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Driving the Pacific Coast Highway is something I think every human should experience in their lifetime. California often gets the credit for how stunning the Pacific coast is, and for good reason. But I’m here to tell you, a road trip from San Francisco to Seattle will be one of the most magical things you experience in the US.
The first time I went to Oregon, I was around 18. I was there there with my piano teacher to see my friend, and another of her students, play with the Portland Symphony. (Side note: he was only 15 and was the featured pianist of a major symphony orchestra… how completely amazing, right?)
To be totally honest, I had zero expectations for Oregon. I was not prepared for how green it would be. Green everywhere – a rich, emerald green.
Fast forward about a decade, and two of my best friends decided at the last minute to completely cancel their traditional church wedding and get married in Tahoe instead. My immediate thoughts were 1) okay, pull my arm, I’ll be there, and 2) I have to go back to Oregon.
At that point, I had already driven PCH from San Diego to San Francisco, which I’d also recommend in a heartbeat. I had also driven the entire east coast from Maine to Florida (also gorgeous). I figured if for no other reason than to check it off the list, I had to complete my bicoastal journey and do San Francisco to northwest Washington.
Friends, this road trip is truly incredible, as is the Pacific Northwest in general. You get everything on this trip from the big city to waterfalls, from the ocean to the mountains. If you’ve even been thinking about going to one of these places, you have to go.
In case you’re wondering, I went solo on this road trip. For any single gals (or guys!) thinking about doing this trip alone, do it! There was never a point at which I felt unsafe in the slightest
San Francisco to Seattle Road Trip Overview
- Total days: 14 (with some flexibility!)
- Total miles: approx. 1,000
- Fly into: San Francisco (SFO), San José (SJC), or Oakland (OAK)
- Fly out of: Seattle (SEA) or King County (BFI)
- Best time of year to go: May through September
- Note that renting a camper van or camping out of your car will drastically reduce expenses, but hotel suggestions are included at every destination
Easy Post Navigation
- 1 San Francisco to Seattle Road Trip Overview
- 2 Days 1-3: San Francisco
- 3 Day 4: Napa
- 4 Days 5-6: Eureka
- 5 Day 7: Newport
- 6 Days 8-10: Portland
- 7 Day 11: Seaside
- 8 Days 12-14 Seattle
- 9 BONUS – Victoria
- 10 Time to go home sweet home!
- 11 Ready to wander?
Days 1-3: San Francisco
San Francisco isn’t close to my favourite city in California, but I’ve met so many people for whom it’s their favourite in the world. And I can respect that.
Not only is San Francisco notorious for amazing weather, it is incredibly diverse and offers its visitors so much to do in an easily accessible way. (For that reason, it’s got one up on L.A. in my book.)
Where to stay:
- Luxury: The Fairmont San Francisco, The Ritz-Carlton San Francisco
- Affordable luxury: Hotel Emblem San Francisco, Hotel Caza Fishermans Wharf, Hotel Vitale
- Midrange: Hotel Abri Union Square, Marines Memorial Club, The Cartwright Hotel
- Budget: HI San Francisco Downtown Hostel, San Remo, The Urban
Consider whether you want to rent a car at the airport when you arrive or if you want to wait until you actually set off on your road trip in a couple of days. I had a car the entire time, but it’s not necessary. The Muni is a super efficient and environmentally friendly way of getting around (it includes all of San Francisco’s cute cable cars, too!). The cost is far more affordable than what it will cost you to park at a hotel, too. A single ride is cheaper if you book on the app ($2.50) as opposed to paying cash or purchasing at a ticketing machine ($3.00), or you can purchase 1, 3, or 7 day visitor passes. Note cable car rides are $8 and not a part of the day or multi-day passes.
Another option would be to book a hop on hop off bus tour. Personally, I’m extremely allergic to anything touristy, which these types of tours tend to be, but there’s a good reason most things are touristy. If you want a clear shot to major San Francisco highlights and are nervous about navigating public transit, this could be a great solution.
