If you’re heading to Humboldt County, be sure to visit Eureka. There are so many things to do in Eureka, California, from kayaking to the zoo and sky walk. If you only have a day there, this post will assure you get to see the best of it.
For more help planning your trip, check out all of our travel posts.
The majority of our travel content is east coast related because that is drivable for us. But when our writers were taking a cross country RV trip, suddenly the entire country became drivable.
Our writers were lucky enough to be hosted by Visit Eureka. They only had a day in town (seeing the entire country — and coming back — in 66 days will do that), but they were able to experience so much in a mere 24 hours in Eureka.
So, if all you have is a day to visit, this travel guide is exactly for you.
24 Hours In Eureka, California
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As with all our “24 Hours In … ” posts, we take you through a full day, from start to finish. This Eureka guide is starting at lunchtime and will take you just up until lunch the next day.
If you want to experience Humboldt Bay as soon as you get to town, go for lunch at Cafe Marina (601 Startare Dr.).
The inside of the restaurant is nice, but you’re really gonna want a table on the outdoor patio. From the patio, you can see the boats coming in and out of Woodley Island Marina.
Eureka is known for Dungeness crab, which is a winter delicacy. So if you’re there in the winter, definitely order that. Outside of the winter, oysters are what the town is known for.
You can order them sautéed as an appetizer or as a shooter. They also come as an entrée, breaded and fried (which is what is pictured above), with soup or salad and two sides or as a basket with fries and coleslaw. We recommend the basket for lunch because it’s a smaller portion than the entrée.
If you’re not into oysters, Cafe Marina also has fish and chips, prime rib, pasta dishes like Grilled Prawn Fettuccini Alfredo, burgers, sandwiches, and Bouillabaisse (a French seafood stew).
The food is great, but the location is the real reason to eat here.
When you’re done, you can take a quick walk through the parking lot to see the Table Bluff Lighthouse. Or, at least, a piece of it.
It was originally built in 1892 and located on Table Bluff, a terrace just south of Humboldt Bay. It was cut in pieces and the lighthouse portion was moved to the marina. It’s ornamental now, not functional, but it’s cool to look at.
If you keep walking, you’ll see the Fisherman’s Memorial Statue. The copper statue was erected in 1981 as a memorial to the fishermen who the sea claimed.
Before or after your seafood lunch, it’s nice to visit the statue and just think for a moment about the fishermen who caught that lunch and what they really do endure on a daily basis.
Get into the car and drive about 10 minutes over to the Sequoia Park Zoo (3414 W St.). The zoo is home to the Redwood Sky Walk, a treetop adventure through the famed redwood trees, which opened last year.
The Redwood Sky Walk is included in your admission to the zoo, so even if you don’t want to go for the animals, go to the zoo for the Redwood Sky Walk.
If you remember from elementary school, redwood trees are tall. And when you go to the Redwood National and State Parks, which part of are about 15 miles from Eureka, you stand at the base of the trees and look up. Which isn’t great for your neck or for quite understanding the vastness of the trees.
The Redwood Sky Walk changed that. It’s a quarter-mile network of suspended bridges set up throughout the trees so you can look up and down on these beauties. The ascent ramp to access the sky walk is 360 feet. That’s almost the height of the tallest known redwood tree (380 feet), so it’s a good representation of just how tall those trees are.
What’s very amazing is that the Redwood Sky Walk is wheelchair accessible. There are a trio of “shaky” bridges called the “Adventure Segment” that aren’t accessible, but other than that section, the entire sky walk can turn into a sky drive if you’re on wheels.
After the sky walk, be sure to check out the zoo itself. The Sequoia Park Zoo is the oldest zoo in California. It has undergone multiple transformations since its opening in 1907. Its current evolution has it focusing on conservation and science, posting signs that educate visitors about the zoo’s animals.
Those animals are all either zoo born or not able to survive in the wild. The zoo makes sure to choose animals that are compatible with the zoo’s smaller size and with Eureka’s climate.
If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to catch a feeding. (If you had gone to the zoo about 50 years ago, you actually could have fed the animals yourself! But allowing feedings by the public ended in the 1970’s.)
If you’re in town over the weekend, Lost Coast Brewery (1600 Sunset) has tours on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 4 pm. You’ll need to call on Monday through Friday to reserve your spot, and they’re limited to 15 people per tour.
