The historic Columbia River Highway was the first scenic highway in the United States and is designated a National Historic Landmark. The highway is about 75 miles long between Troutdale and the Dalles in Oregon and travels through the Columbia Gorge, transitioning between temperate rainforest to dry grasslands in only 80 miles. The area is best known for its high concentration of waterfalls but is also a popular destination for hiking, mountain-biking, fishing, watersports and sight-seeing. The Columbia River Gorge is the perfect day trip from Portland on a hot summer's day or worth road tripping out to spend a week or two to fully explore the area.
Bridal Veil Falls
Lower Oneonta Falls
Eagle Creek to Punchbowl Falls: This is an easy and very popular hike. It is 3.8 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 500 feet. This trail leads to Punchbowl Falls where you can rewards yourself a the end of the hike with a swim in the crystal clear water.
Eagle Creek to Tunnel Falls: This trail continues past the Punchbowl Falls and is a little more strenuous. It is a 12 mile roundtrip hike with an elevation gain of 1640 feet. The trail leads to a tunnel built behind a waterfall (hence the name) which plummets to the creek below. It makes for an excellent climax to the hike!
Oneonta Gorge to Lower Oneonta Falls: This is an incredible hike through a slot canyon and is a little bit like Zion National Parks' The Narrows. It is an easy hike of 0.6 miles roundtrip with 400 feet elevation gain. On this hike, the creek is the trail so you need to wade in waist deep water and scramble over log jams until you reach Lower Oneonta Falls.
Hole In The Wall Falls Loop: This hike is 2.5 miles round trip loop with an elevation gain of 600 feet and leads to a man-made waterfall.
Beacon Rock: This hike is 1.8 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 680 feet. There are great views from the top of the river below including Bonneville Dam. Beacon Rock is an icon of the Columbia River Gorge and should not be missed!
Angels Rest: This hike is 5 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 1500 feet. The trail is on the western end of the Columbia Gorge and leads to spectacular 270 degree views of the gorge including Beacon Rock.
POINTS OF INTEREST
The Bonneville Dam is the oldest dam on the Columbia River. There is a Visitors Center which is a great place to take the kids. There is an underground viewing area which allows you to get a better view of the fish passing by and a fish ladder for the salmon making their way upstream.
Bonneville Fish Hatchery
Bonneville Hatchery raises millions of Chinook Salmon, Coho Salmon and Steelhead trout every year. This is a great place to visit with the kids where they can feed rainbow trout in the display ponds and view a 10 foot sturgeon named Herman.
Bridge of the Gods
Bridge of the Gods is a steel truss bridge that spans the Columbia River between Cascade Locks in Oregon and Washington State. The bridge was seen in the film "Wild' with Reese Witherspoon and is part of the Pacific Crest Trail.
Eagle Creek Campground: This campground has 17 campsites which must be booked online. The campgrounds feature flush toilets (no showers) and drinking water. Campsites are situated between large trees atop a bluff above Eagle Creek and the Columbia River. There are no RV hookups. Eagle Creek campground is situated adjacent to Interstate 84 and railroad tracks so may be too noisy for some.
Wyeth Creek Campground: This campground offers 13 sites in a beautiful setting surrounded by Douglas-fir and Big-leaf maple tree's. This is a popular campground so book early! Exit the I-84 at Wyeth road and drive 1/4 of a mile.
KOA Cascade Locks: This campground offers tent camping, RV sites and cabin accommodations. This is our favorite of the campgrounds because their amenities include a swimming pool, hot tub, games room, snack bar and laundry facilities. When we stayed, they also offered all you can eat pancakes on the weekend for $5!
BEST TIMES TO VISIT
SPRING: Best for less crowds & hiking
SUMMER: Best for swimming, watersports & berry picking
AUTUMN: Best for seeing fall colors & photography
WINTER: Best for viewing frozen waterfalls
DIRECTIONS: From Portland head east on the I-84 until you reach Troutdale where the Columbia River Highway begins
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Multnomah Falls is the most visited and most photographed of the waterfalls along the scenic Columbia River Highway. Multnomah Falls is a roaring, 611-foot cascading waterfall that is easily accessed via the parking lot. For a closer view walk several hundred feet along the paved trail to the bridge which spans the falls first tier's misty base. From here you will have the perfect view of the top tier's full 542-foot height.
Triple Falls is not one, but three parallel waterfalls around 135-feet tall. The falls are accessed via hiking with the trail beginning at the Oneonta Trailhead. Big-leaf maples and vine maples make this a beautiful hike in Autumn.
Ponytail Falls is a favorite among photographers because you can get some unique shots from behind the falls. To reach Ponytail Falls you need to hike a steep trail about 0.3 miles.
Latourell Falls is a 249-foot plunge waterfall and is usually the first waterfall seen along the Columbia River Highway. This waterfall is most recognized for the large patch of bright yellow lichen adorning the cliff face to the right of the falls which makes for some visually pleasing photographs. Latourell Falls is a short hike from the parking lot to the bottom of the falls.
