We broke up our National Park hopping session with a visit to Seattle, home of the ferry boats. In fact the first thing we did upon entering the city was jump on the first ferry available, Winnie came along for the ride too. With the sun shining we headed straight for the top deck for great views of the city scape.
Our destination was Bainbridge Island, a small, well-to-do, island with great eateries and lots of outdoor space. We sampled as much of the fab food on offer as humanly possible. We choose sandwiches from the epic Hitchcock deli- renowned for its amazing locally sourced produce- and then a bakery for cakes and hot drinks (cinnamon rolls of course!). We then had a waddle along the sea front before setting down for the night at a campsite right by the sea. The beach was literally a 10 second walk from our premium spot (that we got for a discounted price) so we went for a stroll admiring the beautiful views and climbing the drift wood left behind by the strong sea currents.
The next day bought more amazing sandwiches this time in the form of subs from Tats Deli in downtown Seattle- delicious! After stuffing ourselves to bursting point we grabbed a coffee at the world’s first Starbucks, located in Pike’s Place Market. This market which is now a historic landmark was originally built to bring consumer and farmer together. From jewellery to leather shops, it has expanded over the years to include much more than farm produce but food still has to be its major draw.
We couldn’t leave Seattle without taking a snap of this iconic skyline (think Fraser) so we took a rather steep drive up to a nearby park for the perfect view. A lot of people visiting Seattle would take a lift up the Space Needle for said view but as this buildings outline is just as iconic as all the others we wanted to see it rather than be in it (our decision had nothing to do with the $15 ticket up there!).
Our whistle stop tour of Seattle had one last treat for us, we headed over to the beautiful University of Washington to mingle with the quirky students and grab a cup of brew in a cute Tea House. It was great to be in ‘studentville’ and made us both miss Cardiff. We didn’t hang around too long though as we were due to meet up with Charlotte and Brian (Mike’s Cousin) for some drinks and food. We drove over to their nice hotel in Bellevue ( a new area of town), hit up a sports bar and had a good old catch up. With one beer leading to three or five we ended up sleeping in the hotel’s multi storey carpark. Safe to say this was not a great sleep – with security on the prowl, a midnight wee was out of the question…Mike opted for the plastic bottle option instead…oh dear!
Olympic National Park
Bleary eyed we woke at 6am, not wanting to push our luck any further we headed for the ferry again, this time headed for Olympic National Park. This NP had to be one of the most diverse we had come across, with huge snow capped mountains, moss drenched rainforests and miles of rugged coastline, there is something here for everyone. Unfortunately our mountain experience was a bit lacking, with snow coming down thick and fast all we could see was white. Living up to its name, our rainforest experience was remarkably wet but beautiful. We spent the day walking around the lush forest admiring the shapes of the mossy trees before checking out the town of Forks (where Twilight was set and filmed) and its nearby beautiful lakes and waterfalls. We then headed to the coast where we camped on a small cliff overlooking the sea, with wonderful sunset views- what a great day.
The next morning we woke to crashing waves and the sun shining so decided it was great spot for a run on the beach before hitting the 101. The portion of this highway between Seattle, Washington and Redwoods, Oregon is undoubtedly the most scenic road available, hugging the coast the majority of the way. On our first day, this route provided a beautiful bridge into Oregon, the Astoria Column with brilliant panoramic views of the river meeting the sea and Cannon Beach where we choose to lay our heads for the night. We ended up in a rather ‘swanky’ RV park but at a reduced rate as we only needed a car parking space not a RV sight with hook-up. From here we walked to the beach for one of the most amazing sunsets we had ever seen, during our stroll it just got better and better. The rock formations, including Haystack rock, provide the perfect foreground for a sunset view, as well as the perfect nesting ground for puffins and their babies, not that we were lucky enough to spot one.
The following day we made the most of our RV parks facilities and had a swim and spa sesh while we did our laundry and the rain was pouring. We then mulled around the beautiful ‘town’ of Cannon Beach with wonderful shops, cute little cafés and an ‘unmissable’ pizza joint (Pizza a’ Fetta) that we just couldn’t say no to. We rounded of our time in Cannon Beach with a yummy and beautifully packaged cinnamon roll for the road.
We didn’t get far before hitting Pacific city, actually more of a village than a city, and its claim to fame, the Pelican Brewery. The brewery is situated right on the beach so we took a stroll before checking it out. On route we came across a rather sad looking elephant seal washed up on the beach but just before we were about to call the RSPCA we came across a sign informing us this was completely usual behaviour during moulting season.
