By Brendan Krueger
Starting in Fortuna, Head north on highway 101 until you reach the Fernbridge/Ferndale Exit. From there, merge onto Fernbridge Dr and then take a left onto the bridge at CA-211 S. Driving through Ferndale on Main Street, take a right on Bluff St./Ocean Ave (after the Hotel Ivanhoe), and then the first left onto Wildcat Ave, which turns into Mattole Road. You will see a large sign indicating this is the correct path to Petrolia.
The drive to the coast and into Petrolia on Mattole Road should take 1-2 hours. It starts mountainous and windy, which is beautiful in itself, but the drive is well worth it once the coast enters your view. A significant section of the road eventually goes directly parallel to the ocean, and there are plenty of places to stop and walk the beach. Immediately preceding and following this sea level drive, you are in the hills but the Pacific and its powerful waves can still be seen (and heard), and this view of the ocean from above is unmatched by anywhere else in the country that I have experienced.
After experiencing the beach, continue to Petrolia. Petrolia is an extremely small settlement and does not offer much for tourists besides a small general store, but there is river access for swimming, and if you know or meet someone from this town, it is a a fun and interesting community that host events relatively frequently. I have actually seen a nationally successful band play an under-the-radar show in their community center because someone from Petrolia knew them.
Leaving Petrolia by continuing on the Mattole Road, you will eventually reach the town of Honeydew. About 14 miles from Honeydew, there is a sign directing you to Lighthouse road. This road takes you to the trailhead that leads to the historic Punta Gorda Lighthouse right on the beach. The trail is a few miles long, but the final destination and the views it offers is worth the hike. Time your trip for low tide or the beach will become impassable in some areas. Check tide tables here (http://www.myforecast.com/bin/tide_extended.m?city=12114&zip_code=95558&...).
Continue back on Mattole Road and you will reach Humboldt Redwoods State Park and eventually merge onto Highway 101 North. At this point in your adventure, there are countless spots to 'Discover the Redwoods', and/or swim in the pristine Eel River. The beauty of this sequoia forest needs no explanation - it is one of the things that makes Humboldt County legendary.