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  • Joanna Riquett
  • "Road Trip from Los Angeles to Vancouver - Spots I can't miss?"

Joanna Riquett

Vancouver, Canada

Road Trip from Los Angeles to Vancouver - Spots I can't miss?

I'm driving from Los Angeles to Vancouver in September, stopping in Big Sur (what to do there?), San Francisco, quick flight to Utah, Portland and Seattle.

This is a rough itinerary but I'm looking for suggestions on places to go, hidden gems, things I should see, etc. For example, I want to stop at the Hearst Castle​, but I don't know what else can I find on the west coast. Note: I'm looking for something legit and not a tourist trap. 

Any suggestions? Thank you!!

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  • Tony Wright

    top answer by

    Near SF, you should hit Point Reyes National Seashore. If you're there in late summer/early fall, do not leave without doing a night kayaking tour in Tomales Bay-- the bioluminescence is otherworldly. It's also great oyster country, so grab some BBQ oysters at Marshall Store.

    You can hit wine country, if that's you're thing-- but you should dedicate a whole question to that! You can stay in Petaluma for a less fancypants experience. Cherry Hill Bed & Breakfast Inn is run by a super sweet old couple and they have a huggable Akita named Ushi.

    In Portland, stay on the east side of the river. If you like waiting in line for a table at 9:30pm on a Tuesday, hit Pok Pok Restaurant. If you're clever, go to Whiskey Soda Lounge across the street-- they serve the same drinks and the amazeballs wings from Pok Pok. Multnomah Falls is worth a stop for a photo and Ape Cave is worth a swing on the way north... It's the longest lava tube you can walk in in the US, I think (2ish miles-- bring good shoes and a flashlight or two-- you've never been in the dark like this!).

    Crater Lake National Park deserves a mention. SO STUNNING.

    Crater Lake National Parkimage from nationalparks.orgCannon Beach is beautiful. Not a beach you'll swim from, but windswept and pretty.

    Cannon BeachI'm from Seattle, so could go on about stuff to do up here at length-- I think the Seattle section of this site has a mess of good stuff.

    Heading north, you must hit the San Juan Islands (ferry out of Anacortes). Orcas Island is probably the prettiest.

    Orcas Island

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    • Joanna R.

      Joanna R.

      Thank you Tony! Where is Petaluma? Is that around LA or SF? Also the night kayaking sounds awesome! Any ideas where can I find more about it? Thanks again! · (0 likelikes)

    • Tony W.

      Tony W.

      It's near SF (near wine country and Tomales Bay). We used Blue Waters ( http://www.bluewaterskayaking.com/ ), but there's another one called Point Reyes Outdoors ( http://pointreyesoutdoors.com/ ) for our tour... Hoping to bring a mess of friends down to do it sometime this fall! (btw, you can click on the map to get a big zoomable version) · (1 likelikes)

    • Valerie S.

      Valerie S.

      Tony, you literally stole all my answers! Boo!! ;) · (2 likelikes)

    • Tony W.

      Tony W.

      Hah, Valerie I bet I missed SOMETHING. :-) · (1 likelikes)

    Mentioned in this answer:

    1. Point Reyes National Seashore (attraction)
    2. Tomales Bay (attraction)
    3. Marshall Store (restaurant)
    4. Petaluma (city)
    5. Cherry Hill Bed & Breakfast Inn (hotel)
    6. Portland (city)
    7. Pok Pok Restaurant (restaurant)
    8. Whiskey Soda Lounge (attraction)
    9. Multnomah Falls (attraction)
    10. Ape Cave (attraction)
    11. Crater Lake National Park (park)
    12. Cannon Beach (city)
    13. Seattle (city)
    14. Anacortes (city)
    15. Orcas Island (city)

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  • Valerie Stimac

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    answered by

    Let's see if I can add anything to Tony's awesome answer. I just drove up the California coast at the end of June/beginning of July, so most of my stops will be in CA. I'd highly recommend taking CA State Highway 1/the 101 to get the real experience.

    Over the course of four days, I hit the following cities for stops: Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Redwood City and Crescent City (each was an overnight.

    Honestly, between LA and SB, there's not a ton, but if you've never been to LA (as I hadn't been), I'd recommend taking in the Hollywood Walk of Fame and strolling along Venice Beach and Boardwalk. I actually walked all the way from Santa Monica Pier to Venice Beach, which I wouldn't recommend, unless you love exercise...

    In Santa Barbara, I did Stearns Wharf, climbed to the top of the Santa Barbara County Office Courthouse tower, and Old Mission Santa Barbara. (Another #shamelessplug: 'Charmed in Santa Barbara')

    Turning north from SB, things get interesting. Make a stop at Pismo State Beach to stretch your legs and dip toes in the cold Pacific--this is no longer SoCal!

    Stop and see the elephant seals at Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery! This is definitely one of the coolest things I had never experienced before!

    Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal RookeryAlso try and find a way to visit Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel (not the actual hostel, visit the lighthouse) before you turn inland toward SF.Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel

    North of SF, be sure, as Tony says, to stop off at Point Reyes Station. Make sure you don't try and go to the lighthouse on Tuesday or Wednesday, as it's closed and you'll have driven a long way for nothing! Actually, I would skip staying in SF and drive up to this part of Cali for the night--there's a lot to explore, and you'll want to take the time to enjoy it. Once you turn north again, stop at Nick's Cove & Cottages for BBQ oysters, or as I had, fish & chips--I was even sitting out on the pier to eat the freshly caught fish!

    Carry on north--I was rushing this part of my drive to get to Crescent City, but there are some really cool things:


    So that may not fit with your itinerary as you've sketched it out, but there's a bunch more to add to the list! Have a great trip--let me know when you're in Seattle!!

