Travelling the PCH (Pacific Coast Hwy)

Travelling The PCH To See The West Coast For 4 Weeks

Travelling the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) for 4 weeks down the west coast we covered an amazing: 2200+ miles, 2 train trips, 3 airplane trips, 2 countries, 3 states and 13 hotels.

Leaving from our home town in Toronto (Canada), the first stop was a short visit in Vancouver (Canada) where our son is going to university.  From there we went by train to Seattle and then Portland before picking up a car to continue travelling the PCH.  We stayed in small towns, small cities, large cities and in the outlying reaches of Los Angeles.  The plan was to travel as far as San Diego and then head to Las Vegas for the 4th of July but we didn’t make Vegas this year.

It was a great, slow trip down one of the most scenic rides you can find anywhere. You can read each separate blog on the places we stopped:

Vancouver, BC 

We spent 4 days wandering around downtown Vancouver and enjoying the great view of Vancouver from the water.

Vancouver BC when travelling the PCH.jpg

Seattle, Washington 

The Amtrak train got us quickly from Vancouver to Seattle for a quick overnight stop. No visit to Seattle is complete without a few hours spent wandering around Pike Place enjoying the market and fresh fish. Of course we couldn’t miss our coffee stop at the very first Starbucks store!

Seattle Pike Place Market when travelling the PCH.jpg

The Oregon Coast 

Hopping a train we travelled to Portland. With only one night planned, we decided that what we wanted to do most on this trip was to pick up our car early and head up the Columbia River gorge. As the mist rose we headed up the gorge, stopping at the scenic waterfalls along the way.

Portland Columbia River when travelling the PCH.jpg

From Portland, we beelined out to the ocean and began our Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) adventure. Ocean vistas presented rugged shores and our first attempt at whale watching at our stop in Yachats.

Oregon coast when travelling the PCH.jpg

Entering Wine Country 

Our drive through Oregon and Northern California took us through some of the greatest redwood forests and parks.

Redwood trees when travelling the PCH.jpg

We crossed into California and spent one more night on the coast at Eureka, enjoying the pounding surf and amazing seafood.

From there we headed inland for 2 nights in a charming B&B in Napa during a record hot spell for June. A small group wine tour provided us with a great wine education, lots of sampling and a box of wine (with only one bottle making it home as a special gift).

Napa wine tour when travelling the PCH.jpg

San Francisco In The Fog 

We spent 2 days mostly in the fog in San Francisco, starting to appreciate the “June Gloom”. Every day we would venture out for a clear picture of the infamous Golden Gate Bridge but the fog seemed to cling to the structure.

San Francisco fog when travelling the PCH.jpg

Once properly bundled up for cooler June days, it didn’t stop us from touring around San Fran and riding up and down on the cable cars.

San Francisco trolley cars when travelling the PCH.jpg

No trip to San Fran would be complete without enjoying fresh seafood at Fisherman’s Wharf or without catching your first glimpse of sea lions lounging on the wharf.

San Francisco Fishermans Wharf when travelling the PCH.jpg

Carmel and Monterey 

We stayed for a week, using Carmel as our base. We could venture north along the 17 Mile Highway through the famous Pebble Beach golf course to Monterey.

Carmel Pebble beach 17mile drive when travelling the PCH.jpg

In Monterey you could wander through a smaller version of Fisherman’s Wharf and see more sea lions.

Monterey sea lions when travelling the PCH.jpg

Walking along Cannery Row will take you to spend the day at the not-to-be-missed Monterey Aquarium. We took the special Jellies Tour!

Monterey aquarium jellies when travelling the PCH.jpg

Since we had missed the whales in Oregon, one day was spent watching whales out of Moss Harbour.

Monterey whale watching when travelling the PCH.jpg

Heading south from Monterey along the PCH you could see the wild waves of Big Sur. If you missed sea lions in Monterey or San Fran you could walk for miles and see elephant seals lounging on the beach at Seal Point.

Elephant seals when travelling the PCH.jpg

A visit to the Hearst Castle is easily done from Carmel but be sure to book your ticket in advance and don’t plan to do the PCH both ways!!

Staying Outside of LA

We decided on this trip not to stay in LA itself but instead tried several places outside. The first stop was in Santa Barbara. We really liked this little town north of LA with it’s lively harbour and flat bikeable streets!

Santa Barbara pier when travelling the PCH.jpg

The second stop was within walking distance of the Santa Monica pier, allowing us to enjoy the beach and the pier entertainment. It was an easy bike ride to visit Venice Beach, hoping to catch some entertainment at Muscle Beach.

Santa Monica pier when travelling the PCH.jpg

From here we could venture into Hollywood and other iconic LA tourist spots.

Hollywood sign when travelling the PCH.jpg

Our next stop at Newport Beach kept us on the beach. From here we could take the little ferry to Balboa Island.

Newport beach when travelling the PCH.jpg

Following the PCH south allowed us a day to crawl along Laguna Beach with the locals as they headed out for a Sunday beach day.

Laguna Beach when travelling the PCH.jpg

Our final stop was a quiet few days on Catalina Island. It was as beautiful as anticipated, both in the main Avalon port and the more isolated Two Harbours port.

Catalina Island when travelling the PCH.jpg

A night tour provided a very close up view of the infamous flying fish!
Catalina Island flying fish when travelling the PCH.jpg

Final Stop – San Diego 

We finished our trip with a longer resort stay just outside if San Diego. From here we could enjoy the resort pools, beach and water craft.

San Diego when travelling the PCH.jpg

It was a short drive north to visit the beaches of La Jolla and have yet one more opportunity to see Sea Lions on the beach.

We wandered the downtown area of San Diego and spent hours enjoying the waterfront floating museum.

San Diego Maritime Museum when travelling the PCH.jpg

The trip out to Coronado Island provided us another view of San Diego.

Coronado Island when travelling the PCH.jpg

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It was an amazingly scenic drive travelling the PCH for 4 weeks with great views of nature at every turn. We visited some of the most picturesque towns on the West Coast. The seafood was plentiful and fresh!

We can’t wait to go back!

What is your favourite part of travelling the PCH?  Did we miss anything?  What is the best month to travel to avoid “June Gloom”?

 

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About TravelAtWill 353 Articles

Travel blogger and photographer! Scuba diving, luxury cruising, chocoholic, sea and sunshine addicts, camera attached and just generally curious! Join us on our adventures!

2 Comments

  1. Such good advice to focus on Santa Barbara – urge mistake to just drive by – and places like Santa Monica.

    I hope that you didn’t just drive Highway 101 through the redwood area between Oregon and the Wine Country and miss most of the best parts. If so go back! 🙂

    In that area, absolute must dos are the Newton B Drury Scenic Parkway and every portion of the Avenue of the Giants. The unique town of Arcata is well worth a stop. First Green Party government in the U.S. A special place.

    • We travelled right on Hwy 1 for most of the trip – hugging the coast and hanging on to the “holy shit” handles in the car 🙂 We detoured a few times for redwood viewing including the Avenue of the Giants. Santa Barbara had been recommended to us and we wish we had stayed longer. But even traveling down the west coast for 4 weeks, we missed a lot. Guess it means a trip back 🙂

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