West coast highway road trip: from Oatman to Seattle

It’s funny how just driving along a certain route, stopping at random places you didn’t even know existed, can be such a memorable experience.

Most Americans drive everyday. We have to, if we want to get anywhere – the grocery store, work, even to a hiking trail or to the gym. But there’s nothing normal about taking a road trip up the coast on Highway 1 and Highway 101, from Southern California to Seattle, Washington.

My road trip started a little more inland – in the desert of Arizona. So by the time I made it back home I’d seen almost every type of scenery imaginable.

I drove through Oatman, Arizona – a town full of very friendly and curious donkeys.

Then on to California, stopping for a couple hours at The Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz before heading on down the coast towards San Francisco. And on the way I happen to come across a piano on beach. Yes. A piano on a beach. I know, the usual.

I also took the time to drive through a tree, and go down the Redwood Highway before going to Oregon, where I found and followed a sign to pull off and check out a Sea Lion Cave and do some whale watching.

And then finally, I wound up in Washington where I explored the mountains and countryside as well as the busy city of Seattle.

I also went a little farther as well, going a bit off the “American” road trip plan and ending up in Vancouver, Canada (which you need a passport to do now days FYI).

Was it a good time that I’d recommend to a friend? Only if they’ll take me with! It was so much fun that I’m planning to go again.

But if you’re interested in taking this trip and not planning to invite me (I won’t hold it against you for too long) then here’s some of the highlights that I would recommend:

  • Stop on your way to grab some lunch and take it to Pismo Beach, just a little south of San Louis Obispo. If you’re there at the right time of year (October – February) there’s a patch of trees where thousands of Monarch Butterflies make their home.
  • If you’re up for something a little cheesy but fun, check out The Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz to get some crazy pictures of you and your friends standing in a seriously slanted house and hear some of the theories about why it’s there.
  • A little further up in San Jose you can drop in on the famous Winchester Mansion – you may have heard of it as the house that has “a door to nowhere” and tons of weird stairways and even some windows in the floor. Pretty weird stuff but cool to see.
  • The Redwood Highway is an amazing place. Whether you just want to drive down it, drive through one of the giant trees (where that’s allowed – you can’t just try driving through any tree! Well, I mean you could, but trust me, the tree is gonna win that one) or actually stop, camp, and hike through some of the forest, you won’t be disappointed.
  • In Oregon you can check out the Sea Lion Caves where tons of sea lions come to get out of the rough weather in the fall and winter. You might even catch some whales breaching off the coast! The caves are located on the coast of Florence, OR.

In Seattle there’s plenty to do – shops to check out and food to taste – but a couple of the must-dos are:

  1. Check out the bayside marketplace called Pikes Place Market, and take a ride on the ferris wheel down on the docks to get a great view of the city.
  2. Take the tour of Seattle’s Underground City, on which the Seattle we know and love today was built. It’s a very interesting and unique piece of history. 

There’s a million things to see when you’re taking an American road trip, but these were some of my favorite along Highway 1 and Highway 101. If you’re cool taking your time to drive this route it’s one of those trips that you’ll always remember. I could drive the whole thing again just for the scenery.

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