Take a trip through classic Americana where hippies sleep on the beach, RV’s replace semi’s, and you can picture yourself venturing down the 101 in a wood clad station wagon. If you haven’t already added a west coast road trip to your bucket list, do it now. Here is our journey down the 101 from Seattle to San Francisco. Pro Tip: When traveling during September be sure to pack for all types of weather, layers are a must. We experienced sweltering hot days and snow all in the same trip.
West Coast Road Trip Day One: Seattle
Touch down and run, that is how we took on Seattle. Since we were only in town for one day we had to make the most of it! We used price line and got the Maxwell Hotel which was amazing! Modern, free bikes, and cupcake happy hour, yes a cupcake happy hour! Not to mention the most amazing bed you will lay your sweet head in. First thing first, we had to do the space needle. It is extremely touristy and expensive, but you have to do it at least once. Come on you are in Seattle! There is a restaurant at the top of the space needle, but make reservations ahead of time because they book up. Since we aren’t famous or important we couldn’t get in since they were booked solid.
Right by the space needle is a monorail that will take you about a block away from Fisherman’s Wharf. Cheap, quick and easy.
The Wharf has some novel shops and plenty of stops for foodies. Shout out to Biscuit Bitch! Go there! What is worth the stop while at the Wharf is the gum wall. Feast your eyes upon the one of the most unhygienic, sticky and unique sites in America, quite possibly the world. Don’t forget to pack you a few pieces of gum so you can add to the disgrosting masterpiece.
After the Wharf it was off to check out some of the parks in the area. The sculpture park was ehh,just ok, so we moved on to the Gas Works Park. It offered stunning views of the city and a for those who geek out over old things, it sits on the former Seattle Gas Light Company and some of it still remains! Worth the stop!
Fremont and More
Then off to the Fremont Brewing Company, also worth the stop. By this time you will likely need a beer. From the Fremont Brewing Company you can hike up, what seems like a mountain, to see the Fremont Troll. I recommend a drive by and quick photo opt. It’s a quirky and quick pit stop and it makes you wonder what was the inspiration behind something like this.
Dinner was nowhere else other than the Walrus and the Carpenter. I couldn’t stop shoving oysters into my face hole! For those of you who don’t get the privilege of eating amazing fresh seafood everyday, DO IT THIS TRIP! After dinner we hit up the local watering hole and then lights out because is was off to Mt. Rainier the next day. On our way out of Seattle we hit up the Wandering Goose for breakfast. It was life changing and breakfast will never be the same. End of story.
Day Two: Mt. Rainier
After stuffing ourselves at the Wandering Goose it was time for our 2 hour + drive to Mt. Rainier. Thank goodness for hiking after that meal. The drive was easy and before we knew it we were at the park. It is stunning…plain and simple. There are so many trails and paths that you could be here for months…and from the looks of some the people…they have been! We did a death march up the mountain and then decided to do one of the motor trails that they have. Tons of jaw dropping pull offs and Instagram worthy shots.
I would like to point out an observation. When doing this trip, your rental car becomes your closet,kitchen and garbage can and will often smell like a foot. Bring multiple layers as you will use all of them in one day and an air freshener!
After doing a little more hiking and motor touring we ended up at the Packwood Lodge. This is a little, quaint hotel that even offered us a glass of wine when came in. Either they excel at concierge services or we looked like we really needed some wine. The hotel manager recommend us going into Packwood and eating at the Blue Spruce Bar and Grill. WARNING: THE OUTSIDE IS DIRE NEED OF JESUS. You will take one look and say…nope…no diarrhea for me. Don’t be scared and go in because the food is awesome and they have a full bar for those who need to partake. , The place serves tater tots!! What more could you want! After I ate my fill of tots it was back to the hotel to sleep! We had to get up early to hit Mt.St. Helen’s and then Portland!
Day Three: Mt. St. Helens / Lower Lewis Falls
Getting up early to hit the road was rough..I wished we had one more day to explore Mt. Rainier. If you are an avid hiker and nature enthusiast you may want to add an extra day here. We started our journey by visiting Lower Lewis Falls located near Mt. St. Helens. It is worth the side drive to go! Don’t be chicken pants and follow one of the trails to climb down into the creek bed and hike to the falls. It is worth it. You can even swim by the waterfall.
