Moving to Eureka

Archived Q&A and Reviews

related page: Moving to rural Humboldt County

April 2003

We are interested in moving out of the Bay Area, and are considering the Eureka, CA or Ferndale area. We'd love to hear advice from anyone who has lived there, especially with young children. In particular, we are interested in hearing more about the weather (is it really foggy all the time??), the schools, and the housing prices. Also, are there things to do there with kids? Thanks! Tim & Gayle

My sister and family have lived in Eureka for about 21 years (my sister transplanted from Ohio). Two girls are still in the Eureka school system, and one has graduated, now in college. My sister has always been quite involved in the community goings-on, their church and in the school system, so she is plugged in. There is much in the way of accessible cultural events (that the kids can be involved in) and family-centered programming. The area is more conservative in many ways than the Bay area, but there is also an evident liberal voice.

Yes, it's foggy much of the time right on the coast, but just a few miles inland it is warm and sunny. You can see housing prices in the area by logging onto or doing an internet search.

You are welcome to contact me if you wish to communicate directly with my sister. Amy

We moved from Bay Area to Arcata, north of Eureka, last summer. My daughter goes to Sunnybare Middle School , and she loves this school more than the Albany Middle School. Teachers and kids are not competitive, even though it is a good school. People are mild and open-minded. I guess we both were tired of competitive schools.

It rains a lot here, but it is beautiful, because raindrops are cleaner here. I used to dislike wet weather in Bay Area, but I enjoy both sunny days and rainy days here.

There are lot of things to do for kids. We have nice beaches and redwood forests. Even at home, we enjoy the view with horse stable, redwood hill, and beautiful old houses. anon.

If you're moving from the Bay Area, you might also want to consider the Arcata/ Fieldbrook area, rather than Eureka or Ferndale. The north coast is, in fact, cloudy, rainy, etc. Rains mostly in the winter, just like here, but can rain occasionally in the summer, and it seems like it never really dries in the winter. I lived there for about a year, and commuted back and forth for several years before that. Winter rains are also HARD, and very exciting (huge downpours, thunder and lightning, more than we get here). Eureka, Arcata and to a slightly lesser extent, Ferndale, are foggy most of the summer--Ferndale would be a little foggier than Berkeley, and Arcata and Eureka a bit more. Ferndale is a tiny, pricey (relatively) tourist town, with not much going on other than the local theater company, some nice restaurants and cute shops. Eureka has more going on, but it is in some areas a rather tough working class town. Other areas (primarily the inland areas) are a little nicer. Arcata is more expensive than Eureka, but a little more familiar to somebody coming from, say, Berkeley. Humboldt State University is in town, and lots of activities take place around it. Next door to Arcata is McKinleyville. Inland from Arcata are Bayside (between Eureka and Arcata) and Fieldbrook (off Hwy 299, toward the mountains). Both are about 15 min drive to town, and are sunnier than the two coastal towns. Fieldbrook is really quite pleasant in the summer.

Almost anywhere you go, other than downwind of a lumber mill, will have lovely fresh air, a view of tree-lined mountains, and will be a relatively short drive to the beach. (Arcata and Fieldbrook being better than Eureka, imho). That said, the north coast, the Arcata area particularly, is a great place for kids. It's safe, relatively inexpensive compared to here, schools are pretty good (though they vary a little bit), and there are some really terrific small-townish activities: Memorial day weekend hosts the kinetic sculpture race, which is a silly human-powered vehicle race from Arcata across the bay to Eureka; in September there is the pastels- on the Arcata plaza (you can sign up to color a sidewalk panel, or just observe); all summer long, fall and spring and part of the winter, the farmers market in Arcata Plaza has great produce, good social scene, and the most wonderful fragrant daylilies (a bunch for about $5). Outdoor activities are great, and you can observe wildlife (I've seen peregrine falcons, spawning salmon, etc). The beaches are beautiful and wild. Food prices are cheap, you can show up 5 minutes before a first-run movie on Saturday night at the theater and find a seat, the lines at the post office are short and the clerks are nice, and culture can be found at HSU and venues in Eureka. Lots of small town theater, affordable. Plenty of quirky local things to do, like at Christmas, there's a lighted tractor parade in Ferndale, and a Truckers Christmas Convoy (i.e., insanely decorated trucks driving in a convoy on a designated route through Eureka). Hiking right in town at the Arcata Community forest. (can you tell I enjoyed it?). And you can read the entire paper cover to cover without taking the whole day, so you know exactly what's going on locally. You'll get to know people easily. You may even win a contest on the radio station (once I was caller number 2 AND caller number 5! Here you can't even get through).

On the downside: Not a lot of choices in food or restaurants, and the service goes from good at a select few, to downright lousy in most places (no competition!). Coffee is cheap, but it comes very slowly from the counter service... The ground really doesn't dry up in places in winter. The fog can be oppressive (though 45 minutes will get you to Willow Creek, which has nice weather). You'll have to get used to being wet, and you'll want to make sure your clothes are really truly dry before you put them in the drawer (mildew can be a problem). Power outages and turbid water are common in the winter. You'll drive virtually everywhere unless you live in downtown Arcata (everything, it seems, is 10 miles away). The arcata plaza ragamuffins who hang out and beg for money gets a little old. The temperature is 5-10 degrees cooler there, so unless you live inland, you won't really be using your sundresses. And unlike the Bay Area, where the political opinions run the gamut, there are essentially two schools of thought, and they rarely mix: either you are an environmentalist, or you are a logger. There's a pretty heavy divide between conservatives and liberals. They all run into each other in town, of course, but the divide gets a little ridiculous at times: for example, I couldn't find anybody who wanted to check out the Truckers Christmas convoy, because most of the truckers are loggers, and most of the people I knew were on the environmentalist side; but it was a great event for kids, regardless of what side you're on (and despite the one truck with an anti-environmentalist message).

The other good and bad side is that it is a small town. People get to know you and are concerned for you. But sometimes if you just want to run to the store it's hard because you almost inevitably run into someone you know. janet