgers and BBQ knows how to drum up business. The Fortuna comfort food spot smokes its meats in a 30-gallon barrel, creating the perfect "kiss of smoke" that brings Humboldtians and non-Humboldtians back for more. Popular picks include the pulled pork nuggets and Husky Burger (pulled pork with tri-trip and bacon). For a yummy twist, try the spicy Korean chicken sandwich, pork rind basket, blue cheese tri-tip salad or sweet potato fries. Or do it up daily style: smoked tri-tip dinners on Friday and Saturday, barbecue chicken on Wednesday, rib dinner on Thursday and meatloaf on Sundays and Tuesdays. Co-owner Dave Kadivar, formerly of popular Eureka sports bar Steve & Dave's, is focusing on lunch and dinner with his newish (one-year this summer) endeavor, but intends to keep sports TV in the mix for Fortuna fans.

Arcata's premier farm-to-table vegetarian café and juice bar Cafe Phoenix, a clean, modern, inviting and casual locale, replenishes body and palate for breakfast and lunch daily, as well as dinner Thursday through Saturday. Few meals, liquid or solid, come fresher as many of the ingredients start their day in the garden out back. Regulars rave about the chia pudding, turmeric latte, nut milks, huevos rancheros and grilled toast. Dog toters appreciate the pet-friendly patio. The ambitious daily menu on the chalkboard strings together words that in all likelihood have never been strung together before, such as "roasted cherry tomato-zucchini-shaved asparagus galette." For the gluten-free and vegan types, many appetizing options await, such as blackberry cheesecake, blueberry almond coffeecake, peanut butter-banana pie, sesame tahini cookies and pistachio chocolate cookies.

At Papa Wheelies Pub, the food is as good as the eponymous pun. Kids, adults, locals and travelers rave over the grilled cheese, chickpea and cashew sandwiches, hand-cut fries and BLTs with avocado and mountains of bacon. But they reserve especially glowing reviews for the grass-fed burgers with locally sourced fixings and homemade mayo. Its entrance marked by a sculpture of a bicyclist riding on a back wheel, Papa's can be described as the proverbial hole in the wall. There are no individual tables, just a pair of long ones and a few seats at the bar. But the little pub in McKinleyville has big ambitions, culinary and otherwise. Its selection of wines and beers impresses city folk. Its outdoor patio and fenced yard gladdens pets and kids. And its frequent musical acts keep the dinner crowds chomping and stomping.

click to enlarge The walls of Old Town come alive during the Eureka Street Art Festival. - ALEXANDER WOODARD
  • Alexander Woodard
  • The walls of Old Town come alive during the Eureka Street Art Festival.

Art Lovers

Starsky and Hutch. Salt and pepper. Sampson and Delilah. The pantheon of meaningful partners now makes room for another, the dynamic duo of Canvas+Clay. The nonprofit gallery in the Carson Block Building in Old Town Eureka hosts regular collaborations of established studio artists with members of Eureka Studio, an arts center for people with developmental disabilities. The mix of polished teachers and raw talents makes for amazing synergy. Recent pairings include a Ferndale art teacher exploring the elements of the desert landscape in a series of watercolors with a Eureka ceramicist who created a new phylum of fun sea creatures with bug eyes and tantalizing tentacles. Another chromatic collision brought together a Canvas+Clay teacher and student, their influences on each other readily apparent as they sketched their way through an inventory of birds, people, lines, hats and more. Keep your eyes out for an upcoming juried exhibit which C + C promises will go to the dogs.

No need to flip out for art's sake. Others will do it for you, like the aerialists at Synapse Nova, an engaged community space dedicated to aerial dance, performance art and contemporary theater in Old Town Eureka. The artsy acrobats amaze in many forms, whether dangling from colorful silks attached to the ceiling or wiggling on the floor while doing butoh, a contemporary Japanese theater dance form. No matter the medium, social justice is often the theme. But the Synapticians know how to have fun, too, like when they hosted a Star Wars cabaret. Open gym times welcome experienced aerialists. Drop-in classes for other modes of motion welcome novices of all ages. For a regularly scheduled treat, see their featured cabaret on the first Saturday of each month, which starts at 9 p.m., just as Eureka's monthly arts walk is winding down.

See the creation of mega-murals made by international and local artists all over Old Town and downtown during the second annual Eureka Street Art Festival, from July 27 to August 3. This year's lineup includes Humboldt sensation Duane Flatmo — the grandfather of the Eureka mural movement as well as darling of Burning Man for his giant mechanical fire-breathing steampunk octopus — and celebrated exterior wall transformers from Miami, Canada and Argentina. Thread among the murals new and old by foot or bike, or join the 2019 artists as they put on their finishing touches for the multi-block party on Saturday, Aug. 3, from noon to 6 p.m., on Sixth Street between C and H. Grownups will appreciate the beer gardens and musical acts, children the kids zone with bouncy house and bubbles. Both will enjoy dozens of Humboldt food vendors, offering oysters, kettle corn, barbecue, artisan chocolates and more.

click to enlarge The community comes alive for Humbodlt Crabs baseball. - LEÓN VILLAGÓMEZ
  • León Villagómez
  • The community comes alive for Humbodlt Crabs baseball.

