Entering the new guest hangout at the Humboldt Bay Social Club feels like stepping into a Wes Anderson movie—whimsical, elegant and fun.
An aristocrat trailer sits in one corner, converted into a pour-over coffee bar. A canoe turned chandelier hangs upside down from a rafter. A drafting table has a selection of vintage comics; on another, flying manuals are spread out for study. Guests can lounge on the midcentury-modern-inspired couches and chairs, and curl up under the thick plaid blankets.
The owners, Amy Cirincione O’Connor, and her husband, Jon, opened the clubhouse earlier this year, part of their steady transformation of the southern end of Samoa Peninsula on Humboldt Bay
Their six cabins set on the 22-acre Oyster Beach—amid fragrant, towering eucalyptus trees—are former ranch buildings. The main house, fishing shack, servant quarters, goat shed and the like have been renovated with an aesthetic that gives a nod to the town of Eureka’s industrial, seafaring legacy: salvaged redwood, stainless steel, ropes and canvas, cowhide rugs, and antique nautical design elements.
Across the road on Samoa Field, the former officer quarters for a World War II blimp air base is now a stylish lobby bar that adjoins four comfortable suites furnished with treasures the O’Conners found in vintage furniture shops and estate sales.
Each accommodation offers a complimentary selection of local chocolate, caramels, nougat and beer, and a bit of vodka and whiskey—a few fingers’ worth in reusable bottles. (Note: Amenities and bathroom configuration vary slightly depending on the specific lodging.)
At the Lobby Bar, guests can partake in a complimentary craft cocktail made with seasonal ingredients and spirits from nearby distilleries. Come autumn, warm up with a soothing hot toddy or a spiced rum cider with the taste of the harvest season.
A corner piled high with toys keeps children occupied while parents relax. The menu, for the most part, is do-it-yourself: buckets of beers, baskets of vegetables, and plump briny Bucksport oysters pulled fresh from the bay that guests can shuck and grill outside, as well as local cheese, charcuterie, cured salmon and s’mores.
While playing cornhole on the wide stretch of tarmac, I could picture the dirigibles from decades ago that floated aloft to patrol the coastal waters for Japanese submarines.
“Like your backyard but better,” says Cirincione, explaining their vision for Humboldt Bay Social Club, “a superchill place where you can hang out with your friends, with somebody else making the drinks and cleaning up for you afterward.”
Simple yet well-thought-out, from the sturdy metal wagons stocked with two Mexican blankets, cooler, beach chairs, sand bucket and plastic cups to the romantic side-by-side tubs under gauzy mosquito nets in a former carriage house.
After our family played at Oyster Beach—marveling at the tiny anemones clinging to fallen logs and collecting the namesake shells—we booked an excursion with Humboldt Bay Oyster Tours ($45 to $65). The owner of Aqua-Rodeo Farms, Cpt. Sebastian Elrite, took us on a fascinating, educational two-hour tour that ended with a haul of fresh oysters from his patch of water.
He sent us over to Humboldt Bay Provisions in Old Town Eureka to get the oysters shucked. You can eat them raw or broiled, with a choice of sauces that includes a traditional mignonette of vinegar, shallots and black pepper, or Larrupin sweet mustard, Jamaican-style creamy curry, Sicilian pesto and spicy seasoned butter. The tasting room also features regional cheeses, oysters, chocolates, pottery and more.
Humboldt County’s strong creative and maker spirit is on full display every first Saturday at Eureka Arts Alive, where visitors might see a fire-breathing rainbow-striped zebra kinetic sculpture and other wonders at the open art studios.
Just beyond Old Town, stop by the Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate’s elegant boutique and factory. With a background in woodworking and boat building, the founders, Adam Dick and Dustin Taylor, take the same hands-on approach to their chocolates, with unusual, delectable flavors—bee pollen and fennel, black fig, brown butter with nibs and sea salt—as well as special monthly microbatch selections. If you harbor Willy Wonka fantasies, 45-minute tours are available.
At Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, 90 minutes north, we took a short hike through Fern Canyon, lush with the prehistoric plants and a dinosaur backdrop in the movie Jurassic Park 2.
Appetites whetted, my husband and I tucked into a perfectly seared ribeye and sipped on inventive cocktails at Campground steakhouse in Arcata, just up the road from Eureka. Its showstopping Campfire cocktail pairs Japanese whisky with smoked Lapsang souchong tea, simple syrup and lemon, and served in a glass clouded with smoke. The restaurant, which opened last year, is charmingly decorated with an indoor stand of aspen trees and a stuffed owl, a chandelier of Coleman lanterns and intricately carved cattle skulls.
After our day of adventures on the North Coast, Humboldt Bay Social Club was the perfect respite, where we settled in by the fire pit, roasting marshmallows under the stars.
Samoa Field rates from $150, Oyster Beach rates from $195, 900 New Navy Base Road, Samoa, 707.502.8544