Famous cities, an abundance of wildlife, world class beaches and diverse national parks are just some of the highlights that you can expect when travelling along the Pacific coastline of western USA. We decided that a road trip along the coast was just what we wanted for our next adventure.
Although I had travelled to the USA myself before, this was the first time that we had set out on an trip like this with our 6-year-old daughter. Naturally we needed to plan our trip a little more this time around, however we still wanted the excitement of exploring ourselves and to travel at our own pace. After much consideration upon how to travel, we thought ‘let’s travel like the locals’! We decided to rent an RV for 3 weeks and make the epic American road-trip between Seattle and Los Angeles.
After arriving directly from London Heathrow with Virgin Atlantic we had arranged for a 3-night stay at the Fairmont Seattle. The hotel is perfectly situated within the city offering easy access to all the sights and experiences that the city has to offer. If you’re visiting from mid-May and mid-October, as we were, then I’d really recommend a boat trip on Puget Sound. This is one of the best places anywhere in the world to see Orcas and is a wonderful day out for both adults and children.
We spent the rest of our time here trying local delicacies in Pike Place Market, enjoying views from the Space Needle, and taking a ride upon the 1962 world fair monorail. It was a busy three days but by the time we left, we were over our jet lag and ready to head south on our 1500-mile adventure.
The pick-up process of our Apollo 5 berth RV couldn’t have been easier – especially as we had opted to include the additional value pack (stress free package). The plan for the day was to head to the Oregon coast that we had heard so much about. However, before this, we headed to Walmart to fill our fridge freezer full of supplies to get us started on our American RV adventure!
Immediately I found myself thinking that driving the RV was a lot easier than I had expected and settled into the scenic drive very quickly. After the 4 hours’ drive, we had arrived at the small town of Seaside where we would spend the night. The big draw to this part of the coast is Cannon Beach, which is just a short 10-minute drive away. Haystack Rock is the focal point of the beach – we were very lucky to see puffins nesting when we visited, which made a walk along this beautiful stretch of sand even more exciting.
Driving south through Oregon you will see the landscape change several times ranging between coastline, mountainous regions in the distance and quaint dairy farming towns. There is an abundance of RV parks throughout the state so you will always find somewhere to park up for the night depending upon your plan for that day.
Spending time in the great outdoors at some of the USA’s iconic National Parks is a given for any families wishing to travel this way. The number of trails, activities and wildlife on offer is incredible. As we reached northern California, we decided to visit Redwood National Park and Humboldt State Park. These two parks are famous for the huge Redwood trees and are not to be missed. We spent a couple of days hiking and exploring, getting neck-ache from gazing up into the canopy of these spectacular trees, some of which are over 1,000 years old.
There are no privately-owned RV parks within the grounds of the national parks, however, if you are happy with basic facilities then spending a couple of days within the state own RV parks is highly recommended and an experience for all the family. The RV will offer everything that you need for a couple of days, so immersing yourself within this will no doubt offer fun for the whole family – just remember to stock up with marshmallows beforehand!
Of all the cities that I have visited in the United States, San Francisco is definitely my favourite. You could spend 2 weeks here and not see everything. There are even RV parks just a short drive away from the centre which is ideal when travelling this way. We took the boat to explore Alcatraz, spotted bison in Golden Gate Park, hopped on the Powell/Hyde cable car and even managed to include a baseball game at Oracle park where the San Francisco Giants were at home to their rivals the LA Dodgers.
It is also a great city for food - try spicy dumplings in the streets of Chinatown, enormous burritos from the Mission District and bowls of seafood chowder by the harbour. This city is such a melting pot of cultures, which always guarantees some amazing food.
Just a short drive south is Monterey and Carmel, twin towns that are home to the world-famous Pebble Beach golf course. The Monterey Aquarium must be up there with one of the best family days out we have ever had. They say this is the world best aquarium and I totally agree – we saw the enormous kelp forest, cute penguins and colourful jellyfish.