With the Kids

Root for future big leaguers in some of the liveliest collegiate baseball games on the North Coast. Founded in 1945, the Humboldt Crabs are the oldest independent wood bat summer team in the nation, taking to the field many a dog-day afternoon or evening in the Arcata Ball Park. Their cross-bay counterparts the upstart B-52s have faced foes at home at Bomber Field in Eureka since 2014. Be advised the stands can provide as much excitement as the games, such as when the Humboldt Crabgrass Band blares its big brass or the B-52 bunch fires T-shirt bombs into the crowd. See the Humboldt hurlers as they rip into regional rivals, such as Ringtails, Skunks, Prune Packers, Mudcats, Crawdads and Capitalists, and occasionally each other, now until the first weekend of August.

Every summer things get wild and wooly at two of California's oldest rodeos in Fortuna and Orick as nervous children don helmets and saddle up on bored sheep that skitter from one side of the rodeo ring to the other. The tense tots, on the other hand, hold on for dear life but rarely make it halfway across the arena before the baaaad guys fling them up, down or sideways into the dust. Mutton bustin', a time-honored tradition at Western rodeos, is fun to watch. Are your kids misbehaving? Sign them up, get some fleecy skin in the game and the fun grows exponentially.

All ages. All levels. All wheels. The indoor skate park RampArt welcomes the moving masses to Arcata. And not just those peddling about. Besides wooden ramps, bowl, box jump and grind, its 4,000 feet of indoor space includes shock wall art and, sometimes, really loud music. Most afternoons, evenings and weekends, however, whether young or old, bring your board, bike, scooter, skates and mandatory helmet, and get gnarly with tricks, flips and whips to your hearts delight for a nominal drop-in fee. For post-shredding good times, consider attending one of the all ages music shows, which bring acclaimed metal and thrash acts from across the country such as Violent Opposition, Savage Beach and Death Ridge Boys.

click to enlarge Humboldt Bay Social Club. - CKC IMAGE
  • CKC Image
  • Humboldt Bay Social Club.

Not Strictly for Tourists

Ply the waters of Humboldt Bay and your friends, in moderation, with Humboldt brews and more on the oldest passenger ferry in the nation. The Madaket, which has chugged between Eureka and nearby islands and peninsulas since 1910, offers narrated daytime tours through the high season, along with hour-long cocktail cruises Tuesday through Saturday at 5:30 p.m. Buy your tickets and take off from the foot of C Street, making sure to cover your ears as the big horn bellows to announce the departure. For an extra special splash, take a later sun setting/full moon rising booze cruise on July 16, Aug. 14 or Sept. 12 or 13. Awesome views from the bay of city lights and mountain landscapes await, as does the smallest licensed bar in California. Twenty-one years and older please.

Funky. Inventive. Inspiring. How better to describe a WW2 blimp peninsular airfield station turned boutique hotel? Besides vacation rental rooms and bungalows, the Humboldt Bay Social Club tends bar daily in the main building, complete with DIY barbecue oyster, salmon, veggie and s'more kits, which you can unpack and fire up on grills outside. The picnic area, kid and pet friendly, features bocce and cornhole games. Pick up a bucket of beer or wine to go, and lounge about with a view of the ocean dunes. Or, should weather conditions persuade, stay in the expansive lobby and enjoy craft cocktails, nosh on goat cheese or pizza over the long slab of a bar, made from a giant chunk of reclaimed old growth redwood. Inside Tip: Thursday is buck-a-shuck oyster night. Trivial factoid: The former Navy base continues to operate as a municipal airstrip, bringing in about one private plane per day, and hosts drag races on the landing strip about once per blue moon.

The Humboldt County Fair, the oldest continuous running one in California, returns for the 123rd summer in a row, surely a sign to place a win, place and show bet on the horses, based on that sure-thing tip from the lady wearing a red hat on Red Hat Day. It will pay for your trip and then some. Sheep dog trials, a kids parade, hometown hero Guy Fieri and the Bull-O-Rama promise to please, as will the classic midway rides, carnie games and fried everything. The fair takes place Aug. 15-25 at the county fairgrounds in Victorian Ferndale, providing a scenic backdrop of Americana charm, coastal mountains and grazing pastures that made Cream City a prosperous agricultural town. It still is, as manifested in the show barns, where many local youths in 4-H outfits brush and tend to their champion cows, goats, pigs and chickens. Many are happy to let well-mannered children walking by do the same.

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Richard Stenger

Richard Stenger

Richard Stenger is media relations manager for the Humboldt County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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