Ever since Allen and I moved to Los Angeles, we’ve had a West Coast-Pacific Northwest road trip high on our bucket list. I wanted to experience firsthand the cliffs overlooking the ocean, the dense forests, and the dreamy Pacific mist.
Planning a Pacific Northwest Road Trip
So, when our beautiful friends, Sarah and Phil, announced they were moving from Bellingham, Washington to Montana, we knew we had to get this trip on the books ASAP. No more “We’ll go next summer!”––the time was now! Plus, it’s only 1,200 miles away from LA, right?!
With a week carved out on our calendars, we sat down to talk about what we wanted out of this road trip introduction to the West Coast. We used roadtrippers.com to scope out a few sights, but left plenty of room for spontaneity. The best adventures often come from those moments left unplanned!
With our routes nailed down and our Airbnbs booked, we packed our bags and hit the road from LA to Bellingham!
DAY ONE: Los Angeles to Richmond
Our goal throughout our trip was to cover as much ground as possible at night to allow for more time to explore during the day. So, armed with the classic road trip fare-–McDonald’s––and The Dream podcast, we drove 5 hours from Los Angeles to Richmond, about 25 minutes outside of San Francisco. We checked in early, early Wednesday morning, around 1:30 AM.
Tip: Whether you’re staying at an Airbnb, a bed and breakfast, or even with friends, always communicate your arrival time to your hosts!
DAY TWO: San Francisco to the Muir Woods to Eureka
We woke up Wednesday to be greeted by the most adorable house dog at our Airbnb. Is there a better way to start a day?! (Answer: definitely not!)
Grab Breakfast at St. Francis Fountain in the Mission District
After chatting with other guests staying in the house, we packed up our car and headed to San Francisco. Although we’ve only visited a few times, we have a breakfast favorite that we always fit into our itinerary. St.Francis Fountain is the oldest ice cream parlor and diner in the Mission District (100 years old!). It’s a charming, intimate, relaxed kind of place––plus, the food is the bomb dot com. Allen ordered the Country Breakfast and I got an egg sandwich (with an iced coffee, of course).
Explore Muir Woods National Monument
Full and happy from breakfast, we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge into Marin County and made our way into the ancient redwood forest of Muir Woods. Allen and I are both big fans of the mountaineer/activist/writer John Muir, so we were excited to immerse ourselves in the tremendous beauty of this National Monument. John Muir is known as “Father of the National Parks” and was a huge environmental advocate around the turn of the century. Even if you don’t know his name, you would immediately recognize his quotes from National Parks posters.
Tip: The entrance fee to Muir Woods is $15 and you must reserve parking or seats on the shuttle! Click here for more info.
We spent about 2 and a half hours wandering through the different trails. It was an absolute wonderland. Gorgeous, colossal redwoods and trails hug the sides of the hills, surprising you when you find yourself unexpectedly 100 feet from the forest floor.
Head North on the 101 to Eureka
Still in awe of the 800-year old redwoods, we jumped back into the car and headed north on the 101. We stopped at the Chipotle and Target in Petaluma, CA (10/10 for both) and then finished our drive to our next stop, a farmhouse Airbnb in Eureka, CA.
DAY THREE: Eureka to Klamath, CA to Oregon
City Airbnbs may be convenient, but you can’t beat waking up in an idyllic farmhouse to the sound of roosters––and a cat that crept its way into the room at some point during the night. (Are you noticing a trend? I’m a BIG fan of Airbnb animals).
Spend the Morning in Old Town Eureka
We’ve always been so lucky to enjoy the kindest, sweetest Airbnb hosts and Eureka was no exception. We spent some time chatting with our host, who recommended we head into Old Town Eureka for breakfast at Los Bagels. Working with our rural theme, we both ordered the farm scramble (10/10!).
After breakfast, we walked across the street to Bookleggers, a bookstore carrying used and new books. The space was so beautiful, I could have spent the whole day getting lost in its shelves! For you Florida natives, Old Town reminded me and Allen of Cocoa Village, a charming area in our hometown filled with rich history, bustling cafes, and intriguing little shops.
