With a population of 1,370 and a downtown just three blocks long, you might think it’d be tough to find a stone unturned in the quaint Victorian Village of Ferndale, famous for its well-preserved architecture and Americana-meets-modern-day culture. But this tiny town on California’s Redwood Coast is full of surprises.
Venture a short way from Ferndale’s nostalgic Main Street, and you’ll find an untamed wilderness ready for exploring, a treasure trove of local history, quirky artisan galleries and antiques, and some of the best burgers on the North Coast - just a few more reasons to make Ferndale the home base for your Redwoods vacation.
No Brand Burger Stand
It’s easy to breeze right by the humble little shack that houses No Brand Burger Stand on the way in to town, but it’s worth a special stop. For years, this legendary hole-in-the-wall lunch joint, voted “Best Burger in Humboldt,” has been serving up some of the juiciest grass-fed beef burgers, crispiest fries and thickest shakes this side of the Redwoods. Go classic with a single patty or go big with the jalapeño or blue cheese double cheeseburger. Dine al fresco at No Brand’s picnic tables or take your meal with you on your Ferndale adventures. Open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
No Brand Burger Stand
1400 Main St C
Open daily, 11am-4pm
Ferndale has long been a hub of Humboldt County artistic creation: Galleries and studios line historic downtown, much of the town’s ornate architecture was saved thanks to area artists, and kinetic sculpture racing, now a worldwide phenomenon, was born here in 1969 when two local artists and friends raced their modified man-powered machines down Main Street. Now entering its 50th year, the Kinetic Grand Championship – known as the “triathlon of the art world” – still reaches its finish line in Ferndale on Memorial Day.
The same weird and wonderful artistic spirit lives on beyond Main Street in Artisan Alley, a collective of artist studios tucked just behind Ferndale’s fanciful facades. Stop in Tuesday through Saturday to see the creation of stained glass, contemporary ceramics, whimsical woolwork, fine paintings and elaborate wooden ship models, the latter of which are based on actual vessels, many with North Coast connections. From the intricate woodwork to realistic rigging, the ships – created by local craftsman Andy Doerner – are awe-inspiring for all ages. Art classes and live music performances are also held on occasion.
375 Main St.
Small town museums are sometimes stereotyped as dusty resting places for antiques – but not the Ferndale Museum, a community treasure that breathes life into the storied history of the dairy town and surrounding Eel River and Mattole valleys. Located off of Main Street on Shaw Avenue, “the Mu” is jam-packed with historic artifacts, documents and photos from Ferndale’s settlement during the California Gold Rush to present day, and houses an operating seismograph, working crank phones, player piano, and complete blacksmith shop.
But what makes the museum especially endearing is its active community participation: Up to 200 volunteers share the task of exploring, interpreting and honoring the past through the publication of a monthly magazine, original documentary films, genealogical research, tours of historic homes and businesses, local biographies and cookbooks, and more.
515 Shaw Ave.
Open Wed-Sat, 11am-4pm; Sunday 11am-4pm (hours change seasonally)
Ferndale might be best known for its neighboring Redwoods, but there’s a little-known mature forest of tall trees right here in town. Russ Park, a hundred-acre nature preserve and bird sanctuary, offers some of the best hiking in Humboldt County. Follow a maze of short but steep, moderate-rated trails through mature Sitka spruce, firs, red alder, ferns, and lichen for an immersion in coastal wilderness, sweeping views and flora and fauna from salmon berries and trillium to banana slugs and more than 60 species of bird.
Highlights of the park’s trails, which total slightly more than 3 miles, include park highpoint Bunker Hill Viewpoint, the Francis Creek Viewpoint, William Crane Redwood Grove, and secluded Zipporah’s Pond, named for pioneer Zipporah Russ who donated the park to the city in 1920 to be used for recreation and as a refuge for birds. Leashed dogs are allowed on trails.
Getting to Russ Park
At the end of Main Street, turn left on Ocean Avenue. Continue past the cemetery where Ocean becomes Bluff Street. Find trailhead located at gravel parking area on right.
Tucked away a block from Main Street in a funky little building that once housed the town mortuary, Rupert's Relics is a unique antique store specializing entirely in vintage paper collectibles. Browse rows of richly-colored vintage prints from antique wood fruit crates to cigar label boxes featuring some of the world's best examples of stone lithograph art. Popular from the 1880s to 1930s, stone litho cigar labels achieved their lavish color by passing paper over multiple stones, each painted with part of a design in a different ink color, before being embossed with gold. The most coveted labels can fetch hundreds of dollars - thousands, in some cases - and Rupert's Relics is a virtual museum of a time when when advertising was as much about form as function.
470 Ocean Avenue
Sprawling over a scenic hillside two blocks from Main Street, Ferndale's pioneer cemetery is ideal for a peaceful hike. Prominently featured in 1979's "Salem's Lot" a TV adaptation of Stephen King's novel by the same name.
Playground, picnic table, ball field and Bocce courts located alongside scenic Francis Creek and forested Wildcat ridge.
The Old Steeple
Converted historic church next to cemetery houses music store, spectacular stained glass and performances from well-known artists during its fall-spring concert season.
County beach accessed via a 5-mile drive through coastal farmland. Dog-friendly and good for horseback riding, beachcombing, bonfires and wildlife viewing, including whales in spring/early summer.
Lost Coast Headlands National Monument
Two easy to moderate coastal hikes, Fleener Creek and Guthrie Creek trails, located off Centerville Road past Centerville Beach.