fun & funky Pacific Coast Highway road {round} trip

Ali Hedin | PCH Roadtrip to San Francisco

So here's the deal.  I don't camp.  I love the idea.  I love the woods.  I love spending that time in nature with the children.  But I do not love sleeping in a tent.  I do not love awkward bathroom situations.  So we haven't camped as a family until last summer when we decided it was time to do something fun with our children before the oldest entered middle school and was way too cool to be with us.  

Since we had access to an Airstream trailer, it now actually seemed possible for our family to camp.  To camp and enjoy it.  Words I never thought I would say.  

I have wanted to travel the Pacific Coast Highway for a long time.  Ideally down to the end and back, but since we are starting at the top in Seattle and taking three young children, that seemed possible but not for a summer vacation.  So we settled on traveling the PCH from Tillamook, Oregon to San Francisco.  It was gorgeous and perfect and really fun.  

Ali Hedin | Pacific Coast Highway Trip

First stop after leaving Tillamook, Oregon was in Newport.  Newport is known for their oyster beds.  In fact, it was the naturally occurring oyster beds that first attracted settlers to the area in 1862.  By 1866 the first tourist destination resort was built by the man who had actually named the town after his favorite town on the east coast - Newport, Rhode Island.  

The early 1900's were hot in Newport.  Luckily, the seafood industry still is and we found amazing oysters and halibut to grill up for lunch.  

Ali Hedin | PCH Roadtrip to San Francisco
Ali Hedin | PCH Roadtrip to San Francisco
Ali Hedin | PCH Roadtrip to San Francisco

HOT TIP #1

Time your first stop to be around 10 or 11am.  It's the perfect time to buy something for lunch.  Then make another stop an hour or so after you leave for lunch.  It breaks up the day and gives you something to look forward too every hour instead of in four (or more!) hours.

 Lunch at Cape Perpetua outside of Newport featuring fresh grilled (it's summer!) oysters and pasta tossed with lemon and parsley.  Also, we split a beer because we're old.  

Lunch at Cape Perpetua outside of Newport featuring fresh grilled (it's summer!) oysters and pasta tossed with lemon and parsley.  Also, we split a beer because we're old.  

Ali Hedin | Pacific Coast Highway Trip

Our second night was spent in Bandon, Oregon.  In hind sight, we were clearly racing to get to the Redwoods and didn't pay a ton of attention to where we were staying before we got there.  We chose an in-town RV Park which was lovely but we learned quickly that we are not RV Park people, we are Parks people.  National or State, it doesn't matter, but a Park.  There's a big difference.  

We also made the mistake of being in Bandon on a Sunday.  When you are city people, you don't think of things like "town closes on Sunday."  We were planning on shopping in town on the cute boardwalk.  Nothing but a darling little tavern was open on a Sunday.  In an effort to be good parents, we did not go in the tavern.  We bought fish & chips from the stand in town and came back to the RV Park.  

HOT TIP #2

Always buy the fish & chips.  This isn't the time to 'watch what you eat.'

 The best part of an RV Park is the signs they have up for 'residents'

The best part of an RV Park is the signs they have up for 'residents'

Ali Hedin | Pacific Coast Highway Trip
Ali Hedin | Pacific Coast Highway Trip

I remembered going to the Trees of Mystery when I was a little girl.  I remember loving it.  I remembered it being so cool.  It still is.  Trees of Mystery is the kind road side attraction that every road trip needs.  It's kitchy, touristy, vintage sight seeing spot that is well worth the stop.

While we were there the children became enamored with Paul Bunyan.  There are little recordings you can listen to as you walk through the park that give glimpses into the stories of Paul Bunyan and Babe, the Blue Ox.  By the time we got to the gift shop, we knew we needed a book with the stories of Paul Bunyan, which - of course - we found.  We had chosen to have a 'screen free' trip which meant that we needed to keep the kids occupied while we drove.  Or at least not arguing.  I made little books with games and coloring for them, but those were not always the biggest hit.  Reading a chapter or two of the book each morning while we drove kept everyone happy and we could then talk about the book as we continued on our drive.

HOT TIP #3

Find something your kids are into and cling to it.  Make it a theme of the trip.

Ali Hedin | Pacific Coast Highway Trip
Ali Hedin | Pacific Coast Highway Trip
Ali Hedin | Pacific Coast Highway Trip
Ali Hedin | Pacific Coast Highway Trip

You literally can't go on a road trip without having an argument at some point.  Samoa Cookhouse was ours.  From where we were on our trip, Samoa Cookhouse was a healthy 30 minute drive out of the way.  I had read about it online and really really wanted to go. REALLY.

But the thing we learned while dragging a trailer on the small and winding roads of the PCH was that everything takes much longer than any maps app says it will.  We cannot drive as fast as a regular car and it took multiple stops at little beaches and coffee shops to keep everyone happy.  So a 30 minute "detour" for a "funky" lunch was really pushing the limit at this point.  

