The #1 Bucket List Road Trip: Seattle To California on Highway 101 and 1
One-way rentals now available for this route. Hurry though - limited amounts!
CA Highway 1.....ahhh.....
Is there another road that evokes such a strong pull? What about combining that with equally beautiful HWY101 on the Oregon Coast? Or mix and match, some CA HWY 1, then cut inland and see the gorgeous OR central mountains? Maybe the Olympic Peninsula and then the CA coast? Last year we started one ways between Seattle and Santa Cruz, CA and some amazing memories were made on the the vacation of a lifetime.
New for 2018, we are extending the possibilities of that route to allow renters to continue down Highway 1, past Santa Cruz and finish up in the beautiful coastal town of San Luis Obispo. Known as one of the most beautiful and relaxing spots on the entire California coast, San Luis Obispo lets you get a true taste of southern California living and camping. And, as of January, lots of non-stop flights from the very easy to access airport in San Luis Obispo.
- Reservations for this one-way rental must be initiated via email or phone. We don't have a large fleet and it takes a bit of schedule management on our end to make this work. Send us an email (email@example.com) with some dates and we'll reach back out ASAP with what's possible.
- This rental requires a minimum of 10 nights (San Luis Obispo is 12 nights). The vans are not designed for long days of driving so to insure a safe and trouble free trip, taking your time is going to be key.
- There is an additional $195 drop fee to cover the additional expenses of operating a one way.
- The Bay Area drop/pick up must happen in Santa Cruz, CA - our good friend and colleague operates a shop down there where he handles all aspects of the "turn". On occasion, we can handle a drop off at SFO or SJC airports. Pick ups can not happen at the airports.
- Keep in mind that you will be outside our normal range of service and out ability to help will be a bit delayed. But, as always, your van comes with 24 hour roadside assistance.
- From time to time, we do need to "dead head" a van - that is, drive it from one location to another. We often run specials on this and is a great way to do this trip at a steep discount. Follow us on Social Media to keep abreast of these specials. Here's some existing opportunities where we can waive the one way fee or have a lower minimum:
- No Longer Available: Vanagon: Arriving in Santa Cruz by September 29th. Leave Seattle as early as 16th. Minimum of 8 nights
- Eurovan : Leaving Santa Cruz any time after September 19th and before September 25th. Minimum of 7 nights
- Vanagon: Leaving Santa Cruz any time after September 12th and before September 20th. Minimum of 8 nights.
Possible Starting Itinerary
Day 1: Peace Vans to Dungeness County Park (130 Miles, 2 hours 30 minutes, Including 30 Minutes on the Ferry)
Start your adventure off with a nice ride across the bay to Bainbridge Island. Check the schedule for the ferry, this will ensure that you can continue on your adventure with as little waiting as possible. However keep in mind that this is a commuter ferry and there are no reservations, it is first come first serve, so there could be a little bit of a wait.
Once at Bainbridge you may want to purchase some provisions and supplies. This is an important part, don't forget to get a good amount of groceries to make you travels easier and healthy, once in Bainbridge there are several organic , all natural grocers. It is much more simple to pick up groceries on the island, parking is far easier to find and the layed back tone is the perfect way to start your Van-cation!While out grocery shopping, you may want to stop at many of the little shops in the Bainbridge’s quaint downtown, which includes a candy store and wine tasting rooms! Don’t dally though - attend to your errands and get back on the road, because more adventure awaits today!
After enjoying Bainbridge for a brief time, continue along highway 101 west with the north coast of Washington on your right side. If you are up for a stop check out Dungeness County Park, take a walk on the 5-mile spit with the ocean on both of your sides and a view of Victoria, BC in the distance.
Day 2: Dungeness to Fort Stevens (260 Miles, 5 hours 40 Minutes)
Today is the day of long driving. Get back on the road, and continue west, next you will pass next to Lake Crescent. Just before Lake Crescent there is a mouth of the Elwha River, home to one of the most publicized dam removal projects in the country. Enjoy the lake for a short period or enjoy a quick hike to the Sol Duc Falls before continuing.
Next will be a stop in Forks, a small town just on the outskirt of the Olympic Park. This small town was the main setting in the popular book series Twilight so don’t be surprised when there are vampires and werewolves everywhere!
Just a little bit farther for today to end on the Kalaloch. A beautiful beach with many trails and several campsites (that might need to be reserved) to enjoy the sunset from. A great place to end your first day in the van!
Return to highway 101 south towards Lake Quinault and the Quinault Rain forest. Enjoy the drive through the greenery that makes up the Quinault Reservation before arriving at the Lake. Take some time to enjoy the crisp blue water surrounded by the rolling green hills before return to the road to head farther south. As you continue south on 101 make a stop for lunch in Aberdeen at the Breakwater Seafood and Chowder, right on the water overlooking an abandoned seafood fish factory.
