Tourist attractions and places worth visiting


Pacific Coast Highway, British Columbia, California, Oregon and Washington State

British Columbia

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 coast.

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 journey.

At Astoria there is a magnificent toll bridge over the Columbia River to Washington State.

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.
British Columbia



Washington State

Scenic Roads

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