Wahkeena Falls is a 242 foot waterfall which has a subtle cascading flow. To reach this waterfall, park at the Wahkeena Falls parking lot and hike an easy 0.5 miles out to the falls. You can also continue this loop trail to reach the top of Multnomah Falls.
Punchbowl Falls is accessed via the Eagle Creek trail and is a popular waterfall to hike out to on a hot summers day. The hike itself is pretty spectacular with cliffs on both sides. To see the classic view of this waterfall head to the far end of the rocky beach and wade out into the pool in front of the falls.
Tunnel Falls is quite a hike at 12 miles round trip to get to, but well worth it! It is on the Eagle Creek trail which is the same as Punchbowl Falls. This waterfall plunges 160 feet from the towering basalt cliffs to the creek below. The most impressive thing about Tunnel Falls is obviously the tunnel carved behind it which allows you to get some spectacular (and wet) photographs.
Horsetail Falls is located right beside the Historic Columbia River Highway and requires no hiking! This waterfall is much less crowded than nearby Multonomah Falls and is great for getting photographs of yourself in front of the waterfall.
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Road tripping the Oregon coast was a spur of the moment decision. We were in Portland trying to figure out our next move - which was going to be heading straight to the Californian border then hugging the coastline from there. It was the middle of winter and we had been avoiding living out of the van (road tripping in the cold just ain't fun) and wanted to find some warmer weather asap... But we thought to ourselves, why waste the opportunity to see a beautiful coastline?
We hit the road and our first stop on our Oregon coast trip was Florence, a town located on the Siuslaw riverfront. Upon arriving we headed straight out to south jetty to see what the Oregon coast had to offer. It was cold and windy but we had a blast checking out the piles of driftwood that had washed ashore.
We contemplated staying in Florence for the night but with a few hours of light still left we decided to go and check out some sand dunes we had read about just south of Florence. The sand dunes were massive! We couldn’t believe how big they were and spent some time running up and down them like two little kids.
The sun was setting so we headed for Coos Bay McDonalds to use the wifi as we wanted to see where we were going to venture next. On arrival to Coos Bay the weather had taken a turn for the worst and was pelting down rain. The weather report wasn’t looking to good, and they were predicting more rain for the following two days. We ended up camping out in the McDonalds car park for two days until the weather cleared up. We had everything we needed, free wifi, coffee and a bathroom so we couldn’t complain too much.
We woke to sunshine on the third morning of our great McDonalds camping marathon, grabbed a couple large coffees and hit the road. We arrived in a small historic town by the name of Bandon which is perched on the south side of the Coquille River. One of the stores that caught our eye was Bandon Sweet's and Treats' so we parked up and checked out some of the local shops. The Sweet's and Treat's store had just about every kind of flavored sweet known to man and more flavors of popcorn then we've ever seen! Everything was free to taste!! After gorging on many, many sweets, we headed to the mouth of the Coquille River to check out the huge sea stacks we'd read about.
After lunch we continued south, weaving around the cliffs and coves along highway 101, arriving at a town by the name of Port Orford. We drove down to the boat harbor to check out the beach and possibly somewhere to sleep for the night. As it turns out there were a few small waves breaking in the cove and I ended up going for a paddle. When I came in we decided that we would sleep in the boat harbor carpark overnight. This spot was absolutely perfect, we were parked right up in front of the ocean with a million dollar view and barely anyone around except for a few old fishermen mending their nets. We heated up some soup, set up the laptop to watch a movie and hunkered down for the night. At around 1 am we were woken up by gale force winds and huge waves crashing over the break wall and over our van. The van was shaking madly and getting severely smashed wave after wave. We immediately backed up and headed for higher ground in another carpark further back from the water. The spot which we had thought was so perfect almost ended up in us almost getting washed into the ocean! The rain and wind continued throughout the rest of the night before finally settling early morning. The sun came out and it was as if the storm had never even happened.
By the time we reached Gold Beach (30 mins from Port Orford) the bad weather had come in again with steady rain and misty clouds making for an earie but electric feeling. We stopped at the local grocery store to grab some food supplies for the road ahead. Gold Beach is only a small town with not a lot to offer so we headed just south of the town and pulled up at the beach to make some breakfast.
Our next and last stop along the Oregon coast was the town of Brookings. Just before entering Brookings we took a right turn down a road which took us to the north jetty of the Chetco River. As we pulled up to the jetty we noticed a bunch of miniature, kennel-like houses, and to our surprise cats started appearing from inside them. We walked over to check them out and we realized that they were abandoned kitty's. A sign stated that the local Sheriff had built the home for these abandoned cats. It was quite sad to see these cats had been left behind but at the same time it was quite inspiring. We fed the cats and filled up their water bowls before heading over the bridge and into the city.
Knowing we were close to the Oregon/Californian border and not wanting to leave the Oregon coast just yet, we decided to spend on more night on the rugged coast and found ourselves another overnight park overlooking the ocean. It was yet another wild and stormy night, the lightning was spectacular to watch and perfect weather for cozying up inside the van for another movie screening.
