Crescent City Travel Guide: Things To Do, Places to Stay & Where to Eat in Crescent City, California
Adventure is calling in Crescent City. As the largest city on the Redwoods Coast, it serves as the Gateway to the Redwoods.
Take in the staggering beauty of these ancient trees and then find tons of activities and attractions to enjoy in town. Stroll down a serene beach, enjoy a fresh catch and craft brew, or explore the endless trails.
There is something to savor for everyone in and around Crescent City.
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No long road trip is needed to spend a day at the beach. The sand of South Beach and Crescent Beach is right at your fingertips. Go standup paddleboarding to cruise the crystal waters at South Beach. The waves give just the right bite for any adventure level.
Go beachcombing on Crescent Beach and recharge in the salty air. Check out the hike from the Crescent Beach Overlook to Enderts. A quick ¾ mile along a craggy canyon and you’ll be at Enderts Beach. During low tide, it’s one of the best areas to view tidepools. These micro pools of sea life are so enchanting you’ll forget how closeby civilization actually is. Get lost for hours exploring tidepools all around Crescent City.
For a hidden gem, head north to Kellogg Beach. At the foot of Tolowa Dunes State Park, it’s peppered with agates and rolling grassy knolls. Surf the day away along the quiet shores and then plant yourself on some driftwood for a brilliant sunset. If you have 4WD, you don’t want to miss driving on the beach. Make it even more memorable by packing a tailgate picnic.
A Scenic Drive or Bike Ride
If you want to see a lot of stunning shoreline, hop on a bike or cruise in a car for a scenic jaunt through town along Pebble Beach Drive. Romantic coves and mysterious sea stacks dot the drive. Swing into Brother Jonathan Memorial Park for some local maritime history. The park offers a spectacular view of the Pacific. We recommend packing snacks and watching for whales while you’re there.
Surfing & SUPing
When the surf’s up, Crescent City has several pumping surf spots that range from beginner beach break to gnarly point breaks. From Kellogg Beach, north of Crescent City near Lake Earl, to Pebble Beach to South Beach, there are waves for everybody. Surfboards and wetsuit rentals can be found at the Local Boys Surf and Skate Shop in downtown Crescent City. Redwood Rides has a seasonal kiosk, located next to the House of Jambalaya at South Beach, offers surfboard and wetsuit rentals.
Stand up paddleboarders will marvel at the mellow rollers of South Beach along with the scenery. Rent SUP boards and wetsuits across the way from Redwood Rides at their adventure kiosk. Stop in for a beachside bite, a local brew, and a double-scoop ice cream cone at Schmidt’s House of Jambalaya and watch the sun sink into the Pacific.
Ahoy, Sea Creatures
Check out Castle Rock Wildlife Refuge for an ocean adventure that is both a sanctuary and a safari. Rent a sea kayak and paddle just a short half-mile from the Crescent City Harbor for a dazzling display of more than 100,000 seabirds as well as harbor seals, northern elephant seals, and sea lions. Both sharks and whales are frequent visitors to the wildlife refuge, too. Bring binoculars and plan to cruise around the island. Guided sea kayaking tours are available from Redwood Rides for both newbies and experienced kayakers.
Would you rather be eating sea life than ogling it? Crescent City has you covered. Discover the freshest crab and fish – whether you’re catching it or ordering it. B Street Fishing Pier is an easy spot to plunk down your rod. Or pick up a crab pot and toss it over – no fees or licenses required! Crescent City Harbor offers oceanside fishing spots as well as charter options. Leave the gear behind and let an expert fishing guide lead you to reel in victory. Crescent City has endless fishing options.
If you’re in a vacation rental with a kitchen, swing into Crescent City Seafood to pick up the catch of the day and other seasonal delights. Or let them do the cooking and order up a platter of their famous fish and chips or fish tacos. There are many restaurants serving up fresh seafood in Crescent City. Your taste buds will thank you for the healthful high quality at The Good Harvest Cafe. For a local favorite, order the ling cod fish and chips at Fisherman’s Restaurant and Lounge. And for the best clam chowder, you can’t beat the Chart Room.
A State Park with Much To Do
Just north of Crescent City is a rugged playground that offers recreation for any adventurer. Tolowa Dunes State Park is an ecological wonder with beaches, river, forested ridges, wetlands and – yes – sand dunes. Wildlife flock to this area. It won’t be hard to spot deer, migrating ducks or even a Peregine falcon. For something truly majestic, take a horseback ride through wooded meadows with Crescent Trail Rides and you may spot a herd of elk.
