Benicia, CA, a great side-trip on the trail of John Muir!






In my last blog (and article in the Record newspaper this week), we shared the idea of exploring the footsteps of John Muir, storied conservationist, founder of the Sierra Club and (some would say), father of our national parks, by touring both his grand home on the edge of Martinez, CA, and in his vast writing and research archives at the University of Pacific in Stockton. So, if that convinced you to trek to both the UOP archives and over to Martinez to check out eminent conservationist  – spend a bit of time in both historic Martinez, and take the I-780 bridge across the Carquinez Straits to the historic town of Benicia!

In Martinez you will find a quaint, well-preserved downtown, much like John Muir would have found in the early 1900s.  Additionally, the Martinez Marina, and large public park surrounding it, offers exploration, views and fishing like few others.  And, a huge Southern Pacific locomotive and tender graces the park’s entrance.

But, don’t go as far as Martinez without crossing the mighty Carquinez Straits and checking out historic Benicia.  And, crossing the bridge, look to the east and see the remaining huge Navy ships of the “Ghost Fleet” (once numbering scores of old war and cargo ships, now only about 18 lay at anchor, awaiting reuse or scrap yards).  In Benicia, the California statehouse is preserved, from the 13 months in 1853-54 that Benicia served as the third state capital – before the growing state moved to its current capital city of Sacramento.  The old statehouse is open daily for tours, and is right on Benicia’s historic main drag, lined with cute shops and great restaurants. 

For a restaurant that has long been a favorite, head to the waterfront end of Front Street, the city’s main drag, to  Sailor Jack’s, 123 First Street, (707) 746-8500 – try the clam chowder and fish and chips while admiring the busy waterfront from your window!

Head the opposite way on Front Street from downtown, east, and you will find the historic Benicia Arsenal, dating back to the 1860s, and preserving the grand Commandant’s House, circa 1859, and the first stone fortress in California, just a block from the Commandant’s lovely abode.

For more info: For insight into Benicia (attractions, shopping, dining, events) see the Benicia Visitor’s Bureau, For UOP’s archives in Stockton, contact Michael Wurtz, 209-945-3105,  Many of Muir’s writings and sketches are also available, online: collections – and the University is seeking volunteers to help transcribe many writings not yet transcribed. For more info on the John Muir National Historic Site, 4202 Alhambra Ave., Martinez, CA 94553 go to; or call 925–228–8860.  Muir’s home is open daily, no charge, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: travel; to contact me, 

Happy travels in the West!


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