With summer on the way, a trip through some of the USA’s best and most beautiful coastline surely is the best choice for your next holiday. The west coast has a contagious free-spirited character, and you’ll get lost in the number of natural parks and nature preserves to be seen. We’ll start in the north and work our way down to San Diego, so buckle your seatbelts.
Known for its diverse cultural scene, Seattle has a unique and progressive feel about it. Explore the nightlife and counterculture of its Capitol Hill district, and spend your days strolling through the pretty streets in and around Queen Anne. Why not have a picnic at the picturesque Kerry Park, and enjoy stunning views of the city’s famous Space Needle observation tower. Kids will love a ride in the Great Wheel, which is especially beautiful at night.
Olympic National Park
Washington’s Olympic National Park is a vast natural playground with a unique ecosystem. Hurricane Ridge is covered in beautiful wildflowers during the summer, and you’ll find yourself in awe of Lake Crescent’s natural beauty. Take a hike through the lower forests and creeks, and try taking the family kayaking on the serene lake for a restorative experience.
Once you’ve crossed the wide mouth of the Columbia River, you’ll arrive in Astoria, Columbia. This city has a population of around 10,000, and an eventful history as the first US settlement west of Mississippi. Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and lavish green fir trees, Astoria is a pleasant stop on your road trip for its foodie restaurants and idyllic Victorian buildings.
Ecola State Park
Driving south of Astoria will take you along the iconic route 101, and you’ll be passing some of Oregon’s most beautiful coastline. One of the most photographed spots on Oregon’s coast is the Ecola State Park. A seven mile trail, this protected area boasts views of Haystack Rock, a 72 metre-high sea stack at Canon Beach.
For 40 miles the Oregon coastline is dominated by the Oregon Dunes. This ever-changing landscape is shaped by strong coastal winds, and it’s a great place to spot local wildlife. Some dunes reach up to 500 feet above sea level and there are designated areas to drive off-highway vehicles. Go hiking around the nearby forests, or take a relaxing break to enjoy the area’s plentiful fishing opportunities.
Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor
After the vast Oregon Dunes, you’ll pass through the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor. This protected area is a 12-mile stretch of natural beauty with vistas, cove beaches, prairies, and rugged coastal features. Check out the historic shell middens, and learn about what life was like for the Native Americans who once lived here.
Once you’ve crossed the border into California, you’ll reach the stunning Redwood National Park, before reaching Arcata. This charming university town is home to idyllic antiquated architecture, and nearby you’ll find sparsely-populated beaches that will make you feel as though you’ve stepped into your own private sanctuary.
Pick up some delicious seafood at Bodega Bay, where Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’ was filmed, and enjoy the sights and sounds of San Francisco before landing in Pacifica. Regarded as a coastal treasure, Pacifica is popular with visitors due to its Mediterranean-style weather, hippie ambience and natural beauty. Despite this, the area maintains its original charm.
Proud of its counterculture mentality, Santa Cruz has a new-age feel that is associated with much of America’s west coast. It’s a liberal, fun and sometimes hectic city, with a fairly large student population. Go for a walk down the famous boardwalk, and take a ride on the Giant Dipper rollercoaster. You can even join the local surfing culture by taking some surf lessons at the Main Beach.
So you’ve passed Monterey Bay, and you might have even stopped off at its world-class aquarium. Once you’ve driven down the famous Big Sur, you’ll end up in Cambria. After you’ve walked down Main Street, check out the stunning Moonstone Beach, which is dotted with historic ruins. Just north of Cambria, you’ll find Hearst Castle, which is one of the area’s most popular historical landmarks.
South of Cambria you’ll pass the traditional Californian town of Cayucos, before reaching Santa Barbara. This affluent part of the coast is terribly pretty, sitting between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains. Hang out and have lunch at the harbour, watching yachts as they pass by, and be sure to check out the stunning courthouse building and impressive museum of art.
Once you’ve passed Ventura, Malibu is somewhere you have to visit for its reputation alone. Rub shoulders with celebrities, stretch your legs on the miles of white golden sands, and enjoy views over the ocean at Malibu Bluffs Park. In the summer, Malibu’s beaches shine, but try to get the car parked early to avoid high rates.
You’ve visited the grand, the chic and the unconventional, and now it’s time to see the understated. Carlsbad is home to the Legoland theme park, but there’s so much more to appreciate here, especially if you’re travelling with the family. Just south of Carlsbad, you’ll find Batiquitos Lagoon, an area of rare tidal wetlands, and in the town itself there are some lovely shopping opportunities.
This is the final leg of your trip, and where better to finish than ‘America’s Finest City’. San Diego is a clean and friendly place, and although the laid-back vibes here aren’t as radical as those found further north, it’s one of the most relaxing places on your itinerary. The restaurants here are of a consistently high quality, and if you’re after some surf lessons, go north of the city to La Jolla where the beaches are among the best on the west coast.
Whether you’re headed north or south, you can take this road trip apart or drive the whole hog for the holiday of a lifetime. It’s up to you.