Ultimate West Coast Explorer Vancouver to San Francisco
From one coastal city to another, you will follow Highway 101, the Pacific Coast Highway for much of this wonderful fly-drive holiday which takes in modern cities, rainforests, coastal scenery, 500 feet high sand dunes, giant Redwood trees and snow capped mountains.
It is important that you travel from north to south so that you are on the "outside" of the road to capture the best views. Beginning in the ever-popular city of Vancouver, Canada you’ll be visiting Seattle and Portland, judged by many to have the highest quality of life of any American urban area before ending your holiday in another world-class city - San Francisco. Along the way the highlights will be the Olympic National Park, the coast of Oregon, the California wine country and the mighty Redwoods.Print this itinerary
Here's a day-by-day guide to your itinerary. Feel free to ask us to add other days or ideas and excursions by adding them to your wishlist, so we can give you the best price.
Arrive in Vancouver, British Columbia
For information on BC, please do visit our Frontier Canada site where you will find lots of information on our recommended hotels and activities. http://www.frontier-canada.co.uk/destination/british-columbia
Start your visit to Vancouver with a trip to one of the cities most visited attractions, Stanley Park. Jump aboard the Spirit Catcher Train for a narrated 13 minute journey into the forest of Stanley Park and hear the story of “The Raven Saving the Sun.” Spend time exploring the other various art exhibits in the park, as well as the vast gardens and ornamental plantings.
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Since you will be in the area for three days, you may want to consider purchase of a See Vancouver Visitors Pass that includes admission to 50 attractions that you can arrange into the itinerary of your choice.
You may choose to visit the renowned Vancouver Art Gallery, or the terrific collection of local historical artifacts at the Museum of Anthropology. There are several unique districts within the city that are worth exploring, check out Gastown or Yaletown to see an alternative side to the city. If shopping is more your pace, why not check out Robson Street or Granville Island Market.Close
You may choose to spend today continuing to explore this fascinating city or you may wish to head outside of city. Just 20 miles out of the city is the Capilano Suspension Bridge whose surrounding area features nature tours and a living forest exhibit. Grouse Mountain is also close, or you may decide to head to Whistler for a daytrip. If you want to expand your trip to stay overnight in Whistler, take a look at our Frontier Canada website.Close
Vancouver to Victoria
Hop on the ferry or a float plane from Vancouver to Victoria, the capital of British Columbia. Whilst there be sure to visit the Butchart Gardens and Craigdarroch Castle Historic House Museum, an opulent mansion exhibit.
There are several museums in the city including; The Royal British Columbia Museum, First Peoples, Natural History and Modern History Galleries — filled with the sights, smells and sounds of British Columbia. Victoria is also one of the best places in the world to see killer whales and Frontier America can arrange a whale-watching trip for you.
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Victoria to Seattle
Take the high speed ferry from downtown Victoria through the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound into the heart of Seattle.
In recent years Seattle has become the commercial hub of the Northeast, it is also not a city that lacks culture or sights. Take a tour of the city and visit Pike Place Market, Pioneer Square and the original Starbucks Coffee.
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Purchase a Seattle City Pass and today you can see the very best of this fascinating city. Your pass enables you to visit the Seattle Aquarium, Pacific Science Center, EMP Museum, Museum of Flight and take an Argosy Harbor Cruise. These attractions as well as the fairly new Chihuly Garden and Glass are not to be missed.Close
Seattle to Port Angeles
This morning, you will collect your car to start the driving part of your holiday.
Take one of the many ferries across Puget Sound to Bainbridge Island from where it is an easy drive to Lake Crescent Lodge just outside Port Angeles, your first hotel on the beautiful Olympic Peninsula. On the way, we suggest you stop at Port Townsend, Port Angeles and Hurricane Ridge. The Olympic National Park is one of America’s great hidden treasures, with stunning and diverse natural landscapes, the Peninsula loop is a truly amazing driving experience.
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Port Angeles to Kalaloch
Another hidden gem on the Olympic Peninsula is the Quinault Rainforest, with dense evergreens and secluded valleys this is somewhere not to be missed. The shimmering Ruby Beach is also somewhere not to be missed. We recommend settling for the night at the Kalaloch Lodge, following a lovely dinner in their historic Roosevelt dining room. Alternatively, you could stay at the Lake Quinault Lodge.
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Kalaloch to Portland
Leave the coast today as you join I-5 heading for your 3 1/2 hour drive to Portland, Oregon. Known as the City of Roses, the culturally rich downtown is surrounded by small, intriguing neighborhoods, each with a unique flavour and heritage. Accolades have been heaped on Portland with the city dubbed the country’s best eating destination, America’s most sustainable city, one of the “greenest” cities in the world and more.
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Plenty of choices for your Portland day. These include The Pittock Mansion or The Portland Art Museum, Deep in the heart of the Pearl District, bibliophiles will rejoice in Powell’s City of Books. You will find over one million books displayed in 68,000 square feet.Close
Heading down the Pacific Coast Highway today, the unspoiled and sparsely settled Oregon coast alternately brings relaxing stretches of peaceful beaches and beautiful natural landscapes. You may wish to take a slight detour to visit Cape Meares State Park. You can settle for the night in Newport, a popular historic travel destination rich with rich maritime history. Make sure to visit Oregon Coast Aquarium and the unique collection of shops at the Aquarium Village. You may also wish to stay overnight at Cannon Beach.