Head to the northern section of the park to find the mouth of the Smith River and fish for steelhead. Tote your rod to Lake Tolowa nearby for cutthroat trout.
Pack a lunch and spend the day standup paddleboarding or canoeing a serene lagoon. For being the largest lake in Del Norte County, Lake Earl is a tranquil gem. Paddle around for a bit and you may spot beaver or swan-necked grebe.
Plan a combination sea kayak + whale watching adventure from Kellogg Beach to spy gray whales migrating. The confluence of grassy dunes, mysterious marches and ample shorelines of Tolowa Dunes State Park provide an unbelievable number of adventures.
Hiking and Biking Trail Bliss
Tolowa Dunes State Park is also just one of many excellent hiking and biking options around Crescent City. Peep delicate wildflowers during the spring and early summer months as you hike the Kellogg Loop Trail. There is a longer 10 mile loop called Echo’s Kellogg Road that winds through wetlands, around the Smith River and meanders to the ocean. Head south to Dead Lake for a fun 2 miler that begins in open prairie and then jaunts around a wooded area before revealing the peaceful pool.
Damnation Creek Trail is a must. Part of the California Coastal Trail (CCT), you can choose your adventure for this area – hiking, road cycling, beach cruisers and mountain bikes all have an opportunity for fun. The trail ushers those on foot through a towering redwood grove and ends in a tiny, rocky cove overlooking the Pacific. For an unbelievable mountain bike ride, start at Enderts Beach and pedal through the Last Chance Section of the CCT. You’ll breathe in the salt, dart around ancient redwoods and then end on the rugged Damnation Beach.
The California Coastal Trail is a developing network of paths along much of the California coast. Crescent City’s portion called the Crescent City Harbor Trail allows hikers, horseback riders, and bikers to remain off Highway 101 entirely to stay immersed in the rocky, wooded, and watery wonder of the California Pacific Ocean coastline.
The ancient splendor of the redwoods is calling and Jedediah Smith State Park is just one of many redwood parks in Del Norte County. Choose your hiking adventure – from a short jaunt like Stout Grove to a moderate trek like Boy Scout Tree Trail. You’ll want to photograph everything as you amble under cathedral-like canopies.
Bike along ferny canyons and then rest along the wild emerald waters of the Smith River. Climb through around old-growth goodness on the Little Bald Hills trail. If you could use some assistance, Crescent City has rental and tour companies as well as a repair shop.
Do you have your fur friend in tow? They are welcome to wander any of Crescent City’s public beaches as well as trails throughout the Smith River National Recreation Area. Enjoy a little pup party at “Dog Town,” the off-leash fenced dog park on Front Street in Crescent City. And remember to respect the local wildlife by keeping your dog away from any marine mammals that might be on the beach, like seals and sea lions. Check out more dog-friendly places in Del Norte County where Rover can roam about.
History is Closeby in Crescent City
This rugged corner of California has a tenacious history. Through gold mining, logging and a fierce tsunami that swept through in 1964, Crescent City has persevered. Take in the area’s rich history at Del Norte County Historical Museum, featuring logging and mining machinery displays as well as artifacts from the Tolowa and Yurok tribes. Also on display is the powerful lens from the Point St. George Lighthouse that guided many ships safely along the shore.
Just a few blocks from the museum is a sweet little pit stop, the Anna Wulf House. A stately Victorian-style home built in 1896 that was once the site of many childrens’ music lessons, it now serves as a bed and breakfast on the corner of J and 6th Streets.
History buffs, photographers and tide pool geeks will all fall in love with Battery Point Lighthouse. Lighthouse keepers have resided there since 1856. Wait for low tide to tip-toe around tide pools. You’ll find the path there at the foot of A Street. To see the inside of the lighthouse, look for tour hours posted at the parking lot. Hours vary by the season and only happen at low-tide.
In March 1964, Battery Point Lighthouse withstood a destructive tsunami that raged over Crescent City. Topping out at 21 feet, the largest wave slammed into 29 city blocks of the town, causing millions of dollars in damage. The disaster left a mark on Crescent City. To understand why Crescent City got the nickname “Comeback Town, USA” take the historic walking tour through downtown. You’ll amble around memorials, high-water lines, murals and impactful images comparing architecture before and after.
Though the tsunami was a shattering event, it was a true marker of how resilient and generous the people of Crescent City can be. And history has a strange way of repeating itself. Almost 50 years after the disaster, a tiny boat from Japan washed up along the town’s shore. Lost at sea after surviving a tsunami across the ocean in Japan, the Kamome boat became a symbol that would connect two resilient cities forever.