As we drove into town we noticed a giant blow up crab on the side of the road and at closer inspection we noticed a sign reading “Crab Festival Today” so we had to attend. The festival was a little in-organized but we didn’t care as we just wanted to eat some fresh crab. After enjoying a couple of crab rolls at the festival, we went for a walk along the river. As we walked closer to a wharf we noticed something swimming in the water which turned out to be three of the cutest otters. They were playing together and we managed to get reasonably close. After our otter encounter we drove to the beach and we were welcomed by a stunning rainbow. Brookings was our last stop on our Oregon coast road trip before crossing the border into California and continuing down the California coastline.
Read about our Northern California Coast Road Trip!
When it comes to surfing in California, it gets no better than the Santa Cruz surf scene! Globally recognized as “surf city,’ this area of the beautiful California coastline boasts some of the best waves on the west coast and thousands of dedicated surfers travel from across the world just to get their boards in the water here. Santa Cruz has some of the most popular beaches as well as some of the most challenging to surf. When you want to know where to go for the best surfing of your life, you don’t need to look any further than the beautiful Santa Cruz coastline.
Santa Cruz has more than 30 great surf spots to enjoy. Here are a few of the most popular as well as the most challenging:
Cowell’s is the perfect beach for those that are just learning to surf. The waves are not too high, but definitely high enough to have some fun in the sun. Cowell’s is also very popular with families and sunbathers that want to enjoy their days off work at the beach with friends and family. This beach is definitely one of the most popular areas of the shoreline and you will often find it packed with not only local surfers but with others just enjoying getting their toes in the sand for a little while.
For locals, The Hook is one of the more popular places to surf in Santa Cruz. This is definitely not a beach for beginners as the waves can be gnarly and fairly ferocious at times. For better stability in the water you will see far more longboards than short-boards at this local hangout. The Hook is located just at the far end of 41st Avenue and is also a great place to just hang out on the beach and spend the day watching surfers as they ride the waves in all day long.
Steamers Lane is the most popular, as well as the most dangerous surfing spot in Santa Cruz. The Santa Cruz Surfing Museum is just down the coastline from Steamers Lane and this beach is one that stays packed every day of the year with mostly locals trying to beat their own records for staying up as they head toward the cliff line. The biggest waves are usually found in the winter and its pretty calm but decent waves can be found throughout the rest of the year as well.
Natural Bridge State Park
Natural Bridges State Beach is by far, one of the most beautiful along the California shoreline. Lined with beautiful eucalyptus trees and with some of the most majestic waves crashing against the rocks makes this a very popular place for not only surfers but for families and college students just enjoying the day spent at the beach. The waves at Natural Bridges State Park are very comparable to the waves at The Hook. They can be very dangerous and it definitely is not the place for novice surfers to show their skills.
Some of the bluest water that you will find on the west coast can be found at Pleasure Point. Located just off of E Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz, this beach is one of the most relaxing areas to truly enjoy a little fun on the water on a sunny day. The beach is private but locals are able to come out and enjoy the surf and sand on most days of the year. The quietness of the area makes riding the waves something that can really be enjoyed and savored in memory long after the day is over.
This surf area is exceptionally great for all surfers and is a place where the waters may get packed fast, but people are pretty patient as well as courteous when it comes to letting others have plenty of space on the waves. Located just off the Soquel exit you can find parking on Twin Lakes Drive for a quick walk down to the water. This is also the perfect place for those that may not surf but enjoy watching others as they ride the waves all day long.
When it comes to the Santa Cruz surf scene you will find a great diversity in outstanding places to choose from. From big waves, reefs, private beaches and even those that stay busy year round, there is always something going on all the way up and down the beautiful Santa Cruz coastline. This is one of the most highly competitive areas in the world for surfing and whether you are a novice or a pro on the water, there is always a spot for you to show what you’re made of on your board when you come to Santa Cruz.
On top of surfing, Santa Cruz has so many things to offer locals as well as tourists in the area. The Santa Cruz Wharf is a great place where people can spend hours shopping or enjoying a drink or dinner with friends is one of the more popular places for tourists as well as locals. The wharf has the best when it comes to beautiful ocean scenery as well as entertainment. Just to the left of the wharf is the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk where you can have fun at the oldest amusement park by the sea on the entire west coast of the United States. It is also right next to Cowell Beach where you can have fun watching the great surfing or even jumping in on a surf lesson or two to see how to ride the waves on your own. There are so many things to do in Santa Cruz that not a day will go by where you won’t be able to find fun in the sun no matter what part of the shore you find yourself on.
By: Angelo Caito
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The Northern California coast is beautiful, breathtaking and rugged. Our first stop after crossing the Oregon border was Crescent City. Even though Lonely Planet says this coastal town is not worth stopping at, we ended up staying for a couple of days because it had a nice mellow vibe and felt like a safe place to stay in the van. It has all the large chain stores so we stocked up on cooking supplies and found some wifi to check emails. There is a large park by the Visitors Center that is great for picnicking or stretching your legs, which is what we did.
I was determined to find some waves but there wasn’t much swell. We found a safe place to park overnight right by the water where we could check the surf right from our bed and cook while watching the waves roll in. It was epic to say the least!