Ironically, Mr. Hedin was a forestry major in college.  Part of the School of Forestry is competing in forest related games which are evidently really fun and they travel for competitions to other forest type places.  One of the places they traveled was to Humboldt.  You know, like where the redwoods are.  Like where we were on this trip.  And one of the places he ate was at this "funky" restaurant that he really wanted to go to.  But he couldn't remember the name.  

UGG.  We literally spent two days debating going to this restaurant before we realized we were talking about the SAME DAMN RESTAURANT!  If anything was worth an argument, it was Samoa Cookhouse.  It is epic.  It's old school epic.  It's the kind of restaurant where you order breakfast, lunch or dinner.  I don't mean you look at a menu and order.  I mean, you say "We'll have breakfast" as long as you are there before 10am, that will happen.  And they bring you what they are serving.  There are no choices, no edits, and no one leaves hungry.  It's an obscene amount of food.  

Ali Hedin | Pacific Coast Highway Trip
 RV Park Camping is not as glamorous as the trees, but when you're just outside of San Francisco, your options are limited. 

RV Park Camping is not as glamorous as the trees, but when you're just outside of San Francisco, your options are limited. 

Ali Hedin | Pacific Coast Highway Trip

San Francisco was our "final destination" mostly because I am a city girl and I knew I would be craving 'big city' at this point.  And I was.  But no one else was.  Lesson learned that we probably don't need to make a 'big city' a part of this kind of trip. 

But I do love San Fran.  It's changed a lot over the years but it was fun to take my children to places I remember from my childhood and places that Mr. Hedin and I have gone when we've visited.  We got to go to Chinatown and get fortune cookies from the factory, Chinese food at Mr. Hedin and my favorite spot, went to Gumps where my mother used to love to shop, we saw Lombard street and had a milkshake a Ghiradelli.  I wouldn't change our trip for anything, but next time, we'll fly.

Perhaps the most strategic part of our trip was the 'round trip' situation.  We live in Seattle, we were returning to Seattle and most 'road trips' that I saw online started in one city and landed in a totally separate city and didn't have a route for the way home.  San Francisco marked the 'turn around' for us.  

Ali Hedin | Pacific Coast Highway Trip

Our first stop on the return trip was at Point Reyes.  I was so stinking excited about Point Reyes.  I wanted all of the blue cheese and I had read about the Farmer's Market in town.  I love a good Farmer's Market.  It was just as fabulous as expected.  Not only is there the cutest little general store in town, but on the weekend there's a market in front of the general store with darling crafts, flowers, fruit and vegetables, fresh cheese, everything you could want.  BONUS there was a children's crafting station at the market where the children were totally entertained while Mr. Hedin and I shopped around.  It was my favorite stop.  It was darling and lovely and a perfect respite from our two days in a cement jungle of the San Francisco RV Park.  

HOT TIP #4

Make sure you have something scheduled that everyone is excited for.  For me, it was the Farmer's Market.  The wear of daily driving and 'managing' the situation can be weary if you don't have something to look forward to.  

Ali Hedin | Pacific Coast Highway Trip
Ali Hedin | Pacific Coast Highway Trip
Ali Hedin | Pacific Coast Highway Trip

The best part of this trip was seeing the kids climb and explore and do things that city kids just aren't used to doing.  We don't live in an apartment and we do have a yard and places for the kids to ride bikes, etc.  But in large part, our life is in the city.  

I don't know that we realized that's why we were taking this trip when we started.  We saw this as a fun family trip to make memories and have an adventure together.  It was that, but the connection to nature that occurred was a surprising bonus.  It's greatly influenced how we will spend our 2018 road trip. 

Ali Hedin | Pacific Coast Highway Trip
Ali Hedin | Pacific Coast Highway Trip
Ali Hedin | Pacific Coast Highway Trip

On the way down the coast we basically skipped it.  We skipped the sand dunes, etc. knowing that we would come back to them on the round trip side of things.  It also gave us something to still look forward too since I think we all agreed the redwoods were our favorite thing.   

HOT TIP #5

Schedule fun stops the entire trip, not just on the way down.  A round trip can seem boring on the way back since "you've been there" so have something to look forward too for the entire time.

Ali Hedin | Pacific Coast Highway Trip
Ali Hedin | Pacific Coast Highway Trip

As our family gets bigger (size wise, not adding people) it will be more challenging for everyone to sleep in the 19' trailer.  We could always add a tent or a sleeping spot in the car, but we don't really have those children.  We have the children who would be totally into a family bed if Mr. Hedin and I would allow it.  And they do attempt it at 3am when we are not awake enough to protest.  Until the day when we just simply can't make it happen, we'll continue to take our little adventures as a family staying in parks (but not RV parks).  

Ali Hedin | Pacific Coast Highway Trip
Ali Hedin | Pacific Coast Highway Trip

Are you traveling somewhere this summer?  Would you travel in a trailer with your children? 

Pin this for later and take your own Seattle to San Fran trip.

Ali Hedin | Pacific Coast Highway Trip

SHOP MY TRIP