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  1. #1

    Default First time USA road trip - San Fransico to Seattle in 5 days - suggestions?

    We are planning on hiring a car and driving from San Fransico to Seattle. We have to catch a ferry to Victoria on Vancouver Island on the 1st of July next year. We plan to leave San Fransisco on the 26th June and head North! We are from Western Austrlia and kind of used to long drives to get to see anything. We are really keen for some suggestions for a driving plan - especially where to stop. We have read the current forums and know that it would be foolosh to try and see too much in a short space of time. Our main aim is to see the Redwoods and some of the coast. We would prefer to stay in an area for 2 nights and explore then move on if time allows. My husband is not keen on driving for more than 4 hrs between overnight stops if this is possible - but neither of us want to spend vast amounts of time on super vast freeways/highways with little to see. We have driven in the US before but only between San Deigo, Anaheim and on to the Simi Valley. We realise that this is a more daunting prospect and we really need some advice, particularly as I believe accommodation can be scarce at this time of the year. Looking forward to some help! Travelbug2

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Should Be Straightforward

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    If you just follow the Pacific Coast Highway (basically US-101 north along the coast) you will have more than enough opportunities to see the redwoods, especially around Orick, CA at both Redwoods National Park and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. And in addition, you'll pass a multitude of state beach and forest parks and other scenic venues including dunes (e.g.Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area), historic sites (Fort Clatsop National Memorial), etc. Unfortunately, this road can be fairly slow going, especially in summer when the RV's/caravans are on the road. But you should still be able to complete the trip in 4 days of 4 hours a day driving, so with 5 days you should not have a big concern. Enjoy.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Easily done.

    Hi, and Welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum.

    Since this trip can be done in an easy two days, you won't have to drive long hours each day if doing it in five days. And I quite relate to your desire to stay off the freeways. However, driving long distances in WA and in the USA are like comparing cheese and chalk. There just is no comparison.

    To see the redwoods head straight north out of SF on 101 to Humboldt Redwoods SP, where you will, among other things, find the Avenue of Giants. That should fit in with your wish to travel around four hours per day. Of course, if you stop to check out any of the dozens, if not hundreds of attractions along and near that route, it will take considerably longer. As would choosing the coastal road.

    From there you could take the coast road through Crescent City and most of the way through Oregon. It is a magnificent road with many attractions, but slow going. Of course, further north in Washington you have Mt St Helens and Mt Rainier. Check out the map centre on the green bar above, where you can research attractions along the route.

    A little hint. If you are a member of your local automobile club, make sure you bring your membership with you. It will give you access to tourist information at the AAA, as well as free maps and touring books. I would make a visit to the AAA in SF and obtain maps to cover the route. You'd be surprised how much information there is on them.

    Enjoy the planning.

    Lifey in Melbourne

  4. #4

    Default Thanks for the great advice!

    We are feeling a lot more confident about the trip now that we've got some experienced road trippers giving us some tips. It is really difficult to pick out the places to see because there are just so many to chose from. I've read that staying at Kalmath might be a better option than Eureka, any comments? I would have loved to have seen Point Reyes but I don't think I have the time - any suggestions. I've found an existing road trip that suggests taking in Mendocino before heading up to Eureka but I'm not sure if I would have the time for this. Involves travelling through Santa Rosa, and the on to Healdsburg on the 101 heading for Ukiah before taking the Orr Springs road/Comptche-Ukiah road and on to Mendocino to stay the night. The next day rejoin highway 101 after Rockport and traveling north towards Eureka remembering to do the must do side trip through the Avenue of the Giants just north of Garberville before rejoining the 101 to head north towards Eureka. The trip returns to San Fran after Eureka but I would need suggestions from this point on or from Kalmath if it were better to stay here. Keen for any further suggestions and any tips on where to stay - would have to be hotels, B&B's as we won't have camping equipment with us.

    I thought maybe Grants Pass, Crescent Bay and then head on to Portland. We must stay near the Seattle Ferry to catch our ferry on the morning of the 1st July so would need to be there by the 30th June - day 5 of our trip.
    Please let me know if any of these ideas are unachievable in the time frame we have. We are keen to spend some time out of the car and realise we will need to sacrifice volume of destinations to gain quality of experience. Thanks for all the tips. Travelbug2

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Pesky Details

    For your first day's drive north from San Francisco, Eureka is about as far as you'll want to go - by your own criterion. It's just a shade over 4 hours from San Francisco, while Klamath (CA) is just about 6 hours. And while Pont Reyes is certainly beautiful, there will be plenty of other great scenic stops along the northern California coast to compensate for skipping it and starting out by getting a few quick miles under your belt. Mendocino, for example, is directly on your route north and could make a great place to take your first break for a little stroll along the beach, window shopping, and lunch.