It was so pretty here because you could look back at the dramatic coastline. We discovered a small headland at the end of the harbor and after climbing over some rocks I was surprised to find a perfect little right hand point. The place looked like it had so much potential if some swell would come.
Next morning we woke up to a gorgeous sunrise and a brisk sea breeze.
The swell was still on the small side but I was hoping somehow “Jamie’s Right” (the wave I found the day before) was breaking but this was not the case for the next few days. Admitting defeat, we decided to keep heading south in search of warmer weather.
Our next stop was only 30 minutes south at the Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park. We wanted to hike the Damnation Creek trail, a trail that we had done on our last road trip to the area two years ago which was one of our favorites. The Damnation Creek trail is a 3 mile roundtrip hike down a steep trail to the ocean through some awe-inspiring coastal redwoods.
It was a little different at this time of the year with all the rainfall. The narrow, steep trail was super slippery and we had to be careful as there were a lot of fall trees we had to navigate. On the way down we were reminded of the sights and beauty we had seen some years earlier that made us fall in love with this amazing place.
Close to the end of the trail there was a sign that the rest of the trail was closed because there was a bridge that was unsafe to cross, but seeing as though we got this far we were determined to reach the end of the trail. Especially knowing what we would be missing out on otherwise. Being the problem solvers we are, we just went under the bridge as the creek wasn’t all that high and finally made it down the wild and windy Pacific Ocean. The air was fresh, the wind was strong, and we felt alive all alone on the rugged piece of coastline. We spent some time scouring the bottom of the cliffs before making the struggle back up.
Getting back to the van we downed a couple of peanut butter sandwiches and hit the road southbound aiming for Eureka, but being the adventurous couple we are, we saw a detour on the way for a tourist loop drive that would take us on a drive atop some cliffs overlooking the ocean. We didn’t know exactly where we were but it was stunning and we were the only ones there. Because the day was getting late and Eureka was still awhile away we made the call to camp out here and catch the spectacular sunset.
Early next morning we woke to some stellar views, made ourselves a cuppa and on we went. We stopped at Orrick to see the herd of Roosevelt Elk. Roosevelt Elk are the largest of the six recognized subspecies of elk in North America and this is one of the only three counties in California where they still persist. It was a super cold morning!
When we finally reached Arcata we were starving and feeling too lazy to cook so when we spotted the Chinese buffet we fell in to temptation. It was so good to be inside where it was warm and toasty.
After over-doing it we thought it was best to go walk it off so we found somewhere to park in Eureka and got out to explore the town. Eureka is a pretty big town with some beautiful restored Victorian homes and buildings and some interesting boutiques in the downtown area. An interesting fact about Eureka is that there is a prison building right in the middle of town which was really weird and quite disturbing.
After walking around for a few hours and visiting some pawn stores we decided to get moving and make it to the Humboldt Redwoods State Forest.
On the way we saw a sign for Fortuna and remembered the awesome Eel River Brewery we had visited once before so without hesitation we took the next exit. After a few hours of some of the tastiest IPA's, we realized we would not be driving any further so we kept the beers coming and ordered some of the best halibut we’d ever had.
Getting up super early next day, we finally made it to the northern entrance of Avenue of the Giants. We were extremely excited to be amongst these ancient giants once again. The beauty and scale of these tree’s has to be seen to be believed.
We stopped at a 3 mile loop trail which took about an hour to complete and had time to tackle another one. We continued to drive at really slow speeds in absolute awe of our surroundings and these amazing living things. I think we stopped about 50 times for photo opportunities.
We stopped in at the Visitors Center which is probably one of the best Visitors Centers we’ve ever been too. Here you can learn about the redwoods and check out old photo’s, newspaper clippings and tools that were used back in the day for logging. You can also learn about the area’s wildlife and grab some cool souvenirs with the cash going towards the preservation of the area.
The weather was taking a turn for the worse so we sat on the front porch of the Visitors Center sipping on some coffees before making the decision to go and get cozy in the van for the rest of the day.
We were greeted by a glassy ocean but light was fading fast so we pulled up in a sheltered bay and parked right on the beach. It was a pretty stormy night but we still had one six pack left to make the night a little less scary.
Upon waking we were amazed to see 10 to 15 foot waves rolling in across the whole cove. Our plan for the day was to get to Fort Bragg where we had arranged a last minute work exchange for a few days. We really enjoy doing work exchanges because you get to meet some great people and have a reason to linger in the area a little longer. We ended up staying in Fort Bragg for almost a week working at a bed and breakfast that was built in 1886 with its own watchtower. Bed and Breakfasts are really popular in Fort Bragg if you are planning a visit to the area.
It was perfect because we didn’t even need to leave the house to check the surf. We spent a few days helping renovate a room and in return got a bedroom and ballroom lessons.
We spent our afternoons exploring the headlands, surfing and making friends with the super friendly locals. We also got to pay Glass Beach a visit which is famous for its dazzling sea-glass rounded by the rolling waves created from years of dumping garbage into an area of coastline near the northern part of the town.
