Ferndale is known for well-preserved Victorian buildings, which are also known as "Butterfat Palaces" due to their construction during an epoch wherein considerable wealth was generated in the dairy industry, especially during the 1880s. The entire town is an historical landmark (see California Historical Landmark No. 883).
Ferndale is also the endpoint of the annual Kinetic sculpture race as well as being the town where the first race began when Hobart Brown was challenged to race his odd-looking five-wheeled bike down Main Street on Mother's Day, 1969 by local sculptor Jack Mays.
Ferndale is a popular film location and is featured in movies like The Majestic with Jim Carrey, Outbreak starring Dustin Hoffman, Salem’s Lot starring David Soul and James Mason and Joe Dirt with David Spade.
The Humboldt County Fair is held every August at the county fairgrounds on the edge of Ferndale, and feature the only horse-racing events in the county along with the standard fare of agricultural, pastoral and artistic contests, carnival games and commercial or non-profit booths.
Ferndale is located at Its location south of US 101, is very close to the mouth of the Eel River as it enters the Pacific Ocean. By car, Ferndale is 265 miles (426 km) north of San Francisco and just 12 miles (19 km) south of Eureka. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 1.0 square miles (2.7 km²), all of it land..
As of the census of 2000, there were 1,382 people, 611 households, and 392 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,343.2 people per square mile (518.1/km²). There were 663 housing units at an average density of 644.4/sq mi (248.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 93.34% White, 0.29% Black or African American, 0.51% Native American, 0.58% Asian, 0.07% Pacific Islander, 1.30% from other races, and 3.91% from two or more races. 4.27% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 611 households out of which 25.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.0% were married couples living together, 9.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.8% were non-families. 30.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.26 and the average family size was 2.83.
In the city the population was spread out with 22.8% under the age of 18, 6.9% from 18 to 24, 24.2% from 25 to 44, 29.5% from 45 to 64, and 16.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43 years. For every 100 females there were 86.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 81.8 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $37,955, and the median income for a family was $49,706. Males had a median income of $32,404 versus $29,808 for females. The per capita income for the city was $21,727. About 4.5% of families and 7.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.9% of those under age 18 and 3.6% of those age 65 or over.
Ferndale was incorporated in 1893 and is governed by a four-member City Council and a Mayor, all of whom serve four-year terms chosen in the general election of even-numbered years. The current Mayor is Jeff Farley, elected in November 2006. Councilmembers include Niels Lorenzen, Michael Moreland, Ken Mierzwa and Stuart Titus.
In 2004 the City Council placed Measure O on the municipal ballot to eliminate the elective office of Mayor, which would have then reverted to an appointive office, to be filled by a person chosen by the City Council from amongst its own members. The measure was resoundingly defeated, with 78.8% voting against. Interestingly, when the Mayor's seat was open for election in 2006, all of the mayoral candidates were write-ins. Jeff Farley won the election, and now holds office as Mayor for the second time in Ferndale history.
The newly hired Chief of Police, Karl Poppelreiter, worked for several decades as a California State Park Ranger, headed the California State Park Department's Office of Internal Affairs and worked on staff for the Chief Deputy Director as his last assignment before moving to Ferndale.
In the state legislature Ferndale is located in the 2nd Senate District, represented by Democrat Pat Wiggins, and in the 1st Assembly District, represented by Democrat Patty Berg. Federally, Ferndale is located in California's 1st congressional district.
The Victorian Inn (located on the corner of Ocean and Main), was built in 1891 as the Russ-Williams Bank, with a millinary store, a haberdashery and the Ferndale Enterprise newspaper on the ground floor, and business and professional offices on the upper floor. Designed by noted architect J. Frost, who designed several other noted buildings in the area, it is an excellent example of a commercial Victorian structure. Today, this outstanding example of Eastlake-Stick architecture is operated as an upscale bed & breakfast inn, with a restaurant and bar where the millinery store and haberdashery used to be, and a fine jewelry store in the bank's space.
Ferndale is home to the longest living newspaper under a single name in Humboldt County, the Ferndale Enterprise. Commercial radio station KHUM also calls Ferndale home, and operates in a joint studio with KSLG-FM and KWPT under the ownership of Lost Coast Communications. Ferndale is also home to the North Coast's oldest and largest theatre company, The Ferndale Repertory Theatr which has been in operation since 1972.