As the pandemic seemed like it was coming to an end, and more people stated getting vaccinated, we decided to plan a vacation. Our front runners were Hawaii and driving the Pacific Coast! The winner was the coast trip, so we decided to fly into Seattle and drive all the way down to San Diego over a 2 week period.
Day 1: Seattle Washington
We flew into Seattle on Saturday night, got our rental car and headed to the Hotel W in downtown. We had a pretty long flight and the rental car pick up took longer than expected and we were STARVING by the time we got to the hotel. We decided to check out a local spot in the downtown area called Fogón Cocina Mexicana. It was very good Mexican food, and it was reasonable priced. By the time we got back to the hotel room it was midnight, and we were ready to call it a night considering it was 2am in Chicago!
Day 2: Seattle Washington –> Astoria Oregon
We woke up in the morning and decided to go explore the city by foot. Fortunately, our hotel was located close enough to the area of the city we wanted to explore. We walked to Public Market Center and Pikes Place Market. On the way to the market, we passed the famous Gum Wall in the Post Alley. We grabbed breakfast at Honest Biscuits and coffee at Indi Chocolate. The coffee was AMAZING, so fresh and delicious. After walking around the downtown area and the pier we headed back to the hotel and checked out. We then dove to the space needle just to check it out, we did not take the tour. Since we had a long trip ahead of us, we decided to stop at Costco in Seattle and stock up on water and snacks! On the way out of Seattle we stopped at Legendary Donuts before heading to the small town of Astoria on the coast of Oregon, just west of Portland. Our original plan was to stay in Portland, but we decided to cancel the reservation a week before the trip due to the violence and protests in the area in the preceding weeks.
We got into Astoria around 4pm an checked into our hotel, before heading out to explore the city. We stayed at the Astoria Riverwalk Inn–literally the cutest little inn. Our first stop was Buoy Beer Co. This was a beautiful waterfront brewery in the heart of Astoria. If you go make sure you go inside and check out the glass floors, you can see the sea lions swimming under the building– this was something we missed and found out about after we left! Our next stop was Rogue Pier 39 Public House for a beautiful sunset. We were able to sit outside while the sun hit our face and the sun set. We were starving after this and some locals told us to check out Voodoo Martini for an espresso martini and some pizza. We called it a night after this, and headed back to our hotel.
Day 3: Astoria Oregon –> Redwoods National/ State Park California
This was out longest drive of the entire trip, a total of 8 hours and 45 mins but we stopped along the way and it ended up being over 10 hours. We stopped in the city of Seaside to walk along the beach and take some pictures. After about a few hours we were hungry and decided to stop at Tillamook Cheese Factory for a self-guided tour and lunch. We got a grilled cheese and cheese curds, both of which were made with fresh cheder cheese.
We got right back on the road for a few more hours until er stopped at a roadside coffee shop, The Village Bean, for an afternoon pick me up.
After a few more hours we had to stop for food and to use the bathroom. We stopped in a small fishing town called Northbend and grabbed a beer (only to use the bathroom) at a local Irish Pub. After that we went Tony’s Crab Shack to grab a bite to lunch- PROBABLY THE FRESHEST SEA FOOD I HAVE EVER HAD! We got a crab sandwich on sourdough bread and clam chowder.
There were two MUST SEE viewpoints in Oregon on the California boarder. The first one was called Secret Beach; it was about a 10-minute hike down to a secret beach and it was absolutely amazing. The hike back up was a bit hard, and elevated but it was well worth it. The next stop, about a mile up the road was the Natural Bridges. We finally made it to our hotel at about 8 pm. We were staying in Klamath, which was located in the Redwoods State Park. We were told at check in that nothing in town was open anymore and if we wanted food, we would have to go back up to Crescent City 20 miles back north—this drive in the dark was probably one of the scariest drives EVER filled with fog, darkness and sharp turns—not to mention the drive took over an hour round trip.
Day 4: Redwoods State and National Park
This day was dedicated to exploring the Redwoods. We woke up and started early! We drove down Highway 101 and took Newton B. Drury Scenic Pkwy. This was a beautiful off-road path, absolutely breath taking. We stopped along the way many times to take pictures. Now I am going to highlight the sites we saw all day.
Big Tree/ Circle Trail: This was a 0.3 mile loop trail which was easily accessible off the road. It was a beautiful trail!
Revelation Trail: Developed specifically for the visually impaired, this trail encourages you to engage all of your senses to more fully experience the redwood forest. You can touch the rough bark of a redwood and then compare it to the soft feel of a moss-covered fir or spruce, while sounds of the creek murmur in the background. The sharp aroma of California bay and tart taste of redwood sorrel allow for a more complete understanding of the ecosystem.
