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Plan an Epic West Coast Road Trip: The Stops

In a couple weeks I’ll be leaving to take a road trip down the west coast of the U.S.

life is either a daring adventure or nothing - helen keller inspirational quoteAnd so I might be bombarding you guys with all info road trip-related for the next week or so. Sorrynotsorry.

The plan is to go through Washington, Oregon and California, focusing on the coastal highways like Highway 1 (aka the Pacific Coast Highway) and U.S. Highway 101.

Get some road trip inspiration with these videos

I’ve put together a list of things I’d like to see along the way, and after the road trip I’m going to post photos and descriptions of the places I actually get to. Since this is a West Coast road trip, I’m trying to stick to the literal coastal roads as much as possible. They’re a little slower, but the view should be worth it.

Car camping will be our main type of accommodation. Hopefully this means we’ll get to chill on or near some beaches, maybe a bonfire or two, who knows!

The west coast road trip itinerary:


1. Skyline Drive-In (Shelton)

The Skyline Drive-In is a little Northwest of Olympia. I’ve never been to a drive-in movie theater, but I always thought it sounded fun. Hopefully this trip it’ll happen.

My friend and I are hoping to see Suicide Squad somewhere along the trip since it’ll be released around the same time. I’m not sure if they’ll have it here, but I have another movie theater on the list too!

2. Satsop Abandoned Nuclear Power Plant

This thing looks really cool. It’s a nuclear power plant that was never finished, so now serves as a rentable movie set (Transformers: Age of Extinction filmed some scenes here) or military training ground.

You might think I’m weird but Chernobyl has been at the top of my bucket list forever, so I’m pretty psyched about this one.

3. Cape Disappointment

You’ve heard of Cape Fear, now get ready for – CAPE DISAPPOINTMENT.

I’ve literally put this one on the list because I feel like we need a frowny selfie here. Call me dumb if you want. I think I’m hilarious.


Pike’s Place Market – Seattle attraction

The Space Needle – Seattle attraction

Forks – The town where the Twilight series takes place

Mt. Ranier National Park – outdoorsy activities

Orcas (town) – whale watching, hiking, ect.


A video with Oregon highlights (some that I’ll be hitting)


4. Clatsop County Jail (Astoria)

I’m not actually hoping to see the inside of the Astoria Jail. I’m actually hoping to see the Oregon Film Museum. Above the front door is the “county jail” sign. The reason I really want to see it? It was used as a filming location for one of the greatest adventure movies ever: The Goonies!

5. Peter Iredale Shipwreck (Warrenton)

Apparently Peter Iredale wasn’t the name of a person, it was the name of the ship itself. A ship that wrecked on the Oregon coast in 1906 and just… stayed there. It’s still on the beach and you can walk up to the remains.

Sounds like a cool spot for some long-exposure photography to me 😀

6. Cannon Beach

One of the the main reasons to do a West Coast road trip is the beaches, amiright? I looove being around water, and so a lot of my stops are at or around different beaches along the West Coast. Cannon Beach is a city, but has some really cool beaches, including what looks like one of those awesome Oregon beaches where you get to see the massive rocks sticking up out of the sea.

Also, it’s another Goonies film spot! Yaaaassss.

7. Devil’s Punchbowl (Otter Rock)

A huge opening in a rock on the Oregon coast. You can look down into the “bowl” from above, and see the seawater rush in and out. It looks like it fills with water during high tide but that you could actually walk into it during low tide.

8. Thor’s Well (Cape Perpetua)

This is just a hella cool natural formation in the rocks by the ocean outside of Yachats, Oregon. It’s a giant hole in a rock that looks like it sucks down any seawater that spills into it with the tide. I figure it’ll be a cool quick stop, and a pretty sweet photo op.

9. Sea Lion Caves (Florence)

I’ve visted the sea lion caves here once before and would like to go back. You buy a ticket and take an elevator down into the cave, where glass separates you from the main cavern where the sea lions shack up. If I remember correctly the best time to go is in the fall because when the weather gets colder the sea lions spend more time in the cave.

10. Tamolitch, The Blue Pool (Mckenzie River National Recreation Area)

This is a cool choice because it’s both an awesome stop and also a scenic drive along the Mckenzie River Scenic Byway. The water in the pool here is supposed to be really clear but also very blue. Why? How? I dunno. But I’m down for finding out.


