A wine weekend in…Eureka? Yes, California’s rugged northern ‘lost coast’ can make for an ideal grown-up getaway, provided you know where to go. Parents will feel completely away from it all, with cell service cutting delightfully in and out with each curve of Highway 101. The scenery is spectacular, the shopping and art scene funky and fun, and the cuisine is original, yet suburb.
Eureka California wine and cider weekend:
Eureka, California is about five hours north of San Francisco, up the windy coastal highway, Highway 101. We approached it from the north; Eureka is about 1.5 hours from Crescent City, California and four hours from our home in Southern Oregon. Either way, it’s far enough to feel transported. (I think we felt truly relaxed as we left the Redwood Highway by the California/Oregon border and turned south along the coastline.)
Stay at Carter House:
Eureka is known for their oysters, not their wineries, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find 100 point wines in town. Carter House is touted as a bed and breakfast, but we decided we’d consider it a closer cousin to a boutique hotel. With over 30 rooms in three Victorian buildings in the heart of historic downtown Eureka, Carter House has a beautiful bar with a 90-page wine list, including offerings from wineries such as Silver Oak, LaFite, and George Latour, and a wine cellar on premises that guests can tour (actually three wine cellars). Their Restaurant 301 is well-known in the area for their philosophy of local sourcing and seasonal ingredients; in fact, they have their own gardens across the street.
Our room at the Carter House was small but beautiful, with a jetted tub and the tall ceilings you can expect in a historic building. Downstairs, the bar and lobby areas invite guests to mingle for complimentary appetizers and wine during happy hour, and again at 8 pm, where complimentary tea and cookies are set out by the fireplace.
We wished the check-in desk was located slightly apart from the sitting areas of the lobby, as it took away from the ambiance, but during a three-day stay, this was our only complaint. We made a reservation at Restaurant 301 our first night, and were not disappointed. (I recommend the French onion soup, made from scratch on premises.) Guests can order wine by the glass or by the bottle during dinner or in the bar, and can expect bottle prices to start at around $50-60 and top out at a stunning $12,000. While such a wine was beyond our means by about $11,950, we enjoyed pursuing the menu. Restaurant 301 also offers a five-course tasting menu with wine pairings, for about $100 per person. Our meal with wine, appetizers, and an entry each was just over $100 for two, so we opted for the a la carte menu, but were tempted by the pairings. The bar has happy hour food to sample as well, such as truffle fries or rolled tacos, if you’re not up for a full meal.
At Carter House, guests are within walking distance of the rest of historic Eureka, which showcases an impressive number of restored Victorian buildings hugging the waterfront. (Outside the historic downtown area, Eureka gets significantly more dingy; anyone familiar with small, isolated towns with struggling economies will relate. We never felt unsafe; we just preferred the historic center while on a weekend vacation.) Within the historic downtown, we found multiple additional restaurants, including an additional wine bar called The Wine Spot with great selection and a friendly staff. There are also several art galleries, specialty shops, and bookstores. We recommend Humboldt Bay Bistro, Cafe Nooner, and Oberon Grille, all located within walking distance. You can also walk easily to the marina, located just a block from Carter House.
What you get for your room rate at Carter House:
No matter which room you book, a Carter House stay includes breakfast (hence the B&B designation), which is excellent. Each day, breakfast included a generous and gourmet continental breakfast buffet with fresh juices, baked goods, and fruit and granola, plus a complimentary menu of oatmeal, yogurt, toast, and the like. One special per day is also included complimentarily; during our stay, it was eggs Benedict and French toast.
You also get the nightly appetizers and tea/cookies that are set out in the lobby, and one glass of complimentary wine in the wine bar (one per person per stay, not per day). WiFi and parking are free, and the ambiance is warm. The staff is helpful and welcoming, and we found the room rate (in off-season) of $200 per night to be a good value.