What made the whole experience even better was that the weather was finally getting warmer!
After a week it was time to move on. It was hard to say goodbye to Fort Bragg, everyone here treated us like one of their own and we will forever be grateful.
Next stop... San Francisco! Check out our travels in San Francisco.
Vanning In San Francisco: Why We Were Happy To Leave
By: Jamie Nicholson & Arial Evans
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Fort Bragg is a sleepy little ex-logging town located in Mendocino County on the Northern California coast, not too far from the famous gigantic Redwood trees of Avenue of the Giants. Fort Bragg’s coastline is littered with cove after cove and headland after headland making you think that around the next point will be the perfect setup with pumping waves, but this just isn’t the case. Most of the beaches are sand bottom and seem to struggle to hold banks. However, there are a few places that hold big waves in some pretty sketchy spots. Towing-in would be more appropriate if you were wanting to tackle some of these waves.
Almost every beach in the area seemed to be completely deserted and the only ones occupying the line-up were sea lions. I surfed two spots, one was called Pudding Creek and the other Virgin Beach. There are plenty of other spots that would be surf-able with jet ski assistance. There was so much water moving at some of these breaks it was impossible to paddle out. Pudding Creek is a small cove with a little creek running out through the middle of it into the ocean. I spent most of my time paddling against the current here and it was hard going in the solid waves. I caught a few average waves and was pretty over it. The last wave I paddled into was looking good and I thought I was in for a decent barrel. I pulled in and raced as fast as I could to try and make it out but I was clipped at the end and copped a beating. As I popped up gasping for air I realized I had creased my board pretty bad so I headed in with my tail between my legs. There was never a lack of swell in Fort Bragg while I was there but it did lack decent banks and the water was on the cold side of the scale. Putting on a wetsuit and dealing with the cold water for crap waves wasn't very appealing.
The best waves I surfed were at Virgin Beach which seemed to handle the swell better than the other beaches in the area. There were some decent lefts breaking at the south end of the beach and reeling all the way across into a rip about 100 meters away at the northern end of the beach. I surfed here for the next couple days with only two guys in the water on one of the days. The waves would work from high tide until there wasn’t enough water on the bank and it would start shutting down across the whole beach.
I was stoked to get some fun waves and hang out with the sea lions in the surf. The water was extremely blue and the coastline rugged and beautiful. I'm almost certain that the waves around here would make for some epic sessions in uncrowded line ups. If you don't mind cold water and Surfline's 9 out of 10 shark danger rating for Fort Bragg, then maybe you should consider an adventurous road trip along the Northern California coast. Pack a thick wetsuit (5/4 mm for winter, 4/3 for summer) and a raincoat.
Read about our road trip down the Northern California coast.
By: Jamie Nicholson
Road trips are easily the best American pastime; from jaunts into the Great Smoky Mountains to the classic Route 66 family adventure, to visiting America's Best National Parks. It is with great happiness that it’s picking back up as one of the country’s favorite ways to get out of town and escape into travel mode.
But unlike yesteryear, there’s plenty of apps to help get rid of the blues when driving across country, whether you’re going on a solo journey or taking the whole crew. So before you head out, make sure you’re a little download happy, and check out these picks!
1. HEADS UP
Perfect for the kids rambling in the backseat, or even your grown adult friends who are doing the same thing, Heads Up! is a great game app inspired by the game of the same name from Ellen Degeneres’ talk show. Played between two people and their iPhones, or two teams and two iPhones, you get timed while trying to figure out the word on the screen with only hints from your partner. Consider it the new age charades, and consider it huge fun for long rides.
2. FIELD TRIP
Field Trip is a great little app that is more than just a list of things to do, it’s a list of things to do near you and usually they’re pretty off the grid (meaning locals are fond of this app, and you can definitely reuse it at home as well to spice up your everyday). For people who are a fan of taking the long way around, this app is for you. From attractions to restaurants to secret hideaways, it’s the perfect finder for something close, but just a little off the grid.
While there’s nothing wrong with your basic map app, I have fallen in love with DarkSky and can't get away from its awesome perks. From ultraprecise radar (as in, the app lets you know in minutes how far that thunderstorm is from your person) to great maps that show you where all that weather is coming from, I find it incredibly useful and absolutely worth $4. Plus storm alerts! And beautiful maps!
Forget the old way of buying the perfect postcard for each person, enter the digital age when you can create your own postcard with original photos and send everything straight from your phone. Postagram is one of those rare apps that I leave on my phone 24/7 because it’s so easy to send snail mail to my friends and family that I do it whether I’m on vacation or not. But specifically for road trips, you can take pictures of where you’re at and send straight from your phone, to be delivered within the week via post (if you’re in the US). What’s easier, or more thoughtful, than that?
Recho is a cool experimental app that moves beyond just helping you discover a new place, but connecting with others as well. While GPS is essential for using this app, you get the cool experience of stumbling on a site-specific piece of work, be it a song, a poem, or prose, only when you're in that exact location. If you're a creative, this experience of discovering site-specific works of art is going to blow your mind. And bonus: you can leave your own memories as well! Perfect for repeat vacation offenders, utilize Recho to make great moments that can be visited again and again.