My daughter just loved it, especially the sea otters and the Touch Pools, where kids can get up close to starfish, sea urchins and bat rays. Monterey offers another opportunity for whale watching if you missed this further north in Seattle.
From here on in the beaches of California really start to deliver. The beach at Carmel is stunning, perfect for a stroll along the sand and some people watching for the countless celebrities that call Carmel home. Heading south again, we reached Big Sur, a rugged stretch of California’s coastline that follows the coast for miles upon miles of breath-taking views.
You’ll find hidden beaches around every corner, including the pretty McWay Falls, and the famous Bixby Bridge over a deep chasm in the cliffs. I have driven many of the great roads of the world and Big Sur is right up there with the best.
The final stop on our RV adventure was Los Angeles, specifically Anaheim for Disneyland. We spent 3 days between Disneyland and the adjacent California Adventure Park which is home to the brand new $200 million dollar Disney Pixar Cars ride which was incredible! We took advantage of pre-booking our fast passes which is a really good idea when visiting. This way we massively reduced any waiting times for the more popular rides.
We stayed at a fantastic RV park just outside the park which was connected by a shuttle bus. The shows, rides and nightly firework display over the Disney castle are not to be missed and a perfect way to end our RV adventure down the coast. It's safe to say my daughter was in heaven!
We packed the RV up early in the morning to return it back to the depot. Our final exciting drive was about to begin - fulfilling a lifelong wish of hiring a Ford Mustang GT convertible and driving through the Nevada desert to Las Vegas. The drive is about 4 hours and is a much better alternative to flying between these two cities.
We spent a couple of nights at Caesars Palace which for me was the prime location on the strip and right next to the nightly Bellagio fountain show which we all enjoyed. Arriving into and staying mid-week in Las Vegas often allows you to stay in some of the 4/5-star properties for extremely reasonable rates, so I would certainly recommend doing so and avoiding the week-end rates and crowds.
If time allows then taking a day trip by helicopter to the Grand Canyon is a fantastic experience returning back over the strip afterwards just as the sun sets and the bright lights of Vegas come to life.
The RV that we chose was the Apollo Sunrise Escape, which also offered a slide-out feature for more room inside once stationary, which I thought was brilliant. This was perfect for a family of 3 or 4. Whilst this is a 5 berth RV, I do think for any families larger than 4, it would be better to upgrade to something a little bigger. There was a double bed at the back and our daughter decided that she would have the double bed situated above the drivers’ cabin, which she enjoyed.
The RV comes equipped with a shower, toilet, fridge/freezer, oven, microwave, all cooking utensils, TV, generator, in-cabin heating and bedding. Upon collection, you will be given an extensive demonstration on how everything within the RV works so you will leave feeling happy and confident.
There is an abundance of RV parks all along the coast, however a couple of the bigger chains such as thousand trails and KEA offer some of the best facilities. It is common for these RV parks to have swimming pools, parks, laundry facilities and pretty much anything else the RV cannot provide. The people within the RV park are always willing to help should you need anything and are extremely friendly.
I would personally recommend making a trip like this either side of the peak summer season – April/May is a good time of year when the crowds are less, and the costs are cheaper. Starting in Seattle will generally mean that the weather improves as you continue through your trip which we all seemed to enjoy. During these shoulder seasons, deciding in the morning where you are heading to that day is fine and you can call ahead and reserve your spot at the next RV park for the night. Travelling during the peak summer months will give you the consistency of weather, however, booking a few days ahead is a must to get the best RV parks.
I hope you enjoyed reading about my trip and that I have inspired you to plan one of your own! Brilliant cities, vast beaches, lush forests and fantastic driving - what more could you want from a road trip? If I’ve inspired you to take a trip to the USA, give us a call on +44 1273320580 or request a quote. We are experts in planning tailor-made holidays to the USA, as well as round the world flights, so we can work together with you until we’ve created your perfect trip.