Last week, my boyfriend and I accomplished one of our “travel bucket list” items, and drove from San Diego, all the way up the West Coast to Vancouver, Canada. It was one of the most unique travel experiences we’ve had thus far, and is a trip that will stand out among others as being such a special adventure.
I thought I’d share details from our week for those looking to do something similar.
Day 1: San Diego –> Big Sur
We got an early start from San Diego & made our way up to Big Sur, CA: our first stop. We jumped on the 101 as soon as we could, and had the most incredibly scenic drive up there.
Once we began approaching Big Sur, we knew it was going to be worth all the hype.
We stayed at Fernwood Campgrounds, in what was called one of their ‘Adventure Tents‘. It was PERFECT. Our AT was clean & warm and cozy, but still felt like camping, as we were on the grounds with people in tents, RVs, etc. Fernwood also has a small motel, a grocery store, and a tavern, which we took advantage of after a long day of traveling. We both loved our dinner at the tavern & had such a fun evening sharing a bottle of wine, overlooking the wilderness. I could write a whole post on Fernwood — so I’ll just leave you with this: if you’re going to Big Sur — seriously consider staying there.
Day 2: Big Sur –> Crescent City
This was our longest day of traveling, but we did our best to make the most out of the hours in the car & all the cool places that were on the way to Crescent City. We drove through Carmel, and stopped in Monterey for a milkshake and a little bit of stretching before starting our 7 hour drive up through Northern California. We drove through San Fransisco right at rush hour (whoops), and got to go over the Golden Gate Bridge. We then drove through wine country and into the redwoods.
We arrived at midnight in Crescent City and immediately fell asleep from the long day ahead. There are very few hotel options in Crescent City (this wasn’t as much a destination for us, as it was a place to sleep and recover along the way), but the Best Western Plus Northwoods was the perfect place to crash before we began our next day of driving.
Day 3: Crescent City –> Portland
We woke up early to explore the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. The Redwoods are remarkable & unworldly; and if you’re ever able to experience them, I beg you to walk through them, drive through them, etc — you won’t regret it. We ended up finding a 6 mile off-roading trail that was the perfect way to see the Redwoods, without taking up too much time in the day. It landed us in a tiny little town (name unknown?) with forested cabins, lining a beautiful winding river. It was so picturesque.
From there we began our drive up to Portland. We decided to take the 101 instead of Interstate 5, which added two hours to the drive, but was absolutely, 100% worth it. The drive wound tightly around incredible Oregon coastline, took us through forests, alongside rivers and bays, and across small lumber towns. We stopped in Newport, OR – right along the coast – to check out the headquarters of Rouge Ales Brewery. We shared a flight of beer tastings & a bowl of baked macaroni & cheese (this was our first “real meal” since dinner in Big Sur) before heading back on the road.
We arrived at our hotel in Portland around 8:30pm, just in time to quickly change & head out to dinner. We stayed at Hotel Rose, right along the waterfront, & it exceeded my expectations! It was chic, modern, and hip – but also had thoughtful amenities & features that made it feel more luxurious than trendy. We grabbed dinner at Rock Bottom Brewery (a mere 3 minute walk from our hotel), before heading back & passing out.
Day 4: Portland –> Seattle
We woke up early on Friday to again, catch as much of the city as possible before having to head out. We walked by the river before grabbing drinks at the highly rated Stumptown Coffee Roasters. It was a beautiful space aesthetically & my cold brew was delicious. We then went to breakfast and without sounding too negative – had a less than mediocre experience there. I won’t mention the place to save face, but we were super disappointed in the service, the wait time, & the food. So after sitting for too long, we were anxious to move on & explore more of the city.
On a time crunch, we weren’t able to see everything, but we did make it to a few stops that were on my list. We walked around for a few miles before stopping at 10 Barrel Brewing Co. – where we split a flight of tasters. It lived up to its positive reviews & we were super excited to find out that they’re coming to San Diego in the near future. From there, we decided to checkout Portland City Grill – which is on the 30th floor of an office building, boasting a 360 degree view of the city. This was a recommendation from a friend & something I too recommend to anyone! It was a great way to get perspective on the city – and on a beautiful day, it was an amazing view. We ordered a gin cocktail & an Old Fashioned & headed out.
On our way out of the city, we stopped at Lardo: a food truck-turned-restaurant, that had awesome craft sandwiches. We split theirPork Meatball Banh Mi sandwich & an order of ‘dirty fries’, and we agreed that it was the best meal of the trip at that point.
Our last food stop in Portland was to check out Salt & Straw: a super popular, unique ice cream shop with inventive flavors & an industrial aesthetic. I had a scoop of Chocolate Gooey Brownie, and Kyle tried the Sea Salt w/ Caramel Ribbons.
From there, we headed three hours north to Seattle. That particular night, we were lucky enough to catch some incredible weather in Seattle, so our first stop when we arrived was to the Seattle Great Wheel, where we grabbed a ride, right at sunset. From there, we walked through Pike’s Place Market & grabbed dinner at a diner nearby. We then headed to Bellevue, where we were staying for the next 2 nights.
