Without question, visitors are attracted to this area by our amazing natural wonders - the famous giant redwoods, the beautiful Smith River, the Siskiyou mountains, and our dramatic rocky coastline. But driving through Crescent City on the 101 can be, well, underwhelming. You pass a string of generic looking hotels and restaurants, some thrift stores, several fast-food chains...and before you know it you’re heading out of town. You may wonder, is that it? Where is downtown? What do the locals do? Please allow us to explain.
Founded as one of the most important 19th century mining ports on the West Coast and later a thriving fishing port and logging boomtown filled with charming, colorful Victorian homes and a bustling downtown business district, Crescent City was completely wiped out by a catastrophic tsunami in 1964 — the largest to ever strike the continental US. Rebuilding was slow, and as you can imagine, the “clean slate” provided in the ‘60s changed the look and feel of the town dramatically.
Since then, the income stream provided by the logging and fishing industries has slowed to a trickle, and the older residents of this rural, out-of-the-way town have been slow to embrace the ever-growing outdoor recreation and tourism industry. This economic transition is well under way, however, with new businesses (like Redwood Rides) opening up each year.
After hearing about the experiences of many of our guests staying in and around Crescent City, we decided to put together a “locals’ guide” to the greater Crescent City region, sharing our favorite places to eat, stay, and play. We’re not being paid for any of these recommendations - just passing on some insider tips to make your stay here more fun and enjoyable.
Where to eat
“Vita,” as it is known affectionately by locals, is hands down our favorite Crescent City restaurant. In fact, the only thing we don’t love about this place is their hours - we wish they were open all the time! But they are primarily a breakfast and lunch spot and closed on the weekends. They do offer dinner - gourmet pizzas and whole smoked chickens with garlic mashed potatoes - on Thursdays (4 - 6 pm) and Fridays (4-7 pm).
What makes Vita unique is their house-smoked meats and fresh-baked breads and pastries. I’ve never had anything off the menu I didn’t like, but my favorite is the bahn mi sandwich. It's a fancy twist on the classic Vietnamese deli fare. I appreciate the gluten-free options from the bakery, and that they'll make any sandwich into a salad - great for people with food sensitivities.
This is your classic fast and friendly Mexican food at a great price. House-made salsa, free chips. We recommend the chicken mole burrito, the al pastor torta, and the mexican hot chocolate. The staff is super friendly, and usually willing to indulge us in practicing our Spanish...
North Coast Grill
This is a new restaurant that we’re happy to welcome to the Crescent City Harbor. Their decor is bright and beachy, their food is classic - build your own burgers, salads, fish’n’chips, some good beers on tap - but they're also an ocean sports outfitter, renting surf boards, stand-up paddle boards, ocean kayaks, and beach cruisers. They have a walk-up window, so you can take your ice cream or fish’n’chips for a stroll on the beach. Both indoor and outdoor seating offers great views of surrounding ocean and nearby barking sea lions. Lovely!
This is a “locals only” favorite family-run restaurant. Home-style Mexican food, about as authentic as it gets. Sip a Negro Modelo while watching soccer - err, futbol - while your food is made fresh to order, including hand-made tortillas. We love their chivandecas (corn tortilla quesadillas with meat), amazing giant burritos, and the house-made pickled jalapenos and carrots. Their housemade avocado salsa is to die for!
Where to drink
Port O’Pints Brewing Co.
Setting foot in our friendly local microbrewery feels a bit like walking onto the set of “Cheers.” It’s a nautical twist on a traditional Irish pub, serving up several rotating styles of beer made on-site, from a great double IPA to a fantastically creamy stout on nitro. Only $4 a pint! There is no food served here (save for a basket of peanuts), but you’re welcome to bring your own take-out.
Technically not in Crescent City, “Vista” is located in Brookings, Oregon, just north of the California border and about 40 minutes from Crescent City. This where we go for a world class grass-fed burger and awesome beer, sometimes with live music to boot. Don’t miss out on the cheese curds!
Oxenfre Public House
Most of our friends will tell you this is hippest joint around, frequently hosting eclectic local and touring live music acts from as far as Seattle and San Francisco. Another Brookings, Oregon establishment, Oxenfre serves up classy gastro-pub food with a great selection of beer and wine and prohibition era-inspired cocktails. Our favorite is the hot pastrami sandwich on pretzel bread, served with truffle parmesan fries.
Wild Rivers Market
If you’re craving a kombucha or some deluxe trail snacks out of the bulk bins, this natural foods store is the place to go. They have a great selection of local and organic products and a super friendly and helpful staff, without the crowded aisles and long lines of chain grocery stores.
Ocean Air Farms - Farm Stand
Pick up some fresh organic fruits and veggies and support our local sustainable agriculture movement. Currently the farm stand is open Saturdays from 10am-5pm, with hours expanding in the summer time. Located at 2420 Moorehead Rd. in Fort Dick (15 min north of Crescent City).
Starting each Saturday in June, downtown Crescent City comes alive with tons of local crafts, fresh produce, food vendors, live music and cooking demos. Whether you’re looking for driftwood art, succulent seashell terrariums, gorgeous ceramics, carved redwood burls, or just a snack and some fun stuff to look at, the farmer’s market is the place to be on a Crescent City Saturday morning or afternoon.
A smaller market is offered on Wednesdays from 9 am to 1 pm across from the Redwood National Parks Visitor Center, 2nd and J Street.
Where to stay
Our favorite getaway, and a very special place. The Requa is tucked away just south of Crescent City, where the Klamath River meets the Pacific. This historic family-run inn was built in 1914 and has a small, intimate feel. Each room is unique and beautifully decorated, and many have breathtaking views of the Klamath River. Sometimes we just come for dinner - their amazing, multi-course prix-fixe dinner is served family style at round communal tables, giving you the chance to get to know other travelers, get their recommendations, and exchange stories. The kitchen sources their ingredients locally, makes everything fresh, and pays great attention to detail. The service is always friendly and highly professional. After dinner, you can enjoy a complimentary glass of tawny port, and/or a fresh baked cookie while relaxing in the lobby, which is really more like your classy grandma’s comfortable living room, full of beautiful antiques and historic photos. Be sure to take a relaxing dip in the hot tub before falling asleep to the sounds of the rushing river. Bliss!
You don’t need to stay at the inn to have dinner or breakfast there, however they do require reservations. Reach them at (707) 842-1425 or visit their website here.