Pacific Northwest Driving
Van Life

The 7 Must-Sees on a Pacific Coast Roadtrip

By on September 12, 2018

Guest Post by Trevor McDonald


Taking a Pacific Coast roadtrip is often thought of the crown jewel for sightseers, campers and nomads. The area is full of beautiful pine trees, snow-crested mountain peaks, and wild fields full of flowers, agriculture, and stunning seascapes.


The area is also home to some of the country’s coolest cities, including Portland, Seattle, Vancouver and a lot of ocean communities. Taking a roadtrip through this diverse area is an adventure on its own, but I’ll give you a short guide for some must-see stops along the way.


The Oregon Coast 

The Oregon Coast Is Ruggedly Beautiful

Photo by Andrew E. Larson


Start your trip along the Oregon Coast to experience why the West Coast is undoubtedly the Best Coast. If you’re headed north, start at Coos Bay, the largest city on Oregon’s coast. Coos Bay is the mid-point between San Francisco and Seattle, and you’ll find the unique Egyptian Theater, a beautiful flower garden, plenty of shopping, and live music in this little coastal town.


Next, make your way north to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. This beach has water on both sides, one side being a lake and one side being the Pacific Ocean. Its mega-dunes cover almost 40 miles, and visitors can enjoy hiking, riding ATVs and exploring the beach. You can even set up camp in this magnificent Oregon Coast stop.


pacific coast roadtrip

Photo by werner22brigitte


Continuing on your Pacific Coast roadtrip, you can hit many other beach spots, like the Ecola State Park, Cannon Beach, and Astoria. Make sure to have your car maintenance checked before you head out, because some of these roads are sandy and tougher to traverse. But the destinations are worth it!


Portland, OR 

Nightscape of Portland Oregon

Photographer Unknown


After you make it up the coast, make sure to check Portland out to experience the weirdest city in the Pacific Northwest. This quirky town is filled with locally crafted beer and microbreweries, delicious (and affordable) food, countless art galleries, and nature escapes right outside of the city.


While you’re there, you’ll probably meet some coffee nuts, beer connoisseurs, animal lovers, cyclists, and vegetarians plus some local colorful characters like Extremo the Clown. And this diverse mix is what makes Portland so much fun!


Seattle, WA

pacific coast roadtrip seattle

Photo by Andre Benz on Unsplash


Next up on your Pacific Coast roadtrip is Seattle, the area’s biggest and most famous city. It’s hard to sum up Seattle in just one paragraph, but visitors can expect sweeping views of Puget Sound from nearly every spot in the city, deliciously fresh seafood (don’t forget to stop by the Pike Place Fish Market!) and beautiful parks at every turn.


pacific coast roadtrip seattle fish market

Photo by InfiniteThought


Seattle’s unique nature, handcrafted goods, and local love are what keeps people coming back year after year – and it’s still a great place for fresh music. A road trip is a perfect way to see everything that this fantastic city has to offer.


San Juan Islands, WA 

The many islands around Seattle are extremely easy to get to via the ferry, yet they retain an untouched charm. Escaping to these little harbors is a treat and any road tripper has to make the stop.


pacific coast roadtrip San Juan Islands

Photo by hlwealey


Friday Harbor is on San Juan Island, the second largest in the archipelago, is the perfect little seaport village. Here, you’ll find plenty of shopping, unique places to eat, the Whale Museum and art galleries. The local vibe is unmatched, and everyone’s happy to have you in their little town.


In addition to San Juan, there are also Orcas Island, Lopez Island, and Anacortes, where the ferry goes in and out. If you have time on your Pacific Coast roadtrip, you could give them all a visit.


Mount Rainier 

Your Pacific Northwest roadtrip wouldn’t be complete until you witness the majestic beauty of Mount Rainier up close and personal. Even if you’re not a hiker, you can still stop by Mount Rainier National Park to witness this Pacific Northwest icon.


pacific coast roadtrip Mt. Rainier

Photo by Skeeze


The mountain itself soars more than 14,000 feet above sea level, is an active volcano, and spawns five major rivers – making it the most glaciated peak in the contiguous US. (You can take the Rainier Railroad through the foothills if you’re not up for hiking.)


Snoqualmie Falls

Another natural wonder is Snoqualmie Falls, which is located about 30 miles from Seattle. This 270-foot waterfall has to be seen to be believed, but expect to witness hundreds of thousands of gallons of rushing water cascading over the falls every minute! There are a few hiking trails around the area, an observation deck, gift stores and a small train museum.


pacific coast roadtrip Snoqualmie Falls

Photo by Oakie


Vancouver, BC 

It’s time to cross the international border, eh? Make your way north up into Canada to top off your Pacific Coast roadtrip. In the border city, you’ll find beautiful architecture, wide open parks, and a metropolitan area unlike any other.


pacific coast roadtrip vancouver

Photo by Bruno


Make sure to stop by Stanley Park, a 400-hectare natural park. Right in the middle of the city, you can find hiking trails, beautiful beaches, local wildlife and try the food tour for some authentic Canadian cousine.


There are also countless outdoor activities in Vancouver, such as whale watching, riding a seaplane, taking a trip to Whistler, visiting the largest naturist beach in North America (Wreck Beach)and you might even be able to glimpse the Northern Lights! And don’t forget to eat some Tim Horton’s and have some maple syrup while you’re there!


Aurora Arc Roadtrip

Photo by Steve Zhu


The Pacific Coast is full of hidden gems and popular excursions that the whole family will love and all you need to get there is a vehicle. From camping on beaches to exploring the big cities, the area is full of everything you need to have the roadtrip of a lifetime.


What about you, have you ever been on a Pacific Coast roadtrip or traveled through any of these great stops? Are there any favorite places we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below – we’d love to hear from you!


Trevor McDonald is a freelance writer living in San Diego, California with a passion for travel and road trips in particular. He enjoys traveling to parts unknown, sampling local cuisines, and sharing his experiences with the world. In his free time, you can find him planning his next trip or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable.




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