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Situated on the Northern California Coast near the Oregon border, Crescent City boasts a handful of attractions, outstanding nature and a really good brewery. A perfect destination for road trips, we are highlighting the absolute best things to do in Crescent City, California to help you plan your visit.
Why Visit Crescent City?
Crescent City, CA was not originally in our travel plans. However, we were visiting the Oregon Coast when a fellow traveler touted the amazing natural attractions in Crescent City, CA.
The tales of gigantic Redwood trees, long stretches of sandy shoreline and a downtown Crescent City, CA brewery enticed us to plan a trip down the coast from Florence, Oregon to check it out.
We planned a 2-day itinerary that was packed with the top things to see in Crescent City!
Travel To Crescent City, CA
Before we outline what to do in Crescent City, CA, we are sharing our top travel tips for Crescent City – including how to get there and where to stay.
How To Get To Crescent City, California
Travelers can get to Crescent City, CA by car, plane or bus. Typically, we like to fly (we are JetSetting Fools, after all!), but for this trip, we traveled by car.
Crescent City, California Airport
The good news is that there is a Crescent City, CA airport…the bad news is that there are extremely limited flights to Crescent City.
The Del Norte County Airport at Jack McNamara Field in Crescent City, CA is a small commercial and general aviation airport located on the north side of town. There are car rental facilities at the Crescent City Airport.
Currently, Contour Airlines is the only commercial carrier offering flights to Crescent City, California – and the flights originate out of Oakland.
Driving to Crescent City, California
Most travelers will arrive in Crescent City by car – the city a fantastic road trip destination. Crescent City can easily be included as a stop on an Oregon Coast adventure, an Oregon state road trip or added to a longer California Coastal Drive.
Therefore, we are highlighting a few of the routes from major cities. If you are flying into a major airport and renting a car, be sure to use our tips for Booking the Best Car Rental first!
Portland to Crescent City, CA
The fastest route from Portland, Oregon to Crescent City is about 340 miles and will take 6 hours (although we highly recommend taking the longer coastal route through Oregon!). Before setting off on your journey, be sure to read our tips for exploring Portland.
Klamath Falls to Crescent City
The drive from Klamath Falls to Crescent City takes about 3 hours and 45 minutes, covering 185 miles.
Bend, OR to Crescent City
Driving from Bend to Crescent City will take approximately 5.5 hours. The distance between the two cities is 275 miles. Check out our guide for what to do in Bend, OR.
San Francisco to Crescent City
Visitors traveling from San Francisco will need to cover 360 miles on a 6.5-hour drive. Mendocino and Eureka are two excellent places to stop on the way. From Eureka, CA to Crescent City, CA the 90-mile drive will take almost 2 hours. Read our tips for what to do in San Francisco before starting out on your trip.
Where To Stay in Crescent City, CA
There is an abundance of places to stay in Crescent City, CA – from hotels to RV parks to holiday rentals.
Hotels in Crescent City, CA
Most of the hotels in Crescent City, California are located along Highway 101 near the city’s harbor. Options range from typical, chain roadside motels to boutique inns.
Curly Redwood Lodge Crescent City, California
For our lodging in Crescent City, CA, we opted to stay at the historic Curly Redwood Lodge. Opened in 1957, the Curly Redwood Lodge was built entirely from a single redwood tree. The spacious rooms feature comfortable beds and retro décor at an affordable price. Check rates and availability now!
Oceanfront Lodge Crescent City
The Oceanfront Lodge gets high scores for its excellent location and ocean-view rooms, but that’s about it. The property is literally on the sand – and just steps from the iconic lighthouse. Pricier than most Crescent City hotels, we recommend booking in advance. Check rates and availability here!
Before you start your search for the best places to stay in Crescent City, CA, use our guide to Booking the Best Hotels!
RV Parks in Crescent City, CA
Visitors arriving by RV have a handful of options for overnight accommodations in Crescent City. Shoreline RV Campground and Bayside RV Park get the best reviews.
Airbnb in Crescent City, CA
Travelers looking for vacation rentals in Crescent City can choose from private rooms for rent to entire houses. We use Airbnb as our go-to resource for finding lodging for longer trips – and have a few Tips for Booking Airbnb Accommodations.
