West Coast USA, where the sun shines and natural lakes glisten in the suns reflection. A region that is perhaps one of the most diverse in the world, from the waters of the Pacific Ocean to beautiful natural reserves within an hour, it truly is a must-visit region whilst in America, and is one that is best discovered by car.
Forget Route 66 for a minute, or however long it takes to read this. From Southern California to Seattle and everywhere in between, pack up and hit the road with these 10 must-visit cities on a West Coast road trip.
Fly in to Los Angeles, one of the main gateways to the US, and the perfect place to begin your trip on the West Coast. Why LA? Well, because there are so many places you can visit only a few minutes’ drive from LA, that’s why. Hollywood, Long Beach, Venice Beach, Santa Monica and Malibu can all be reached quite easily by car and are worth a visit. Take a couple of days in Los Angeles to discover the city and its surrounds, oh, and don’t forget the Walk of Fame!
No West Coast road trip is complete without visiting the Big Sur. Proceeding this attraction, however, is the Bixby Bridge, an attraction in itself. One of the most photographed and tallest bridge’s in the world, it makes for a 360 degree, panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean and surrounding cliffs. Now for the Big Sur. Chock-full of natural parks and reserves, it is recommended to take a few days in order to fully discover Mother Nature at her absolute best.
Pfeiffer Beach, Point Four State Park and Ragged Point are just some of the places you just need to visit.
A whisker over 1 hour from the Big Sur will see you in Monterey, a beautiful seaside oasis where there are many activities at your fingertips. Or, if you prefer, relaxing at the Fisherman’s Wharf, then you can do that too! If you are traveling with your other half, be sure to check out Carmel-by-the-Sea, which is a quaint and charming town by the sea (if you hadn’t picked that up by the name) with cute little cafes, restaurants and boutique shops. Other activities, perhaps more family friendly, include sailing, fishing, whale watching, kayaking, hiking and biking.
Santa Cruz is located on the North side of Monterey Bay, less than an hour from Monterey, so it is a perfect next stop. Full of old-school Americana, it will feel a bit like you’re in the middle of a set of a TV series. Hit up the markets Pacific Avenue, hike through the Wilder Ranch State Park, or simply relax with a refreshing cocktail in hand by the wharf. Stroll along the Santa Cruz boardwalk and let the kids explore the lighthouse set amongst a magnificent beach.
This is not just any national park, Yosemite is truly something special. Despite being around 3 hours inland, it is a highly-recommended stop. Covering over a staggering 1,160 square miles, the Yosemite National Park comprises of 5 stunning waterfalls, hundreds of hiking and biking trails catering to all abilities, thousands of wildlife species and most important of all, once-in-a-lifetime views.
Words cannot explain how amazing this national park really is, so you’ll have to experience it for yourself…what a shame, hey?
Regarded as one of the most hip and vibrant cities in the world, San Francisco just has to be on your bucket list, there is no question about it. From learning about the city’s history from a tour of the Alcatraz Prison, The Golden Gate Bridge or discovering Fisherman’s Wharf, to immersing yourself in the city’s exquisite and diversified culinary scene, San Francisco could quite easily keep you occupied for 1 week! San Jose is a short drive south of San Francisco and is home to the famous Silicon Valley, and the city comes to life at night.
Home of America’s most famous wine regions the Napa Valley is about a 1 hour drive north of San Francisco. It is a wine lovers dream, filled with fantastic wineries lined up and down California’s hillside. Although there are wines here that are sold globally, Hand Luggage Only recommends also tasting some blends that are only sold in and around the region, as these are often the best wines that go undiscovered.
If you are looking for year-round perfection in a city, look no further than Lake Tahoe. No matter how or what time of year you arrive, whether you come straight from Yosemite, or San Francisco, the city is perfectly catered for all year activities.
In the summer, relax and soak up the rays by the lake, try your hand at a plethora of water based activities, hiking or biking. In the winter, grab your skis or snowboard and head on up to the nearby mountains and carve up the white powdery snow.
If the sound of independent coffee shops and a hip, individualistic culinary scene tickles your tastebuds, then Portland is for you. Park the car and take a bike for the day whilst riding around and truly experience some of Portland’s hidden gems. There are plenty of food carts, savoury and sweet to choose from, then check out the famous Powell’s Bookshop, then jump back in the car and head out to Multnomah Falls. Whichever way you look at it, Portland has a very unique identity and it is a city that you will want to come back to for this very reason.
The home of Starbucks and, apparently, the birthplace of coffee? Seattle sits on the footsteps of Mount Rainier and is well-known for its coffee and brewery scene, with microbreweries dotted around the city. Aside from the coffee and beer, Seattle is famous for its live art and street performing. It is very easy to pass time in this city, you can try your luck at the Pike Place Markets, take in the first ever Starbucks or venture up the Space Needle. Seattle is the perfect place to take it all in and end your West Coast road trip in style.