There’s nowhere quite like Joshua Tree. It’s a place that manages to be mysterious, beautiful, welcoming and bizarre all at the same time. We came here for our honeymoon following our Joshua Tree wedding and fell in love with everything about it. I’m dreaming of my return, but in the meantime, I’ll share with you my best tips on where to explore, eat, shop and stay in Joshua Tree and surrounds.
Things to see in Joshua Tree and surrounds
Joshua Tree National Park
Obviously, if you’re staying in Joshua Tree, Joshua Tree National Park should be high on your agenda of must-sees. There are a variety of key spots in the park that are great for photo opportunities and getting back to nature. My personal favourite is Keys View, which is the highest viewpoint in Joshua Tree and provides panoramic views of the Coachella Valley. Hot tip: head here at sunset for cooler temperatures and an epic vista. Stay longer or camp overnight for your chance to see a UFO 😉
If you like climbing rocks and experiencing the desert landscape in a more hands-on way, check out Skull Rock (yep, it looks like what the name suggests) or Intersection Rock.
Located 20 minutes’ drive from the town of Joshua Tree in the Yucca Valley, Pioneertown was originally built in the 1940s as a set for Western films. The town is a street of 1880s movie facades with a saloon, jail, bank, bath house and more that have been used in over 50 films and television shows over the years, so visiting is somewhat of a novelty. The town itself also has a few functioning shops, and is home to what is arguably Pioneertown’s main attraction: Pappy & Harriets, the local bar that has a cult following in the Coachella Valley. I recommend going to Pioneertown in the evening to enjoy drinks and dinner at Pappy’s and a peaceful stroll down the desert street afterwards.
World Famous Crochet Museum
If you love a taste of the bizarre, you’re in the right place in Joshua Tree. The World Famous Crochet Museum is one of Joshua Tree’s fun oddities that you should take a few minutes to check out. It’s basically an old photo processing booth that has been transformed into a vibrant crochet shrine.
To pay a visit, go down the alleyway at Sun Alley Shops (a mini shopping ‘precinct’ that includes a book store, art gallery and a vintage clothing store) until you see the World Famous Crochet Museum. Visiting is free, but there is a small guestbook for visitors to sign. Step inside to be greeted by a heat-stuffed room with a large collection of crochet works lining the walls. You’ll find stuffed crochet dolls, animals and other little crochet creations of an unidentifiable nature.
Where to eat and shop in Joshua Tree
First thing’s first: if you’re staying in accommodation with a kitchen, use it. You’ll want to get your groceries and alcohol (and any other general necessities) at Walmart in Yucca Valley. There isn’t much in terms of groceries in Joshua Tree, and it will be cheaper than any groceries you do find.
Pie for the People Pizza
If you’re a sucker for pizza (like most of the human race), Pie for the People is the place to go. You won’t miss it: the big neon sign lights up the town at night. Their specialty is authentic, New York-style pizza and, yes, they deliver. Unfortunately when we stayed in Joshua Tree, it was closed due to water problems in the area. Whenever we drove past it at night, that glowing sign teased the hell out of me.
Joshua Tree Saloon
It’s hard to miss Joshua Tree Saloon. Sitting on the main stretch of road in Joshua Tree, this is a bar and grill that oozes honky tonk vibes (and that isn’t a bad thing). Expect all-American food and table service set in an unpretentious saloon-style bar. My pick from the menu is the JT Cheeseburger with fries. When in Rome, as they say!
Ricochet Vintage Wears
Vintage aficionados will love this little shop full of retro gems. Cowboy boots and hats are one of the main attractions to Ricochet Vintage Wears, as well as the eclectic selection of vinyl and wonderful array of desert attire.
Natural Sisters Cafe
If you’re looking for a healthy breakfast or lunch, Natural Sisters Cafe is where it’s at. Fuel yourself up for a hike in the national park with one of their delicious breakfasts or cool down with a juice or a smoothie. They also do sandwiches, salads, soups and desserts, plus they’re right next door to a health food store.
Located right next to Joshua Tree Saloon, Coyote Corner is an intriguing little shop that sells trinkets and treasures to remember your trip to Joshua Tree. This isn’t one of those stock standard souvenir shops you can find in touristy destinations. Instead, Coyote Corner has a variety of interesting and locally-made items. Think jewellery, clothing, books, treats, crystals, ceramics, incense and, funnily enough, retro lollies and toys. You can also buy coffee beans from Joshua Tree Coffee Company here.
Where to stay in Joshua Tree
Joshua Tree is a goldmine for amazing Airbnbs. I’m not kidding: search ‘Joshua Tree’ on Airbnb and a treasure trove of immaculately-styled desert oases will show up. Think circular stock tank pools, mid-century haciendas and hammocks for days. The High Desert is known for its kookiness so it’s only fitting that the Airbnb scene in Joshua Tree caters to that. Sign up to Airbnb for $50AUD travel credit.
Another option is Pioneertown Motel. We passed by this quiet motel a few times when we were in Pioneertown, and it looks to be a laid back rustic retreat – and Pappy & Harriet’s being across the road certainly doesn’t hurt come nightfall. Film buffs will also enjoy the fact that it was originally built in 1946 as lodging for Western movie stars.
If you want to stay closer to Joshua Tree National Park, I hear good things about Spin and Margie’s Desert Hideaway, a boutique hotel which is located near the west entrance to the park. Otherwise, check out The Joshua Tree Inn or Harmony Motel.
What are your favourite things to do in the California High Desert? Tell me all about it in the comments below!