I think it’s not a far stretch to imagine Periscope to taking over the Snapchat empire—this app is the bomb and more than perfect for road trips. Grab your camera and send live broadcast feeds to your friends and family, or record video to be saved for later—either way, you're looking at holidays, vacations, and trips in real time, and you've got more than a few seconds to make all the magic happen. Sure, Snapchat may have all your contacts already, but Periscope is going to make you feel like Bear Grylls, and who doesn't want that?
This runaway hit of an app recording short clips to well-known soundbites is perfect for long car rides. Go solo with your in-car jamming or get everyone in the vehicle involved—it's sure to get plenty of laughs! Just check out this dad and his son when they were left alone by traveling mom. Could they be having any more fun?
8. Songkick Concerts
Are you a music lover? Songkick Concerts is one-upping the average concert site by letting you surf your options (big and small) based entirely on where your GPS coordinates get picked up. Surf through options from acoustic sets in a hipster bar to almost sold out arena stadiums—and the perks are that you can purchase tickets from inside the app! No prior planning to attend a concert required.
For road trips spanning a week or more, packing and organizing all the needs, wants and essentials for yourself or a group of people can be an incredibly daunting task. With PackPoint, you've got an easy out for all of the regular stress that goes along with keeping up with travel. Not just your average list app, this bad mama jama takes into account your length of stay, the possible (and predicted) weather conditions, as well as your activity plans, to provide the perfect packing list every time.
10. Greatest Drive
Greatest Drive is for the true road tripping enthusiast, and especially perfect for people who have the extra time to do sightseeing along the way. Heads up all you quick commuters, this app is going to destroy your plans of getting there and getting back. Just type in your current and final destination and Greatest Drive will head you down a path full of landmarks, great eats, and must-see stops between you and your holiday—it's the best form of fly-by-your-seat planning ever!
A special tip: If you're hailing from outside the US for this great adventure, I do suggest that you invest in a SIM card loaded with data, so you aren't missing out on the inland reception. As always local rates should be cheaper than any international plan offers, so make sure you do a bit of research before.
And as a note to the locals and foreigners alike, don’t forget to keep the information you carry on your phone locked down and protected while you’re roaming around looking for the next public WiFi connection - grab a Virtual Private Network to keep everything secure, especially from hackers preying on traveling tourists!
~From Savannah to San Fran, New York to Portland and everywhere and everyone in between, the road trip is making it's comeback better than ever before, and that's something I can totally get behind. Just download a couple of apps to make your life and vacation easier!~
By Jess Signet
About the Author: Jess Signet is a blogger who writes about technology, traveling and technology needed when traveling. Having visited places all over the globe, traveling is both her love and addiction. She does not want to be cured.
Highlights of this trip include the famed Glass Beach, Victorian Ferndale and the Avenue of the Giants, the latter being one of California's top 5 attractions. Take in breathtaking coastal vista's, relax in quaint seaside towns, and hike in impressive coastal Redwood forests. This trip could be completed in three days but if you have the time we recommend spending at least two nights camping amidst the Redwoods and exploring the area fully.
San Francisco - Fort Bragg 182 miles (5 hours 12 minutes)
Head north on highway 101 until you reach route 128 and drive westward until you reach the coast. First up, visit the quaint seaside town of Mendocino for an hour or two where you will find tabletop headlands to admire the carved out sea caves below, cute cliff-side inns and Victorian homes painted in easter egg colors. Then head a little further north to the blue collar town of Fort Bragg, which has breathtaking views of the coastline along a 7 mile trail along its headland. Stop by famed Glass beach, re-known for its dazzling sea-glass rounded by the rolling waves. Most people that visit do collect some glass and for this reason the sea-glass is diminishing. Fort Bragg has a number of B&B's, motels and ocean-front holiday accommodations to suit different budgets.
Fort Bragg - Avenue Of The Giants (Weott) 90 miles (2 hours 15 minutes)
Make your way up the coast along the Pacific Coast Highway, passing through forgotten coastal towns and stopping at vista points to get photos of the dramatic coastline below. When you reach Leggett, get back on the 101 and head north until you reach the southern entrance of the Avenue of The Giants drive (road 258). This world famous scenic drive is 31 miles long and is surrounded by the Humboldt Redwoods State Park, which has the largest remaining stand of virgin Redwoods in the world. You will find plenty of roadside attractions that are worth stopping at such as the One Log Tree House (a house created from a single hollowed out log), Shine Drive-Thru tree and many gift store filled with treasure made from coastal redwoods. The best attraction would have to be the Humboldt Redwoods State Park Visitor's Center located just south of Weott, where you will find wildlife exhibits, history on the area and an RV made from a redwood tree which has travelled across the country 3 times! There are many Redwood groves you can stop and go for short or long hikes. The Eel River snakes its way alongside the highway and is great for fishing or cooling off if you are visiting in the summer time. There's nothing quite like camping among these giants so spend a night or two at one of the campgrounds.