Lady Bird Johnson Grove: This is a scenic 1.4-mi. trail in an upland redwood grove, honoring environmentally-minded former First Lady.
Tall Tree Grove: Unfortunately, we did not get to do this hike, because we didn’t know we had to apply for a permit ahead time. By the time we realized it, it was too late.
Dolason’s Prairie: We took Bald Hill Road about 16 miles up into the mountain where we saw the most beautiful thing ever! Fields of purple Lupine’s in full bloom. It was truly breathtaking. Honestly when we were driving, we didn’t think it was going to be anything amazing, until we saw it. We were so grateful that we made it all the way up, we were told by the ranger that this only blooms for about 2 weeks every other year and we happened to be around for the bloom.
Fern Canyon: Some of the exquisite ferns now clinging to Fern Canyon’s shadowy 30-foot cliffs are ancient species whose ancestry can be traced back 325 million years. Look for velvety five-fingered ferns, dark green sword ferns, and delicate lady ferns. Scouring winter floods periodically rush through the canyon
Elk Meadow: Great spot off Highway 101 to possibly see some elk, have a picnic lunch, enjoy the meadow and also embark from several trails that originate here. The ranger’s at the Thomas H Kutchel Visitor Center circled this area when I mentioned I wanted to hike Trillium Falls. You can easily access this trail from the Meadow and the area is well signed. Of course the main attraction are the elk. There happened to be dozens of elk the day we went.
Sunset at Patrick’s Point: One of the rangers are the Visitor’s Center recommended we see the sunset here and we are SO GLAD we went. This was our favorite sunset of the entire trip! It was a clear day and we were able to see the sun disappear into the ocean.
Somewhere in the middle of the day we went all the way down to Trinidad, a small town south of Kalmath, right outside of The Redwoods National Park. We had lunch at a place called The Lighthouse Grill. We definitely earned our meal and beer that afternoon. We had the tofu burger and the Nut Burger (a homemade veggie burger with cashews and pecans topped with sautéed onions, goat cheese and chipotle aioli).
After the sunset, we ended up going back to Trinidad to grab beers and pizza at this local spot, Headies Pizza and Pour. Unfortunately our drive back to the hotel was over an hour due to unknown roads and terrain and we waited to eat the pizza until we got back to the hotel.
Day 5: Redwoods State and National Park –> Fort Bragg
We were exhausted after all the walking and driving the day before, so we decided to sleep in and relax a bit in the morning before we headed out. We only had a 4 hour drive so we weren’t in a rush.
An hour and a half into our drive we stopped at Eel River Brewing Company for some lunch and local beer.
I highly recomend pulling off 101 at Humboldt Redwoods State Park and driving the Avenue of the Giants for 32 miles. It was a breathtaking drive, and it ran along 101 South, so we didn’t go out of our way.
We then drove into fort Bragg where we checked into our little hotel, the Beach House Inn. One of the most highly recommended restaurants in town was Silver’s at the Wharf but they did not take reservations ahead of time, however someone had just canceled and we were able to reserve a table for later that evening. While we waited for our table we drove further south into Mendocino where we grabbed local beers from Patterson’s.
Once we got back to the Fort Bragg area, we grabbed dinner at Silver’s. We had a table that overlooked the Fort Bragg harbor. Overall, the food and ambiance were great at this restaurant, would highly recommend checking them out if you are in the area. After dinner we stopped at a local ice cream shop, Cowlick’s Ice Cream. We tried MUSHROOM ICE CREAM- oddly yummy actually. We called it an early night that day since we wanted to wake up early the next morning.
Day 6: Fort Bragg –> San Francisco
We woke up fairly early and headed out, the first thing we checked out was The Glass Beach in Fort Bragg. It was kind of a disappointment; we didn’t really see any glass and we didn’t even get all the way to the shoreline because it was a terranes hike.
We say some of the most gorgeous views on the drive to San Francisco. We stopped in Point Arena and saw the lighthouse. We stopped for coffee at the Timber Cove Resort on the Sonoma Coast. It was the cutest resort ever, private cliff waterfront views—highly recommend staying here if you are thinking of something romantic and remote. The staff here was also very warm and welcoming, they let us walk around the property and check it out.
Before getting to San Francisco we stopped just north of the city in Sausalito where we had lunch at Poggio Trattoria. Great Italian restaurant—highly recommend this spot for a meal or a quick bite and wine. The service and ambiance was really nice, and there was a lot of street parking in the area with parking meters.