After lunch, onward towards Oregon. You will pass several chances to go on hikes throughout the drive before getting to Oregon. Check out Bruceport County Park or Willapa Wildlife Refuge, this will help break up the drive and it will get you out in the wilderness to enjoy the beauty of the Pacific Northwest.
Pass over the Oregon-Washington Border and enter Astoria, take a look at the historic Astoria Column before heading west towards Fort Stevens. At Fort Stevens State Park enjoy the beach with the Wreck of Peter Iredale, forested campgrounds, and the oldest defensive fort in the United States.
Day 3: Fort Stevens State Park to Cape Perpetua (158 Miles, 4 Hours)
This third day is mostly about Oregon Coastal towns, but before you get to the first town make a stop at Lewis and Clark National Historical Park. Watch a historical demonstration if you visit during the summer, or go on a canoe ride down the river. However, keep in mind that the drive today is still on the longer side!
Just thirty minutes away is Seaside, a long-standing vacation destination since the 1920’s. While there, grab a bite to eat, visit the Carousel Mall, or the video arcade. Take a walk on the boardwalk, or better yet the beach itself before heading south again!
After Seaside enjoy a nice drive on the Oregon coast for a while with the ocean just on your side. Before too long the road will take you away from the coastline and you find yourself in Tillamook. Tillamook is a large dairy city, with the Tillamook cheese factory, but if that sounds too crowded stop by the smaller cheese company Blue Heron. On your way out of Tillamook you may also want to stop in the Tillamook Air Base which has the Spruce Goose inside it for viewing!
The next stop is another hour south, Lincoln City. Surrounded by national parks and wildlife refuges it is the perfect opportunity to stretch your legs and enjoy the coastal forests of northern Oregon. Enjoy the strip in Lincoln City with several small shops and many murals throughout the city, making it a very memorable beach town on the drive.
Only another Hour before you arrive at Cape Perpetua, which is connected to the Siuslaw National Forest. This makes it a prime destination. There are many hikes and attractions, which include the Devils Churn, Thor’s Well and the Sprouting Horn. Get a campsite in either of the Perpetua campgrounds and enjoy the crisp ocean air breaking over the trees.
Day 4: Cape Perpetua to Cape Blanco (125 Miles, 2 Hours 50 minutes)
After enjoying a break from the coastal town by spending the night in the forest it’s time to get back on the road and continue heading south. Just past Florence is Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park, where you can enjoy the lake across the way or the sand dunes on the other side of the tree line. If you are looking for more sand and fun just continue farther south on 101 to Dunes City. Dunes City connects to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, where you can rent ATV’s or Dune buggies for a fun day ripping through the tall sand hills.
Make sure you stop for lunch before our next stop because you are going to need a sweet tooth if you want to stop in Bandon. Bandon is a small bay town, with Old Bandon still intact it houses several local made candy stores like Cranberry Sweets or Coastal Mist. If Chocolate isn’t what you are looking for stop at the Stillwagon Distillery to get a local made cocktail and enjoy the view of the beach.
After you get your fill of dessert from Bandon it is just a little more south to Cape Blanco. With hikes and more beach time it is the perfect place to laze around the van or get some more scenery in, like the Cape Blanco Lighthouse.
Day 5: Cape Blanco to Jedediah Smith State Park (90 Miles, 2 Hours 10 Minutes)
This drive will be a little bit shorter than it has been the last couple days, giving you plenty of opportunities to stop and take in the journey. Stop in Port Orford to see the Lifeboat Station, as well as a beautiful hike.
Just a little bit farther south you can have a unique experience when you stop at the Prehistoric Gardens. Take a tour of the forest with some extraordinary creatures hiding all over the place. Big and small dinosaurs are hidden all over this garden making it a perfect stop for the kids!
Today you will get to cross the border into California. There are many different things to enjoy in the Southern Oregon Coast, but they all pale in comparison to the Redwoods just over the border.
After several days of beach, entering California will change up the scenery. You will head inland and follow the highway as it winds through the Large and beautiful Redwoods. You may want to find your campsite as soon as possible to begin hikes and forested adventures or you could follow the highways even farther in as it takes you deeper into this mystical forest. Feel free to stop at Jedediah State Park campground, Panther Flat Campground, or Big Flat Campground.
Day 6: Jedediah Smith State Park to Patrick’s Point (70 Miles, 1 hour 30 minutes)
If you didn’t get enough redwoods yesterday that is alright because there are more opportunities today on your way down. Start with the Trees of Mysteries, a “sky tour” of the redwoods in which you are on a lift as it takes you through the tops of these ancient redwoods.
