10 Must-Visit Spots Along Hwy 101
December 14, 2019
It’s a well-known fact that Highway 101 is one of the most epic road trips you could ever experience. The highway, which runs from San Diego, California, all the way up to Port Angeles, Washington on the Olympic Peninsula, is 1,540 miles of gorgeous scenery and an endless array of things to see and do.
Even though you’ll want to stop at every turn for that perfect photo-op, there are 10 must-visit stops that you should put on your list if you plan on driving the entire Highway 101. Grab some friends, pack up the car, crank up the tunes, and get ready to embark on the road trip of a lifetime.
1. Soak in Some Sun at Arroyo Burro Beach
After you make your way out of the traffic jams of Los Angeles, keep heading north where you can relax, take a dip, and have a picnic at Santa Barbara’s Arroyo Burro Beach. Even better—it’s a dog-friendly beach! Known as Hendry’s Beach by the locals, you can also find restaurants with beachfront views. So, if you’d like to park it for the night and watch the sun go down with a delicious meal and a cocktail—this is the spot.
2. Tour Hearst Castle
Sure, the opulent mansion of Hearst Castle is a well-known tourist spot, but it really is worth the stop. Located smack dab in between L.A. and San Francisco, this massive ‘castle’ is truly a sight to behold. In 1919, businessman Randolph Hearst began constructing this mansion which has 165 rooms and 123 acres of gardens. Now, the estate, filled with sculptures, paintings, carved paintings, and antiques, is a California State Park and offers multiple tours for its visitors.
3. Wander Through the Palace of Fine Arts
Once you’ve made your way up to San Francisco, you’ll have every restaurant, bar, tourist attraction, and more at your fingertips. But one place you should make a priority is the Palace of Fine Arts. Originally designed and built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition, the Palace of Fine Arts hosts art exhibitions, weddings, and other events. The palace, surrounded by a man-made lagoon, is an iconic place for photos.
4. Drive Through the Shrine Drive-Thru Tree
Another place that would be completely sacrilege if you didn’t stop would be the famous Shrine Drive-Thru Tree in the Humboldt Redwood State Park. Highway 101 runs right through this awe-inspiring forest which is the home to the world’s largest remaining contiguous old-growth forest of coast redwoods. Just south of the visitor center, experience just how gigantic these trees really are by driving right through one, the Shrine Drive-Thru Tree. Plus, you can also score some cute trinkets to commemorate your journey at the gift shop afterward.
5. Feel the Tranquility of the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort
The Oregon Coast is known for its outrageous beauty. Just north of the California border is the quiet beach town of Bandon, Oregon. Home to the famous Bandon Dunes Golf Resort and located just off the beach, it’s worth stopping and playing a round of 18. You’ll never visit a more relaxing and gorgeous golf course again. It can be a bit spendy, but if you go during off-months (November through January), you can score a sweet deal.
6. See the Ocean ‘Drain’ into Thor’s Well at Cape Perpetua
Keep driving north and you’ll most definitely want to pull off at Cape Perpetua to see the ‘drainpipe of the Pacific’—Thor’s Well. The seemingly bottomless sinkhole appears to constantly drain the endless stream of water that pours into it. The huge hole is actually only 20-feet-deep, however, it produces quite the magical site. Be sure to visit at high tide for the most spectacular views.
7. Feel Like You’ve Stepped Into a Nature-Scape Painting at Ecola State Park
Located just north of Cannon Beach, Oregon is the breathtakingly impressive Ecola State Park. Before you venture off on one of the many dog-friendly trails in this stunning state park, be sure to stop off at the viewpoint. From here, you can see a mindblowing view of Cannon Beach, gorgeous rock outcroppings, and, of course, the famous Haystack Rock featured in the movie ‘The Goonies.’ Stop into Cannon Beach afterward for a craft beer at Public Coast Brewery.
8. Explore the Rich History, Creative Craft Brews, and Adorable Charm of Astoria, Oregon
Speaking of breweries and The Goonies, keep driving just 40 minutes north and you’ll reach the charming and quaint town of Astoria, Oregon. Although it’s technically located on the mouth of the Columbia Rivier, Astoria is a city of 10,000 that is the oldest settlement in the United States west of the Rocky Mountains. Eat fish and chips at the famous Bowpicker then wash it down with locally-crafted brews at Fort George Brewery, Reach Break Brewing, Buoy Beer Company, or Astoria Brewing Company. Be sure to drive around the town to check out numerous boutiques, museums (like the Oregon Film Museum where you can learn about all the movies filmed there), and fascinating architecture.
9. Crawl Into a Cave Made of Tree Roots at Kalaloch Tree Root Cave
The 101 takes a weird turn once you get into Washington but just keep trucking along until you get past the Long Beach Peninsula and back onto the main beachy drag past Westport. After driving a long stretch of coastal bliss, you’ll enter Kalaloch—where the rainforest meets the sea. Visit the Kalaloch Lodge then make your way down to the Kalaloch Tree Root Cave where a tree appears to be suspended in thin air between two pieces of sandy cliffside. It’s a great place to sit and reflect.
10. Reach the Tip of the Country at Cape Flattery
A trip along the Washington Coast isn’t complete until you get to Cape Flattery. Although the highway doesn’t end here, it’s the most northwestern-most point in the contiguous United States. Walk the short 1.5-mile trail to the most majestic and glorious view you can imagine. Watch the waves crash against the sea stacks and keep an eye out for seals, sea lions, and even migrating whales depending on the season.
Written by Ashley Brewer for Knockaround