Highway 101 is one of the main arteries along Pacific Coast. There are other iconic road trips. There are more scenic (Lost Coast, Highway 1). There are quicker (Highway 5). But, particularly in the Pacific Northwest, Highway 101 is a great way to hit rainforests, rivers, breweries, beaches, and plenty more. Set aside 2.5 weeks for a road trip to get from Seattle to San Francisco for maximum joy and minimum stress. Obviously, you can do less in less time. Road trips are about knowing your limits :>
Highlights Seattle, Olympic National Park, and Cape Disappointment
Mom & Dad: Seattle is a great place to start. This city is fairly walkable. Given the number of coffee shops, your caffeinated self will have all the vigor needed to hike up the hills. While Seattle is a wonderful place for art, we also enjoyed the broad range of museums from the Pinball Museum to the Living Computers: Museum & Labs.
Girls: We loved the variety of cool ice cream shops. We also made a game of trying to find the space needle from around town. We found it from the sculpture garden, from Ferris wheel, and from Museum of History and Industry.
Olympic National Park
Mom & Dad: This extraordinary national park has so much variety, unspoiled beaches, hot springs, rain forests, and ridge trails. You could spend a solid week being in a completely different environment each day.
Girls: This was a great place because you can earn a badge AND a patch for doing an activity book. Also, you can sleep ON A BEACH. We were on the beach by ourselves, and we made a fire from driftwood. Waking up on the beach was amazing.
Mom & Dad: We went to Cape Disappointment after driving long beach. We were tired. We had done Cape Flattery, in northern Washington a few days earlier. And, while we can say that we have been to the furthest West point in the state, we weren’t impressed with Cape Flattery. With this low level of expectation, we parked at Cape Disappointment. I assure you that it was absolutely not a disappointment. This lovely little park has amazing views of the Pacific and the Columbia River.
Girls: We loved running around the park. We ran all the way to the lighthouse, but it was under construction. The ocean was really pretty here–SUPER BLUE.
Highlights: Astoria, Heceta Head Lighthouse, Oregon Dunes
Mom & Dad: After a 4.1 mile drive across the Columbia River on the Astoria-Megler Bridge, we found ourselves dumped into the cutest of cute towns complete with river trolley and Victorian architecture. If our time in Washington was marked, stereotypically, by coffee, then our time in Oregon was characterized by locally brewed beer. And, Astoria is so walkable, we tried three different brewers and made it home just in time for sunsets.
Girls: Astoria had a lot of wonderful ice cream shops, including ice cream and french fries. One of the restaurants [Bouy Brewery] has a glass floor to watch sea lions, which is cool.
Beaches, Beaches, Beaches
Mom & Dad: We somehow have beach bunnies for children, strange given our aversion to bathing suits and sand. But, after a decade of vacations, we have become inadvertent beach junkies. The Oregon coast provided plenty of opportunities to try beaches of all kinds. The northern beaches, like Cannon, were blanketed in fog when we were there. The southern beaches were so emerald that we felt as if we were in Hawaii. I can’t single out a single beach. But, this one in the picture is one of the most famous, with the oft-photographed Haceta Head perched on the cliff above.
Girls: We loved the beaches that were connected to creeks; those had the best rocks. We think we found agate, but we need to polish them to make sure. Our favorite beach was Agate beach because of the dunes. We have never felt sand so soft. But, there was no agate on Agate Beach if you were wondering.
Mom & Dad: The dunes are lovely but we were very careful to stay in protected areas. There were other people wandering around, but we stayed on the trail. Even if you stay on the trail, you will can a view of miles of dunes stretching along the Pacific Coast.
Girls: The dunes were super soft, with little plants growing out of it. There were birds living in this lovely blue pond [in the middle of the picture] but we didn’t go there.
California North Coast:
Redwood National Park & Avenue of Giants
M0m & Dad: A good chunk of the North Coast is populated by enormous redwoods. Redwood National Park includes both the National Park and some State Parks. Along with that, further south, just off the 101, the Avenue of Giants allows you to enjoy drive underneath these verdant bohemoths.
Girls: The redwoods were very cool. They were so big, and there were at least three kinds. We counted tree rings and got another badge.
M0m & Dad: Ferns were our favorite vegetation of northern California. (Sssh, don’t tell the redwoods.) We camped into the Fern forest and hiked through the fern canyon.
Girls: We loved camping with the ferns because you could hear the stream behind them.
M0m & Dad: The lost coast is lost for a reason. Motion sickness is just a phrase until you take a trip down the lost coast. But, if you take enough Dramamine, it will take you to one of the best views in Nothern California. Shelter Cove is a beautiful black sand beach. It is rugged and unsafe for swimming. But, just taking in the scenery is worth it.
Girls: This beach was amazing! It had great rocks, and there was a sign about all the ways people died here. [We avoided all deadly activities]. There were sharks and rip tides.