I recently took a 6 day road trip down the Pacific Coast, with three of my girlfriends. It was a wonderful trip! Below is our itinerary, including what we saw, where we ate, and where we stayed. I also included a list of dos and don'ts at the bottom, along with a copy of my original, overwhelmingly, unnecessarily detailed itinerary. My Instagram stories are also saved under PCH here with details of the trip.
Day 1: Portland, OR to Gold Beach, OR
Voodoo donuts in downtown Portland, is a must. The donuts were not enough to fuel us up, so we stopped at Mother’s Bistro for a hearty brunch. We stopped in Florence, OR for dinner, and were easily seated at The Bridge Water Fish House and Zebra Lounge. I ordered the Shellfish Cioppino, which was a tomato based stew and it was really good. The town was super cute too, with plenty of options for dinner.
Devil’s Punch Bowl was our first stop on this leg of the trip, after driving west, to get to the coast. However, once we finally made it to the coast, then to the punch bowl, it was worth it! Heceta Head Lighthouse, was my favorite spot on our entire trip! The sun was reflecting off the water and it was just beautiful. You had to go on a little hike to get to the lighthouse, which we skipped, but you could see it from the viewpoint.
We stayed at the Pacific Reef Hotel in Gold Beach, OR for the night. The room served its purpose, as it gave us a clean place to sleep for the night. No frills. We checked in past normal receiving hours, so an envelope was left for us, with our keys and paperwork on the place.
Day 2: Gold Beach, OR to Fort Bragg, CA
Apple Peddler was a super cute diner with a good breakfast to fill us up. Old school, full of charm and tourist pamphlets, which led us to one of our destinations. We went to Piaci Pizza for dinner and some much deserved wine, where we ordered salad and pizza.
The Redwood National Park and the Trees of Mystery tourist attraction was a great stop! Admission to the park included a walk through the trees, as well as a gondola ride up the mountain. Once at the top, you have views of the pacific ocean. It was so nice to get out of the car, stretch our legs, and breath some fresh air. Well worth the stop! We drove through the Avenue of the Giants, which is a scenic ‘highway’ through the trees. I couldn’t get over how narrow the road was, winding through the trees.
We stayed at The Beachcomber Motel. Our travel time today was much shorter, at about 5 hours total, which was a nice change from day 1. Once we got to the hotel, we immediately went outside to explore. The beach area right in front of our room was stunning. These views are also some of my favorite from the trip. We posted up on a little bridge and watched the sunset.
Day 3: Fort Bragg, CA to Carmel, CA
We had a light breakfast at the complimentary 'buffet' at the hotel. For lunch, a college friend recommended Pier 23, which is where we stopped. There were seals swimming in the bay, and the seafood was super fresh. It was a wonderful lunch! A short pit stop in Monterey at Revival Ice-cream is so worth it before getting into Carmel. For dinner, we ended up going to Little Napoli. Portions were large, and so was the price tag, but it was a very good meal.
Glass Beach in Fort Bragg was on our list, but was a bit let down We decided not to take the PCH on this part of the trip, so that we could get to and from SF faster, so we had less scenic stops along the way
We were treated like royalty at our hotel (thanks to the employees thinking I worked for Hyatt- thanks to my friends and family discount). The Hyatt Carmel Highlands was stunning. If you are staying in the area I highly recommend it. Wonderful service!
Day 4: Carmel, CA to Malibu, CA
The Big Little Lies bridge (Bixby Bridge), which was a huge let down. If I had not done research to find out about this prior to the trip, we would have driven right past McWay Waterfalls. Great little find.
The Elephant seals in San Simeon were very interesting to see, but the smell was beyond awful. The Hearst Castle, was a potential agenda item, but we decided to skip it. However, just after you pass the castle, look to your left, where you will see wild Zebra mixed in with cattle. You wont believe your eyes!
We stayed at an Airbnb, nestled between the PCH and the Pacific Ocean. The photos were nothing like what we walked into, but it was nice to have more space compared to a hotel room, for a few nights.
Day 5: Malibu, CA
We stopped at Estate Coffee for some fuel before our hike. Adorable little spot. Lunch was at Hennessey’s Tavern in Hermosa Beach, on the water, followed by Ice Cream at The Baked Bear. We ate at Moonshadow, which was next door to our Airbnb, and I had great martinis.
We hiked the Hollywood Sign trail at Griffith Park, which was great after being stuck in a car for days. Be sure to dedicate enough time for this long, hot hike, and wear sunscreen. We also walked on the beach in Hermosa, after our lunch, and drove through a few cute beach towns on the way back to Malibu.
Still at our Airbnb
Day 6: Malibu, CA to Chicago, IL
We dinned at Malibu Farm on the pier for breakfast. This was probably my favorite breakfast of the entire trip. Great views on the water too! Lunch was at Gracias Madre in WeHo and it was my favorite lunch of the entire trip!
We stopped at Rodeo Drive for window shopping and expensive mock-tails at The Beverly Wilshire. As tourists, we drove past the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Please don't be like us, and avoid this spot.
Dos and Don'ts
Don't let your gas tank get below ½ a tank. Fill up when you see a station
Don’t rely on the radio to entertain you; do download music/audio books/podcasts
Don’t skip on places you want to see. I regret not staying at the Madonna Inn, especially since our Malibu Airbnb was such a let down
Don't go to the Santa Monica Pier. Huge waste of time. I also live in downtown Chicago, and felt unsafe there
Don’t rely on your cell phone for navigation; do know how to use a real map and how to read mile markers and road signs
Do drive North to South, as you want to be on the ocean side of the highway
Do prepare yourself for some very windy roads, up and down the side of mountains/cliffs
Do pick a great group to travel with. You will be spending a lot of time together!