Avenue Of The Giants (Weott) - Ferndale 45 miles (50 minutes)
Ferndale (named one of America's prettiest towns) is a small town which contains dozens of well-preserved Victorian homes and storefronts. Visiting Ferndale is like taking a step back in time with many of the buildings dating back from the 1880's. The beautiful homes are also known as 'Butterfat Palaces' due to the wealth that was generated by the dairy industry that led to their construction. Interesting fact: The Jim Carrey film The Majestic was filmed here. Before reaching Ferndale make sure you swing by Fortuna and visit the Eel River Brewing Co for lunch. They serve up amazing food (large portions) that include fresh seafood and tasty organic beer.
Ferndale - Eureka 26 miles (20 minutes)
Leaving Ferndale behind, your next destination will be Eureka where there is enough to keep one entertained for the day. Eureka, like Ferndale is known for its lovely Victorian architecture but its most notable building would be the Carson mansion, an elaborate combination of Queen Anne, Italianate and Eastlake styles built in 1885. Walk the city streets and admire the restored buildings or peruse through the many art and craft boutiques. In the summer, be treated to free outdoor concerts or climb aboard the M.V. Madaket, a small boat built in 1910 that provides short tours of Humboldt Bay. If you have the kids in tow take a trip to Sequoia Zoo and when its time for dinner head to the Samoa Cook House which serves up "lumber camp style" in one of the last logging camp-type cookhouse left in the USA. If you are into fishing there are quite a few fishing charters in the area. Many lodging options are in Eureka but we recommend the KOA just north of town which has campsites and cute log cabins with facilities that include pool, hot tub, putt putt, and basketball court.
Eureka - Klamath 63 miles (1 hour 10 minutes)
Back on highway 101, make your way up to Klamath. On your way you will drive through the blink and you'll miss town of Orick. One of the largest Roosevelt Elk herds can be found here seen from the Elk Meadow Day Use Area off Davison Road. On reaching Klamath, explore the rugged Pacific Ocean shores, go beach combing or hike the forest trails. Other attractions include the Trees of Mystery (if only to get a photo of the giant Paul Bunyan statue) and jet-boating on the Klamath river.
Klamath - Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park 12 miles (17 minutes)
Tall trees meet the sea at Del Norte Redwoods State Park. With up to 100 inches of rain a year, this parks grow the tallest trees in the world and also protects 45 percent of Earth’s last remaining old-growth redwood forests. In two short, steep miles, the Damnation Creek trail leads from fern and redwood forests down to rocky tide-pools and the violent crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean. This is one of our favorite hikes on the west coast and worth the trudge back up the steep Cliffside. A word of warning, some parts of the trail are very narrow and can be slippery when wet.
Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park - Crescent City 9miles (15 minutes)
Last stop on the Northern California road trip is the seaside town of Crescent City. Crescent City is nothing special but is still pretty nice none the less. There are some lovely beaches and a marine mammal center for the kids. The beaches here are a lot safer for swimming than some of the areas along the northern coast, and there are quite a few surfboard and kayak rental shops if you plan to vacation here for a few days and want to get active in the water.
Read about our road tripping adventures down the Northern California coast and see what we got up to!
By Arial Evans
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Fort Point is a left hand point break which breaks under the Golden Gate bridge. To me, this spot was more of a novelty to surf but as it turns out, this spot actually gets pretty good and I was lucky enough to get some good waves here. The first two days I was there it was pretty much flat but they were predicting a big WNW swell which was what Fort Point needed to break. On the third day I was there the swell arrived but I missed the morning window due to the tide getting to high. This wave is very tide dependent and breaks best on a medium to low tide. I waited it out through the top of the tide which was around 2:30 pm. Slowly but surely as the tide started running out waves began wrapping around the point from underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. I waited and waited and finally threw on a wetsuit at 5:00 pm. I ran out to the top of the point and jumped off the rocks beneath the bridge. With fading day light, I managed to catch a few fun waves before it was pitch black and I had to navigate my way in and up the extremely slippery rocks.
The next morning I was back in the car park at 7:00 am. The waves were looking really fun with a low tide at 10:00am so I knew it was only going to improve. The fog was so thick I couldn’t even see the Golden Gate Bridge let alone the swells wrapping around the point. I surfed with only two other guys out for the first half hour before other surfers slowly started appearing out of the fog into the line-up.
I had read a few things online about the so called ‘’heavy locals’’ at fort point but it seemed to be quite the opposite. Between the kook tourists and the guys rolling in with their boards strapped to the top of their BMW or Benz I felt little or no localism at all. Don’t get me wrong I’m sure there are some hardcore locals here but it’s hard to imagine these days. This wave is so publicized and famous I find it hard to say it’s a ‘’locals only’’ spot with hundreds or probably thousands of tourists coming here daily and snapping a million photos of the bridge and the surfers' surfing the point. I had no issues surfing here. I caught plenty of waves, probably more than my fair share and spoke to many friendly people in the line-up. The biggest thing you have to worry about here is getting sucked around the point and under the bridge into the shipping lane, and most of all the coming in on the slimy slippery rocks.