11. Secret Beach and Thunder Rock Cove (Brookings)

The name sounds like something out of a Robert Louis Stevenson book. So, obviously, it’s on the list.


12. Redwood National Park

This includes a lot of cool detour possibilities. There are several different drives we could take through the redwood forest, and we’re planning to camp there too!

13. Minor Theatre (Arcata)

This is a seriously old theater. It’s over 100 years old, and has been kept up and used to play modern movies. I can’t tell if it’s open (it’s been under construction the last few months) but the website says that it will be opening in “spring 2016” so we’ll see

14. Drive Thru Tree

You can drive through a tree in the Redwoods (I think there might be more than one? Maybe?) so obviously, we gotta do that.

15. Avenue of Giants

The Avenue of Giants is the old highway 101. Now it’s a much slower option than the freeway, but you get to drive along the giant redwood trees, and it includes spots to drive through trees.

16. Black Sand Beach (Shelter Cove)

This just sounded cool. I didn’t even know there was a black sand beach in Cali, did you?

17. J’s Amusement Park (Guerneville)

This is an abandoned amusement park that was first opened in the 60s, but closed in 2003. I think old abandoned places are kinda fascinating (hence the fascination with Chernobyl) so it’d be cool to be able to get a look inside.


18. Big Sur

Just a sweet beach stop on a sweet West Coast road trip. Hang loose brah.

19. Pismo Beach

Just another sweet beach stop on a sweet West Coast road trip.

Jk jk, guys. There’s a specific reason I want to hi t up Pismo Beach on the California leg of this road trip. First, it’s a really nice quaint little beach in a pretty quiet area (not that it never gets busy) but secondly, in the fall there’s a group of trees at Pismo Beach that attract hundreds of Monarch butterflies. I think it’s actually the largest Monarch grove in the state.

I don’t know that we’ll be there at the right time to see them, but it’ll be a nice stop either way.

20. Solvang

Solvang is a cool little touristy town tucked away in the hills of California. The thing that makes it unique? It’s totally Danish-style aesthetic. It was founded by Danes and the buildings have been kept in that very European style. I’ve been there before and hope to go back on this road trip.

This is a loose plan for a West Coast road trip

What we end up doing for sure will depend on time and what we’re feelin’ in the moment. I’ve taken this drive before but didn’t have as much time as I wanted. If you haven’t driven up the West Coast of the U.S. I’d highly highly recommend it.

Road trip #Goals:

  • I’d really like to manage to get some good photos on this trip. Time is a little tight so I don’t expect to be able to break out all my equipment at every stop, but I’d love to get some long exposure shots of the ocean (so the waves get all misty) and some cool shots of the giant redwood trees.
  • I’d also love to be able to take those types of photos at night too for some potentially sweet star photos, now that I’ve learned a little more about it.
  • Lots of Instagramming (which shouldn’t be a problem since we’ll have lots of “downtime” while driving)
  • Compile a video of the drive
  • Get some delicious seafood
  • Hopefully get to set up a campfire or bonfire at least once – preferably on a beach
  • Watch the sunrise
  • Hug a sea lion (Just kidding. Kinda.)

Any other stops I should consider?

Washington, Oregon, California. Any places along the way that you think are must-sees?

I’m really looking forward to spending some time chillin’ out in a car with some beautiful scenery and stops along the way. Not to mention camping! Probably also gonna watch a couple horror movies like The Blair Witch Project or Willow Creek (since they take place out in nature) because who needs sleep?

Wanna keep up?

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How to plan an epic west coast road trip How to plan an Epic West Coast road trip in the U.S. - Part 1: the stops

I’ve had gelato in Italy, pizza in Egypt, crepes in Paris, and gruyere in Gruyere.
I’ve rafted rivers, climbed canyons, been lost in foreign cities – and foreign museums :P – and road trip whenever I get the chance.
I bring my camera and dog wherever I can, always looking for the next adventure, then I write about it here.
Follow along and say hi!

One Comment

  • David

    July 30, 2016 at 9:12 am

    Very nice blog you have got in there.I hope you all the best. I will follow you in Google+ and try to read your posts 🙂 Good luck. And keep traveling. I have done it a lot myself and now that I’m having a baby I will not be able to:)