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    • Valerie A.

      Valerie A.

      Pigeon Point! Went there on a field trip when I was in the 5th grade :) so much fun, I loved it. · (1 likelikes)

    • Joanna R.

      Joanna R.

      Thanks Valerie! This is great! I actually used to live in Los Angeles so I know what to do there and I have to stop in SF for some bizzzz, but I've never been to the in betweens and this time I'm dog-less so it should be easier for me to move around! I'm so excited about this and I can't wait!!!! · (2 likelikes)

    Mentioned in this answer:

    1. Los Angeles (city)
    2. Santa Barbara (city)
    3. Redwood City (city)
    4. Crescent City (city)
    5. Hollywood Walk of Fame (attraction)
    6. Venice Beach Boardwalk (attraction)
    7. Santa Monica Pier (attraction)
    8. Stearns Wharf (attraction)
    9. Santa Barbara County Office (attraction)
    10. Old Mission Santa Barbara (attraction)
    11. Pismo State Beach (attraction)
    12. Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery (attraction)
    13. Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel (attraction)
    14. Point Reyes Station (city)
    15. Nick's Cove & Cottages (restaurant)
    16. Point Arena Lighthouse and Museum (hotel)
    17. Glass Beach (attraction)
    18. Drive-Thru Tree Park (attraction)

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  • Lee Jacobs

    answered by

    Without knowing what activities you like I would suggest going to visit some wineries in Paso Robles just 20 minutes from Hearst Castle. Continuing north on Hwy 1 to Big Sur stop at Napenthe Restaurant (on west side of PCH) for a magnificent view. Hiking in Big Sur is great. Stop along the coast to see the seal colonies. Monterey and Carmel (California)are great to visit if you haven't been there.

    On the Oregon border there are all sorts of hikes through the redwoods. Even a quick walk is worthwhile, the trees are amazing.

    If you are driving on Hwy 1 through Oregon try going dune buggy riding in Florence (Oregon), it's so unique and lots of fun. Try doing a jet boat on the Rogue River. Further north the coast of Oregon is great to stop and enjoy the views. When you get to Astoria don't miss the Maritime Memorial.

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    • Joanna R.

      Joanna R.

      Thank you Lee, these are great tips! · (0 likelikes)

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    2. Napenthe Restaurant (restaurant)
    3. Monterey (city)
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    6. Rogue River (city)
    7. Astoria (city)
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  • Matt B

    answered by

    You asked how to spend your time in Big Sur. From our two nights there, five memories stand out as among the best we've ever had while traveling.

    • Driving. Simply drive up and down Highway 1. It's the most stunning seashore I've ever seen.
    • Breakfast at Deetjen's Big Sur Inn. Amazing food in an atmosphere that captures the relaxed lifestyle perfectly.
    • Lunch at Nepenthe, which does the same thing as Deetjen's, only outdoors, and with an amazing view.
    • Dinner at the Post Ranch Inn. Pricey, though.
    • Midnight bathing at the Esalen Institute. This is something you really can't miss. More info here, with one key piece of information missing: clothing is optional.Esalen

    We love hiking, and we did some good ones. But the hikes did not compare to the above items.

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    • Joanna R.

      Joanna R.

      Thank you Matthew, this is super helpful! And I'm not a fan of hiking, but more exactly what you just described! · (0 likelikes)

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    3. Nepenthe (restaurant)
    4. Post Ranch Inn (restaurant)
    5. Esalen (attraction)

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  • Sandrine Photographer

    answered by

    I did a roadtrip from Portland to San Diego last year at about the same time of year...

    I would suggest you to see all the lighthouse on Oregon coast because they are beautiful...

    You can check my trip and photos related on my blog here :

    http://sandrineboutry.com/en/my-roadtrip-from-portland-or-to-san-diego-ca-along-the-pacific-coast/


    I'm kind of jalous of your itinirerary, this was the best thing I've did and seen in my life :)


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  • Felix Werewolf

    answered by

    This might be obvious, but in case it's not, once you are in California, you should definitely take the 101 and not the mind-numbingly boring (thought slightly faster) I-5. The 101 through Northern California is one of the greatest drives I know of.

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  • Jean Pinsard

    answered by

    Hello Joanna I can't help you for the whole trip (one of my future plans) but only for the LA - San Francisco section.

    First thing is of course take the coast road, the highway One. From Los Angeles, Santa Barbara is worth a visit, nice atmosphere, very different from LA.

    A little farther north you will find a beach wich is a great spot for otaries et and sea lions observation

    Then of course Big Sur, there is a pedestrian park there, nice trails, a waterwall falling in the pacific, breathtaking views.

    Carmel (California) is very nice, and just after, the seventeen miles drive from Carmel to Monterey is a fantastic road.

    Monterey Bay Aquarium is worth a visit.

    Around San francisco, the whole bay is nice, but I like specially Sausalito, and the Muir Woods Park (that you can see in the Planet of the Apes new sequels). Not too far is the wine region, Napa and Sonoma Valleys, though they just had an earthquake from what I heard.

    A visit to Palo Alto and the Stanford University is also very interesting.

    Have a good trip, Highway one is certainly one of the most beautiful roads in the world








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    Mentioned in this answer:

    1. Los Angeles (city)
    2. Santa Barbara (city)
    3. Big Sur (city)
    4. Carmel (city)
    5. Monterey (city)
    6. Monterey Bay Aquarium (attraction)
    7. Sausalito (city)
    8. Muir Woods Park (attraction)
    9. Napa (city)
    10. Sonoma (city)
    11. Palo Alto (city)
    12. Stanford University (attraction)

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