After lunch we took the Golden Gate Bridge into the city and checked out the Full House house. Before checking into the hotel we stopped at a famous donut shop called Bob’s Donuts and Pastry Shop. We got there around late afternoon, and there was still a line on the outside of the building – which was worth it!
We stayed at the Hotel Adagio in the Tenderlion area. The hotel showcased its beautiful Spanish colonial revival architecture on the outside mixed with and upscale contemporary design on the inside. We were upgraded to the rooftop suite with a private balcony. That afternoon we walked to the Fisherman’s Wharf to check out the area. We stopped at Boudin and ate some fresh Sourdough bread and butter—it was absolutely amazing!
We had reservations at the Waterbar that evening, located right under the Bay Bridge. We had some great cocktails with a great view. We had a little snafu with the restaurant when we got there, we made reservations in hopes to have a drink and some appetizers, but they wouldn’t allow us to eat there without ordering dinner. After taking to the manager, we were able to move inside to the bar to have some cocktails. It actually ended up being a great night after all.
Day 7: San Francisco –>Santa Cruz
We woke up early in the morning to walk over to Lombard Street to pick up our bikes, we were biking the Golden Gate Bridge that morning. It was about a 45-minute walk to grab the bikes. It was about a 3.5-mile bike ride to the bridge. This was actually the hardest part, all uphill. After we got to the bridge it was a straight shot ride. When we got back down,, we grabbed shakes at Project Juice and a bagel at Noah’s NY Bagels. We did a total of 10 miles on the bike that day. We got back to the hotel, got ready and left for Santa Cruz.
We checked into the Chaminade Resort & Spa; it was the most beautiful resort ever. The evening was even more AMAZING- my boyfriend proposed to me (I will write all about the proposal in a separate blog post). Dinner at The View, a Treeside Restaurant was fantastic. It was truly the best night of my life!
Day 8: Santa Cruz–> Carmel by the Sea/ Big Sur Area
We woke up in the morning and enjoyed a beautiful breakfast at The View, a Treeside Restaurant. After breakfast we had private access to the hot tub because of COVID. They only allowed 1 party to rent it out at a time. After the hot tub we walked around the property; they have beautiful hikes on the property which we didn’t do, but we definitely plan on doing the next time we come to the resort.
Our next stop was Carmel by the Sea. On the way into Carmel, we did the 17 mile drive around the Pebble Beach area. It was absolutely beautiful. After driving around we stopped at Sea Harvest and had a yummy crab salad sandwich and garlic bread.
We were staying at the Carmel Mission Inn. We were actually highly disappointed, the hotel looks gorgeous online and when we got there we found that the entire hotel was under construction, and it looked like an actual dump, not to mention we were woken up by the construction. Our room it self was okay, but we weren’t able to utilize any of the hotel while we were there, and the hotel forced us to pay our “pre reserved rate” through Expedia rather then let us pay the LOW going rare that night, they were trying to tell us even though it was $95 on google we had agreed to pay $275 online.
We spend the evening in the city of Carmel by the Sea and it was THE CUTEST TOWN IN THE WORLD I KID YOU NOT. We started the evening at Galante Vineyards and had a wine tasting. It was a cute tasting room in the alley, had a very European vibe. After the tasting we went to Yafa for dinner. The owner Dia was absolutely hospitable, he truly helped us celebrate our engagement and created an unforgettable night. We tried some of the best wines of our life this night. Yara was an AMAZING Mediterranean Fusion restaurant- we literally can’t wait to come back to Carmel by the Sea in the near future!
Day 9: Big Sur
Today was our full day to explore, as you can imagine we slept in that morning. We finally woke up and made it across the street to Allegro Pizzeria in Carmel, it was a really cute pizza place with fresh brick oven pizza, definitely hit the spot. After lunch we went south into Big Sur. The ocean was beautiful and blue along this part of the coastline. We noticed the more south we got, the bluer the water got. Now I am going to highlight the sites we saw all day.
McWay Falls in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park: The overlook trail for McWay Falls is a must-stop for anyone taking the scenic drive up Highway One along the Big Sur Coast. The waterfall is stunning, dropping some 80 feet onto a pristine beach in an enchanting cove. It is a short 0.6-mile round trip hike to a viewpoint for McWay Falls, which can be reached directly from Highway One or from parking areas withing Julia Pfieffer Burns State Park.
