Pacific Coast HWY Roadtrip

Yes This was a trip of a lifetime, with months of planning I don’t think it could have turned out any better. Many of you asked for our itinerary so here I am to share it with you! We started out in San Diego where I live currently and headed North. It was twelve days long for me and Austin continued up and did Washington (cough cough, best state ever) for another five days.

Day One

Starting in San Diego we drove one and a half hours north to our first stop, Laguna Beach! This is my favorite beach in the Orange County area. Lots of really cute shops and restaurants. We went to Diamond Beach which is known for being a “locals beach.” It is a little more secluded with less tourists and families and a great place to walk along the beach and check out some of the little caves.


Up the coast was Huntington Beach, aka Surf City USA! We ate at Ruby’s on the Pier. A yummy little diner at the end of the pier. There are plenty of restuatants along the boardwalk, I just have always loved going to Ruby’s whenever I have visited my family in OC, so figured we’d go there. Get the chicken tenders 😉

After lunch we jumped back into the car and headed straight for Santa Monica to watch the sunset at the infamous Santa Monica Pier. Both of us had been there before so we didn’t really care to check out much of SM or Venice, but instead decided to catch the view from the ferris wheel. About $10/ person but hey why not!

Obviously at this point you can choose to stay anywhere around or outside LA or a bit north in Ventura. We loved finding unique and interesting Air BnB’s so the first one which was amazing was up in Ojai (pronounced “O-Hi”) A little tiny town up in the mountains above Ventura. Called the Ojai Outpost, it was a little cabin with the bedroom up in the loft. Highly recommend this place to get away from the hustle and bustle of LA.

Day Two

Started the morning driving up to Santa Barbara. Both of us really loved the architecture of this city. A lot of white Spanish colonial buildings make up the downtown or “funk zone” area which we spent some time walking around. We ate at Pickles & Swiss which is a great place for sandwiches and salads. One of our favorite things is ice cream and we had heard about McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams, and it definitely lived up to the hype.

Santa Barbara is also very well known for wineries if you choose to spend more time in that particular city.

The drive from Santa Barbara to San Louis Obispo is really pretty through mountains and hills. Along the way just outside of SLO is Pismo Beach. We chose not to stop but if you want something to do to get out of the car that is great place! While in SLO, we walked around the downtown. lots of very cute boutiques, shops and restaurants. Coming from Washington, I wanted to see if their gum wall rivaled that of Seattle’s and well, it did! I very much failed at blowing a bubble but details, details…
img_7272About an hour north of SLO was Morro Bay where we stayed for the night. We were lucky to have the pleasure of staying at Austin’s dad’s friends beautiful home with epic views of Morro rock and the ocean. After settling in we headed down to see Morro Rock up close, and WOW I was just mesmerized. I literally said “that’s a big rock, I like this rock.” Who knew a rock could make me so happy! After walking around the beach we watched the sunset from the marina and grabbed dinner at The Galley Seafood. Highly recommend the salmon with the mango salsa that goes on top, yummm! And you can’t go wrong with getting their cheesecake for dessert.

Day Three

This was my one of both of our favorite days. Between lunch and our accommodation and the beautiful views, Big Sur is a sight to see for anyone.

Before getting to the winding cliffs of Big Sur, we had to stop in San Simeon to see the elephant seals. Look at all that blubber
img_6272Alright, now onto Big Sur. We got there and went straight to Mcway Falls. It was about noon or so and it was already starting to fill up with tourists getting that iconic photo. While touristy, it was quite beautiful. We ended up getting better photos if you drive past the turn off going north about 1/4 mile and stop at the pull off and take photos from above.

Since it was lunch time we had heard from a local to eat at Big Sur Bakery and get the butternut squash pizza but when we got there they only serve that for dinner and since it was a Tuesday they don’t serve dinner till Wednesday during the week! Shoot. But it all worked out for the best because we had the most amazing view at Nepenthe Restaurant. The wait was about half hour but they had a ping pong table we took full advantage of. Not only were the views incredible, but the food was also delicious! Everything in Big Sur is going to be pricey because of the lack of options so just be prepared to spend a little more if you don’t pack your own food!

img_6292We were staying on the south end of Big Sur so on the way there we stopped at Limekiln Falls and did a little three mile hike. The falls weren’t big but it was nice getting out of the car and into the trees.

