If the best weekend getaways in California offer an escape from reality, Ferndale belongs at the top of your list. Tucked away on the romantic Redwood Coast, this historic small town is a hidden gem of picture-perfect homes, small-town Americana, and secluded coastline. It’s far enough off the beaten path to elude the typical tourist trappings yet readily accessible from the Bay Area and Pacific Northwest via scenic Highway 101. Whether you’re planning a romantic Valentine’s Day retreat, celebrating an anniversary, or slipping away for a spontaneous weekend getaway, Ferndale is a breath of fresh air. Here’s our favorite itinerary for a couple’s escape to the historic heart of the redwoods.
What to See & Do
Ferndale is famous for its fantastic Victorian architecture, which runs the gamut from quaint cottages to the magnificent “Butterfat Palaces” built by the wealthy families who made their fortunes in the 1880s dairy industry. Plan to spend plenty of time exploring charming neighborhoods with row after row of candy-colored Queen Anne, Eastlake-Stick, Italianate, Neo-Classic, Bungalow and Mission style homes surrounded by meticulously tended gardens.
At just several blocks long, Ferndale’s lamppost-lined Main Street doesn’t take long to stroll. Yet it’s easy to lose an afternoon here exploring the bevy of charming shops and boutiques.
Step back in time at the Golden Gait Mercantile, one of the last authentic general stores in America and a treasure trove of new and nostalgic finds both local and imported. Try on vintage inspired hats, fill up on sweet treats at the old-fashioned candy counter, and venture upstairs for a mini museum of Victorian life vignettes.
Browse the awe-inspiring artwork and apparel of local painter Shawn Griggs, whose "Dia de Los Muertos" skeletons and vivid, dreamlike surf scenes have become a mainstay of North Coast culture, at Redeye Laboratories.
Marvel at the imaginative hand-forged wares of The Blacksmith Shop and its neighboring gallery, the finest and largest collection of master blacksmithing in the United States.
Plug in a vintage guitar and tune into live footage of Ferndale's famous barn owls on the "Owl Cam" at Ferndale Music Company, a majestic historic church converted into a boutique music store and lesson studio. Also housed in the space is celebrated concert venue The Old Steeple (check out upcoming shows here).
Where to Eat
Linger over a perfect pour over with locally roasted beans at Mind’s Eye Manufactory & Coffee Lounge, an eclectic third-wave coffeehouse and creative maker’s studio where, if you're lucky, you might also catch a fascinating glimpse into the construction of Aleutian skin-on-frame sea kayaks, one of the classes offered in the adjoining workshop.
Shake off the Ferndale fog with zesty fish tacos on housemade corn tortillas and a signature “Wild Souls” cocktail at Tuyas, a vibrant Mexican restaurant with a contemporary twist. Or reserve a table at cozy VI Restaurant, Farmhouse on Main or Hotel Ivanhoe Restaurant for a romantic dinner and decadent dessert. Explore Ferndale's full roster of restaurants here.
Where to Stay
Treat yourself to gourmet breakfast and afternoon tea in the grand parlor or English garden of the Gingerbread Mansion, one of the most famous and fancifully ornate bed and breakfasts in Northern California.
Looking for something less traditional but equally charming? Check out the Ferndale Barndominium, a rustic barn turned tiny house featuring upcycled furniture and materials, including original beams and cool vintage appliances. View a full list of Ferndale lodging options, from historic inns to vacation homes, here.
Where to Explore
Just blocks from historic Main Street you'll find Ferndale Cemetery, one of the most beautiful cemeteries in California. Wander the steep, rambling pathways past historic headstones and obelisks to the top of the hill for a bird’s eye view of the village, valley and ocean.
Continue beyond the cemetery to the main trailhead of Russ Park, a hundred-acre mature Sitka Spruce forest (more rare than redwood) and bird sanctuary with several miles of fern-lined hiking trails, including an overlook and several peek-a-boo views of town.
Take a stroll on the sand at Centerville Beach County Park, a romantically rugged stretch of coastline just five miles from Ferndale on Ocean Avenue. Continue up Centerville Road to nearby Fleener and Guthrie Creek trailheads for scenic hikes down to the waves. Keep your eyes peeled for sea lions, seals, pelicans, and, in spring, migrating Gray whales.
Cross back over historic Fernbridge to the neighboring dairy village of Loleta for its acclaimed artisan cheese factory and indulgent grilled cheese bar, Queso Kings.
Swing into Fortuna’s Eel River Brewing Company – the first certified organic brewery in the U.S – for a pint, a round of horseshoe and purrs from the resident kitty in the cozy beer garden.
Head north to Old Town Eureka for more astonishing architecture, or south to soak in the natural beauty at ever-enchanting Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
For more activities, attractions and trip ideas, go to VisitFerndale.com.
All photos by Leon Villagomez