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Portland to San Francisco Drive: Where to Stop and What to See!

The West Coast of the US is absolutely stunning. There are so many little hidden gems along the way, and I wanted to get a taste for them. We spent a few days driving from Portland, Oregon to San Francisco, California, and here are all the wonderful things we did (and you can do too)!

There’s nothing that screams summertime like coastal road trips. The Pacific Coast Highway Portland to San Francisco road trip (along Highway 1) is iconic and filled with incredible sights. I did this road trip during my last few days on the West Coast, and I’ve pinned some amazing places you must see! Have more time? Here are some more West Coast road trips!

Portland, Oregon

Portland is a city I wish I had more time in. I fell in love with it during the brief time I spent there. It seemed like such a young, fun, and relaxed city, and I certainly need to go back! Whilst I was only there for a night (and a little bit of the morning), I put together some of my recommendations.

  • Byways Cafe – big hearty breakfasts. I loved the blue corn pancakes – imagine if cornbread and pancakes had a baby.
  • Powell’s City of Books – a Portland must if you like books
  • Compare Voodoo and Blue Star Doughnuts. Voodoo is the trendy one, Blue Star is the one local’s love.
  • If you’re in Portland anywhere from April to October, check out the Rose Test Garden!
  • Although I didn’t have time to visit, my friend highly recommended visiting the Portland Japanese Gardens.

Astoria, Oregon

If you want to drive the entire length of Oregon’s coastline, this is where you’ll start! If you aren’t too bothered about driving the WHOLE coast, I say you can probably skip this town. And if you do decide to head there, here’s what to do!

  • The Maritime Museum
  • The Oregon Film Museum – in an old jail and where the beginning scene of The Goonies was filmed!
  • Riverwalk Trolley – this takes you along the water and is super cute!
  • My favourite thing to do in Astoria is to walk through the town – I loved the old-timeyness of it and I thought it was really charming.

Cannon Beach, Oregon

This place has gathered quite the attention, and for good reason! The beach is beautiful and the water is incredibly inviting. On days with really warm weather, the beach gets quite crowded, but even then, it’s really lovely.

Tillamook Creamery, Oregon

Definitely stop here! Try free samples of cheese and GET ICE CREAM. I particularly like the flavours with local Oregon ingredients.

Pacific City, Oregon

Pacific City is pretty small, but there’s the MOST incredible beach. The beach itself is okay, but the sand dune on it is massive and climbing to the top, though challenging, is met with an absolutely stunning view (pictured above!). This is 100% one of the highlights of this road trip for me!

Yachats/Cape Perpetua Area, Oregon

We weren’t blessed with great weather, so we flew past some iconic Oregon coast landmarks. If you are in this area (and the fog allows you to see more than 10 meters in front of you), there are some really beautiful natural landmarks to see. They’re in the list below! I am not even going to share the photo I took as it is essentially a white wall of fog haha.

  • Devil’s Churn
  • Thor’s Well
  • Sprouting Horn

Heceta Head Lighthouse, Oregon

This lighthouse is one of the most photographed in Oregon! Personally, the lighthouse wasn’t what blew me away, but the walk up was really lovely and I enjoyed stretching my legs a bit. It costs $5 to park.

Further down just a few hundred meters are the Sea Lion Caves. Worth a visit if you like sea lions!

Oregon’s Dunes

From Florence to around North Bend, you’ll find Oregon’s dunes. You might want to rent dune buggies and ride around, though I personally find walking through them more peaceful. It’s hard to believe you can find sand dunes in the US, so these are worth a visit.

Port Oreford’s Prehistoric Gardens

This is a pretty neat stop if you have kids (or like dinosaurs). It’s a great chance to stretch your legs and stroll in the forest and come across some lifesize dinosaur statues.

Eureka, California

Stop here if you want a bigger town to spend the night in or grab a meal here! There are also TWO Starbucks if you need a coffee fix. We ate at a Vietnamese/Thai restaurant and had no complaints! It was nice to have a good sit down meal after days on the road. There are also some touristy landmarks to visit here.

  • Sequoia Park Zoo
  • Carson Mansion
  • Old town- charming!
  • Clarke Historical Museum – highlights some of this part of Northern Californian history

Avenue of the Giants, California

This is a road you don’t want to miss. Yes, it’s a slight detour from Highway One, but it’s parallel to it and it takes you through some amazing scenery. The trees are MASSIVE (get out and have a look at the size of the trunks!). Some of the short trails off the road were my favourite stops of the road trip!

Leggett, California

Leggett is where Highway 101 turns inland, and Highway 1 continues along the coast. I highly recommend going along the coast! It’s spectacular and the scenery is exactly what you’d expect during a California road trip. From this point on, there aren’t as many big landmarks, but there are tonnes of pullouts to stop and admire views from!

Fort Bragg, California

I LOVE FORT BRAGG. The surrounding area is filled with so many beautiful beaches, so there are lots of places around Fort Bragg where you can pull over at a scenic overlook.

  • Princess Seafood Market & Deli is a MUST STOP. We had the clam chowder and the crab sandwich and there was so so so much seafood in them. It was fresh and delicious and if you don’t stop here, you are missing out!
  • From Fort Bragg to Point Arena

Point Arena, California

There’s a lighthouse here that towers over the sea cliffs. It’s beautiful around here and I would drive around this area for the coastal views.

Bodega Bay, California

More beautiful views and places to stop!

San Francisco, California

…And you’re here! San Francisco has stolen my heart and I would definitely leave aside a few days to check out all this city has to offer.

I spent a few months in SF and wrote a blog post highlighting everything I love most about the city – you can read that here.

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