Treebones Resort. Somewhere we had been looking forward to staying since we started planning this trip. It met all of our expectations and then some. Rooms range from a Yurt, which we stayed in, to a treehouse, a twig hut and human nest to camping. Nestled on the side of the cliffs we took full advantage of the swing to lay in and watch the sunset. We even saw some whales! We did eat dinner there which we expected to be pricey but worth it! The BBQ chicken flatbread and Lobster Seafood pasta were both very good. They say that their food is “refined campfire cuisine” all served with fresh ingredients pulled from the garden on site. Every day other than Mondays and Tuesdays they have a sushi bar, and for $90/ person you get a 14 course “trust the chef” tasting of whatever he whips up. Unfortunately we were there on a Tuesday, so if you are going to Big Sur, try to avoid Mondays and Tuesday because it seems like most things start to open up more on Wednesdays!

*In Big Sur you will not have cell phone reception, enjoy being unplugged for some time and enjoy the outdoors.

Day Four

When staying at Treebones they serve breakfast so we kicked off day 4 which we knew would be lots of driving with some grub.

Going up the CA 1 you hit Bixby Bridge which we were underwhelmed with it being covered in construction. We continued up through Monterrey (s/o to any Big Little Lies fans)  and onto the 17 mile scenic drive. The only place we stopped off on the drive was to see The Lone Cypress.


Next up the road was Shark Fin Cove. I found this spot from a blogger off Pinterest, and I’m glad I did, it was incredible! Shark Fin Cove is in Davenport which makes for a nice stop on the way up to San Francisco.

Once getting to San Francisco we were quite hungry from skipping lunch. We stopped at the ever so touristy Fisherman’s Wharf. I got a lobster roll which surprisingly was stuffed with crab not lobster, while Austin got a clam chowder bread bowl. You’re in San Fran, gotta get a bread bowl! From there we walked up to Lombard street and saw a cable car along the way. Its quite steep to get up there so wear your walking shoes! After making a pit stop at the Mrs. Doubtfire House and the Painted Ladies we went to Land’s End to watch the sunset. We hooked up the hammock and had a nice hour or so chilling and relaxing which was needed after hours in the car.

gptempdownload_8**S/O to my girl Dani for these next few recommendations because they made our SanFran stop one to remember! We both aren’t big city folk and would rather be out in some trees or mountains but we had a great night eating at El Techo (careful the Margaritas are quite strong!) and playing mini golf at Urban Putt. HIGHLY recommend both of those which are only a few blocks away from each other.

Accommodation for the night was camping at bicentennial campground in Marin Headlands on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge. We were the only people there so had the entire site to ourselves.

Day Five 

The day before Austin had told me we were waking up at 0530 for a surprise.. well let me tell ya, what a surprise it was! We started the day in a hot air balloon over Napa Valley. This was such an incredible experience, there is no other feeling like floating peacefully up in the sky watching the sunrise. Since this was my second time in a hot air balloon I was able to fully take in everything and just sit back and enjoy the views. I asked Austin multiple times along the trip up until the end and this whole day was by far his favorite. I mean can you blame him look at these pictures!

Following the hot air balloon ride, you had the option to pay for a brunch and bubbles at the winery, which was delicious! We were able to sit down and chat with our hot air balloon pilot for a bit. He’s been doing this for years all over ranging from Albuquerque to Temecula and up into Napa! We went through Napa Valley Aloft, which I thought did a better job of an overall experience than that of the balloon ride I took in Temecula earlier this summer.

After an exhilarating early morning it was time to hop back in the car and head three hours north to Glass beach in Fort Bragg. I had high expectations from seeing pictures of Glass beach, well they say insta vs. reality and in this case that was the best way to describe it. Over the years people has taken a lot of the glass away from the beach and its left with mostly pebbles and small pieces if you are lucky enough to find.

Don’t worry, our let down was easily fixed with some ice cream at Cowlick’s on the main street of Fort Bragg. We also stopped at The Outdoors Store to grab a few things for future camping up in Oregon.


Another three hours in the car landed us at Avenue of the Giants. I think both of us would agree that this spiked our interest more than when we were in the Redwoods themselves. The trees were just so massive and grandeur that it was an awe to stare up into the treetops. Fun fact, I got my next contract job offer while sitting in the car waiting to frolic through the trees! But I’ll get to that later 😉

Accommodation for the night was about an hour north in Arcata, CA. We stopped in Humboldt for dinner which ended up being BBQ from Humboldt Smokehouse. In a smaller town, there weren’t many choices but Yelp did not let us down and the BBQ hit the spot!

