Mastering the Art of the West Coast Road Trip

Whether you have lived in California your whole life like me, or have never seen the Pacific Ocean, a road trip along the West Coast of the USA should definitely be on your bucket list. A year ago I embarked on the 3 state, 1,400-mile-long road trip, and I am here to give you a border to border guide, from a West Coast native.


D A Y  1 // San Diego to Santa Barbara


This is a great way to start the trip, a quick jaunt up between quintessential California beach cities will put you in the perfect mood for the rest of the trip. It has great shopping, food, and surfing (obviously).

Route: I-5 North to the US-101 North
Time: 3 hours, 15 minutes
Top Stops: LA (any of the cliché LA stuff), Calabasas (if you are a Kardashian fan) or Disneyland if you are a grown up kid


D A Y  2 // Santa Barbara to Big Sur


The 1 North is the stretch of road you have been dreaming about. On the cliffs of Northern California get ready to be amazed by the natural beauty and wildlife that you will see out your car window. There is only one restaurant in Big Sur itself, but we just pitched a tent and just enjoyed the atmosphere.

Route: US-101 North to the 1 North
Time: 4 hours, 30 minutes
Top Stops: San Luis Obispo, Seal Beach, or really just pull up anywhere along the side of the road


D A Y  3 // Big Sur to San Francisco


It’s a quick trip up to San Fran and as long as you can bear people saying ‘hella’ you should have an amazing time!

Route: 101 North
Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes
Top Stops: Carmel


D A Y  4 // San Francisco to Crater Lake


What I never realized about Oregon is how huge it is! You can go up the 101 unless you are on a tight schedule. Stop off at Weed, CA though for some fresh apple pie and an explanation about why Jefferson should be the 51st State of America. Once you make it to Crater Lake, it has one of the best national parks, so definitely take the time to drive around the whole rim!

Route: I-5 North
Time: 6 hours
Top Stops: Dennys (any of them, they are all delicious); Weed, CA


D A Y  5 // Crater Lake to Seattle


The drive from Crater Lake to Seattle is pretty interesting, and I suggest you just sit back and stare out the window at the rapidly changing geography before having an excellent time in Seattle.

Route: I-5 North
Time: 6 hours, 40 minutes
Top Stops: Truck Stops… There are some really nice ones, also Burgerville for Oregon’s version of In-N-Out


D A Y  6 // Seattle to Portland


This drive is no big deal and Portland is an amazingly fun town to explore, if only for a day.

Route: I-5 South
Time: 2 hours, 40 minutes
Top Stops: come on its only 3 hours, you’re a pro by now!


D A Y  7 // Portland to Medford


This is a different side to Oregon than the very artsy Portland, but feel like a cowboy for a day and check out some of the West Coasts best gold rush towns.

Route: I-5 South
Time: 4 hours
Top Stops: Jacksonville, Burgerville again (gotta get those Walla Walla Onion rings)
Accommodation: Motel (because you are on a road trip, why not?


D A Y  8 // Medfield to Berkeley


Berkeley is an awesome part of Northern California and is packed with history to explore. It also boasts great places to eat and drink as a college town.

Route: I-5 South
Time: 5 hours, 30 minutes
Top Stops: In-N-Out (now that you are back in California you can have the good stuff)


D A Y  9 // Berkeley to Yosemite


This is a little bit of a detour frorm the coast line but well worth it if you love scenic views and outdoor activities.

Route: I-580 East to the California 120 East
Time: 3 hours
Top Stops: Camp for the night


D A Y  10 // Back to the best city on the West Coast (San Diego)

p1020116I am from San Diego, so naturally I would end up back in Southern California, but this road trip can be reworked to start and finish from anywhere, as long as you make it to San Diego at one point. It is not only my favourite city because it is my home town, but because there is amazing food, natural hikes, swimming spots, and let’s not forget the San Diego Zoo. What more could you want?

Route: 99 South to the I-5 South
Time: 6 hours, 20 minutes


Images courtesy of the author.