Family-friendly Fun in Crescent City
Right in Crescent City, Ocean World aquarium provides an interactive experience your gang will always remember. You can’t help but smile as you touch tide pool creatures and watch sea lions perform. You’ll want to save about an hour just to peruse the gift shop for the perfect souvenir.
Or take a breather from the trails and travels at Crescent City Cinemas. Between the free refills and game room, the kids may never want to leave. Tsunami Lanes, one of the few “vintage” bowling alleys left on the west coast, offers up cosmic bowling on the weekends and even a video arcade with some of the classic arcade games you loved growing up. Stop by any weekday for some frames and a stack of nachos with a side of the best fries in town. Look for upgraded eats like spicy Italian sausage sandwiches, and of course, a great selection of beer and wine.
After the mystic experience of hiking through the redwoods, keep the vibe going. Rent cruiser bikes from Redwood Rides at South Beach and follow the Crescent City Harbor Trail which is part of the famous California Coastal Trail — pedal from South Beach to Pebble Beach for incredible beach views and a salty-sea-air-in-your-hair experience.
Stop at the Northcoast Marine Mammal Center, a marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation center, where seals like Farley are taken care of and then released back into the wild. Stop by and learn more about the rescued marine mammals under their care. And shop the fun gift shop to help support their efforts.
Kids love the Kid Town playground on Front Street. With a historic yet enchanting log fort design, they will have a blast burning off energy in this park that channels the raw spirit of California.
Putt Under a Redwood or Play One of the Best Executive Golf Courses
Wedge a challenging adventure in-between river relaxation and beach-bumming at King’s Valley Golf Course and the Del Norte Golf Course. Both public courses offer the avid or beginner golfer plenty of on-green challenges and beautiful scenery. You can putt under redwoods on a USGA rated course or play on one of the best executive courses in Northern California. Del Norte County Golf Course is open year-round, except for Christmas Day, and King’s Valley Golf Course is open seasonally from May through December.
Arts, Culture, and Food at Your Fingertips
Traverse the colorful sidewalks of downtown Crescent City to devour some culture. More than 30 beautiful murals adorn local businesses, showcasing the heritage, wildlife and craft of the region. Check out the Mary Adams Peacock mural (artist: Kathleen Kresa) near the Crescent City Post Office on I Street. Mary blazed a Pacific Northwest trail all her town with careers including dressmaker, muleskinner and stage stop and hotel owner. Somewhere in there Mary also carried mail between Grants Pass and Crescent City – by mule – for a decade.
When your eyes are done feasting, feast your face at one of Crescent City’s farmers markets that run June through October. Local farmers and artisans come together once a week for a delightful day of food, sundries and crafts.
After strolling around Crescent City’s local art galleries, treat yourself to some delicious local California cheese at Rumiano’s Cheese Factory. The samples are generous from this organic, family-run cheesery.
There is no shortage of dining in Crescent City. You’ll find a variety of culinary choices from upscale Italian to pub grub and everything in between. Make a trip to a brewery as well. The pristine waters of the Smith River make for some awesome craft beer. SeaQuake Brewing pours award-winning brews plus a rotating kombucha selection. For an array of award-winning beers and colorful locals, visit Port O’ Pints Brewing Co.. It’s a vibrant little corner of Del Norte County that collects commercial fishermen, business owners, artists and musicians.
There is always something happening at Elk Valley Casino. Located right in town, try your hand at slots, Pai Gow Poker or bingo. Then stay for lunch or dinner.
Downtown is also buzzing during First Fridays April through December. Local businesses, artists, musicians and food vendors come together for a fun, family-friendly evening. Stop by and party with the locals during First Fridays. Or swing by Enoteca just about anytime for live music, wine, delicious faire and a full bar.
If you can plan your trip around one of Crescent City’s headliner events, we highly recommend it. The annual 4th of July Celebration is a lively festival featuring hot air balloon rides, zip line, arts and crafts show, sand castle competition, parade and of course a mesmerizing fireworks display. The streets ignite with gleaming chrome and revving engines during the Sea Cruise Classic every October. The event brings together classic car buffs for a day of judging, food and marketplace vendors. Enjoy live music and then watch these vintage vixens roll in style during a sanctioned cruise downtown.
In Crescent City, you’ll discover unbeatable picnic spots, sprawling beaches, craggy overlooks, stunning trails, local art, welcoming events and delicious dining all packed into one spirited place.
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