This Air BnB was also quite unique. Called “The Hangout Hidden Bath and Oasis” it offered a variety of little baths all special in their own way. We were quite tired from driving so we didn’t explore much of the property but it was cute! There are a few different suites you can book.


Day Six

It was a very eerie cold morning which meant we were getting further north, almost to Oregon!

We headed into Redwood National Park. We stopped at a couple different places hoping for a nice little trail. To our surprise the trees were more lush covered in greenery and moss compared to Avenue of the Giants. It felt a lot like being back up in the Pacific Northwest.

We ate lunch in Crescent City at North Coast Grill, which had a nice view of the water from their patio. Heads up, if you are heading from the redwoods north there aren’t many cities so I would take advantage of eating in Crescent City if you can.


WELCOME TO OREGON! One state down, one to go!

Our plan was to get to Crater Lake and back country camp but due to timing issues we ended up staying in Prospect which is right outside of Crater Lake.

* Here is another place where you will not have cell phone reception.

We strolled along the path around Natural Bridge which consists of lava tubes from when Crater lake was formed. It definitely is a quirk of nature. It’s basically where the Rogue River flowed through an ancient lava tube causing most of the raging river to disappear before re-emerging through caves as springs often near or over small waterfalls.


We stayed at the Union Creek Resort which more adorable cabins rather than a resort per say. We ate dinner at Beckie’s Café which if you do go there, try one of the many pie options for dessert! Can you tell we like to splurge on sweets?
img_6641Look at that cute little cabin!

Day Seven

Wake up call was 7am so we could drive the hour to Crater Lake and beat the crowds. Glad we did because upon exiting plenty of cars were just then entering around 9/10am

I really wanted to do one of the many peak hikes around Crater so I chose Garfield Peak which is about 3.8 miles. A mild 1000ft elevation gain but I was definitely huffing and puffing after spending a week in a car!

It was time to chase some waterfalls!

An hour up the road was Watson Falls. A nice mile hike to some of the most lush scenery we had seen thus far!


Toketee Falls was a bit underwhelming. We thought we’d be able to get closer to the waterfall but it’s also a one mile trail and leads you to an outlook. Lots of tourists! Still pretty though!

img_6743Unfortunately with it being Saturday, one of the things I had been looking forward to was relaxing at Umpqua Hot Springs. Well, it was packed and we never got in. Word to the wise, if you go on the weekend you will run into lots of old naked men and a lot of pot smoking!

An hour and a half or so northwest towards Eugene was where we stayed for the night.

We ate dinner at King Estate Winery. This was probably one of my favorite meals. From the charcuterie board to their filet mignon and scallops we were delightfully full. The vineyard was full of fall colors which made for a lovely pre-dinner view with a glass of wine.


I cannot rave about our accommodation for the night enough. Lanzarotta Bed and Breakfast was so quaint and cute. Beth and Mark have lived in the area for years and turned their house that they made themselves out of the wood around their property into their dream since they met! On the map in the hallway has pins of people from all over the world that have stayed there. Outside of its amenities, location and beautiful woodwork, they serve an AMAZING breakfast. On the menu for us was oven baked maple pecan French toast, roasted potatoes and bacon. It was sensational!


Day Eight

After breakfast we headed back west to the coast. First stop was in Florence to sandboard and shred the gnar on some dunes! We rented boards from Sand Master Park which was nice because they had some beginner dunes to get our feet wet, or well sandy.

After a few runs we headed to Honeyman State Park. If you are used to snowboarding like me it’s hard to transition because unlike snowboarding you do all of your steering on your back foot when it comes to sand boarding. Let’s just say Austin did a much better job than I did.


After dusting the sand off of us we went north and stopped at Cape Perpetua and Thor’s Well. When you go on trips and don’t plan every stop around timing you are bound for disappointment. We didn’t take into account the tide when stopping at Thor’s Well and we missed the water gushing into it, but no matter what it was still cool to see nature’s wonders at its finest.

We stayed in Lincoln City for the evening. We picked up some Salmon, shrimp and asparagus from a grocery store and cooked dinner in our adorable Air BnB. The “Olivia Beach Wind Sailor Cabin” had the best amenities out of all of the places we stayed. Bikes, a campfire equipped with all smores essentials and even a jacuzzi for the chilly Oregon coast evening. We both really enjoyed this spot.


