Road Trippin: Must-Visit West Coast Destinations



Traveling west is a different kind of American dream, one popularized by the initial desire to discover the other side of the continent, the mass migration during the California Gold Rush, and great American literature like Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. And traveling through the west by car is perhaps the most American way to see the country.

Sure, everything is more spread out in the West, so it’s going to take a while to get to most of the hotspots, even from Eugene. But you’re still a lot closer to those hotspots than those who live on the East Coast, so it’s time to take advantage of your location. If you haven’t already taken the great American road trip, it’s time to get to it. Here are the West Coast locations you can’t miss:

Las Vegas, Nevada

Directly from Eugene, it’ll take you about 14 to 15 hours to reach Las Vegas. But that definitely won’t seem so bad with plenty of stops along the way and activities to keep you entertained on the road. But since you live out west, you can’t miss checking out Las Vegas. The city is known around the world for its incredible entertainment, casinos, restaurants, and hotels. It’s the best place to indulge in anything your heart desires. It’s a great place to play poker, see a live show or two (such as a Cirque du Soleil show), treat yourself to a nice meal, and party it up Vegas style. While in Vegas, you’re sure to have the time of your life. Out of all of the stops on this list — even Los Angeles — there’s nothing quite like it.


aerial photography of mountain
Photo by Sonaal Bangera / The Unsplash License

Grand Canyon National Park

If you thought Las Vegas was far, the Grand Canyon National Park has it beat at 17 to 18 hours from Eugene. But it’s only four to five hours from Las Vegas, so it’s a great (and necessary) stop to make while traveling south. The Grand Canyon was designated a national park in 1919, and a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979. It is one of the most important parks to see in the United States, besides Yellowstone National Park. It is incredible in size and structure, and sure to leave you impressed. It also features the beautiful Colorado River and plenty of hiking opportunities.

Los Angeles, California

Fans of Hollywood, cinema, and Disney — this one’s for you. This city is largely considered to be the center of the global filmmaking industry. Depending on your interests, you might want to simply drive around first and get an idea of the layout, from Hollywood (and the impressive homes in the Hollywood Hills), to Venice Beach and Beverly Hills. You might want to check out the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Madame Tussauds Hollywood, Universal Studios, Disneyland, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), and more. Definitely do your research beforehand and map out your trip — traffic in L.A. is not to be taken lightly.


Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco
Photo by Oliver Plattner / The Unsplash License

San Francisco, California

Roughly six hours from Los Angeles, you can’t miss this city if you’re heading up or down the coast. Driving across the Golden Gate Bridge is definitely worth the trip alone, but once you do, head to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area for some beautiful views (and photo ops)! You also must tour Alcatraz Island, which has a fascinating and infamous history. Other popular places to visit include Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf, and the Castro and Haight-Ashbury neighborhoods.


Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Being in Eugene, you’ve probably traveled around the Oregon coast, visited Portland a few times already, and maybe even Seattle. But Vancouver is just a short trip from Seattle — roughly two to three hours — and certainly worth taking out your passport for. Like Seattle, it has beautiful views of both mountains and water, and it’s a great intro to Canada if you’ve never been before. While there, you might want to get dim sum in Chinatown, explore Gastown, head to the Richmond Night Market, go for a hike in Lynn Canyon, go kayaking in Deep Cove, or visit Stanley Park. Like with every city on this list, there’s plenty to do! No matter what you choose, you won’t be disappointed.


The Suttle Lodge: A Serene, Modern Rustic Retreat in Central Oregon


Suttle Lodge in Sisters, OregonThe Suttle Lodge in Sisters, Oregon offers a hip, rustic retreat for those seeking to relax, unwind, and soak up the great outdoors. One of the best things about living in Portland, Oregon is the diversity of life adventures we have at our fingertips. My family lives on the edge of the city, right next…

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Getaway – The Pacific Reef Hotel


Need to get away for the weekend to someplace warm(er), beautiful and quiet?  A couple of weeks ago Jorie (my significant other) and I felt exactly the same. It was cold and very wet in Eugene so warmer was a big deal.  Ibiza was out, didn’t have the time or cash for that.  Same for Mexico, Belize…Palm Springs…basically any place further than a 3 or 4 hour drive was out.  I remembered that as a young kid my Grandparents used to take me to Port Orford’s cool little crescent shaped beach as a treat.   Hmmm, I do love it down there, it’s always a little balmier than here, quiet – a good place to write music or just soak in the ocean views.   Ok, southern Oregon Coast it was.  Time to find a place to be for the weekend, at least for Saturday night since we already missed Friday.

Checked AirBnB, a logical place to start, nothing we liked available for our time – (about 6 hours after deciding we needed to go).  I decided to check with TripAdvisor on what was available in the area and found a mention of the The Pacific Reef Hotel, a TripAdvisor award winner, ton of positive reviews, great prices, in Gold Beach (which I also love), Wifi (still gotta work a little).  They are even pet friendly (although the cat probably wouldn’t agree to come along). This looked like our spot.  Booked it, threw an overnight bag, a couple bottles of wine, the guitars and raincoats into the car and we headed out.