If you do choose to get a car right away when you land, I cannot recommend enough that you use ParkWhiz to book your parking in advance (even if that means doing it the day of — you’ll still save money). You can enter the address of your hotel, and it will give you all of the options. If you don’t mind a walk, you can usually find an incredible deal, but there are also typically good options very close — frequently even in your actual hotel’s parking garage but at a substantial discount.
San Francisco highlights
There’s definitely no shortage of things to do in San Francisco, and you could certainly spend more than a few days here. Some of the highlights I’d recommend would be:
- Walking the Golden Gate Bridge: It’s 1.7 miles, so assuming you want to take your time to enjoy the views and stop for photos, plan on a solid hour for the walk. If you’d rather not walk, there are also bikes available to rent. Grab lunch on the other side, and if you don’t want to walk back, you can take the ferry (bikes allowed in case you get a rental).
- Fishermans Warf: If you’re trying to avoid overly touristy activities, scratch this one off the list, because it’s definitely that. This is something I personally didn’t do, but I’m keeping it on the list because so many rate it as a ‘must see’ in San Francisco.
- Chinatown: One of the most epic in all the country, it is a must visit when in San Francisco. Go shopping, eat delicious food (dumplings… mmmmm!), and walk around one of the most vibrant parts of the city. You can also do quirky things light get your own fortune cookies made (including ones with adult only messages)!
- Dolores Park and eat a giant burrito: First of all, who doesn’t want to eat a ginormous burrito? You can get them in SF’s Mission district, which you definitely should do, and then enjoy it with incredible views in Dolores Park.
- Eat your weight at the Ferry Building in Embarcadero: Everything your belly could want under one (quite beautiful) roof. From Empanadas to artisanal donuts, oysters to nontraditional ice cream (like Bacon Peanut Brittle), and juicy hamburgers to a creamery with a famous grilled cheese. Don’t worry, there are also specialty tea and coffee shops, wine (including honey wine!) And beer, too. Wash that all down with a handful of specialty shops, and you could easily spend the better part of a day here.
- …then go to the Exploratorium: Also in Embarcadero is a brilliant adult only museum featuring science, art exhibits, and cocktail bars, open only at night! An excellent and fun way to wash down all the food you ate earlier in the day at the Ferry Building!
- Lands End hike: Absolutely one of the coolest ways to see San Francisco, especially epic views of the Golden Gate Bridge. It runs along the water, so you also have the beautiful coast. This hike is moderately easy, save for some elevation, and is about 3.5 miles. Dogs are allowed, too (on leash)!
- Golden Gate Park: You could spend a week in San Francisco and only see all of the various attractions inside of Golden Gate Park. It’s a huge green space (like 3 miles worth) for starters, so take a stroll through if nothing else. There are also multiple museums, a beach, a rose garden, a Japanese Tea Garden (so cool), a botanical garden, and an arboretum. Admissions fees are very low and around the $10 per adult mark. You can also take walking tours or rent bikes. And often there are free events!
- Alcatraz: Whether you’re into history or just want something interesting to do, Alcatraz is one of the cooler things you can do in San Francisco. Be aware that you’ll need to purchase tickets way in advance if you want to go! Bonus: adult beverages are available for the ferry ride back.
Day 4: Napa
- Miles driven: 49 miles
- Approximate drive time: 1 hour
Where to stay:
- Luxury: Meritage Resort and Spa, Andaz Napa
- Affordable luxury: Vista Collina Resort
- Midrange: Stahlecker House B&B, Napa Winery Inn, Hotel Indigo Napa Valley
- Budget: 3 Palms Napa, Wine Valley Lodge
For starters, note that you’re going to want to end day 3 by driving from San Francisco to Napa. So while I’m only giving this a day on the itinerary, plan for two nights.
Whether you choose to explore Napa on your own or book a tour, you’re going to want to be ready to start by 10am. Keep in mind that while it’s only about 50 miles to Napa from San Francisco, traffic can be downright awful, and if you try and stay one more night in the city then leave, especially if you need to rent a car, you’re going to have to be up at the crack of dawn to be in Napa in time.
What I said earlier about not liking touristy things with regard to the hop on hop off tour? Throw that out the window for a minute.
