There is something to be said about the freedom and escapism of a US road trip.
The beauty of the road trip ‘zen’ where everything is dialled up. Sunsets seem dreamier, foggy mornings more ethereal, days seem longer, colours brighter, and the possibilities seem endless.
Cruising along Highway One in our hire car, we were about to bite off a sizeable chunk from our bucket list and embark on one of the world’s most epic road trips – the west coast of the USA. Two weeks, 1200 miles (or 1920 km, to save you from googling it), three states and an epic playlist.
Every turn delivers something new, from dramatic sea cliffs, pristine miniature coves, lighthouses, and towns bustling with live music. There’s also plenty for the foodies: think lobster rolls, buttery clam chowders, fresh oysters, craft breweries, artisan cheese, wine, and Michelin star restaurants.
Oh, and for a wildlife fix, you can take your pick from the quintessential squirrels, cougars, and coyotes you will find on the west coast trail, to the magnificent orca whales and humpbacks of the San Juan Islands.
It’s easy to make the case for why this road trip should be on everyone’s travel list.
California, here we come
Travelling from Los Angeles, you need at least a day to explore all the hot spots like Venice Beach, Portofino, Beverly Hills and of course, Melrose Place. Or for a change of pace, swap the bling, celebrity spotting and Hollywood action and travel further afield past Santa Barbara towards Carmel-by-the-Sea. This whimsical town packs a punch with its charming cottages, cobblestone paths, romantic gardens, and photo ops.
Overflowing with fine wine and dining, luxe hotels, art galleries and boutique shopping, Carmel-by-the-Sea was recently named one of the ‘World’s Best Cities for Romance’ and it’s not hard to see why. The town evokes a storybook ambience that can be appreciated by romantics of all ages and even has 60 coffee houses, artisan bakeries, pubs, and restaurants to choose from for a cute date night to kick off your trip.
Next up, get ready to pick your jaw up from the dashboard as you cross over one of the most photographed bridges in the US: the Bixby Creek Bridge. This architectural marvel passes over the white capped Pacific Ocean and acts as the gateway to Big Sur, one of the world’s most unforgettable stretches of coastline.
Hold on to your hat (figuratively and literally) as the wind-whipped shore provides rugged vistas, complete with mountains, waterfalls and epic-scale grandeur that will make you want to linger just that little longer.
Swap your camera for your hiking boots and stretch your legs with a visit to Pfeiffer State Park, home to the towering redwoods. For the hopeless romantics, why not opt for a cosy night of camping on the Big Sur River? Or include a visit to Leggett to drive through the middle of a giant redwood tree (as you do) and an obligatory trip to the Napa Valley for some A-grade wine and cellar door experiences.
Heck, it would be rude not to.
If you want to step the romance up a notch, you can’t go past an overnight stay at Cavallo Point Lodge in Sausalito, San Francisco. Nestled at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge, this luxury lodge provides iconic views, a cosy fireplace to snuggle up to after a day on the road and farm focused flavours to unwind with.
America’s best craft beers
Driving further north is Oregon: the place to be if you are into mountain biking, rock climbing and kayaking. But let’s be honest… it’s also home to some of the best craft beers, custom ciders, and distilleries in the US.
So, if you’re partial to a cheeky ale, then a ‘pitstop at Portland’ to one of the 70-plus breweries in town and a ‘bender in Bend’ are most likely going to be a part of this road trip. Slightly inland, the crowds flock to Bend on weekends to enjoy the laidback vibes of live music, lawn games and street food vans. Download the Bend Ale Trail app in advance and plan to ditch the car for the day and make use of all the rideshare options.
Next up, it’s time to work off all that beer and paddle along the crystal-clear waters of the Deschutes River or hire a bike and peddle together along the new Oregon Cascades Gravel Scenic bike route. A trip to Oregon also isn’t complete without a visit to the famous Crater Lake, the deepest and clearest lake in America which is famous for its vivid blue colour, or Cannon Beach. This seaside town (where The Goonies was filmed) and you won’t want to miss a glimpse of the imposing Haystack Rock, which rises 300 feet out of the water.
Romantic escape in Washington
The final destination along the Pacific Coast highway is Seattle, in the state of Washington. Home to Nirvana, the iconic Space Needle and coffee culture, this city is also known for its famous Pike Place Market where you can witness the famous Pike fish toss – which you might have seen in the movie Sleepless in Seattle.
But a couples road trip this far north would not be complete without a ferry ride over to San Juan Island. This is a fun and easy day trip from Seattle to Friday Harbour and is romance personified with lavender farms, a lighthouse, vineyards, scenic marina walks, sunset cruises, sea kayaking and whale watching.
It’s the perfect end for any couples looking to experience the best of the Pacific Northwest.
As published on news.com.au