Pfeiffer Beach: There is a $12 entry fee to get into the beach. Pfeiffer Beach is one of the top attractions in Big Sur. Getting to Pfeiffer Beach takes a bit of effort, it was definitely an off road adventurous long drive to the beach. The beautiful scenery and serene ambience are well worth the short detour from California Highway 1. You will fall in love with this beautiful spot, guaranteed! I also realized, while writing this post, that you can walk to McWay Falls from this beach.
Bixby Bridge: Bixby Creek Bridge, also known as Bixby Canyon Bridge, on the Big Sur coast of California, is one of the most photographed bridges in California due to its aesthetic design, “graceful architecture and magnificent setting”. It is a reinforced concrete open-spandrel arch bridge.
We also stopped along the coast numerous times to take pictures! Honestly, travel times are always along the coast due to all the stops we make to suck in the views.
We ended the night back in Carmel by the Sea for dinner, we were on an Italian kick that day and we ended up having dinner at Carmel’s Bistro Giovanni. The city was packed since it was Mother’s Day but it was well worth the dinner.
Day 10: Carmel–> Las Angeles
We left moderately early to head to Las Angeles in the morning, our original plan was to head to Ventura–>LA–>San Diego but we made a last-minute switch to move it to LA–> Newport Beach–> San Diego. Our first stop after heading out of Carmel was Hearst Castle in San Luis but unfortunately when we got to the gate, we found out they closed at the start of the pandemic and now they need major road renovations before a bus can get back up there.
A few miles up the road we stopped at Ragged Point to see the Sea Elephants. I have never seen such sight, there were literally hundreds of sea elephants on shore basking in the sun. It also smelled a little weird there. It was definitely a sight to see. After our little pitstop, we were back on the road until we stopped at In-N-Out burger for some lunch. It was a bit messy to eat in the car but worth it!
We finally made it to LA, and we spend the evening with my fiancés friend and his family. We went to Zuma Beach in Malibu California to hike and watch the beautiful sunset. We went up to Point Dume. After the hike we ended up in Santa Monica along the pier for dinner.
After dinner, we headed back to our hotel, we were staying at the W Hollywood and we were upgraded to The Marvelous Suite. I would say in general the city of LA was dirty and I didn’t love the Hollywood area. I definitely think that LA was a one time city, I would love to go back for the food scene but I don’t think I will be back in LA any time soon.
Day 11: Las Angeles –>Newport Beach
We woke up in Hollywood in the morning, till I had enough of the smell (TMI but smelled like pee), For lunch we ended up going to a VEGAN PLACE called Sugar Taco. It was honestly the best, you couldn’t even tell that there wasn’t any meat or cheese on the food.
After lunch we went back to the hotel, checked out and went up to the Hollywood sign before we headed down to Newport Beach. We didn’t even end up parking by the sign, it was extremely hot and crowded up there. We got to Newport Beach late afternoon and checked into the Newport Beach Marriott Bayview. After checking in, we wanted to see the area so we went and checked out Balboa Pier and Newport Beach before we headed to Huntington Beach for dinner. We went to Sushi on Fire with one of my fiancés friends. The sushi was AMAZING! My favorite was the lobster roll!
Day 12: Newport Beach –>San Diego
The next morning we were headed to our FINAL STOP- SAN DIEGO! We were originally going to stay 3 nights in San Diego, but due to an unforeseen situation we had to cut our trip short and fly home a few days early. On the way to San Diego we stopped in Laguna Beach for some Lunch. We ended up eating at Carmelita’s Kitchen de Mexico and it was hands down the best meal we had on the entire trip. We ordered–guacamole, Mexican city corn, queso fundido, and shrimp taquitos– all of which were absolutely amazing!
After lunch we went straight to San Diego. We checked into our airbnb, The Rose Bungalow, a small property walking distance from the beach and the famous Ocean Beach Pier. After checking in we went and grabbed some Kombucha at Tapshack before heading to Torrey Pines to hike a bit. Before this trip the only city in California I had ever gone to was San Diego and the Torrey Pines was my favorite hike. Unfortunately it was a very cold and gloomy day and we didn’t do the whole loop that day. On the way back to our airbnb we stopped at the La Jolla Cove. We ended the day at a dinner walking distance from our place. Of course we ate some more Mexican food. We ended up at La Doña in Ocean’s Beach. We actually ended up trying some of their vegan tacos.
Day 13: Sand Diego –>HOME as an Engaged Couple
The next morning our flight home was at 1:30 PM local time so we had a relaxing morning, and we stopped at Tapshack to grab some refills of the coffee they had on tap before heading to the airport.
If you want to see our whole trip in 18 minutes click on the link–>