In Napa, I couldn’t recommend booking a tour more, if for no other reason than to not have to drive. The operators of these tours typically are also super knowledgable about the region and wine in general, and they make the day enjoyable and interesting!
There are so many options for wine tours in Napa, and almost any of them will be fabulous. Plan to pay in the $100-150 ballpark per person (or more, if you want a higher end, more personalised experience), which excludes the actual wine tasting at each vineyard ($15-20 per person per winery) as well as gratuity for your driver (15-20% is standard).
When you’re booking a wine tour, the two most important things to look for are to book a tour which serves you lunch, because in the price point mentioned above, they should, and book a tour which will pick you up at your hotel, not a ‘nearby meeting point.’ There’s nothing wrong at meeting at a location, but it kind of defeats the purpose of not driving, right?
In fairness, this is an expensive day. If you’re not sold on the high ticket price, you can absolutely enjoy the region on your own, or just stick to the downtown area, which is adorable, and still get to sample a lot of wine without ever setting foot on a vineyard.
Vineyards and tasting rooms operate on somewhat standard business hours, so whether you’re visiting on your own or with a tour, you’ll be done by 5 or 6pm. If you’re wiped out from the day, order some good carryout and enjoy a bottle you picked up on your wine adventuring, or you can head downtown for a nice meal.
Don’t enjoy too much vino, though, because there’s going to be a sunrise start to get from Napa to Eureka!
Choose your own adventure options for Napa
If you’re really into wine, you could always shave a day off another part of the road trip which is less interesting to you, or add a day. If you choose to do this, there are also some great 2-day wine tours. You could also do a day of Napa and a day of Sonoma (for which there are also tours).
Likewise, if you’re not into wine at all, feel free to skip it entirely. Almost every item on this itinerary could benefit from having an extra day.
Lastly, if you’d prefer not to actually stay in Napa or your road trip buddies are split between staying in San Francisco an extra night and doing a wine experience, fear not. There are a handful of wine tours which will pick you up from your San Fran hotel, take you to Napa, then bring you back.
Days 5-6: Eureka
- Miles driven: 291
- Total drive time: 7 hours
- Shorter drive via Hwy 101 is 256 miles // /4.5 hours,
Where to stay:
- High Quality B&Bs: Famous Pink Lady, Hydrangea Inn, Eagle House Victorian Inn
- Midrange: Best Western Plus Humboldt Bay, Holiday Inn Express & Suites Eureka
- Budget: Quality Inn Eureka, Travelodge by Wyndham Eureka
Today will be the longest leg of driving you’ll do on the entire two week trip, but the views are going to be spectacular. The drive up Pacific Coast Highway to Eureka takes almost seven hours, and will likely take longer assuming you stop at a few ‘pull off’ points for photos or to take in the scenery along the way.
Because of the drive time, being on the road by 5am would be ideal. (I promise seeing the sunrise is worth it!) Either eat breakfast before you leave, or grab it for the road, and definitely pack snacks. You still may need to pull off somewhere to find lunch depending on how much you stop, or plan on eating right when you arrive in Eureka.
If the drive time is super intimidating and you don’t mind compromising some of the gorgeous coastal views, you could take the 101 instead of PCH. It’ll shave two, maybe even three hours off of the drive.
Your day in Eureka
It’s going to be early afternoon by the time you’ve eaten and dropped bags at your hotel. At best, you’ll have about six hours of daylight to explore. Things you could consider:
- Hiking: There are several hiking trails of varying lengths and difficulties you could choose to do. Before going, do research on what’s open, though. Some were unfortunately affected by landslides and may not be open yet.
- Sequoia Park (not Sequoia National Park!): An absolutely beautiful piece of land right in the middle of the town, but it’s not so big that it will feel completely exhausting to tackle after a long drive. Exploring the maze of Sequoias is a lovely and easy walk (if you’ve never seen them in person you’re going to be absolutely blown away). If you happen to be travelling with your dog, they’re allowed on the trails, too.