Fort Point is a hard wave to surf. I felt like I was constantly paddling in and away from the rocks. It’s hard to get in the right spot but when you do you can score a fun grinder and even a barrel off the take off if your confident you’re going make it and not get slammed on the rocks. It’s a fun wave but can be fickle but is worth a paddle when it’s on.
By: Jamie Nicholson Photos: Arial Evans
We were slowly making our way down the PCH just south of Mendocino when we made a last minute decision to hightail it down to San Francisco because we had found out that a band we really liked was playing that night. We left the sleepy coastal towns behind and headed out to US101 making it just outside the city in around four hours. We stopped at McDonalds to use the free wifi and double-check the venue address but to our dismay I had mixed up the location and the gig was actually in Oakland. We don't know a lot about Oakland but had heard from many people it was a place best to avoid. We thought about risking it but we were most worried about the van as it is our home and our whole life in it. Devastated we found ourselves at an In 'N Out ordering ourselves a couple of double doubles. We easily could have spent another week cruising, camping and surfing down the northern California coast!
Next morning we made a new plan to explore the city in one day (as cities aren't very van life friendly) and then hit the road south-bound. We headed straight for the Fort Point area to check the surf but the conditions weren't right so we decided to do the walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. It was well worth it because it was a gorgeous day and we love being physically active.We wanted to hike up to Vista Point but we realized we hadn't put enough money into the parking meter.
That afternoon we headed to the Fisherman's Wharf area where we were pleasantly surprised by how much we enjoyed the place. Fortunately for us it was a weekday so there weren't many tourists around. As expected everything was ridiculously over priced but it was still fun looking around and eyeballing the seafood we couldn’t afford. We checked out the navy ship, SS Jeremiah Obrien and amused ourselves in Musee Mecanique, an old fashioned arcade with antique coin-operated mechanical instruments and vintage arcade games.
One annoying thing about San Fran is the expensive parking ($4 an hour) so we had to rush back to the van in fear of receiving a parking fine. The parking fee drops down to 50 cents an hour after 6pm so we sat in the van until then. At 6pm we put some more coins in and walked over to Pier 39, but not before grabbing a 4-pack of mini wine bottles at the CVS across the road. Pier 39 was mainly full of souvenir-type retail stores and restaurants but it did have a good view of the harbor. We found a quiet spot around the back overlooking the water to sip on our wines.
The best thing about Pier 39 and the Fisherman's Wharf area in our opinion was watching the seals come in at dusk and fight over sleeping space on the floating docks. There are hundreds of them and they bark all night. It is the best free entertainment in town!
Around 10 pm we were headed back to the van when we noticed a magician starting his performance in the entertainment area but he had no audience. We felt sorry for him and decided to go watch the show to help get more of a crowd. He was very amusing and Jamie ended up being part of the act.
Finding somewhere to park and spend the night in a city is hard at the best of times and especially in San Fran where there is a lack of free parking but we managed to find an awesome location on the waterfront with million dollar views without the million dollar price tag.
Next morning we woke to a commercial for McDonalds being filmed in the park across the road. We initially thought it was Mc Happy Day and were pumped on getting ourselves some free coffee. Jamie went over there first and it turned out they were targeting a certain look. After observing who they seemed to be targeting I put on some sporty looking gear and went across to join Jamie. Next thing you know the director is approaching us to be in the ad. After three takes we were rewarded with some breakfast and coffees. Success!
The mission for our second day was to hike up to Vista Point because I was disappointed we did not the day before. After another walk over the bridge and short hike up the mountain we were rewarded with an amazing view of the Golden Gate Bridge and harbor. It was truly worth the effort!
Next on the list was to check out the Financial District and Chinatown. The buildings in the Financial District were pretty impressive for us Aussie's as we don’t have anything like it back home but we felt super under-dressed, and after the last couple weeks of being complete dirt-bags we were feeling a little out of place. We didn’t like that feeling so quickly headed over to Chinatown and our impressions of the area were pretty average. For some reason we had it in our minds that it was going to be the equivalent of being in Asia; filled with yummy cheap street food, but again it was mainly touristy retail stores (and without any real bargains). We did however end up purchasing a new full lens for our camera.
Anyway, we decided to pay Pier 39 another visit as I was keen to check out the seals one more time and we also needed to find wifi to pay the bridge toll. After completing our mission we were ready to call it a night when we heard some funky music coming out of one the bars. We went inside to check it out, it was a blues band and they were awesome. Wanting to hear the whole set we grabbed ourselves a couple of margaritas and sat down to enjoy the show. The vocalist, Willy G, was highly entertaining and had the whole bar up dancing. It was a great night until we found out that we had been so distracted that we forgot to put more money in the parking meter. Us and the rest of the patrons in the bar. All the cars out front had parking tickets!!
The Van Diary
By Arial Evans
Two Aussies road-tripping our way across the USA in our Chevy G20 van. Our mission is to stay on the road as long as possible, to discover wild places and vibrant cities... and make the most of every moment.