Mount St. Helens
After the falls it was off to the Mt. St. Helen’s. We didn’t hike here because we opted to do Ape Caves. There are tons of pull offs along the way to get amazing views.
After our caving adventure we did make a stop at Lava Canyon before venturing onward to Portland. Onto the caves! The caves were formed by lava tubes and offers the more adventurous explorer a unique opportunity to get down and dirty in a cave in which there is no light. You must bring or rent a lantern and have a flashlight. The cave is massive once you get inside and many folks bring their children. Take heed, as much as you don’t believe the signs to bring a coat, bring one! It is cold and you will freeze your ass off regardless of what the weather is like outside.
Day Four: Portland, Oregon
Portland is a quirky, eccentric and vibrant city and be sure to come hungry! This is foodie paradise. I just wanted to shove everything in my face hole and drink all the drinks!! Our first stop was no other than the famous Voodoo Doughnut. The line goes fast and it is worth it. Stop by Stumps coffee to grab a coffee to stand in line with to make your wait more enjoyable. The city is very walk able and after eating everything in sight, you should walk. The smells coming from the myriad of food trucks are heavenly and will make you want to shove your crumbled dollar bills in the window in exchange for a basket of ethnic mouth-watering goodness.
Waddle yourself down to Powell Books at some point and take in the infinite rows books in their papery glory. There is literally a book on everything and nothing there. Since it rained our whole time in Portland this is was a great stop.
The other thing you can do if the weather is not in your favor is wine TASTINGS! About 45 minutes outside of Portland are local wineries. We hit three local wineries and SakeOne for a Sake Tasting. Note there is a fee for the Sake tasting. We absolutely fell in love with the wines of Oregon. The countryside was breathtaking even in the rain! Be sure to add Kramer Wineries to your list of stops. It was by far our favorite and the most friendly that we went too. Not to mention their wine was amazing!
Eat Some More
We continued out eating frenzy once we returned to Portland. I can’t even recommend a restaurant because everything that we ate was fantastic and delicious. Trip adviser will guide you to the local cuisines that your little heart craves. That evening we decided to venture out to see the Multnomah Falls. It is a little drive outside of the city, but this magnificent falls is worth it. Take the walk up to the bridge for great photo opts or go one step further and take the mile hike to the top of the waterfall. This is a one mile death march up a mountain. I thought for sure my husband was going to die and roll down the mountain, but he made it to the top in one piece. It was impressive overlooking this spectacular site and taking in all the views.
Day Five: The Oregon Coast
I will go on the books saying that you need to spend at least three days driving the entire Oregon coast. You will be disappointed if you only do a two-day drive. You miss a lot! There are tons of amazing cute towns, shops and parks along the way that beg you to come visit. With that said here was our adventure down the Oregon coast.
First stop: Astoria
If you even contemplate skipping this seaside gem, you need to stop that thought right this second. Type Astoria into your google maps and hit get directions. Pulling into this quaint town, you will be greeted by the engineering marvel of the Astoria-Megler bridge that will instantly invoke awe. This amazing piece of architecture appears to rise out of no where and then dips commuters into the water on their journey to Washington.
After taking this wonder in, park your piece and get to boardwalk. The boardwalk provides the perfect backdrop to a great afternoon. The seals bellowing, a cold Bouy Beer and oysters so fresh, they jumped from the ocean into your plate. What more could one ask for. Be sure to stop of Northwest Wild Products to nab a snack, lunch or something.
Northwest Wild Products
Even if you aren’t hungry you need to eat here. Hands down the best seafood we had the entire trip. Upon first inspection this place looks like a warehouse that may or may not sell seafood. Don’t be scared! Go inside and lo and behold they have a tiny kitchen. We ordered oysters and clam chowder and instantly regretted only staying in Astoria for a few hours. I wanted to come back for dinner, fourth meal, breakfast and lunch.
After walking the remainder of the boardwalk, we hoped in our ride and headed to Fort Steven’s State Park to see the ship wreck of the Peter Iredale. The Wreck provided tons of fun photo opts and selfies and was down right fascinating. The State Park was beautiful and I wished we had more time to explore, but it was off to our next stop Cannon Beach.