- Humboldt Botanical Garden: Another easy choice for the afternoon with a lovely stroll through the botanical gardens. Check out what will be in bloom before you go or if you’ll be there at the right time to see the butterflies. Admission is $10 per non-resident adult, and note they are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
At the end of the day, head to Old Town to take in the gorgeous Victorian architecture and grab dinner. Then get some very well deserved sleep!
Redwood National and State Parks
Eat a good breakfast and head another hour north to explore more big trees! Redwood combines both a national and several state parks for you to enjoy. Note the national park has no admission fee, but the state parks do.
There are several choices for how to explore Redwood. You could pack a lunch and do a long day hike. Alternately, you could do a shorter walk, leave to find lunch, then come back and do another. There are also scenic drives through Redwood if you’d prefer that over exploring by foot.
The other thing to consider for the day is lodging. You could choose to go back to Eureka at the end of the day, but the drive to Newport will be considerably longer if you go back. In the Redwood parks area, there is plenty of camping if you’re up for an adventure, or there are basic accommodations as well as a B&B. What might be ideal if you’re not set on doing an all day hike would be to head to Newport around 2 or 3pm for a beautiful sunset drive.
Day 7: Newport
- Total miles: 227 miles
- Approximate drive time: 4.5 hours
Where to stay:
- Beachfront: Elizabeth Oceanfront Suites, Inn at Nye Beach, The Landing at Newport Condominium Hotel, Starfish Point
- Midrange: La Quinta Inn & Suites Newport, Holiday Inn Express Newport, Best Western Plus Agate Beach Inn
- Budget: Econo Lodge, Days Inn Newport
Going from Northern California to Newport takes you out of the forest and into the dreamiest coast. After long days driving, hiking, and wining, Newport is your chance for some r&r.
Word of warning: there are tons of speed traps on PCH in Oregon. I got pulled over and was genuinely confused as to why. When the state trooper told me I was doing almost 60 in a 25 (!!!) zone, I could not have been more shocked or mortified. He kindly let me go with a warning and said in not so many words that speed limit signs are purposefully obscured in many places along the highway. Woof.
That said, whether you drive in from California in the morning and get a late start in Newport, or you come in the day before, once you’re here, head to the beach and soak in the coastal air. Spend the entire day relaxing by the beach, or head out to the aquarium, science center, or out for another hike.
In the evening, relax at a one of delicious restaurants in Newport, or since you’re in Oregon, one of the many breweries — seriously, they’re everywhere in this state!
Days 8-10: Portland
- Total distance: 121 miles
- Approximate drive time: 2.5 hours
Where to stay:
- Luxury: The Nines, Kimpton Hotel Monaco
- Affordable luxury: The Benson Hotel, Sentinel a Provenance Hotel, Hotel Eastlund, Woodlark
- Midrange: AC Hotel by Marriott
- Budget: Econo Lodge City Center, Downtown Value Inn
After a well deserved day of rest, you’ll have a relatively easy drive into Portland. Feel free to wander around town some more in the morning and have a nice breakfast before heading out. There’s a quicker way to get to Portland that takes you straight inland, but driving the coast north and then cutting over is much more scenic.
Either before or upon arriving in Portland, use ParkWhiz to save a ton on parking near your hotel. As is with most ParkWhiz reservations, you probably won’t have in/out privileges, but that shouldn’t be a problem given Portland’s public transit system. Alternately, you can rent bikes for the day which is how many locals get around. Fair warning, it’s pretty hilly, though!
The thing I love most about Portland is that it’s not touristy (that and the lumberjack-meets-hipster vibe). You can go to most places in the city and not feel overly crowded, especially since the major ‘attractions’ are nature. There are also a ton of easy day trips you could take if you were staying in the city for longer. That said, there are some thing you definitely won’t want to miss while in Portland:
- Enjoy all the craft beer and hipster food: Portland is home to 58 craft breweries, and another 84 in the metro area. For reference, that’s more than anywhere in the world! Being from Michigan, I think we do craft cheer best, but Oregon, and specifically Portland, is the one exception. The food scene in Portland is also to die for. If you’re feeling the tour scene in Portland, too, there are tons of craft beer tours and unique walking food tours.