The Best Things To Do in Crescent City, California
Whether just passing through or staying for a few days, you can use our list of Crescent City attractions to plan your trip. Our tips for things to do around Crescent City, CA are ideal for couples, families, groups of friends or solo travelers.
#1 Visit Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
MAP. One of the best things to do in Crescent City, CA – and what lured us to the destination – is visiting the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. Jointly managed by the National and State Park systems, the park features colossal redwood trees that are a sight to behold.
Some of the trees in the park are known to be 2,000 years old…and still growing. Several trees soar to heights of more than 300 feet, and some have a diameter of 20 feet at their base. Pictures don’t do these trees justice!
Established in 1939, the dense forest park consists of nearly 10,000 acres of redwood trees and 18 miles of hiking trails. Located just east of Highway 101, the park is easily accessible from Crescent City – and an absolute must-see for anyone visiting Del Norte County.
#2 Stand in Awe at Stout Grove Crescent City, CA
MAP. Without a doubt, one of the most beautiful Crescent City, CA attractions is Stout Grove. Part of the Jedediah Smith Redwoods Park, the ancient 44-acre grove of old-growth Redwoods is impressive, inspiring and an absolute must see.
A half-mile trail loops through Stout Grove, leading trekkers through the thick forest of enormous trees. A short side trail extends down to the bank of the Smith River, which is a perfect spot for swimming or a picnic lunch (get something to go from the nearby historic Hiouchi Cafe).
#3 Hike to Boy Scout Tree
MAP. When it comes to hiking near Crescent City, CA, there is no better trail than the Boy Scout Tree Trail. The 2.8-mile (one-way) trail takes hikers deep into the magnificent redwood forest. Towering trees rise to astonishing heights, while banana slugs slowly creep along the forest floor.
The trail winds through the forest and over streams to a well-marked side trail (look for the carved arrow and ‘TREE’ sign) that leads up to the famed Boy Scout Tree, which is an astonishing 23 feet wide.
The main trail continues a bit further to one of the few waterfalls near Crescent City, Fern Falls, which marks the end of the hike.
Although the trail is an out-and-back, the return trip is equally enthralling. With shifting light, the scenery beneath the treetops is everchanging.
#4 Drive Howland Hill Road
MAP. One of the best ways to see the redwoods near Crescent City, California without hitting the trails is by driving Howland Hill Road.
The unpaved, 10-mile road weaves through massive redwoods for a stunningly scenic drive. Narrow and sometimes riddled with potholes, it is best to take it slow and savor the beauty along the way.
Travelers can utilize the pullouts to pause and really take in the gorgeous surroundings.
#5 Explore Crescent City Downtown
MAP. Lacing up your shoes to explore is one of the best Crescent City, California things to do – and not just in Jedediah Smith Park! Downtown Crescent City is well-worth discovering on foot, too.
Keep an eye out for informational plaques that share interesting facts on the history of Crescent City – like the tsunami that swept onto shore in 1964.
The city is not that big and very walkable, so you can feel free to wander without getting lost. However, if you want to seek out some of the top Crescent City, California points of interest, use the next few items on our list.
#6 Drink Local Beer at SeaQuake Brewing
MAP. We love seeking out local craft beer in any city we visit – so we were excited when we saw SeaQuake Brewing right in the heart of Crescent City.
Established in 2016, SeaQuake produces a traditional and experimental line up of tasty brews – we highly recommend the flagship Citra IPA and the Chocolate Porter!
In addition to the phenomenal brews and kombucha, SeaQuake Brewery also ranks as one of the most popular Crescent City restaurants. The food menu features elevated pub grub, which many locals claim is the best food in Crescent City. Guests can expect to find kind staff and a jovial and family-friendly atmosphere.
#7 Stroll Along the Beach Front Park
MAP. Although this isn’t the best Crescent City, California beach, Beach Front Park is one of the best places for a stroll along the water.
From the Official Crescent City Visitors’ Center, a path follows the shoreline along Crescent Harbor. Beach Front Park has a playground for kids and a Disc Golf Course.
The Northcoast Marine Mammal Center, where they rescue, rehab and release marine wildlife (and have a gift shop), is situated next to the park.
As you walk along the water, keep an eye out for ground squirrels that make their home in the shoreline rocks (but please don’t feed them!).