Second Stop: Cannon Beach
“Goonies” lovers rejoice!! For here is the Haystack rock that graced the big screen in this beloved film. Side note: If you are a devote Goonies fan while visiting Astoria check out the original Goonies house. The sheer magnitude of this rock is powerful. We parked our car on a side street and walked to the beach. This stretch of beach is long, and once walking you may think that you will never reach the rock (especially if you parked a little further away than you thought). After spending an hour on the beach, we found a little coffee shop and then hit the road again!
Next Stop: Tillamook Cheese Factory
It is a cheese factory and they offer free samples of cheese, need I say more?!?! We came prepared and brought a little lunchbox cooler, because we knew we were going to be buying some cheese. Because you know what goes grate (haha) with cheese? WINE! And to go one step further, take that wine and cheese to the beach. Boom! Instant romantic date. Now, unto the Cheese Factory. They offer a free tour of the factory with complimentary cheese tasting. YUM!!! Perfect for families, couples and all ages.
They have a restaurant here as well, which specializes in…you got it….GRILLED CHEESE!! Get one of those to go and then you need to get in line at the ice cream counter. This ice cream is all kinds of creamy deliciousness that will leave you pondering whether to the steal ice cream from the baby sitting next to you. After our cheese feeding frenzy we hit to the open road with a grilled cheese in one hand and shame in the other. After stopping at a few overlooks and state parks we arrived in Newport.
Day Six: Newport
When I awoke to such a breathtaking vista, regret emerged as I knew we didn’t allot enough time to Oregon Coast. Today we were going to be adventurous and experience something out of ordinary for us mid westerners, we were going crabbing! The lovely folks at Yaquina Bay Charters hooked us up with shellfish licenses,and all the stuff we needed for around $50.00. Then is was off to the crabbing pier.
Rogue Brewery is conveniently located right next to the public fishing pier so grab a few cold ones before heading out. Locals are very welcoming and offered a lot of support and advice to us newbies and before long we had our first crab! This turned out to be one of the most lively, entertaining activities we have ever done.
At the end my husband said it best, it is through these types of experiences that we get seasoned in life. To round out the crabbing adventure we took our bounty to a local crab cooker who cooked the crabs at a reasonable cost. We then took our bucket of cooked crabs to the beach for a crab extravaganza lunch! We were the envy of many seagulls and pelicans.
After lunch it was off to our next stop, Crescent City,CA. We had spent so much time in Newport that is was mid afternoon by the time we hit the road, which left side stops to a minimum. I will emphasize again about downloading the Oregon Coast Visitor Guide. It will tell you where key attractions along the drive are, such as the devil’s punch bowl, light houses, etc.
Now driving the coast after it gets dark is down right shit your pants terrifying. Never knowing if beyond the guard rail lays a 100 foot drop into the rocky ocean abyss or if there is a field with twenty cows, can play mind games on the weary traveler. By the time we rolled into Crescent City I had aged ten years, needed a diaper change and a stiff drink. The moment the suitcases had hit the room, it was off to the bar to ease my frazzled nerves with mozzarella sticks, nachos and vodka. Before long, all was well and I was ready to tackle the Redwood Forest the next morning.
Day Seven: Redwood Forest
Waking up refreshed and ready to start the day a new, we hit the 101 again and began our journey towards the Redwood Forest. I will begin with this: No photo can ever capture the sheer magnitude of these trees. The towering, massive trees stand so majestic and the forest is often eerily quiet. You must, must, must leave the comfort of your car and hike. You can thank me later. Swing by the first welcome center you come across to grab a park map that shows where key hiking and points of interest are in the park. We swung by for a photo opt with Paul and Babe, but opted not to do the Trees of Mystery. The gift shop in there is nice, if you are looking for a little something to bring back from the Redwoods.
Avenue of Giants
After some hiking we hit the road to find the Avenue of Giants. This scenic drive through the Redwoods offers some great hiking spots with some history thrown in. Be sure to stop at the first pull off to grab a brochure that tells you what you are looking at!
Another unique thing to do is to drive through a tree. Corny…maybe…but when are you going to get the chance to do this again?!?! The fee is nominal to drive through and there are three different locations scattered across the Redwood area that allows tourist to do this.
Just pay the money, experience it and get a great photo to share with your friends and family. You will only regret it if you don’t do it.
Orr Hot Spring Resort
After hiking all day it was off to the hot spring resort we opted to stay at for the night. Orr’s hot spring resort is a lovely little place in Ukiah off the beaten path by 20 minutes with nothing around it.