- Lan Su Chinese Garden: One of the most peaceful places in the city, Lan Su is modeled after gardens from China’s Ming dynasty. The botanical garden focus on melding nature with art, architecture, and design for a truly beautiful experience. Check into what’s happening before you go, as there are often special events like music performances and tea tastings and glimpses into Chinese culture through things like tai chi, mahjong, and calligraphy. Entrance is $12.95 per adult.
- Portland Japanese Garden: Another amazing cultural experience in Portland is the Japanese Garden inside of Washington Park. This garden focuses on the art of growing trees in the Japanese custom. Not only can you learn about and experience how these trees grow, but also how it is interconnected with the people from whom the traditions and art forms derive. You can also experience Japanese culture through music, tea demonstration, and arranging flowers, amongst rotating museum exhibitions. Entrance is $19.95 per adult.
- Hoyt Arboretum: A beautiful way to experience nature within the city for free is the Hoyt Arboretum. There are 30 minute, 1 hour, and 2 hour trail walks, or guided walks you can take (for which donations would be appreciated). Your experience will be different depending on the time of year, but you can find trees blooming at all times.
- Go to a museum: Portland is home to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry as well as the Portland Art Museum. There’s also a children’s museum if you’re road tripping with little ones. For a more unique museum experience, check out the World Forestry Center to learn the importance of trees and learn about what the challenges are in different parts of the world.
- Washington Park: A lot of things mentioned above (the Japanese Garden, several museums, arboretum, etc) are actually housed inside of Washington Park, but it’s a huge green space in the middle of the city with so much to do. There are more than 15 miles of trails here if you want to take a walk or rent a bike, plus there are picnic areas and tennis courts.
Visiting Multnomah Falls
While Oregon is home to a lot of really beautiful waterfalls, Multnomah Falls is a showstopper. Enough so that it deserved its own section!
After breakfast, you’ll head out toward the Columbia River Gorge which straddles the Oregon / Washington border. I’d recommend taking a shuttle, which is $10 round trip per person from Portland. It’s a lot less hassle than taking a car, because parking is literally in the middle of the highway and fills really quickly.
The hike itself is another ‘choose your own adventure.’ Getting to the bridge is relatively easy and less than a quarter mile walk. When I went the first time, my piano teacher had mobility issues and was still able to manage the lower falls walk. Please exercise caution and pay attention to your body if you have mobility issues; don’t take my word for it! There is a lookout point from just beyond the bridge, and the views are spectacular.
Getting to the upper falls is considerably harder. It’s not rough terrain, but it is quite sharply uphill. There are spots to stop and rest along the way if you need. The view from the top isn’t quite as amazing as it is from below in my opinion, but worth doing.
Day 11: Seaside
- Total distance: 121 miles
- Approximate drive time: 2.5 hours
Where to stay: Ebb Tide Oceanfront Inn
After a few amazing days in Portland, it’s time to move further up the coast. There is again an easier way of getting to Seaside, but driving due west out to the coast and then along the Pacific is much prettier.
Get an early start on the drive to be able to spend the another day relaxing by the beach. If you prefer, you could do museums or a hike instead. There are also rentals for water activities like paddleboards, kayaks, or paddleboats — you can even rent a swan boat! After ten days of adventuring, it might be nice to take advantage of some time on the water and recharge before hitting another big city and heading home.
Days 12-14 Seattle
- Total distance: 196 miles
- Approximate drive time: 3.5 hours
Where to stay:
- Luxury: Four Seasons Seattle, Fairmont Olympic, Royal Residence Downtown
- Affordable luxury: Crown Plaza Seattle, Hotel Theodore, The State Hotel
- Midrange: Executive Hotel Pacific, Hilton Garden Inn Seattle
- Budget: Green Tortoise Hostel, Loyal Inn
You’ve finally reached the end of your epic two week San Francisco to Seattle road trip! Continuing up the coast, which is again the long way around, completes your Pacific Coast Highway journey. (Until it’s time to come back and do the San Diego to San Francisco portion!)
