Being at the beach can be very relaxing. The sense of isolation and the natural peace at this beach encourages relaxation. So, come sit and watch the waves, listen to their rhythm, absorb some sunshine, cast aside your problems and concerns, release your worries, let all fade away until your spirit is revitalized and nothing is left but peacefulness. This is a selfie of me after I did that.
While the drive to this location is a bit demanding, Oliver owners can make it without worry about tight turns and overhead clearances that drivers of larger rigs have to concern themselves about. To get there, take Highway 101 to Ferndale, go through this very picturesque Victorian era town (it is worth a stop) and follow the signs to the community of Petrolia.
This road will follow the coast south - there are many places to stop and enjoy the view. I know many coastal scenic roads - this is one of the best. National Geographic once rated this stretch of road as one of the thirty-six most scenic drives in the country.
If you are pulling your Oliver with a six, maybe you shouldn’t try this road as there are a few long, steep pulls. Also, make sure you leave from Ferndale with a full tank so you can make the round trip without worry about having enough gas. It is only an approximately fifty-mile drive one way but there are many hills to climb that will severely reduce your mileage per gallon.
A drive of an hour and half or so will deliver you to Petrolia - that is if you can resist the urge to pull over for the views or to access the beaches along the way. Petrolia is the north end of the Lost Coast. Petrolia’s historical claim to fame is that this was the first place in California where an oil well was drilled, hence its name. Now the area is a haven for pot growers, but they are friendly or indifferent unless they are trespassed upon.
Once in Petrolia, follow the signs to the Mattole Campground. Hikers park near the campground to walk 30 miles or so along the coast to the black sand beach at Shelter Cove. There may be a large number of cars near the entrance of the campground, these are for dropping off hikers heading south or for receiving those coming north from Shelter Cove. Ignore them and turn into the campground just past the vault toilets.
The community of Petrolia is small with few stores, don’t go there expecting to buy groceries or other supplies. People who live there shop in Ferndale or Eureka for their food and major purchases. From Ferndale, it is less than an hour to Eureka.
The Mattole Road off of Highway 101 through the Humboldt-Redwoods National Park and on to the community of Honeydew will also bring you to Petrolia. If you are pulling a trailer or driving a motor home, I strongly caution you about this road. It is narrow with tight turns and steep drop-offs. Best to go to Ferndale and come down the coast, plus the views are far better.
The Lost Coast is not really lost in the sense that its whereabouts is not known. It was called lost because of the lack of roads into the area, thus it was “lost” to people as few could access it. Coast Highway One, known as the Pacific Coast Highway or PCH in the southern part of the state, follows the coast from the Mexican border north until it reached this part of the California. Because the steep terrain made it too difficult to build roads, Highway One bypassed this part of the coast, it turns inland just above Westport and connects to US 101 at Piercy.
It would have taken an inordinate amount of bridges and switchbacks on unstable mountain sides to build a road through, if the coast was followed. For the road builders, it was easier and cheaper to go inland where there was comparatively flatter terrain. Also, at that time and still today, there were few people living in this coastal area. Many who think of California as being the Los Angeles area with its crowds, are flummoxed to discover that much of northern California has an extremely low population. To this day there are few roads into the area, most are problematic in the winter.
Many people know about the Lost Coast, especially NorCal people like me. Out of area people, as they drive along US 101 into the Bigfoot populated wilds of northern California may not know about it -driving through it and visiting it, are not the same. It is a terrific place to spend some time. It is due west of major redwoods to be found in parks along US 101.
A walk in old growth redwoods can be awe inspiring. Standing in the midst of a circular grove of redwoods has a Gothic church sense to me. I have met others who have had a similar response. Come and see them, we have one or two left.
There are other places where one can camp at the beach. Westport where Highway One turns inland to Highway 101 has a pay campground with full hookups. North of Westport is the actual beginning of the Lost Coast. Shelter Cove has RV parking and people overnight there. The road to Shelter Cove is notorious for destroying brakes on the way in and engines on the way out because of the long, steep grade just before entering the community. Many poorly maintained motor homes have gone there to die.
Trinidad, California and above, along US 101, have places that allow beach access but I have never camped there. I did scope one location once that was a County Park but never came back to camp.
I have seen overnight campers at pull-outs along the Petrolia road and Highway One, also 101 above Eureka into Del Norte County. Because of the remoteness, there doesn’t seem to be much concern or enforcement regarding this. Mostly, I think it is because people who make the effort to come to this part of the world to enjoy the natural beauty do not leave a mess behind, so the Locals don’t complain.
Shall we meet: For some time now, I have wondered if there are enough Oliver owners in northern California and southern Oregon to do a meet-up. The Mattole Campground is a first-come-first-serve place so this campground would not be good but there are plenty of other locations within the indicated area of northern California and southern Oregon that would be suitable for a spring or early summer gathering.
If a meet-up can be arranged, one of the things we could do, beyond developing friendships and displaying our Oliver’s, is offer up information about some of our favorite places to camp in trade for receiving information from others. It would be nice.
If interested, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org