Lost Coast Brewery has two locations, one that’s in the downtown area (617 4th St., pictured above) and the main brewery that’s in Eureka but away from foot traffic. The tours are at the latter location.
Brewery tours are actually really cool, even if you’re not a beer drinker. I’m not, but I loved the tour we did at Sierra Nevada Brewery, which coincidentally is also a California-based brewery.
If you can’t make the tour, head to Old Town/Downtown instead for a self-guided walking tour.
Eureka is home to so many historic Victorian mansions, which are absolutely gorgeous to walk by.
The Carson Mansion (143 M St.) is one of the most photographed Victorian homes in the United States. So you definitely want to snap a photo of the home that was constructed in the 1880s.
It was owned by William Carson, who originally came to the area because of the gold rush. He pivoted, getting into lumber and made his money there. In fact, Eureka was started as a lumber producing town, thanks in part to Carson, who was the first person to deliver redwood timber to San Francisco (previously it was just fir and spruce).
Since 1950, the Carson Mansion has operated as a private club and is currently the home of the Ingomar Club, which was started by two Eureka residents a decade before. The club bought the mansion for (big sigh) a mere $35,000 in 1950. The club hosts its meetings and functions there and the building isn’t open to the public. But you can stand outside and take photos.
Across the street from the Carson Mansion is the historic Pink Lady Mansion (202 M Street) (currently styled as The Pinc Lady Mansion), which was completed just a couple years after the Carson Mansion. The J. Milton Carson House, as it is formerly known, was a gift from the aforementioned William Carson to his son J. Milton and his wife Mary Amelia.
When the elder Carson passed away, his son and daughter in law moved across the street and the Pink Lady was eventually sold to Germans, seized by the US government (because of World War II), became a boarding house, fell into disarray, and then underwent renovations. Unlike the Carson Mansion, the Pink Lady will be open for public tours once renovations are completed.
As you continue your walking tour, keep an eye out on the sides of buildings. Eureka is becoming a large arts community and part of that has to do with the gorgeous murals that are popping up all over buildings in town.
You probably worked up an appetite on that walking tour, so it’s a good time to stop for dinner.
If you didn’t get to Lost Coast Brewery for the tour, stop by its downtown location (617 4th St.) for dinner. You can order typical bar food, like salads, sandwiches, and burgers. If you make it for Happy Hour (4 pm to 6 pm, Monday through Friday), pints are only $4.50.
Eureka has a few great nightlife activities if you’re in town at the right time.
On Friday nights, from July through September, your can check out the Eureka Friday Night Market. Each Friday, from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm, more than 70 vendors set up in Old Town Eureka between E Street and 2nd Street. Note, the streets are closed at that time, so be mindful of where you’re parking.
There’s live, local music during that time. Plus the bars and restaurants within those streets are open for business, so you can pop in and visit them.
If you’re there on a Thursday from June until August, head to Madaket Plaza (Foot of C Street) at the New Fisherman’s Plaza boardwalk in Old Town for the Eureka Summer Concert Series. Original and cover bands take the stage from 6 pm to 8 pm for the free concert series.
If you’re looking for something to do outside of those nights, check out the Madaket. It’s a daily cruise ship that’s the oldest passenger carrying vessel in the United States and the smallest licensed bar in California.
Obviously, after that last sentence, you should realize it’s not a large cruise ship, but one that’s perfect for a small water tour or sunset cruise on the Humboldt Bay.
The Madaket was one of seven vessels in a fleet that use to transport passengers, both families and workers, around Humboldt Bay back in the 1930s. About 40 years later, the Samoa bridge was built, eliminating the need for the fleet.
But, the Madaket remains and operates as the Humboldt Bay Harbor Cruise flag boat, giving tours on Tuesday through Sunday at various times (including a one-hour cocktail cruise at 5:30 pm on those days). So if you’re looking for something to do in the evening, this is a great options.
If you’re more of a land lover, head over to the Best Western Plus Humboldt Bay Inn (232 West 5th St.). This is where our writers were hosted.
One of the very cool perks of the hotel is it has a complementary limo service (every day but Sunday). So you can check in, get changed, then hop in the limo to go barhopping. Dave’s Place (426 Grotto St.) is a local dive bar with great service that’s worth checking out.
After barhopping (or maybe instead of, depending on how your evening is going), head back to your room at the hotel. Our writers were hosted in the Oasis Grand Suite, which is an 1,080-foot two bedroom, two bath room, equipped with its own kitchen, two coffee makers, and a back porch area with seats and a table. It’s the perfect place to relax.
