And Why Locals Should Explore it More!
Traveling the west coast isn’t just for visitors. Here’s why you should explore your own backyard more.
1. One of the Most Famous Drives in the World
The West Coast is home to the Pacific Coast Highway, often referred to as the PCH. The Pacific Coast Highway is famous around the world for its incredible scenery that highlights some of the best parts of the Pacific coastline.
The PCH begins in Southern California and ends in San Francisco, but you can keep taking Highway 1 up to Seattle, which alternates between coastal scenery and impressive forests.
Some of us who live here drive the PCH as part of our daily commute, others use it as a scenic route to get form one beach city to another in their county. Others have done the whole drive, but didn’t have time to see everything. If that sounds like you and there’s more of the PCH or Highway 1 that you need to explore, then hop in your car this weekend and go!
2. Secret Spots
Though the west has a high density of population and is a popular travel destination, the region is so vast that secret spots can still be found where you can enjoy nature unencumbered by crowds. There are also still places so remote or hard to get to that the general public – particularly travelers short on time – are quick to pass if on a time crunch.
The Lost Coast in Northern California comes to mind since it’s a big detour off of Highway 1. In Washington, most of Olympic National Park’s famed beaches require a hike to get to, furthering the likelihood that you’ll find it crowd-free once you arrive.
3. Sandy Beaches for Miles
When it comes to wide, sandy beaches that stretch for miles, the West Coast is your place. Southern California in particular is the place to be – especially if you want to play in crashing waves or catch a larger wave on your surfboard.
Place your towel on the sand by one of the quintessential blue lifeguard towers, take a stroll down a fun and eclectic boardwalk, or settle in for the whole day with an umbrella or sun tent and a cooler of snacks and cold drinks to enjoy the blissful beach life of SoCal.
Southern California isn’t the only place along the western coast of the U.S. mainland where you’ll find wide sandy beaches, though. Oregon is also home to wide expanses of soft sand, with the stretch between Rockaway Beach and Seaside being famous with PNW locals for light golden sand free of rocks except for massive ones sticking out of the water just beyond the shore.
4. Rugged Beaches for Tidepools
Sand isn’t all that makes up the west coast shoreline, which is what makes it so special. Along certain stretches of the coast, you’ll find a beach made up of rock ledges and stacks, making for the perfect place to walk around when the tide is out since you’ll likely find sea creatures hanging out in the shallow tidepools.
Other beaches like Bandon in Oregon and Rialto in Washington stand out due to the many massive rock statues and formations that dot the beaches.
One thing is for sure, you’ll never get bored of the beaches you’ll encounter on the West Coast.
5. Tranquil Bays for Kayaking and SUPing
Beyond the wild coastline of the open Pacific Ocean, there are secluded and peaceful bays situated up and down the west coast. From Mission Bay in San Diego to the Puget Sound in Washington, there are a number of places where you don’t need to worry about large waves knocking you over.
These bays are a great place to try your hand at stand-up paddle boarding or to rent a kayak and paddle around the bay, many of which are home to seals and other wildlife – you might even see whales and dolphins!
6. So Many National Parks!
The west is filled with national parks. California itself has a whopping nine national parks within its borders and you’ll find several more in Oregon and Washington. Add in Hawaii and Alaska’s national parks and the exploring of National Parks can last for many, many weekend getaways and vacations.
The U.S. National Parks of the Pacific West Coast are known for towering waterfalls, jaw-dropping vistas, and a variety of terrain – ranging from desert landscape to rocky mountains to some of the tallest trees in the world. There’s even a rain forest in the west (the temperate rain forest in Olympic National Park) and a bamboo forest (Maui’s Pipiwai Trail in Haleakala National Park).
Other stand-out parks in California include Yosemite and its impressive Half Dome mountainside, Redwood with trees so large you can drive through them, Joshua Tree and its Dr. Seuss inspired greenery that gives the park its name. In Oregon, there’s Crater Lake National Park, home to the nation’s deepest lake. And in Washington, you won’t want to miss Cascade National Park, which is one of the region’s less-visited national parks, but is home to one of the prettiest drives around.
7. West Coast Breweries and Wineries
The West Coast is home to both Portland, Oregon, and San Diego, California; the cities often ranked number 1 and number 2 on the list of best beer cities in the world. On top of that, you can find highly-regarded breweries in a plethora of other cities up and down the coast. Even Hawaii and Alaska have their own breweries you can visit while on vacation there. Don’t miss trying the West Coast IPA, an especially popular brew in Southern California.
Wineries are also big players along the west coast. Wine tasting and learning more about different wines and how they’re made has become a hobby for many west coasters. Even if you haven’t delved into the world of wine much yet, you can quickly become acquainted with it through tours of wineries and sipping wine tasting flights in some of the best regions for wine growing in the world: Napa and Sonoma in Northern California are the most famous, but you’ll also find excellent wine in Central Coast California, Central Oregon, and Eastern Washington.
Other pockets of wine growing and winemaking exists in other areas, too, around the west coast. And even where there aren’t vineyards, you can often find tasting rooms for wineries, such as in Woodinville, Washington, a suburb of Seattle that has over 130 wine bars and tasting rooms, many of which are tasting rooms for wineries based in Eastern Washington’s Walla Walla.
8. Big City Fun on the West Coast
The West Coast has a ton of nature, but amidst all that beauty are some of the most iconic cities in the world. From the gorgeous harbor and historic Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego to the Hollywood glitz and glam of Los Angeles to the hilly bay area beauty of San Francisco and its impressive Golden Gate Bridge, California is lined with big city intrigue. Head farther up the coast and you’ll find the hipster charm of Portland followed by the unique placement of Seattle, a city sandwiched between two large bodies of water and two different mountain ranges.
9. Small Town Charm
Big cities aren’t the only areas of population getting acclaim along the west coast. If you live in one of those cities (as most west coast residents do) you’re often just a short drive away from an adorable small town or tiny city waiting to seduce you with cuteness and charm or old-timey ruggedness.
10. Lots of Airports on the West Coast
I’m all for an epic west coast road trip, but luckily for west coasters, there are a slew of airports located up and down the west coast; very convenient in the case that you’re short on time and need to get somewhere quickly.
In Southern California alone, you can choose to fly into or out of two large international airports: San Diego (SAN) or Los Angeles (LAX). Or you can opt for a smaller airport where you’ll breeze through security and can quickly walk between the car lot from the terminal at Santa Ana (SAN) or Long Beach (LBG). I especially love Long Beach’s airport since it has an outdoor seating area inside the tiny terminal!
There are also smaller airports in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and San Jose in California, and Everett in Washington. San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle are also home to large, busy international airports.
Get Out & Start Exploring!
So, with so many ways to get away for the weekend or a longer vacation, what are you waiting for? Start exploring the west coast more and see all the wonders that make it such an incredible place to live.