Tourist attractions and places worth visiting
Pacific Coast Highway, British Columbia, California,
Oregon and Washington State
Although there is a road along the eastern side of Vancouver Island, there
are virtually no roads in British Columbia alongside the Pacific Ocean
proper. However, ferries travel through the Inside
Passage from Seattle and Vancouver north to Alaska.
Heading north from San Diego, there is an alternative to I-5 which runs
close to the Pacific until just south of Oceanside. This road passes through
a number of small seaside resorts, and you get some good views of the ocean.
This road hasn't got a number marked on my road atlas, but it is almost
certainly California State Road 1.
California State Road 1 also runs alongside the ocean on its run through
the southern part of Los Angeles, but we haven't driven on this section.
Through the northern part of Los Angeles the road runs some way from the
At Santa Monica California State Road 1 rejoins the ocean and runs alongside
it for some considerable distance except for a brief stretch through Oxnard.
There are numerous bathing beaches here. When we drove along this road
some years ago a number of offshore oil or gas rigs could be seen but I
don't know if they are still there.
At the little town of Gaviota the road leaves the ocean for quite some
time until Morro Bay, except for a brief section near Pismo Beach. This
inland stretch is relatively uninteresting.
Progressing northwards the country becomes wilder and towns less frequent
until the most spectacular part of the road is reached from just south
of Big Sur to Monterey. The road hugs the side of the coastal mountains
here, with excellent views. This far north the weather on the coast is
often cloudy, rainy and cool even in summer. One can often see how the
coastal mountains catch the rain from clouds rolling in from the Pacific.
At Monterey the Seventeen Mile Drive toll road is probably worth taking.
It runs alongside the ocean for most of its distance. It is probably best
described as pleasant rather than spectacular. According to an unofficial
source the toll (as at Dec-97) is $7.50, and I think that this is per car
rather than per person.
From Monterey to San Francisco the scenery is pleasant but not so spectacular.
At Santa Cruz the Boardwalk is probably worth a stop. It's a seaside
promenade with various rides, amusements, gift shops and snack food kiosks.
Parking may be difficult in the summer especially at weekends.
California State Road 1 merges with US101 to cross the Golden
Gate Bridge. A few miles north of the bridge it heads west past Muir
Woods National Monument and Mount Tamalpais
back out to the ocean.
Going north from here the country gets bleaker and wilder, and often
so does the weather even in summer. We have only driven as far north as
Stewarts Point and so can't report in detail on what you'll find beyond
there, except to say that California Road 1 merges with US101 and runs
some distance from the coast for quite a way until reaching Eureka. North
of Eureka the road passes through Redwood National Park and several associated
California State Parks.
Smith River National Recreation Area, inland a bit and just south of
the Oregon border, might well be worth exploring.
US101 runs alongside or close to the coast for the entire length of Oregon
from the California border to the mouth of the Columbia
River. We've only driven on the northernmost section, between Tillamook
and Astoria. This is wild and desolate country, and the weather often matches
it. There are however quite a few small seaside resort towns here.
Just south of Astoria is the place where the members of the Lewis
and Clark Expedition made their winter camp before starting their return
At Astoria there is a magnificent toll bridge over the Columbia River
to Washington State.
We haven't driven on the coast road in Washington State at all.
Because of the various inlets, the road is somewhat convoluted, with
diversions required to fully explore as much of the coast as possible.
In the north, the coast road progresses around the Olympic Peninsula
and Olympic National Park. You can then take a car
ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria (Vancouver Island, British Columbia)
or alternatively head round towards Seattle.
In the Area
Just inland from the west coast there are a large number of scenic areas
of potential interest. Please bear in mind that for the purposes of this
list I mean "just inland" in comparison with the scale of the North American
continent, not just a few miles inland.
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California
- inland between San Diego and Los Angeles
Avenue of the Giants, California - through the Redwood National Park and
associated State Parks in Northern California just south of the Oregon
California State Road 2 over the San Gabriel
Mountains near Los Angeles
Canadian Rockies National Parks
Cascade Mountains, northern California, Oregon
and Washington State
Coast Ranges, British Columbia, California,
Oregon and Washington State
Columbia River, Oregon and Washington State
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon - in the Cascade Mountains
Garibaldi Provincial Park, British Columbia - northeast of Vancouver
Golden Gate Bridge, California - immediately
north of the city of San Francisco
Golden Gate Recreation Area, California
- in and around the western part of San Francisco Bay
Hells Gate, British Columbia - on the Fraser River east-northeast of Vancouver
Hells Gate - on the Idaho/Oregon border
Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California
Icefields Parkway, Alberta - between Banff and
Joshua Tree National Park, California
- east of Los Angeles
Kings Canyon National Park, California
- immediately north of Sequoia National Park
Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada - some distance east of San Francisco
(there is a road right round the lake which is said to be scenic)
Lassen Volcanic National Park, California
Lava Beds National Monument, California
Manning Provincial Park, British Columbia
- east of Vancouver
Mount Hood and the Hood River area, Oregon (east of Portland)
Mount Rainier National Park, Washington State
Mount Shasta and the surrounding area, California
Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument, Washington State
Mount Tamalpais, California - just north
of the Golden Gate Bridge
Muir Woods National Monument, California
- just north of the Golden Gate Bridge
Newberry Crater National Volcanic Monument, Oregon
North Cascades National Park, Washington State
Olympic National Park, Washington State
Oregon Caves National Monument, Oregon
Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, Oregon
Pacific Rim National Park Preserve, Vancouver Island, British Columbia
Point Reyes National Seashore, California
Redwood National Park and the associated State Parks, California
Sequoia National Park, California - inland
between Los Angeles and San Francisco
Smith River National Recreation Area, California - just inland, just south
of the Oregon border
Strathcone Provincial Park, Vancouver Island, British Columbia
Wells Gray Provincial Park and Recreation Area, British Columbia - on the
Kamloops to Jasper road (access to most of this park appears to be by unpaved
Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area, California - north
of San Francisco, near I-5's route
Yosemite National Park, California
- some way east and slightly south of San Francisco
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