Stop at Wedding Rock at Patrick’s Point State Park
We then headed north to Patrick’s Point State Park. It looked super rad on Roadtrippers, so we decided to check it out! We hiked a short trail to Wedding Rock, a stunning overlook that was straight out of Game of Thrones. Nature is at its most impressive and forceful here. There are rock formations jutting out of the sea and man-made stairs and landings created solely to take in the views. It was a fantastic short stop on our trip.
Drive Through the Tour-Thru Tree
Unique, off-the-beaten path spots are awesome. But, you have to appreciate the touristy must-sees, too. It’s all about balance! So, we headed up the coast to Klamath, CA to experience the iconic Tour-Thru Tree. Yes, it’s a tree you can drive your own car through.
As a warning, service can be a bit spotty in this area and it took us a while to locate the exact spot of the tree. With a few exciting (scary?!) detours behind us, we finally arrived at the tree to find a sign on the attendant’s window. “Quick Errand. Toll in Slot (WALL). Thanks.” And, under that notice, “We Trust You!”
Now’s the time for a confession. We only had $3. DON’T TELL! The tree was 100% worth $5!
We were the only ones there, so we took our time admiring the immense scale of the Tour-Thru Tree. It’s crazy how large it is.
Also, an interesting fact: it’s called the Tour-Thru Tree to avoid legal entanglements with the Drive Thru Tree in Leggett, CA.
Tip: Always keep small bills on hand for tolls and unexpected purchases!
It started to rain as we made our way to our next stop, The Trees of Mystery. We made a game-time decision to skip the mysterious trees (it was $18 a person and our day was moving quickly), but we did snap a few pictures with the giant 50 and 35-foot statues of Paul Bunyan and his blue ox, Babe. We also grabbed a few forest souvenirs at their amazing gift shop!
Continuing on to Oregon
We continued our drive north to Oregon and decided on dinner at a place called Pastries & Pizza in Bandon, Oregon. However, right after we put in our order, we realized we’d hit a snag in our travel plans. Think back to my note on the first day about communicating arrival times to hosts…well, our next stay in Tillamook, OR was not prepared to accommodate a late check-in.
Unfortunately, that meant we had to cancel our pizza order, grab pastries instead (pizza…pastries…they had it all!), including a few as an apology gift for our host. The owner of the pizza place couldn’t have been nicer and even threw in extra cookies to take on the road.
DAY FOUR: Tillamook, OR
Our next Airbnb was a sleek airstream right on the water in Tillamook. After a restful night in this tiny (efficient!) space, we continued on our journey north. First mission: find coffee. We stopped at Pacific Edge Espresso and ordered bagels and lattes while chatting with the quintessentially PNW-hip baristas. Our plan for the day was relatively open, so they recommended visiting Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock.
Visit Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock
They did NOT steer us wrong. Cannon Beach was one of the most incredible places I have ever seen. It was heaven. I literally stepped out of the car to see 4 bunnies chilling in someone’s lawn. Heaven.
We then parked on a random street and trekked down the beach to see Haystack Rock. It is HUGE! According to Wikipedia, locals claim that the 235-foot tall Haystack Rock is the third tallest intertidal structure in the world. It was breathtaking. Not to mention, the weather was perfect that day. There were people playing with their dogs and kids running around making memories. Taking in the scenery and watching the locals enjoy themselves was one of my favorite moments from the trip!
Tip: Talk to the locals and leave room in your itinerary to discover new places!
Wander Through the Town of Astoria, OR
Feeling so content from a morning spent admiring nature, we continued up the coast to Astoria, a town that a Facebook friend recommended when I posted about our trip. We found ourselves at Fort George Brewery, which I can’t recommend enough. This place was so freaking cool. The beer selection was wonderful, the food was delicious, and there was original art decorating the entire space. We split a flight of beers, ordered fish tacos, and reflected on a day well spent.
Afterwards, we walked around the town of Astoria, popping in crystal shops, apothecaries, and other interesting storefronts. This town is definitely going on my list of places to return!
On to Our Final Destination
We left Astoria to continue on our way to the Evergreen State and, finally, to our friend’s house in Ferndale, Washington. Stay tuned for more from our travel diary of a Pacific Northwest Road Trip!