Now I will begin by saying that when we initially booked this place their website was down, but upon calling we were able to get a yurt for the night for a reasonable price. It wasn’t until everything was said and done that the person on the phone mentioned it is a clothing optional resort. The shock on my husband’s face was priceless]and I told him…oh now we have to do this! So we were going into this very skeptical as this is very much outside our comfort range, but you only live once right?!
We rolled up into the resort a little after dark (for reasons you can guess), but much to our surprise it was more like a summer camp than a resort. ALSO VERY IMPORTANT: clothing is only optional in the bathhouse, where the hot springs are. You have to be clothed everywhere else! Relief swept over us, and we hauled our luggage up a gravel road, four flights of stairs to our yurt in the dark. The Yurt was awesome, clean and comfortable.
In true summer camp fashion, you had to go to the public bathrooms as none were in your yurt. You also had to bring your own food, as they do not sell any there. They have a kitchen in which you can prepare it in, but that is it. We chalked the whole experience up to getting more seasoned at life!
Day Eight: Ukiah to San Francisco
Start your morning out at Black Oak Coffee Roasters then head to the City of 10,000 Buddhas. This tranquil places offers a glimpse into the life of the monks and students that live here. Swing by the visitors center, grab a map and see the museum. The temple is ornately decorated and is very humbling. Please don’t be a loud annoying tourist taking selfies and photos while people are praying.Be a decent human and show some respect when you visit.
After visiting the temple it was off to Glass Beach. A shade out-of-the-way from our current location, but worth it. Glass Beach can be found along highway 1 and gives visitors a chance to see and collect colored sea glass that has washed ashore. Visitors are warned not to take the sea glass, as there will soon be none left, but that hasn’t stopped many from pocketing a little souvenir. The landscape here is rocky, rigid and breathtaking. After you get overheated in the sun, swing by North Coast Brewing to quench your parched soul and grab a quick bite to eat. Then it is time to hit the road and head to San Francisco!
DAY NINE: San Francisco
We choose to end our journey in San Francisco for two reasons. 1) It was cheaper to fly out of San Francisco than Sacramento and 2) The Alamo rental car was a fraction of the cost if we return it to the San Francisco location. Hence, we crossed over the Golden Gate Bridge and into the City on the Bay. We booked a hotel via Priceline, because staying in the city is expensive. We hit the lottery and was awarded with the Scarlet Huntington. What a sight we were rolling up in our piece that stunk of feet, crab and Taco Bell to a five-star hotel. Why yes valet, you can park this, here is a clothes pin for your nose. Once we were cleaned up and looked respectable we hit the city.
Naturally, when had to hop on the cable car. Word of the wise, the California line is not as busy as the other. We decided to have dinner at Forbes Island. TOURIST BEWARE: this is an expensive tourist trap! You think you are getting a gourmet dinner, with an under water dining experience on a private island. Here is what you really get: a mediocre dinner that is going cost you $200 for two people, there are five porthole in the whole restaurant, so odds are you aren’t going to be by one, instead you will be shoved in a small, dark crowded corner. The portholes are dirty so you can’t really see anything through them anyways. The island is actually a barge and in my mind is hokey with fake pirates, a Tahitian dining room, a light house, etc. There are better places to eat!
The next day we hit China town, which was a cultural explosion leaving your mind spinning and wanting more! There was a Chinese festival happening and before you know it there are lanterns, singing, dancing and a dragon coming down the street! It is the closest thing to China itself, so get yourself here.
We did eventually wandered to the Fisherman’s Wharf which is very touristy. The seals are the star of the show here, but not worth the crowds, terrible chain restaurants and shops all around. We ended up at Golden Gate Park watching the Rolex Sailboat Regatta which was a spectacle
That evening we hit the Jelly Fish Lounge for Happy Hour followed by some sausages at Hogwash. We ended up at the Tonga Room located in the Fremont Hotel. The Tonga room is worth a visit, even though it reminds me of tropical version of a Rain forest Cafe. We had visited San Francisco in the past so we had already seen the painted ladies, Lombard street and some of the other sights. If you are wanting to see Alcatraz be sure to book your tickets at least a month in advance. They go fast! After the Tonga room it was back to the hotel to pack…for the worse part of our trip had come….the end.
Looking for more Epic Adventures? Check out our New River Gorge in West Virginia!
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