Day Nine 

We had planned on riding bikes along the coast but it was so foggy we could barely even see to the water. Lincoln City has a nice little outlet mall we stopped at for a bit that morning.

We ate lunch at Pelican Brewery in Tillamook. As a girl who went to school at UW Madison and lived in Wisconsin for eight years, I FINALLY found cheese curds out her on the west coast. So, any of you Midwesterners taking this trip, here’s your go-to for all things cheese curdy!

You can’t make a stop in Tillamook without checking out the creamery and how the cheese and ice cream is made. And obviously we both had to get ice cream cones!

From there our plan was to camp at Cannon Beach but we quickly found out you can’t and made a last minute booking at The Hallmark there on the beach. It was so foggy that we could not even see Haystack Rock until we got within fifty feet of it. Still made for some of my favorite pics of the trip.

We ate dinner at Driftwood Kitchen. Talk about bringing out the Halloween spirit and kid in both of us. Following dinner we carved a pumpkin and both got free t-shirts! Humble brag, but I think we did a great job commemorating our trip when it came to our pumpkin.

Day Ten

From our room we were FINALLY able to see Haystack rock with the fog clearing up that morning. We spent the morning walking along the beach before heading east for our day exploring Mt. Hood.

From Cannon Beach it is about two and a half hours to get to Mt. Hood. The plan was to camp at Trillium Lake but like most of our luck when it came to camping the campground was closed! Luckily we ended up finding Lost Creek Campground which turned out to be pretty great. Trillium lake had some of the most beautiful views of Mt. Hood. When we first arrived the water was very still so the reflections in the water were magnificent but then mother nature kicked up the wind so we headed out for our hike.


Our hike was up to Mirror Lake  which is about 4 miles out and back. We hooked up the hammock and basked in the views along the banks of the lake staring up at Mt. Hood. Talk about relaxing!

Then it was back to the campsite to set up and settle in for the chilly night!

Day Eleven

This was my last full day before flying out of Portland the next day and Austin heading up to Washington.

We ate breakfast in Government Camp at High Mountain Café. If only we knew the night before when we spent four hours sitting at our campsite that they had an entire arcade room we could’ve brought out both of our competitive sides!

On the northwest side of Mt. Hood is Ramona Falls. A seven mile loop trail to a tiered waterfall. It is a very easy trail despite being seven miles. You do have to cross the river but this time of year it was very low and previous people had rigged up a log to cross over.

We drove up to Multnomah falls which although a beautiful waterfall is a tourist trap seeing as its right off the highway! An easy stop if you are wanting to stretch your legs a bit.


We then checked into our Air Bnb for the night in Camas Washington. Yes, I got to cross over into the BEST STATE EVER! The “Romantic Retreat, a tiny home experience” was adorable and both of us agreed we could totally live out of a tiny home with basic necessities and minimalism. There isn’t much to do in Camas however. We did spend some of the afternoon relaxing at the park on the banks of the Columbia River.

Dinner for the night was in Portland which is only twenty minutes across the river. We ate At Por que No Taqueria. I recommend the pomegranate margarita. After dinner we spent the night at Punchbowl Social bowling and just enjoying our last night together on the trip.

Day Twelve

We ate brunch at Tasty N Alder, a restaurant based off family style sharing of tapas and small entrees. Very delicious! We sat at a community table with other couples and groups right next to us.

I obviously had to get coffee while in Portland, and Austin got a Chai Tea at Heart. A very modern hipster coffee shop.


Then it was time for me to hop on a plane to St. Louis for one of my best friend’s wedding and for Austin to head north to Leavenworth, WA. Looking back over this entire trip I can easily say all the hard work and research putting it together was beyond worth it, in twelve days we drove 2,500 miles and made so many memories. This was a trip of a lifetime for the both of us and it could not have gone any better.  Somehow didn’t kill each other after spending that much time in a car, so I guess we did something right. See ya when I see ya kid, but lets not make it too long 😉

RIP to our little pumpkin Jimmy we adopted along the way, you had a very short uneventful life spent mostly in my Camelback and the car.

As for me and the contract I signed while on the trip… I couldn’t go somewhere cold for January so I am heading over to Phoenix, Arizona for some hiking, golf and spring training! Bring on the desert!

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