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Getaway Guide: Crescent City
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Getaway Guide: Crescent City

Live life in the slow lane, enjoy the glorious natural attractions, and take time to recharge and reconnect with nature.

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5 min read

September 09, 2021

Crescent City is a quaint little town in Del Norte County, where redwoods meet the ocean. Off the beaten path and unbelievably rich in natural beauty, this NorCal beach town is named after the crescent-shaped stretch of sand located to its south. Have yourself a quick two-day staycation the next time you’re driving up north and check out all the things to see in Crescent City for yourself. Live life in the slow lane, enjoy the glorious natural attractions, and take time to recharge and reconnect with nature—these are all the Crescent City things to do that await on your vacation.

Named for its curved, sandy beach, Crescent City is a small town and California's northernmost place to go.

Day 1

Arriving

The drive up to Crescent City from San Francisco is admittedly quite long—six hours to be exact. However, the Highway 101 views will make your long trip feel worthwhile. The Avenue of the Giants is an easy detour along your road trip, and you drive right through Humboldt State Park as well. If you’d like to make other stops along your trip to Crescent City, Fort Bragg and Mendocino are also recommended.

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You’ll feel the shift in temperature the closer you get to the north border of California. In fact, the weather pattern in Crescent City is much more similar to the Pacific Northwest (Oregon or Washington), than to the rest of California, and locals have adopted the moniker Pacific North Coast to describe their home. So, expect rain, fog, chillier evenings, and a bit of dreariness overall.

The nearby redwood trees in Crescent City appeared in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi as the forest on the Moon of Endor.

Afternoon

Before you move on to the official list of things to do in Crescent City, you’ll have to check into your accommodation. While there are many chain hotels in Crescent City, we recommend staying local for a more authentic experience. The Lighthouse Inn in Crescent City is the best-rated hotel in the bunch. You’ll have access to WiFi throughout the property, enjoy complimentary breakfast, and stay in units that come with a microwave, refrigerator, coffee machine, bath, and free toiletries.

Another cool option for a Crescent City hotel is the Oceanfront Lodge. As the name suggests, this hotel is right along Pebble Beach Drive overlooking the ocean and is also a stone’s throw away from the Historic Battery Point Lighthouse.

After you’re all done checking in, it’s finally time to check out the Crescent City attractions. And what’s better than going on a hike after a long six-hour drive? Drive down on Howland Hill Road from the south to the unbelievably beautiful Stout Grove in the Redwood National and State Parks. Perhaps the most scenic stand of redwoods in all of California, the Stout Grove has quite the reputation and, consequently, attracts crowds. But if you’re lucky enough to go when there aren’t too many people, you’ll find the grove in a remarkably hushed and serene environment, where the sounds of the outside world are damped out by the spongy layer of the ground, and the sunlight is filtered through the branches of the redwoods.

Visitors enjoy a true hands-on experience with interactive tide pools, shark petting, as well as a high-flying sea lion presentation at Ocean World.

Evening

After your redwood excursion, head back to town to check out the Ocean World in Crescent City. The facility is open until 7 p.m. so we wouldn’t linger on the road for too long if we were you. Take part in the fully-guided 45-minute tour and check out all the fun, educational and entertaining experiences that await. Younger children will especially enjoy this stop on your Crescent City itinerary as they’ll get up close and personal with many marine creatures in the most intimate way.

Nothing could be more satisfying than a hearty dinner after a full day out and about. For the best burgers, pizzas, and shareable appetizers, head over to none other than SeaQuake Brewing. You’ll likely slip right into a food coma after your tasty dinner at SeaQuake, so sleep it off at your Crescent City hotel to be up and ready to go early in the morning the next day—more Crescent City attractions await!

Expect to find plenty of seashells, sand dollars, tide pools, and nearby dense forests in the beaches of Crescent City.

Day 2

Morning

Rise and shine, it’s time to see the sunrise from the Crescent City beaches. Make your choice between Crescent Beach, Pebble Beach, and Tolowa Dunes and grab a prime seat to watch the sun greet Crescent City behind the almost-always-present clouds.

Afterwards, you have two fun choices for activities that’ll have you feeling adventurous. You can continue exploring the Crescent City Beaches on horseback with Crescent Trail Rides or head to the Smith River for a few hours of rafting, tubing, and kayaking with Redwood Rides. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, go for both activities and have yourself a late lunch.

Battery Point Light was one of the first lighthouses on the California coast; it's registered as a California Historical Landmark.

Afternoon

It’s lunch o’clock already and we’re heading to Port O’Pints, where they have the most delicious tomato soup and the creamiest grilled cheese sandwiches ever. Speaking of cheese, you shouldn’t miss out on heading to the famous Rumiano Cheese shop while you’re in Crescent City. A tourist attraction in its own right, the cheese shop has garnered quite the reputation for its organic cheeses and delicious products.

Before the sun starts setting, make a point to check out the famous Crescent City Ca lighthouse. Known as the Battery Point Lighthouse, this construction is perhaps the most well-known tourist draw in Crescent City, sitting on a stretch of land off the coast that turns into an island at high tide. While everyone knows about Battery Point, not many are aware that there is another lesser-known lighthouse in Crescent City as well, called Saint George Reef Lighthouse.

Sitting 6 miles out in the sea, this desolate lighthouse is quite dangerous to access, and we advise only checking it out from your boat. The lighthouse was built where it was to prevent a large shipwreck like that of the Brother Jonathan—which crashed in the area in 1865 resulting in the loss of hundreds of lives. Legend has it that several workers lost their lives while constructing this Crescent City landmark, a few went insane, and more just walked off the job as soon as they got back to land.

The area that's now known as Del Norte County was and still is inhabited by the Yurok and Tolowa Nations of indigenous peoples.

Evening

Before calling it a day, you should definitely consider learning about Crescent City’s Indigenous history as well. Home to four federally recognized tribes—the Elk Valley Rancheria, Resighini Rancheria, Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation, the Yurok Tribe—Crescent City has quite an interesting indigenous presence. To learn more about it, you can check out the Del Norte County Historical Society, the Hiouchi Visitor Center, or book a Redwood Canoe Tour.

And just like that, your Crescent City trip comes to an end. Spend one last night in the gorgeous NorCal town (for now), and prepare for an epic drive back home. The redwoods will be waiting for you when you come back for another trip not too long after.

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