Once you’re in Seattle, you might want to ditch your rental car and opt again for public transit. While the public transportation system in Seattle is easy to use and convenient, note that it’s not like San Francisco where you could buy one pass and have access to everything. In Seattle, the monorail is separate from the bus line is separate from the ferries, etc.
Getting a Seattle CityPass
Note that while there was also a San Francisco CityPass available, I didn’t mention it. In Seattle, though, I personally think it’s worth it. For $108 per adult pass, you gain access to:
- Space Needle
- Seattle Aquarium (note that I’m not including this on the ‘list of things to do’ — nor the zoo — below or on any part of this itinerary because I’m generally opposed to the ethics of animals in captivity)
- Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour
- Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) OR Woodland Park Zoo
- Chihuly Garden and Glass OR Pacific Science Center (note I’m also not including the science center because it seems more geared toward kids and teens, but it could be great for you!)
If you did all five of those separately, they would cost you in the ballpark of $200, so it’s a solid value. Another bonus to getting the CityPass is you don’t have to wait in the normal admission line. You simply walk up to the counter where the CityPass ticket exchange is, and away you go.
Things to do in Seattle
Space Needle: The absolute most iconic views of Seattle are from the observation decks of the Space Needle. You can also have a meal or an adult beverage if you’re so inclined. And if you’re really looking to drop some cash ($100+ per person) on a cool experience, they also a sunset wine tasting, which includes admission, four wines, and paired small plates. Note that if you’re afraid of heights, the Space Needle is a 360 degree experience, so even the floor is glass.
- Museum of Pop Culture: One of the cooler museum experiences, MoPOP houses exhibits on music, film, science fiction, and more. They consistently rotate out different features, too. (For example, when I went to look up current pricing, I saw they have special exhibits on tattoo culture and Nirvana, both of which I’d love to check out!) Tickets will run anywhere from $28-36 per adult depending on whether you purchase in advance or you want to include access to specialty exhibits.
- Chihuly Garden Center: Another one of the top things to do in Seattle and a totally unique experience. Dale Chihuly is a glass artist, and here you will find eight galleries of his work, including the 40 foot tall Glasshouse. There is also a garden full of glass pieces and a theatre to observe working being produced in his style. Entrance ranges from $22-32 per adult ticket.
- Take a wine tour: The Washington wine region may not be as famous as Napa or Sonoma, but it still produces some great vino. There are tour companies who will pick you up right from your hotel and take you on a wine and nature adventure, as most wine country is near some waterfalls. A cheaper tour (~$100/person) likely won’t include anything except transportation, and you’ll want to budget in the cost of tastings and lunch. Going for a more expensive tour $200-250) should be all inclusive.
- Do a boozy boat tour: Water taxis are one of the unique and delightful Seattle experiences, but how about a boat tour with cocktails? If this appeals, you can go for whatever your pocketbook allows, with options from a quick one hour trip with one drink for around $40/person, longer rides, booking private charters, boozy sailboat tour, all the way to chartering a private booze cruise.
- Pike Place Market: Home to the famous “public market center” sign, this is one of the cooler, albeit touristy things to do in Seattle. It gets really crowded, so going first thing in the morning or on a weekday may make it a little more manageable. Shop for fresh produce and fish (if you have a way to cook in your hotel or Airbnb), eat freshly prepared food, do some shopping, or pick up some fresh cut flowers. (Note the original Starbucks basically also right across the street if you’re interested!)
BONUS – Victoria
- Driving distance: 82 miles
- Approximate drive time: 2.5 hours
Where to stay:
- Luxury: Oak Bay Beach Hotel
- Affordable luxury: Coast Victoria Hotel, Chateau Victoria Hotel & Suites, Brentwood Bay Resort & Spa
- Midrange: The Embassy Inn, Capital City Center Hotel
- Budget: Ocean Island Inn, Helm’s Inn
If you’re not quite ready to leave the unbelievably beautiful Pacific Northwest (who can blame you, first of all), you can extend your San Francisco to Seattle road trip into Victoria, British Columbia! Totally understandable if you don’t have the time (or the documents), but I did this on my road trip, and I’m so happy I did. If anything, my day trip wasn’t enough, and next time, I would plan several days here.