If you enjoy the tour through the treetops the next stop may be perfect. Instead of the tree tops why not just travel through the trees themselves. Just a little bit more south you will find an opportunity to do just that. The Tour thru tree awaits in which you can take the van and your family through a tunnel that has been carved out of the center of a large Redwood.
After you finish driving through the redwoods head to Patrick’s Point for a completely different feel. Covered in red reeds it seems to be part of a completely different environment. With an old Native American Village being incorporated in this campground it makes it the perfect place to relax and get back to the beach.
Day 7: Patrick’s Point to Standish Hickey Rec Area (120 Miles, 2 Hours 15 Minutes)
After getting packed up and heading out from Patrick Point you will end up in Eureka, a great place to have lunch or just pick up some more groceries to continue your adventure.
After getting out of city limits the redwoods will again come up on the side of the highway, at first glance they may seem to be the same but you might want to get a closer look. As you head through Humboldt Redwood State Park you will want to take a detour through the Avenue of Giants. To get full appreciation for the size of these trees get out and walk around!
Following this there are many stops that have to do with creative things that people have done with these extremely large trees. Stop at the One log House, made out a single redwood tree it is quite unique. Stop at the World-Famous tree house or Confusion Hill to get an even more in depth look at the Redwood trees.
Just after these will be the Standish-Hickey Recreation Area. Located in the Redwoods, it’s the perfect last stop and enjoy the Redwoods before parting ways for the rest of the trip.
Day 8: Standish-Hickey State Rec Area to Russian Gulch State Park (75 Miles, 1 Hour 55 minutes)
Once you are back on the road for the first time this entire trip you will part from the 101 and head South on CA 1, which will head back to the ocean for a spectacular drive along the cliffs and beaches of California.
On the way, you will head through Fort Bragg, a great Beach town with a wonderful marina and the famous Glass beach which is a beautiful stop to make. Just at the other end of Fort Bragg there are amazing coastal Botanical Gardens that are worth a look too!
Just a little farther and you will also come across Point Cabrillo. A beautiful forest cape that has a half mile hike to the lighthouse that is on the edge of the water, perfect for a day stop!
Just a quick drive farther is the final stop for the day, the Russian Gulch State Park. Located underneath a bridge, covered by a canopy of trees awaits a quaint beach and several perfect campsites.
Day 9: Russian Gulch State Park to Wright Beach, Sonoma State Park (95 miles, 2 hours 35 minutes)
Back on the road! Almost instantly you will come across Mendocino, a small quiet town with beautiful houses and art studios. If you make a stop here check out the Kwan Tai Temple Museum, a Buddhist temple museum. But there is more to see today so don’t take too long!
If you are missing the Redwoods at all this will be the last chance to see them before you head any farther south with the Navarro River State Park. A 6 mile stretch of redwoods winds and curves along the river side before ending in the town of Navarro.
Once you have satisfied your Redwood craving, head south to stop at the Historical Fort Ross. Which has a Russian Structure from the early 1800’s. It also includes great hikes through the woods or along the coast, perfect for everyone to find something to do before making your way to Sonoma State Park.
CA 1 will take you through green rolling hills that overlook the blue waters, it is truly breath taking, this is how you know you are in Sonoma State Park. With several viewpoint and day stop places it is easy to spend all day here. So why not spend all night? Find Wrights Beach and tuck the van in the little oasis right on the beach.
Day 10: Wright Beach, Sonoma State Park to Mt. Tamalpais (69 Miles, 1 hour 25 min)
This will be the last day with this adventure-wagon, make sure you use it to its full potential. Stop at Doran Regional Park for a walk out to the end if it’s little peninsula. Then enjoy the rest of your morning at Point Reyes National Seashore, visit the lighthouse or drive through the historic farmland. Continue in Point Reyes to find Alamere Falls before starting up Mt Tamalpais.
Once you are up the mountain have a great last day by hiking, enjoying the views and hanging out in the van.
Day 11: Mt Tamalpais to Santa Cruz (87 Miles, 2 hours 40 minutes)
On the last day, you will head over the Golden Gate Bridge and find yourself in San Francisco. Take your time and visit some of the more amazing parts of the city. Visit Pier 39 and get some traditional San Fran Chowder. Go to the Zoo or check out Sam’s Castle before heading down the coast.
Stop at one of multiple Breweries, like Hwy 1 Brewery, before you get to Santa Cruz, or go to the beach one last time and soak up the Cali-sun
UPDATES TO TAKE THIS DOWN TO SAN LUIS OBISPO COMING IN JAN/18