The Real Northern California: Ferndale

Like many Southern Californians – and even self-identified Northern Californians, and possibly Americans and the world at large – I have been living under the impression that San Francisco is “NorCal.” Northern California. The Northern part of the state.

Not so, as it turns out. Enter: Ferndale, California.

View of Ferndale

Ferndale – or rather, Historic Ferndale, as I believe is its full title – is a very, very small town in the real Northern California. Friends of ours were getting married in the area, which is how we wound up driving twelve hours (SIX HOURS BEYOND SAN FRANCISCO THERE IS STILL CALIFORNIA UP THERE) up into a part of the state I never knew existed. And we didn’t even hit Oregon!

Here’s the thing: I probably would never have visited Ferndale just for the sake of it.  It’s like 4-6 hours from any major airport, and it is probably not on most people’s guides to California. That said, having come upon it in the name of our dear friends’ wedding celebration, it is a lovely little town.

Church Steeple

As it turns out, Ferndale is the hometown of Guy Fieri (if you’ve ever watched the Food Network, you’ve seen at least five episodes of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives), which it proudly alludes to wherever possible. We paid homage to the man by ordering the ENORMOUS Caramel Pecan Cinnamon Roll at Humboldt Sweets, a sugary behemoth that was very tasty and also plenty for four people.

Giant Sticky Bun

We also explored the “famous” Ferndale Cemetery, which one resident told us was the most beautiful cemetery in the world. While I can’t vouch for that (having not seen all the cemeteries), it is certainly pretty, and a good bit of exercise if you climb all the way to the top to take in the view (seen in the first image on this post).

Ferndale Cemetery

Ferndale Cemetery

Beyond that (and the wonderful wedding festivities, of course), we spent our time wandering in and out of the quirky shops (one had an whole historical exhibit, complete with extremely creepy mannequins, on the second floor), running on the gorgeously deserted misty beach nearby, and taste-testing everything from pie to apple cider to hot chocolate to cheese.

So, if you happen to be crazy enough to be driving all the way up to Oregon, maybe stop over in Ferndale a night. It would make Guy Fieri happy.

The Boy and Me

Misty Beach


  • Airbnb (price varies) – Eight of us stayed in the Cream City Cottage and Cream City Studio, and they provided a cozy home base from which we could easily walk to the “main drag.” Definitely an affordable option!
  • The Gingerbread Mansion Inn (From $155/night) – The bride and groom-to-be stayed in the adorably Victorian Gingerbread Mansion Inn, just down the street from our Airbnb, and seemed to enjoy it thoroughly.

Note that we also ate at the V.I., but didn’t love it, so I’m a bit limited on dinner recommendations.

  • Humboldt Sweets ($6 for a caramel pecan cinnamon roll) – Everything looked awesome (and huge) here – and the ginormous cinnamon roll served four, so it ended up being a damn good deal!
  • Ferndale Pie Company ($3.75 for a slice of pie) – We actually had breakfast here before heading out of town – a slice of pie and a GIANT breakfast burrito – and everything was delicious! You can also buy whole pies to take home.


  • Ferndale Cemetery (free) – I can’t say whether this truly is the most beautiful cemetery in the world, but it is quite lovely and the view from the top is worth the exercise. Also, it’s interesting to look at all the different graves from through the ages.
  • Main Street (free) – A typical small town Main Street, there are fun little shops to pop into, various restaurants, and even an art gallery or two. Be sure to chat to the locals – they might be able to point you in the direction of some “haunted” houses…
  • Centerville Beach County Park (free) – A bit of a drive down a windy road, the beach is a great stretch of sand perfect for running along at top speed, with dramatic “cliffs” at one end. It was misty and deserted and chilly when we visited, which actually made it even better. Bring your camera.
  • Loleta Cheese Factory (free) – On the way to pick up the wedding cake in a nearby town, the Boy and I stopped at this tiny cheese factory, where they have TONS of free samples (cheese cheese cheese cheese). They also apparently have a tour, which we did not participate in, but I imagine could be fun!

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