#8 Go Fishing on B Street Pier
MAP. The B Street Pier is one of the top things to see in Crescent City, California. The 900-foot-long fishing pier extends deep into the harbor.
Not only is the pier an ideal for fishing, but for crabbing, too! You can pick up fishing and crabbing supplies at the nearby Big 5 Sporting Goods store.
If fishing in Crescent City is not on your list of things to do, we still recommend taking a walk out onto the pier for lovely views.
#9 Enjoy the View Down the Lighthouse Jetty
MAP. Although closed to the public (with a locked gate and dire warning signs), the view down the Lighthouse Jetty remains one of the popular sights in Crescent City, CA.
The Crescent City Jetty dates to the 1920s, but it has been reinforced and extended (to a length of 3,400 feet) in more recent years.
The jetty offers a fine vantage point of the lighthouse (which is next up on our list of things to do in Crescent City, California!) – but venturing out on the structure is not recommended, as ocean waves can be unpredictable.
#10 Tour Battery Point Lighthouse
MAP. One of the most interesting things to do in Crescent City is to visit the landmark Battery Point Lighthouse.
Perched beautifully on a rocky outcrop, Battery Point Lighthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The lighthouse was first lit in 1856 – and is still operational today. Country music fans might recognize the lighthouse from the Tim McGraw video, Not a Moment Too Soon.
The Crescent City lighthouse is open for tours…but only at low tide when visitors can cross from Battery Point Beach to the lighthouse on foot. In addition to touring the lighthouse, the Del Norte Historical Society runs an onsite museum that displays artifacts and furniture from the lighthouse keepers of the 1850s.
#11 See the Sea Lions in the Crescent City Harbor
MAP. One of the fun things to do in Crescent City, CA for kids (and adults!) is to go see the sea lions lazing around the harbor. While there, keep an eye out for harbor seals and pelicans, as well!
The best place to get a close view of the blubbery creatures is from Anchor Way, near the Coast Guard Station.
The sea lion colony occupies floating docks – and you will likely hear (and smell!) them before you actually see them. In addition to barking, sea lions tend to flop around and jump in and out of the water in truly entertaining ways.
#12 Spend Some Time on South Beach
MAP. Ranking as one of the best Crescent City, CA beaches, South Beach is a prime location for a myriad of activities.
The long stretch of sand – which merges into Crescent Beach – is fantastic for beach walks. Other top things to do on South Beach and Crescent Beach are flying kites, searching for sand dollars and building sandcastles.
In the right conditions, visitors can also go surfing or standup paddle boarding at South Beach; there is a rental shop on Anchor Way.
#13 Walk the California Coastal Trail
MAP. The California Coastal Trail (CCT) is a project that is aiming to connect the entire coastline of California – from Oregon to Mexico – with a walkway for non-motorized traffic.
In Crescent City, the trail extends from South Beach along the coast to Battery Point Lighthouse – and beyond. Hop on a bike, a scooter, a skateboard, skates – or your own two feet – and follow the blue signs.
The California Coastal Trail is one of the fun and free things to do in Crescent City, CA!
#14 Eat at Chart Room Crescent City, CA
MAP. The Chart Room Restaurant in Crescent City, CA is a classic, local seafood joint situated in the heart of the harbor.
Although the waterfront restaurant is casual, the seafood is spectacular – especially the award-winning clam chowder.
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with seating indoors and out, Chart Room is the place in Crescent City for seafood.
#15 Pay Respects at the Brother Jonathan Cemetery
MAP. The small but poignant Brother Jonathan Memorial Cemetery is one of the interesting places to go in Crescent City, CA – especially for history buffs.
Originally established as a Masonic Cemetery in 1854, the land became the burial site of those who died in the sinking of the S.S. Brother Jonathan steamship on July 30, 1865. In the shipwreck, which occurred 4 miles offshore, more than 200 lives were claimed and only 19 survived.
Although markers have been moved, damaged or destroyed and most official records have been lost, the memorial stands to remember the event and the lives lost at sea.
#16 Taste Locally Made Rumiano Cheese Crescent City, CA
MAP. One of the Crescent City, California attractions for foodies (and anyone who likes cheese, for that matter!) is the Rumiano Cheese Factory.