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Newport to Gold Beach
Your day today is going to be one of unending scenic beauty as you travel the Pacific Coast Highway National Scenic Byway on the Oregon Coast. Just south of Newport, Cape Perpetua Scenic Area delivers 360 degree clear panoramic views that go on for miles. The Sea Lion Caves let you go deep into the earth in this unique habitat. As you travel south, the solitude of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area’s wind-sculpted shifting sand dunes as high as 500 feet above sea level goes on for 40 miles. Be sure to stop at the many scenic viewpoints all down the coast.
TIP. Take a Sand Dune Buggy tour in Florence to really get a feel for the size of the dunes.
Your day will finish near Gold Beach to stay at Tu Tu' Tun Lodge.
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Today, your highlight will be a jet boat tour up the Rouge River. You will deliver the mail to Agness 32 miles upriver just as Rogue River pioneers have done since 1895, when road access did not exist. This is great for the travelers who seek a scenic experience and aren’t interested in whitewater jet available on the longer tours. The Pacific Coastal Estuary, abundant wildlife, pristine wilderness and mail boat history make this boat tour memorable for all ages.Close
Gold Beach to Eureka
Today, continue your journey south toward Eureka via Redwood National Park, a great place to stop for lunch amidst the imposing sequoia trees. Then continue on to Eureka, a town that stands proudly over the Humboldt Bay. With streets lined with Victorian houses and packed with colonial charms, the Carter House Inns makes a great place to overnight.
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Eureka to Mendocino
Today we recommend you take the long way around but you will have to make a choice of routes. Head first for Ferndale: the entire village is a California Historic Landmark. Explore the old-fashioned mercantile establishments, as stores were called back then. Browse the antique shops, art galleries and specialty shops; hear the ringing of the blacksmith’s hammer and watch fresh candy being dipped by hand. Then make your way to Mendocino, which you may recognize as the location of hit TV-show ‘Murder She Wrote’. Take a visit to the long stretching Mendocino Botanical Gardens.
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Backtrack a little today you take the Skunk Train deep into the redwood forest near Fort Bragg. Built as a logging railroad, the Skunk line was created to bring massive redwood logs out to Mendocino sawmills. Residents along the tracks dubbed the trains, the skunk, saying they could smell the gasoline engines before they could see them. Along your route, the train crosses 30 bridges and trestles and passes through two mountain tunnels.Close
Mendocino to Napa Valley
You will bid goodbye to Highway 101 today as you take the 128 south through the heart of the Napa Valley, there are literally hundreds of vineyards that you can visit, but if you want to leave the driving to others, tour California wine country on the Wine Train which runs up and down the Napa Valley.
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Discover primarily Cabernets as opposed to the Pinots of the Mendocino area, larger vineyards as rather than the more family oriented operations further north, you can hear about winemaking practices at the wineries and enjoy a gourmet lunch washed down with a glass or two of wine.Close
Wander back through Sonoma County back to the coastline and visit the Point Reyes National Seashore, driver along your final piece of coastline starting at the Bear Valley Visitor Center. Visit Inverness Ridge and Chimney Rock along this rugged piece of historic coast. Your epic driving adventure draws to a close as you cross the Golden Gate Bridge into the world famous San Francisco.
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Familiarize yourself with San Francisco on the Barbary Coast Trail, a 3.8 mile route following bronze medallions set in the sidewalks that connect 20 of the city’s most important locations. Take a visit to Fisherman’s Wharf, where you can have incredible views of San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge and the cityscape along with your seafood. Nearby is Ghirardelli Square a transformed 19th century chocolate factory which is now fabulous marketplace filled with restaurants and featuring new one-of-a-kind shops. The tour will also take you past San Francisco’s famous “Painted Ladies;” blocks and blocks of Victorian homes that survived the earthquake and fire of 1906.Close
Of course, no visit to San Francisco is complete without a stop in Chinatown or a cable car ride to the top of Nob Hill where incredible views await. Hop on the ferry to Alcatraz which leaves from Pier 33. Be sure to arrange for pre-reserved tickets, since the ferry can be sold out for weeks in advance. Rent an audio tour guide to discover the full history of Alcatraz, far more than a prison.Close
This is a selection of hotels for this itinerary. Some areas have many more choices; please use the search function above if you wish to find an alternative hotel.
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Booking your holiday with us doesn't end when we send your confirmation out to you, either. Talk to us about adding excursions or room upgrades or even restaurant recommendations; we are here to offer advice all the way up to your departure date. Even when you have left the UK, we are still here to help. For example if your flight that we have booked is delayed or cancelled due to ash cloud, strike, etc, it is down to us to re-arrange your travel. We will do everything we can to make sure your holiday runs smoothly. And better still, we are fully bonded with ATOL and ABTA, so your money is completely protected.
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