Capital of California’s Bohemia
The crossroads of West County’s hill country, this charming redwood hamlet retains the quaint character of its timber mill roots even while its quirky reputation grows. Downtown Occidental’s historic buildings nestle in a picturesque valley, straddling the headwaters of both Salmon Creek and Dutch Bill Creek, the latter named for William “Dutch Bill” Howard, the town’s first European-American settler. The timber industry naturally turned the area into a cultural melting pot, with the longest lasting influence that of the Italian immigrant workers; you’ll still see their names on many of the roads and businesses about town.
For a stunning scenic drive, pick any of the roads into or through Occidental. Roll the windows down for some of the sweetest air you’ll ever breathe. From Bohemian Highway’s meadows and forests to the famed Coleman Valley coastal approach, cyclists and motorists have their pick of superb routes, not to mention the tasty rewards awaiting them in this well-appointed small town.
And Occidental is chockful of tasty. In addition to excellent restaurants, the town’s two blocks are packed with shops whose deceptively modest storefronts reveal an incredible array of arts, antiques, clothing, and more. The Occidental Center for the Arts is home to a gallery and performance venue that host arts and talent from near and far, among other cultural events.
Friday evenings in June through October, the Occidental Bohemian Farmers Market is more than a great place to buy great food; it’s a destination event with a fun and often raucous street fair vibe. Nearby attractions include old-growth redwood trees, hiking, zipline canopy tours, and the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, which gives tours and classes at its 100% organic nursery dedicated to biodiversity.