The family-owned cheese company was established by three Rumiano brothers – immigrants from Italy – in 1919. They created the Monterey Dry Jack cheese during World War I and continue to make unique cheeses today.
Although they do not offer cheese factory tours in Crescent City, CA, they do have a viewing window where visitors can watch cheese being produced. Inside the shop, guests can purchase cheese made onsite and taste plenty of samples!
Bonus Tip: You can find Rumiano’s fresh cheese curds on the SeaQuake Brewing menu, too!
#17 Take a Drive on Pebble Beach, Crescent City
MAP. Pebble Beach Drive follows the coastline from Brother Jonathan Park north to Point St. George – and the viewpoints along the way are epic.
From the road, there are numerous access points that take visitors down to the sandy and picturesque Pebble Beach.
Look for sea life in the tidal pools at low tide, take a hike to see the St. George Reef Lighthouse or bring your binoculars to search for birds on Castle Rock National Wildlife Refuge and to spot migrating whales.
#18 Watch the Sunset in Crescent City, CA
Whether looking for romantic things to do in Crescent City or free things to do with the family, watching the sunset fits the bill. It’s one of the favorite Crescent City activities!
Crescent Beach, Pebble Beach, Point St. George and the B Street Pier are all excellent places to watch the sun go down over the water.
Map of Crescent City, CA
To help you best plan your time, we have labeled this map with our list of Things To Do Crescent City. Use this link to Google Maps for an online, interactive version of our Crescent City, California map.
More Crescent City Things To Do
Above we outlined the top attractions in Crescent City, California that we crammed into our 2-day trip itinerary – but we have a few more tips of what to do in Crescent City that you might want to add to your trip.
Tolowa Dunes State Park
The Tolowa Dunes State Park encompasses 5,000 acres of coastal nature. In addition to the ocean and beach, the park is comprised of wetlands, rivers, sand dunes and Lake Earl. Find more info on the official website.
Ocean World Crescent City, CA
The Crescent City, California aquarium, Ocean World, offers 45-minute tours, which allow participants an opportunity to get up close and personal with marine life. Get the details for the Crescent City aquarium here.
A unique way to experience Crescent City, California is by horseback. Crescent Trail Rides offer horseback riding on the beach and through the redwoods.
Rafting the River
Adventurous travelers can spend a day paddling down the Smith River, an undammed, free-flowing waterway. Visitors can choose from whitewater rafting trips through the redwoods and kayak tours on the ocean with Redwood Rides.
Elk Valley Casino in Crescent City, CA
MAP. Experiencing foul weather on your trip? Try your luck at the Elk Valley Casinos in Crescent City, California! With 300 slot machines, table games, bingo and dining options, a night at the casino can provide solid entertainment.
Whale Watching Crescent City, CA
Gray whales, Humpback whales and even Orcas can be spotted in the waters around Crescent City, CA year-round. While Pebble Beach is an ideal place for whale watching in Crescent City from land, visitors can book Crescent City whale watching tours by boat, too. From the port of Crescent City, visitors can embark on whale watching tours by kayak or charter a boat.
Del Norte County History Museum
The Del Norte County Historical Society runs a small museum in Crescent City that features the area’s local history. The displays include interesting artifacts that date to the late 1800s, information about the tsunami and an original lighthouse lens.
Shopping in Crescent City, California
From surf gear to redwood carvings to tasty cheese, there are ample opportunities for visitors to shop for gifts and souvenirs in Crescent City. Local Boys Surf and Skate Shop, Jed Smith Redwood Burl Co and Rumiano Cheese Co are top picks. The seafood markets and summertime farmers markets – both of which are fun things to do in Crescent City, CA – are two other great places to pick up local fare and products.
Things To Do Near Crescent City, CA
We have outlined the top Crescent City, CA things to do – but there are a few attractions nearby, too! Travelers planning longer Crescent City vacations may want to add one (or more!) of these fun things to do in Del Norte County.
Trees of Mystery
Located 20 miles south of Crescent City in Klamath, California, Trees of Mystery is a nature attraction park that provides an incredible introduction to California’s legendary redwood trees.
In addition to the interpretive trail, museum, restaurant and gift shop, the park features a canopy trail of connected suspension bridges and viewing platforms and a scenic SkyTrail gondola ride through the forest.
Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park
Just 10 miles south of Crescent City, Del Norte Coast Redwoods Park differs from Jedediah Smith Redwoods Park in that it features both old-growth redwoods and coast redwood trees along an 8-mile stretch of elevated California coastline.
Highway 101 cuts right through the center of Del Norte Coast Redwoods Park, making it easily accessible to visitors. Top trails at the park include Damnation Creek, Last Chance and DeMartin.
Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
A 30-mile drive south of Crescent City takes visitors to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. More popular – and thus more crowded – than Jedediah Smith and Del Norte Coast parks, Prairie Creek features 75 miles of hiking trails, grazing herds of elk and some of the most beautiful and famous redwood trees in California.
Six Rivers National Forest
A wonderful and remote spot for camping, fishing and enjoying the outdoors, Six Rivers National Forest is a massive forest that encompasses more than one million acres of land and six rivers. Six Rivers NF, which is southeast of Crescent City, boasts diverse terrain and scenery at every turn.
The Oregon state line is only 20 miles north of Crescent City on Highway 101. The coastal drive north is one of the most scenic road trips in America. Find the details of the journey in our blog post, Oregon Coastal Drive.
Crescent City, CA Restaurants
There are numerous restaurants in Crescent City, CA – and we are rounding up the top eateries that were recommended to us during our stay.
We already mentioned SeaQuake Brewery as the best restaurant in Crescent City, CA – but it is worth mentioning again. Utilizing local products and fresh takes on classic bar food, everything we ate at SeaQuake was delicious. Try the 9.2 Burger, Le Carne pizza and don’t miss out on the Bairdo’s Curds from Rumiano’s (either as an appetizer or as a side for your burger!). Read reviews!
Good Harvest Cafe
A good choice for breakfast in Crescent City, CA, Good Harvest Cafe is a family-run establishment serving hearty and healthy eats. Additionally, the restaurant has a full bar and a second-story lounge with harbor views. Read reviews!
The Apple Peddler
With a focus on coastal comfort food, The Apple Peddler serves traditional American eats in a homey atmosphere. What makes it one of the top restaurants in Crescent City, California is that fresh fish is featured on the menu – and the desserts are made from local products. Read reviews!
The Chart Room Crescent City, CA
We already mentioned the Chart Room as one of the places to eat in Crescent City, CA for seafood – but we didn’t want it to get lost in the shuffle as it is truly divine! They have recently added more outdoor seating, but still expect a wait for dinner. Read reviews!
Fisherman’s is another one of the restaurants in Crescent City serving up fresh seafood at the harbor. Although we did not eat at Fisherman’s, it gets rave reviews from fellow travelers. Read reviews!
Port O’Pints Brewing Company
We didn’t make it to Port O’Pints Brewing Co either, but it was one of the bars in Crescent City, CA recommended to us by friendly locals. The classic pub brews their own beer and features typical bar fare, happy hour and food specials.
What To Pack for Your Crescent City, CA Trip
Now that you know all of the things to see in Crescent City, CA, it’s time to start packing for your trip! Use our suggestions for what to pack for the California coast and find all of our tips – from packing hacks to my ultimate packing list – on our designated Packing Page.
A good pair of walking shoes are essential for your trip – especially if you plan to visit any of the area’s state parks. I like to wear lightweight travel sneakers for women and Kris is most comfortable in his men’s Merrell trail glove shoes. Read more tips about the best shoes for traveling!
The northern California coast tends to be cool and windy – so make sure to pack a lightweight jacket or clothing that can be layered for your trip to Crescent City. That said, a wide-brimmed travel hat and protective sunscreen are also recommended!
Both the coastline and the redwood forests are absolutely gorgeous! Pack a real camera for your vacation so that you can best capture the beauty. We travel with an affordable Canon Rebel with an everyday 18-135mm lens that takes excellent photos. Use our tips for finding the best budget travel camera!
We highly recommend packing binoculars for your trip! With binoculars you can see details you would otherwise miss – like whales as they come up for air, sea lions lying on off shore rocks and birds in the towering treetops.
We Want To Know: Do you have any tips for what to see in Crescent City, CA? What would you add to our list of things to do in Crescent City, California? Tell us in the comments!
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