Subject of songs, books, TV and many a wayward daydream, the west coast’s natural beauty, booming cities, fantastic dining and, of course, incredible weather make it a must-visit. But if you’re planning a trip, you might feel a little torn between San Diego’s beaches, Los Angeles’ food and nightlife, and Seattle’s hiking and destinations. If you’d like to see everything from the most happening city to the most ancient parks and natural wonders, there’s no better way than hitting the road up the coast in a convertible like a Mustang or a Challenger.
How do you plan for all of the West Coast’s sights, sounds and views? We’ve got ideas and more for the ultimate road trip, the classic drive from San Diego to Seattle. Take a look at our itinerary, grab a map and hit the road!
Arrive in San Diego
Maybe you’re flying into San Diego International and renting a car, maybe you’re a California local. Either way, there’s plenty to do for locals and newcomers alike in San Diego. First timers can visit the San Diego Zoo or or the city’s Safari Park, but both newcomers and natives can enjoy a trip to Sunset Cliffs to see a stunning sunset view over the ocean.
If you’ve got a little time, head out to Potato Chip Rock for a challenging uphill hike and a great view of the city. You can try your hand at surfing one of San Diego’s waves for a challenge, or kick back and order a surfer-approved California burrito, an uniquely San Diego concoction (french fries in a burrito. Need we say more?)
Drive time: 4 hours, 30 minutes (218 miles)
Exploring Santa Barbara’s gorgeous botanical gardens like the 37-acre Ganna Waltus Lotusland, might keep you busy all day, but be sure to stop in for a scoop of McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream on State Street. It’s worth the detour from your adventurous day paddling through sea caves, or exploring historic cave paintings dating back to 1600 in the Chumash Painted Caves.
Another possibility: stopping off in nearby Anaheim to, of course, visit Disneyland, just an hour and a half from San Diego in a Camaro.
Drive time: 4 hours, 40 minutes (259 miles)
One thing to keep in mind on your way to Big Sur–the drive is part of the fun. Exit off I-101 when you can and take Route 1 for an winding (and incredible) view of the California coastline, complete with seaside cliffs and misty vistas. If you can’t drive it all the way, stop off at Big Sur to see the sights–and be sure to stay in one of Treebones Resort’s treehouses or yurts for a uniquely Californian experience.
San Francisco & Shasta Lake
Drive time: 8 hours, 32 minutes (539 miles)
It’s only three hours from Big Sur to San Francisco, which makes it a perfect stop on your way to the Shasta Lake reservoir, a beautiful section of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest and a perfect place to relax and enjoy the view, or better yet, rent a houseboat.
While you’re stopping in San Francisco, stop and snap a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge, but don’t miss out on some of the city’s food and fun. There’s no shortage of things to do in San Francisco, from riding a cable car to a freshly-carved slice of prime rib at the House of Prime Rib on Van Ness Avenue. Stretch your legs and explore!
Bend & Portland
Drive time: 6 hours, 34 minutes (415 miles)
Bend might not be the first stop you’d think of on your way into Oregon, but the area’s odd climate and mix of forests, deserts, rivers and volcanic areas make it a great stop for anyone interested in West Coast’s natural scenery, but short on time to explore every national park. The area is just four and a half hours from Shasta Lake, and is additionally home to craft breweries like Deschutes and Boneyard. Stop and stay a while, and you’ll be rewarded with delicious craft brews and beautiful scenery if you got that convertible.
Just down the road you’ll find Portland, a notoriously quirky city great for a night on the town. Grab a craft cocktail at the Teardrop Lounge, or indulge in a little irony at the No Fun Bar. Afterwards, grab a bite to eat at a local thai food cart, and stay at one of the city’s boutique hotels, like Hotel Lucia.
Columbia River Gorge
Drive time: 1 hour, 9 minutes (64 miles)
As one of the last legs of the Lewis & Clark expedition, it’s appropriate that the Gorge be one of the final days of your journey up the coast. Whether hiking through the area’s redwood forests and Mount Hood, seeking out the area’s many waterfalls, rock climbing and or lounging on its sandy beaches, you’ll get a real taste of Washington’s natural wonders. You might even get in the time for a little kite surfing!
After you play, stay a while in the eminently stroll-able Hood River, a small town with brewpubs and hotels with scenic views aplenty.
Drive time: 3 hours, 34 minutes (228 miles)
Every journey must have an ending, and what better way to end than in Seattle? The city’s many coffee shops, summer music festivals and diverse neighborhoods make for a fantastic final stop. Head out to Alki Beach in West Seattle for a day outdoors, otherwise take a tour of one of the city’s distinctive neighborhoods. There’s no wrong way to experience Seattle, especially in the summer.
Categories: Budget Travel