We stayed at the Hyatt Regency in Bellevue – which was incredibly luxe and lovely. The entire point of our whole trip up to Seattle was for my dear friend’s wedding — and she happened to be getting married at the Hyatt Regency. We were not bummed about staying there.
Day 5: Bellevue & Seattle
Saturday morning before the wedding we got up early & headed back to Seattle for a little bit of exploring. We went back to Pike’s Place to see it humming on the weekend, and ended up doing the Seattle Underground Tour — which was a lot of fun & super informative. We weren’t sure what to expect, but were pleasantly surprised by what we learned & enjoyed our quirky tour guide.
We then headed back to the hotel to relax before the wedding. We ordered room service (we felt like kings and queens, if I’m honest) and caught up on one of our favorite shows before getting ready for the wedding. The wedding was beautiful and SO much fun and it was very special to witness one of my first friends from college, marry her soulmate. We had a blast & I mayyy have drank a little too much champagne. Oh well – that’s what weddings are for, right?
Day 6: Bellevue –> Vancouver
Sunday morning we (again) woke up early to make one last Seattle stop before heading up to Canada. We were told to visit Kerry Park for spectacular views of the city — and wow it was spectacular. Kerry Park was the perfect way to view the Seattle skyline, without having to pay or deal with tourists. It was beautiful & totally worth the detour.
From there, we began the 3 hour journey up to Vancouver, Canada. It was a scenic drive (we saw 3 deer crossing a river right next to the highway!) and went by super quick while we listened to audio versions of our favorite stand up comedian.
Arriving in Vancouver was awesome. It’s a very vertical city, so the skyline was really impressive. It wasn’t super lovely out when we arrived, but we had so much fun checking out the unique architecture, mansion-looking homes, and cute shops right along the highway.
We stayed at The Burrard, which was such a great decision. It was more affordable than other hotel options in the area, but was so fun and kitchy — and also very clean and comfortable. Our room was European-inspired (small & minimalistic), and I loved all of the midcentury modern accents.
After settling in & doing some research, we headed to the Yaletown area of the city for dinner. This was a mere 8 minute walk from our hotel & was such a great find. The two main streets in Yaletown were lined with restaurants and bars — giving us plenty of options for dinner & drinks. We settled on The Flying Pig, which was recommended by the hotel & was also one of the stops on my “to-do” list in Vancouver. It was my favorite meal of the entire trip: I had baked gnocchi and Kyle ordered short rib & cheddar mash (like, are you kidding?). Our food came out super quick & it was also a treat to find out that the US dollar was stronger than the Canadian dollar while we were there. After dinner we walked through Yaletown & stumbled upon an artisan ice cream shop, Mister. At Mister, they create the ice cream right there in front of you using dry ice & heavy-duty KitchenAids. I ordered a scoop of Strawberry Mint, which was so refreshing; and Kyle ordered Double Oreo (and loved it).
Day 7: Vancouver
Our final full day of the trip, we explored Vancouver. We woke up early & grabbed lattes & avocado toast from the cute cafe in our hotel (Elysian). From there we rented bikes from the hotel (which were complimentary!) so we could explore the city. We biked through downtown Vancouver, and cycled the bike path around all of Stanley Park. It was a 6 mile bike ride of some of the most scenic city views I think I’d ever seen. It was breathtakingly beautiful & were were lucky to catch perfect weather the whole day. We had so much fun exploring the city & experiencing Stanley Park.
After our bike ride, we grabbed lunch at Joey Burrard. I had a pulled BBQ chicken sandwich & rose, and Kyle ordered an Ahi sandwich & a local beer — it was so satisfying & was just what we needed after our active morning.
From there, we went back to the hotel, added about 5 layers of clothes on, and headed to the harbor for our most anticipated adventure: a whale watching tour. It was such a moving, remarkable experience. We saw 2 Humpback Whales, and over 20 Orca Whales. When I saw the Orcas for the first time, I teared up. It was so beautiful & truly took our breath away. I recommend it to anyone who finds themselves in Vancouver.
After our boat trip, we headed back to the hotel to shed some layers & grab dinner. We ended up at a Canadian chain restaurant, Cactus Club Cafe — which was also delicious. We both saved room during dinner, because we knew we wanted to head back to Mister for another scoop of ice cream. Second day in a row, it was just as good.
Day 8: Vancouver –> Seattle –> San Diego
Tuesday morning was our last morning of the trip. We grabbed two breakfast sandwiches at Tim Hortons (I had to try it after hearing about it from Canadian YouTubers), and got on the road. We drove back to Seattle with our rental car, and dropped it off at Avis, before getting shuttled to the airport.
And it was homeward bound from there!
It was the trip of a lifetime, in certain ways – just because we had never done anything like it. We had the most amazing time — from our scenic car rides, to the amazing cities we visited, to the incredible encounters with nature we experienced.
I hope if you get the chance, that you consider doing something similar. There is just something about a road trip with someone you love that fosters the best memories. This is definitely a trip I’ll tell my future kids about — and would recommend it to anyone!