Back in the Pelican Brewery, we grabbed a spot by the bar and ordered some beer. Confused by the vast array of ales, stouts and summer specials we decided upon a ‘taster tray’ and settled in to seven small glasses of their finest, award winning beer. We waved goodbye to Pacific City and continued down the coast with a take-away bottle of beer on chill. We stopped for the night at another campsite right on the beach, took our leftover pizza and picnic chairs onto the sand for a lovely sunset dinner.
The next morning, the Easter bunny came to camp and left a bowl of our favourite choccy eggs (thanks Karen and Phil). After a classic Easter Sunday chocolate binge we stopped off at the Oregon Dunes National Recreational Area for a walk, sunbath and play on the giant mounds of sand.
Another beautiful spot along the 101 was Sunset Bay State Park (just south of the dunes). We camped close to the beach again and had a stroll along the sun drenched bay whilst watching surfers ride the last waves of the day. Back at camp we started a fire and grilled up some chorizo for dinner, and for dessert, the obligatory campfire s’mores.
Crossing into California we entered the Redwoods National and State Parks. The parks are named after the Giant Coastal Redwoods that dwarf the nearby towns and roads. These trees are the largest in the world, reaching heights of over 375 feet. They are also amongst the oldest in the world, with some of the elders reaching their 2000th Birthday.
We started our Redwood adventures in the Smith River Recreational Area, we found some free camping overlooking the picturesque Smith River and had a stroll before crashing for the night. In the morning we woke early for a rather chilly dip/wash in the river – refreshing start to the day.
We headed South winding our way along the numerous scenic drives, including the popular Avenue of the Giants. One of our favourite was Howland Hill Road which cuts across the Jeddidiah Smith State Park. Closed to large RV’s and Trailers, this road offered a great up close experience – Winnie was only just about managing to squeeze through the tight gaps between the trees. Driving this road really did make us feel little, I can’t even begin to describe how enormous the Redwoods were. Talking of tight gaps, we even managed to squeeze Winnie through a hole in one of the trees, albeit with the wing mirrors folded in. On route we also sampled many of the short walks on offer to gain a first-hand perspective – cue the tree hugging photos…
One of our camping spots along the way was at a beach within the National Park. This spot was beautiful; we arrived to elk munching their way through camp, went for a wander along the beach and, not wanting to leave, had a luxurious pancake breakie in the morning.
Our second night was not quite as scenic. Just looking for a place to crash in between two sections of the Redwoods park, we stopped at a rather unappealing self-pay campsite. However, according to the owner, we could not stay as ‘it is illegal to sleep in your car in California’. For some reason she took such a disliking to the idea of us staying the night she refunded us $5 extra as she couldn’t find the right change- result! Just five minutes down the road in a town called Scotia we found a much more welcoming campsite where we could put our $5 to good use and lay our heads under some giant redwoods.
Around the same area we also visited a cute harbour town called Trinidad and stopped at a renowned restaurant in Eureka called ‘The Samoan Cookhouse’. This canteen used to serve Redwood loggers back in the early 1900’s, and now serves the same delish American grub to tourist and locals alike.
With our necks aching we left the Redwoods area and headed for the coast picking up the famous coastal route- highway 1. Thankfully this road provided outstanding views of the coast all the way to San Francisco (our next destination), as we needed something to take our minds of the nausea from the seriously windy roads. We resupplied in Fort Bragg and took the opportunity to free camp in Safeway carpark, while we were cooking tea Pastor Greg stopped by for a chat and to offer up a bed. As we were already set up we declined this very kind offer and waved Greg on by – what a nice guy.
In the morning we visited MacKerricher State Park for a wander along the coastal boardwalks and trails, we spent some time watching the many inquisitive harbour seals before hitting the jackpot. With a squeak of excitement Grace turned my gaze just in time to see the spout of water and small dorsal fin of a Grey Whale. We had hoped to see one, they migrate North hugging the coast at this time of year but never thought it would happen. We couldn’t have got a better view from land.
Another notable stop on Highway 1 was Mendocino, this quaint town was perched on the cliff tops and had a number of good cafes and chocolate shop to die for. Close by, on a similar cliff top we settled down for the evening – hot choc in hand we sat down on the cliff edge and watched as the sun slowly sunk into the Pacific Ocean.
San Fran here we come…