Reminder also that you’ll need a passport to go between the US and Canada. If you’re an American citizen, an enhanced license or enhanced state ID will do the trick. You will also have to go through customs, which if you’ve never done, just be polite and concise. You’ll also be asked to claim anything you’re taking or bringing back (e.g. luggage, food), all of which is subject to search. This includes anything you purchase while in Victoria, on which you may be required to pay additional taxes at the border. This is not legal advice; you should do you own research on crossing the border prior to your trip.
Getting to Victoria
From Seattle, you have two options, and they both involve ferryboats. And as Derek Shepherd says, I have a thing for ferryboats.
The first option would be to take the Clipper ferry directly. It’s an almost three hour long ride one way and will run you in the $150-160 ballpark per person assuming you’re there in spring or summer — or more, if you don’t book in advance. That’s a hefty price tag but also a cool experience. And no more driving required!
Option two would be to drive to Port Angeles. It’s only about 80 miles away, but because you have to take a ferry, it takes about 2.5 hours (or longer, if you don’t plan well by checking the schedule and being on time for your ferry departure). The Seattle – Bainbridge ferry is around $14 for a car and the driver (more if you’re in an SUV or pickup truck) plus an additional per per charge. Once in Port Angeles, you would take the Ball Ball ferry over to Victoria. There are a lot of variables in determining the cost because you can walk on or take your car. Generally speaking, it’s about $40 round trip to walk on, or $140 if you want to take your car, plus $40 per additional passenger.
When I went, I took the ferry from Port Angeles without a car (which I regretted), and thought it was a great option. The difference was that I wasn’t coming from Seattle, though. If I were going back, personally, I don’t think the hassle and stress of driving to Port Angeles would be worth it if I could just hop on a ferry right in Seattle. The downside is that truly, it would beneficial to have a vehicle in Victoria. You’ll have to have this debate for yourself, but if you’re going to drive to Port Angeles, just make sure you plan to the nth degree. If you run behind at any point, you could miss the boat…literally and figuratively.
The meticulous planning will pay off, though, because Victoria is one of the most delightful cities to which I’ve ever been. So much so that it’s extremely high on my list of places to return because I want more time there! If you can swing it, staying overnight would be so worth it.
Things to do in Victoria
- British Columbia Parliament Building: An absolutely stunning building, and it’s an easy walk from the port. There are short, free guided tours or you can explore on your own, and you can have a meal here. Note this is an active legislative building, so you will have to go through screening upon entrance.
- Royal BC Museum: Another relatively easy walk from port. The museum features natural and human history as well as provincial archives. Cost is $18 CAD per adult.
- Fishermans Wharf: A nice area just to walk around, but also has some great shops and restaurants. There are also a bunch of floating homes that are pretty neat to see.
- Butchart Gardens: This is something I couldn’t do because I didn’t have a car, although if you’re keen to go and don’t have one, there are bus companies that run shuttles. Butchart Gardens is one of the most impressive gardens to visit (so I’m told). They have a sunken garden, a rose garden, and Japanese, Italian, and Mediterranean gardens. Cost ranges between $22-35 CAD per adult depending on the time of year.
- Craigdarroch Castle: If you don’t have a car, it will be about a 30 minute walk to get to Craigdarroch Castle. The castle was built during the reign of Queen Victoria and is like being transported back in time! Entrance is around $15 CAD per adult.
Time to go home sweet home!
Now that you’ve reached the end of your epic two week road trip from San Francisco to Seattle, it’s time to head back to the airport and journey home.
One of the things this itinerary requires is booking separate, one-way tickets given the different starting and stopping locations. An alternate suggestion would be to book round trip out of San Francisco (or Seattle, and do this itinerary in reverse) and ahead back further inland. If you did that, you could also pretty easily visit Mt. Rainier, Mt. Hood, Crater Lake, and Redding / Mount Shasta all off of I-5.
Overall, this is for sure a whirlwind road trip experience. They’re supposed to be, though, right? If you wind up going, I’d love to know about your trip, and let me know if you have any questions! Happy adventuring, friends!