Taste wine across the Eureka area:
In addition to the impressive wine cellar at Carter House, there are a number of small, but up-and-coming wineries in the area. Recommended to us were:
- Persimmons Garden Gallery & Wine Tasting This winery is also a nursery, art gallery, wine bar, and cafe. 1055 Redway Dr., Redway.
- Riverbend Cellars Located on the Eel River, Riverbend is producing Cabernet, Merlot, and Syrah. 12990 Avenue of the Giants, Myers Flat.
- Elk Prairie Vineyard For a remote tasting room experience, Elk Prairie’s wares can be sampled, above Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
Sip brews for grown-ups:
Eureka is home to Lost Coast Brewing and nearby Humboldt Brewing, so beer lovers will be content, but we love finding unique cider breweries, and were very impressed with Humboldt Cider Co. It’s located east of downtown in a residential area near the Eureka fairgrounds, and actually hard to find from the street (you’ll find it off Harris St). You need to go inside the parking area just past the fairgrounds, where a few other businesses are located, and it feels like you’re going to the wrong place, but once you get there, it’s great. They have a small but cutely decorated tasting room, and during our visit, had ten ciders on tap. We opted for a tasting of all ten for $17, which we happily shared. Their ciders ranged from very dry, hoppy brews to sweet brews laced with local honey or candied pecans…. we loved the honey one so much we bought a growler full to bring home.
Note: If you’re willing to go a bit further afield, try Bittersweet Sea Cider in Arcata.
Hiking and nature:
Between sipping wine and cider, we made our way down the coast about 40 miles to the Avenue of the Giants, located within Humboldt Redwoods State Park. This large park has multiple entrances and exits along Highway 101, with the headliner being the Avenue of the Giants, a 30+ mile roadway through towering redwoods. The ‘Ave’ used to be the original Highway 101, before it was rerouted, and driving through can take just an hour or so or all day, depending on how many times to stop to hike through the various redwood groves. You really can’t go wrong picking a path to hike; we tried several couple-mile loops, then ended up at the visitor center, located at about the halfway point along the Ave.
If you go north instead of south from Eureka, Patricks Point State Park is located directly on the rocky coastline by Trinidad, and offers multiple hiking loops and beach walks. There’s also a small visitors center, though we didn’t check it out, and campgrounds. The Inn of the Lost Coast is located at the end of Patricks Point Road at Shelter Cove, and has a causal eatery with ocean views for lunch. The seaside town of Trinidad itself is a great stop, with an iconic lighthouse and cute harbor for small fishing boats. You can explore small but beautiful Trinidad State Park, or just head to the adjacent city beach to watch the surf.
En route back toward Eureka, we decided to stop at Loleta Cheese Factory (at 252 Loleta Dr.). We were expecting a large cheese operation in this sleepy coastal town, but instead, found the factory to be in a small house. We took a chance and checked it out, and are so glad we did. This little cheese factory has amazing cheeses (all available for sampling), and best of all, in the back resides a grilled cheese bar, serving inventive sandwiches headlining their cheeses. Guy Fieri has featured it in Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives (in fact, he’s recommended several establishments in the Eureka area, his home county). In the back of the grilled cheese bar area is a beautiful garden, which is inviting in the warmer months.
Tip: If you’re following this itinerary WITH kids in tow, this cheese shop would be a great stop; they even offer a fun scavenger hunt for kids when they arrive. Of course, all the hiking in Humboldt Redwoods State Park would be a excellent way to spend time as well.
During the summer months, it’s easy to rent kayaks or stand up paddle boards in Eureka or neighbor Arcata, and beach-going and picnicking is a popular pastime. Don’t be afraid of visiting Eureka during the off-season, however. We visited in February, and found the hotels to still be bustling, and the room rates to be slightly lower. While it rained during our visit, the chances of rain are significant during any time of year.
Have you been to Eureka or the Lost Coast for a weekend getaway? Where did you stay?
Photo credit: Unique Inns, Amy Whitley