Pacific Coast Highway in 14 Days! | Day 3, 4 & 5 | Leg 2

This is part of a larger series, our North American Rocky Mountain Tour. This is leg 2, which takes you through the Northwest United States along the west coast, from Vancouver, British Columbia to Otter Crest Scenic Viewpoint, Oregon (west of Eugene, Oregon) over the course of 3 days. You can find Leg 1 here and Leg 3 here.

(Photos Coming Soon)

Day 3 – Vancouver to Seattle

This leg starts In Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and ends in Seattle, Washington, USA. It includes crossing an international border, which requires specific documentation. There are also restrictions on what you can carry across the border – be sure to do your homework before attempting to cross.

While this is a short day of driving, you’ll have to start early to hit everything on this list. Seattle is a city with endless sights to see, so we only scratch the surface in this post. If you think we missed something or want to suggest a favourite, please comment below! We also skipped Olympic National Park, which deserves a few days at a minimum, so if you have the time, definitely include it in your plans.

Our day began crossing the US border, to arrive in Seattle in the late morning. We had many points on our map, but only managed to hit these few:

  • Washington Park Arboretum, University of Washington Botanic Gardens: This little park isn’t all that little. The 230 acre preserve is home to numerous trees and plants from 5 places in the world that match this temperate zone. Wander through sections that take you on a literal tour of 5 different parts of the globe. Plan for an hour or two or take all day.
  • Bruce Lee and Brandon Lee’s Grave Sites: Without much fanfare, stop and enjoy looking over the city while learning a bit about the martial arts icon and his son.
  • Seattle Center: Home to many of Seattle’s tourist traps, you could spend days in these few city blocks. With the Space Needle towering above you, wander through the Museum of Pop Culture, let the kids play on the Artists at Play playground, and tour the Pacific Science Center, just to name a few attractions.
  • Pike Place Market: Wander the endless shops at Pike Place, and iconic marketplace initially known for it’s seafood, but now known for it’s eclectic mix of arts, food and entertainment.
  • Seattle Public Library: So much more than just a library. When you hear someone talk about how architecture can uplift and inspire a community, this is the cover of that textbook. Each floor has something completely different, and they have nailed down what an accessible public space should look like. Plan for a few hours to wander the whole building.
  • The Museum of Flight: Boeing Field, home to Boeing, one of the worlds largest commercial aircraft manufacturers, the Museum is a stop you’ll never forget. With vast amounts of exhibits to explore, there is something for everyone.

At the end of the day, we found a quiet place near Alki Beach to park, with a few other vans. We spent the evening watching the sun set over the Puget Sound and woke early the next day to be gone before the locals began stirring.

Day 4 – Seattle to the Columbia River

This leg starts in Seattle, Washington, USA and ends at the mouth of the Columbia River.

This is another intentionally short day of driving, which left us time to squeeze in a few more sights in Seattle before heading to the coast.

We opted to avoid the Interstate and headed straight for the ocean via Highways 8 and 12, joining the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH 101) near Aberdeen, Washington. We parked for the night at the Dismal Nitch Rest Area maintained by the Washington State Department of Transportation. There were many others there overnight, but the highlight was the great bathroom facilities and seeing the Astoria Column across the Columbia the next morning.

Day 5 – The Columbia River to Otter Crest, Oregon

Our day started around 9 am, when we finally hit the road. Our first stop was completely impromptu, after seeing it towering across the Columbia River.

  • Astoria Column: A curious tower, this is fun way to spend an hour or two. Buy a balsa-wood airplane from the gift shop and climb the 150~ steps to the top to see how far yours can fly. Pro tip: Make a couple test runs down on the ground to fine tune your plane and get it to fly relatively straight.
  • Haystack Rock on Cannon Beach:
  • Neahkahnie Viewpoint: A great place to stop for lunch, this can provide an easy 5 minute breathtaking view from 500′ above the ocean, or an hour long heart-pumping hike to the summit of Neahkahnie Mountain. With 2 trailheads, this route provides a great 5-6 mile loop if you include 1.7 miles of the PCH back to your vehicle.
  • Rockaway Beach: A quaint little town that has somehow been preserved in many ways. Ride the old steam engine powered train 10 miles down the track and back, wander the 80’s-esque gift shops, and eat tacos, all within a few blocks. Truth be told, we didn’t even get to the beach, but we heard it’s pretty nice too.

Just before sunset, we pulled into the Otter Crest State Scenic Viewpoint. Perched 500′ above the ocean, we were treated with a birds eye view of a pod of whales cruising north while making dinner. We originally didn’t intend to stay the night here, but after being there for 1.5 hours for dinner and only seeing 2 people stop, we decided to give it a try. There was only a small port-a-potty, but it did the trick.

Sunset over the gift shop and Observatory at Otter Crest State Scenic Viewpoint.

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