We live in Oregon and some members of our family live down in Southern California. Usually when we drive to visit them, we travel I-5. We go that route because it’s faster, not for the view. I get that some people might really enjoy wide open spaces and a lot of brown terrain but I’m not one of them. I like green, and the ocean and variety in the landscape. We’d wanted to try out the Hwy 101 route for awhile but as it does take a little bit longer to get down to the lower reaches of Southern CA, we wanted to wait until the kids were a tiny bit older and were able to last longer in the car.
We finally deemed the kids ready to travel the route this year and we had a glorious trip down south! We all found it a greatly satisfying route, both for the view and for the things we found to do along the way. Yes, driving Hwy 101 might take you a few more extra hours but it is worth every single minute in our book! You don’t see views like this when traveling I-5, that’s for sure!
Another reason for our wanting to drive Hwy 101 into California was that last year we had driven Hwy 101 from WA State down to Newport, Oregon. Having seen the northern part of the Hwy, we wanted to see the southern half, if you will. As expected, the views are similar (in that there is water) but it is incredible how the landscape changes all along the way. There is so much beauty in the drive! Least you think kids wouldn’t be interested in that sort of thing, you would be wrong! Our oldest, in particular, appreciates the beauty of a changing landscape in the car. He says it helps pass the time when you have a variety of things to look at. And all of our children are huge fans of “rest stops” which involve 15-20 minutes of playing in the sand. It makes it all so worth it!
So what’s to see and do along the way?
- Take any number of turn outs available, just to take in the view. Stretch your legs and look around you.
- Offer the kids the camera and see what they capture. Does this sound boring? It isn’t. Anything can be an adventure if you offer it up as one!
- Take a quick detour and drive through a portion of The Avenue of the Giants. We went into it just a ways – enough to get a feel for it and to stretch our legs. It’s gorgeous and unique!
- Stop and see the Famous One-Log House. This is admittedly kind of a cheesy tourist stop but it was interesting to us as multiple-log house dwellers. (We live in a log house.) The One-Log House sits next to a little coffee/ice cream shop with bathrooms and sometimes you need, well, all of that! There is also a gift shop to browse which contains many items made out of redwood trees. There is a $1 entrance fee per person to see the One-Log House. Kids 4 and under are free. You pay the fee in the gift shop and they will give you the code to enter into the house.
- Drive through the Chandelier Tree (i.e., the “Drive-Thru Tree”). There is a $5 fee associated with being able to drive through the tree. Is it worth it? Well, it’s cool to say that you’ve driven through it. It is a rather impressive tree and, depending on the size of your car, a thrilling tight squeeze.
- Take a detour and visit the Jack London State Historic Park (which is awesome).
- Time some time out for Solvang, CA.
- Visit Pismo Beach. (There is free parking available.)
And again, make time to pull over and take in the views all along the route. It’s beautiful, we promise!