But wait, there’s more.
The hotel has an area called the Oasis, which is available to all guests, with a pool, hot tub, and a fire pit.
If you’re like Pete and want to get in a workout while you’re on vacation, the hotel has a fitness center with a treadmill, elliptical, bike, weights, and more.
If you’d rather just relax after all that walking through the sky walk and your self-guided tour downtown, there’s a massage chair in the fitness center that’s complementary for hotel guests.
You can really spend the evening relaxing in this area — or challenging your friends to a game of pool if you’re a little competitive.
Enjoy your time in the Oasis, then head back to your room, snuggle under the covers, and get rested for tomorrow because it’s gonna be a full morning.
Before you go on your trip, you’ll want to set up a kayaking tour with Pacific Outfitters. That’s a sporting goods store in Eureka that also hosts kayaking eco tours.
You can choose between a variety of tours, which offer bird watching, wildlife viewing, and more. You can choose to go in Humboldt Bay or in the area’s largest lagoon, so you have a lot of options. And, you can choose between solo or tandem kayaks.
The tours all last three hours, but if you don’t have that much time (because you only have 24 hours in town), you can request a shorter tour and that should be accommodated (that’s what our writers did).
Georgiana and Savannah, from Pacific Outfitters, took out our team, pointing out seals, birds, and sea anemones along the way. They even stopped to taste some sea lettuce too.
A three hour tour gives you just enough time to squeeze in a visit to Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate before you head out of town.
The story behind the chocolate shop is super interesting.
Let’s start with the name. There’s no chocolate man named Dick Taylor. Friends Adam Dick and Dustin Taylor (you see what they did there?) started out woodworking and building boats. Taking a piece of wood and using tools and a process to turn it into something functional is, if you think about it in a general sense, a very similar process to chocolate, where you take cacao and cane sugar, some very specific tools and a process, and turn it into chocolate.
Inspired by a craft chocolate shop in Brooklyn, New York, the pair bought some tools and started making chocolate. Business boomed … so much so that they’re currently renovating a larger location and will move there in the near(ish) future. If you want to know more, check out our full Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate Factory & Tasting Room review.
Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate used to offer tours, but doesn’t currently. The store does have samples of its chocolate bars available, so you can try the bars (which are very good) before deciding which ones to bring home. If you need more when you’re out of town, you can order Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate online.
And you’re gonna have to head out of town now because your 24 hours in Eureka are over.
Eureka, California: Frequently Asked Questions
Eureka, California started as a lumber producing town. It’s home to the second largest bay in California, the oldest zoo in the state, and is the cultural hub of Humboldt County.
Eureka’s self-given nickname is the “Queen City of the Ultimate West” because (we think) of the amount of Queen Anne-style Victorian homes in the town.
Eureka is Northern California about 100 miles south of the Oregon border. Its closest major California city is San Francisco, which is just under 300 miles to its south.
Eureka proper doesn’t have a beach.
However, there are two with Eureka zip codes: Samoa Beach, which is a bridge away from the Woodley Island Marina, and then there is a beach at King Salmon, which is about a mile south of Eureka.
Eureka has its own airport, Arcata-Eureka Airport (ACV), which is a commercial airport. It is currently only serviced by a few airlines (Avelo Airlines via Burbank and United Express via Denver, Los Angeles, and San Francisco).
If you’re traveling from outside one of those areas, your best bet is to fly into San Francisco (SFO) or Sacramento (SMF), rent a car, and drive to Eureka. It’s a little under five hours to drive from either airport to Eureka. You can look for a flight to San Francisco into Arcata-Eureka if you don’t feel like driving that far.
What should you pack for a trip to Eureka, CA?
Eureka has a pretty moderate temperature year round. It’s definitely cooler than you’d expect when you think about California, even in summer. So pack a light jacket and long pants for walking around at night.
If you’re planning on going kayaking, you’ll want to pack a bathing suit and clothes that can get wet (kayaking in jeans isn’t ideal).
Of course, you’ll also want to have that bathing suit handy for the hotel’s pool and hot tub. And if you want to work out at the hotel, be sure to pack sneakers.
Comfortable walking shoes are a must for the zoo and sky walk, plus walking around the town itself.
And, finally, pack your camera (one with a long lens is great to capture shots of Humboldt Bay).
Which of these things to do in Eureka, California is going on your list? Let us know in the comments.