    But the precise nature, timing, and placing of your stops is going to be entirely up to you. While I think I would stay on the coast all the way up to Astoria/Portland if I were you, ultimately that's your decision. That would still let you see all the Redwoods, the sea stacks, and the dunes, as well as some forest locations only slightly inland. Hitting Astoria puts you in good position to both visit some Lewis and Clark historic sites as well as stroll Portland's many formal gardens, and then even take a short scenic drive up the old Historic Columbia River Gorge Highway and take some very short and level strolls to a number of breathtaking waterfalls. You'd than be in good position to either scurry up I-5 to Seattle if you're running short of time or take a side trip to either Mount St. Helens or Mount Ranier if your want and can fit in some mountain scenery.


  6. #6

    Default Great advice for Aussie first timer

    thank for your great ideas. I would love to stay on the coast as far as Portland and then hurry on to Seattle. If I stay overnight at Mendocino and then at Eureka for one or two days before moving on towards Portland via Florence would I make it in 5 days? Or is it better to do 1 night in Mendocino, 1 in Eureka, 1 in Florence, 1 in Portland, and then the last somewhere close to the ferry landing in Seattle to cross to Victoria. I know this may seem a little simple to experienced road trippers but the suggested drive times on google probably don't reflect the real time it takes to get from one place to another. I still want to get out and explore as often as we can and I know that this has to be my decision but without really knowing just how long it takes to get between these magical sounding places its difficult to know when to schedule an over night stop.
    I would love to just drive along until we see somewhere appropriate but from what I've read if you did this in the summer months you might be out of luck with regards to finding a place to stay. I've just booked a room at a place called Brewery Gultch Inn in Mendocino and the many booking sites repeated the warning that few rooms were left even this far in advance. I don't think we'll be able to afford accommodation that costs this much at every stop; I hope there are cheaper places that are just as nice along the way. Perhaps accommodation in this neck of the woods is always expensive in summer? Any suggestions for places to stay further along the route?
    Your help is invaluable and reassuring, thank you for taking the time to help me out. Kind regards Travelbug2

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Time, Tide, and Other Non-Waiters

    With five days to spare for the drive up the Pacific Coast Highway, you do have a little time to spare. As noted, you have the remaining 10 or so hours each day when you're not driving/eating/sleeping, and even then you have an entire 'extra' day. But if you take two days to get to Eureka, you've already spent that extra day and have no more reserve for anywhere farther north unless you are willing to drive more than 4 hours a day. It is best, then, to keep in mind where each of your four 4 hour days should bring you each night and not fall too far off that pace. Four evenly spaced overnights would be: Hookton (CA), Bandon (OR), Tillamook (OR), and Seattle (WA). You just can't afford to get an entire day 'behind' at the outset.

    And, yes, I would take the time now to set up exactly where I'd be staying each night. Not only does this guarantee you a place during what might be a heavy tourist season, but it means that you'll be doing your room shopping from the comfort of your own home rather than at the end of a busy day when you're tired and the choices are limited. Also, knowing where you need to be by the end of each day would help keep you on schedule to make your ferry without having to rush at the end.


  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2009
    SF Bay Area

    Default Another option

    Driving only 4 hours limits where you end up spending a night.

    If you want redwoods and coast, my suggestion would be:

    Day 1: SF->Mendocino via 101 (inland) then 128 thru the Anderson Valley to the coast, then CA1 to Mendocino.
    Hit a winery or two in the Anderson Valley, and/or stop at Anderson Valley Brewery for some craft beer. Enjoy the evening hitting the shops and restaurants in Mendocino

    Day 2: Mendocino to Klamath. I'm not a big fan of either Eureka or Crescent City... but then there aren't a lot of options in Klamath. Book early of you want a B&B or a motel in this area.
    Tour the Redwood Parks upon arrival or next morning before leaving.

    Day 3: Klamath to Florence.
    Enjoy a leisurely trip up the southern half of the Oregon Coast.

    Day 4: Florence to Astoria.
    Same as last day, but spend some time exploring Astoria and surrounds.

    Day 5 Astoria to Seattle.

    These days run from 3 hours to 5 hours driving time (plus stops). I suggest you poke around a bit to see if Mendocino and Astoria look like interesting places to spend a night (I suspect they will).

    There are other options heading north that avoid the coast, but offer up sights like Crater Lake, Portland/Columbia Gorge... but on your schedule you'll have to pick which option most appeals to you.

    In month or so I should be posting results of this trip; you may want to check back then as it overlaps some of the territory you'll be covering.

  9. #9


    Thanks AZBuck, we'll continue to look for accommodation at the places you suggest. We have a long trip ahead of us and the part I'm planning with your help represents our first week. We have roughly 7 weeks after this one to travel through BC and the Rockies so I think that we'll check out the coast and the redwoods in CA and Oregon and sadly have to miss out on Mt St Helens and Crater Lake. We'll just have to come back and see the places we miss out on for this trip. Cheers from Travelbug2

  10. #10


    Thanks CalOldBlue, great ideas. I will look forward to seeing the results of the trip you are planning. Of course I'll be checking in on a regular basis, this is just such a great site for overseas travellers looking for help from experienced road trippers. Many thanks Travelbug2

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