Ahhh…the bridge to Gold Beach!

So a little background on Gold Beach The Pacific Reef Hotel

The average low to high temperature during the winter in Gold Beach runs between 40 and 65 degrees…all winter long.  It’s part of our SO Coast “pineapple belt”.  The community was originally named Ellensburg in the 1850s, but later took the name Gold Beach after a beach near the mouth of the Rogue River where hundreds of placer mines extracted gold.  It’s home to around 2500 people and covers approx. 2.7 sq. miles.  Oh, and Jerry’s Jet Boats are there in case you are looking for a little rowdy fun – I think I’ll wait till summer.  Also Travis Rush – country singer; grew up in Gold Beach.

With our cargo loaded and a little road food for the drive we made our way down the 5 to Grant’s Pass, cut over to Coquille, out to Bandon and down to Gold Beach, made it in about 3 hours…your travel time may vary =^).  Pulling into the Hotel we were a little unsure what we were in for; from the front it looked like a typical older Oregon Coast Hotel, wedged in between the Chowder House (where they give you a discount if you are staying at the PRH) and another Hotel.  Too late to worry now so in we went to get settled.  We made the right choice.  Kind attentive staff, clean grounds and office, and a cool “sand castle” display in the lobby.

We had an ocean facing room up on the second floor.  As we drove towards our building at the back of the property, it was clear that the owners and management of the hotel took great care of it; fresh paint, spotless groundskeeping – the kind of things that make you hopeful for what you’ll find when you get to your room.

Now we’ve stayed at quite a few coast hotels over the years so expectations for the amenities in the room weren’t high, but getting inside it was far far nicer that rooms we’d paid 2 and 3x’s more for in Portland.

A great bed, good pillows, spotless.

After a couple runs back and forth to the car to unload, it was Wine:30.  Which we decided would be best enjoyed on the covered patio overlooking the ocean.

In the rocking chairs.

So far so good.  This place was turning out to be a hidden gem.  We decided we’d check out the salt water hot tub before getting dinner.

We opted for a little steakhouse a couple blocks north of the hotel (good food, decent prices) and then back to the room so we didn’t miss the movie.  Ok, it’s not a theater release movie, but it is a very nice show they’ve put together about Gold Beach and the surrounding area – kind of like the Grand Canyon IMax.  This particular movie is shown on a large outdoor screen that is viewable from all the ocean view room patios.

We got back before the show started and took a little walking tour around the property.  At the top of the stairs in our building we discovered a “hangout” room complete with fireplace, couches and one of the coolest wooden benches I’d ever seen.

Now that’s a beach bench. If we’d been staying for more than one night we would definitely have brought the guitars in here and enjoyed it like our own living room.

Unlike most places we go, where smokers are relegated to standing by the dumpster or in a similarly uninviting smoking spot of shame, PRH has a lovely covered smoking area – you smokers get it.

Now there’s a nice surprise, a covered, nice smoking area.


A Koi pond? Lovely.

They’ve also got a family building and apartment style suites too.

The Family building and Conference rooms.

As dusk arrived we retired to the patio, drank wine in our rocking chairs, watched the movie and generally soaked in the sea air.  It was both peaceful and unexpectedly romantic.  We spent the evening playing guitar, drinking a little more wine and generally unwinding.  By the time morning came, we were in love.  Not La Jolla in-love maybe, but for a getaway destination that’s close to home, oh yeah.

Sunday morning, the sliding door to the patio open, the sound of gulls and ocean lending a peaceful audio backdrop, it was time for coffee.  Being the designated coffeegod (yes, get dressed and go get it), and not interested in using the little pod brewer in the room, I walked off down the driveway to cross 101 to a little coffee stand we spotted on the way in.  Crap, lights on, nobody home.  The sign at the window says “Closed on Sundays”.  That was the only one in town.  Not giving up I walked back to the Hotel, grabbed the car and went to every single open shop I could find on my 3 passes back and forth through town.  No love.  Well, that’s it, clearly we had to get dressed and head for home so we could find some coffee.

As we started to head back out of town we thought maybe we’d grab a bite first.  There was also a road by the bridge (and the motel 6) that I hadn’t gone down, so we decided to try it.  Soo glad we did.  There may not have been any good coffee in Gold Beach, but we found one of the best little breakfast stops we’d been to anywhere along the coast: The Indian Creek Cafe.  Good food, well prepared and served hot.  Even the coffee was drinkable.  Hard to beat.

We really enjoyed our stay.  This is a great getaway spot; clean, comfy, surprisingly romantic.  Our room felt more like an AirBnB than a hotel room.  There were families in rooms on both sides of us and we never heard a peep.  Next time you need a little getaway that isn’t far from home and won’t break the bank, check out the Pacific Reef Hotel in Gold Beach.  Just remember to take your own coffee pot.