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S.F. to Humboldt: Oysters, hot tubs, martinis

Nate Seltenrich | April 23, 2013 | Story California Destinations

Road-trippers trapped in weekend-gawker traffic on the Avenue of the Giants will be relieved to know that there is a worthy alternative in Humboldt County (albeit one that replaces redwoods with bivalves). Veer from the needle-strewn path with Humboldt Bay Oyster Tours’ (800-808-2836) new kayaking charter, starting this month, that will have you picking your own briny shooters. “It’s a hands-on, personal experience—totally Humboldt style,” says founding partner Jon O’Connor.

But first, a mid-route detour is in order. Turn off 101 onto 20 in Willits [Mile Marker 137], where newcomer Adam’s Restaurant (707-456-9226) serves crispy crab cakes that won the people’s choice award at Mendocino’s crab cake competition in January. In Fort Bragg [MM 174], stroll the meticulously planted Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden or wander MacKerricher State Park’s jagged-edged bluffs for some of Northern California’s most stunning ocean vistas.

After traveling serpentine Highway 1 to Eureka [MM 305], you’ll need a drink. Beeline to the Palm Lounge at the renovated Eureka Inn (rates start at $90), where tattooed bartenders sling classic cocktails in a Tudor-style room. Toss back a martini while sinking into the plush leather booths by the brick fireplace.

Grab your binoculars for the upgraded Hikshari Trail along Humboldt Bay. It’s a birder’s paradise (keep an eye out for migratory songbirds, like warblers and swallows). Thirteen-hour-smoked brisket awaits at Shamus T Bones (707-407-3550), next to the trailhead.

Humboldt claims that it has more artists per capita than any other California county, and they’re not just painting beaches and cows—local artists like Patricia Sennott take a surreal approach to nature painting at celebrated Sewell Gallery. See more local works at the first-Saturdays Arts Alive or the F Street art corridor.

For a taste of Old Town Eureka, bed down at the 127-yearold Eagle House Victorian Inn (rates start at $105). It sits atop the town’s only Irish pub, where live folk music keeps visitors and locals rollicking into the evening.

Sweat out last night’s libations in an outdoor private hot tub surrounded by trees and ferns at Café Mokka’s Finnish Country Sauna and Tubs in Arcata [MM 313]. Top it off with a local-albacore sandwich at Beachcomber Café (707-677-0106) in nearby Trinidad [MM 330], perched above the Pacific. “It’s magical,” owner Melissa Zarp avows, referring to both the sandwich and the view.

Add a day: OK, we lied. You can’t go to redwood country and not see the redwoods. Log an extra 70 miles north to Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. The park’s sole campground sits across the Smith River from the park’s main attractions: the old-growth Stout and Lohse groves.

More Summer Get Aways:

S.F. to Santa Cruz: Highway 1 via two wheels
Three days (suggested time), 123 miles (one way), $$

S.F. to Borrego Springs: Desert funk
Five days, 769 miles, $$

S.F. to Truckee: Summer camp flashbacks
Two days, 200 miles, $$$

S.F. to Venice Beach: Paradise hopping
Four days, 448 miles, $$$$

S.F. to Humboldt: Oysters, hot tubs, martinis
Three days, 330 miles, $$

S.F. to Mendocino: Wine country underground
Three days, 165 miles (bring a designated driver), $$$

S.F. to Bear Valley: Sierra camping without the masses
Three days, 182 miles, $

Originally published in the May 2013 issue of San Francisco.

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