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Driving from San Francisco to Vancouver

Wirral, United...
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160 posts
44 reviews
Driving from San Francisco to Vancouver


In July my husband and I plan to spend a few days in San Francisco then drive up the coast to Vancouver, stoping in Portland and Seattle along with wherever else we need to along the way. I'd really appreciate any advice anyone can offer about the trip, places we mustn't miss, places we should avoid, how we should allocate time to our trip (time in SF, time travelling, and time in Vancouver).


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4,398 posts
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1. Re: Driving from San Francisco to Vancouver

There's a current thread on the Oregon forum about doing a similar drive that might help.

How long do you have for your trip altogether?

Wirral, United...
Level Contributor
160 posts
44 reviews
2. Re: Driving from San Francisco to Vancouver

Thanks - I'll take a look.

We have 12 days in total from arriving in SF to departing Vancouver.

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4,398 posts
1 review
3. Re: Driving from San Francisco to Vancouver

Ok, that's a decent amount of time, but if you spend 3 days each in SF and Vancouver then you're only left with 6 days to do the drive and there's SO much to see and do on the way so you need to prioritize. You've only mentioned cities--what else are you interested in? Are you hikers and/or do you enjoy seeing scenic areas?

I personally prefer driving the coast to driving I-5 and think it's well worth the extra time, and I'd also suggest that you consider staying out on the coast all the way up and around the Olympic Peninsula and going to Vancouver via Victoria--but that means you'd miss Portland and Seattle, so it really depends on what is important to you.

Fremont, California
Destination Expert
for San Francisco
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33,326 posts
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4. Re: Driving from San Francisco to Vancouver

San Francisco

Day 1: Healdsburg - Enjoy the wineries there, Armstrong Redwoods and perhaps Sonoma Coast


Day 2: Healdsburg to Mendocino - visit the area - then drive to Eureka. Eureka is close to Redwoods National Park, which would be great to see. Take the Highway 128 route to Mendocino- wineries along that route.



Day 3: Drive to Gold Beach


Day 4: Gold Beach Jet Boats


Day 5: Drive to Portland


Day 6: Do the Columbia River Gorge Route, staying the night in Portland.


Day 7: Drive to Seattle: See Mt. St. Helens on the way up.


Day 8: Seattle


Note: The City Pass is a good deal to do in this area to see things for the day.


Day 9: Seattle to Port Angeles and take the ferry to Victoria


(Note: there are other ferry departure points as well which you might want to consider...this is just one of them which take you to the Olympic Peninsula)

Day 10: Explore Victoria and then take the ferry to Vancouver area


Highlights here are the British Columbia Museum and also Butchart Gardens



Day 1Leave Victoria in morning for Vancouver (or leave night before)


We really enjoyed dinner at Stanley Park - several restaurants - all good - to choose from. We also liked going to the Capistrano Suspension Bridge


Note: If you decide not to do the coastal route from California to Oregon, you can go inland and save some more time for the larger cities. In that case, you might like to make one of your stops en route to Portland being Ashland, Oregon and take in one of their evening Shakespeare plays - its a big festival in the area during hte summer.


Agree that the Oregon and Washington trip advisor site has some good itineraries and information on that too, so do check there.

Have fun planning your trip.

Day 12 Vancover

Wirral, United...
Level Contributor
160 posts
44 reviews
5. Re: Driving from San Francisco to Vancouver

Thanks guys, this is really helpful. We probably want to spend a couple of nights in SF and Vancouver, one night each in Portland and Seattle, but we are also interested in scenic views, the coastal routes are of particular interest, we want to see the redwoods. Any photography opportunities would be very welcome. We like to walk too, bu I've got a broken foot at the moment so I'm not sure how good it will be for walking a lot by then. We tend to be last minute and like to have flexibility over planning but from looking through a few other threads in the forums and from the guidebooks I am getting the feeling that maybe we will need to plan a route and book accommodation along the way - is this the case? We want to stay in relatively low-cost motels etc wherever possible.

Fremont, California
Destination Expert
for San Francisco
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33,326 posts
6,456 reviews
6. Re: Driving from San Francisco to Vancouver

Sorry to hear about your foot....hopefully by July, you're up and about. However the coastal route is wonderful even if you're still recooperating.

For cheap places, you might want to stay at:

Healdsburg Motel 6

for the Mendocino, Eureka area, Ft. Bragg is where you find the inexpensive lodging.

Coast Motel


Rogue River:

Best Western - check the hotel sites such as priceline etc.


Portland has Motel 6, Best Western, etc.


Try the Travelodge there; its within walking distance of the Space Needle.

Yes - you probably should book a route especially if you;'re traveling 4th of July week. We've found ourselves in this area driving for hours for a place to stay and once had to crash a "Do Not Camp" here site (we along with about 6 other cars) just to find a spot.

Also, Northern California in this area, best to book in advance - or you can find yourself with just some very interesting places to stay. (We once stayed at a place with ivy growing in the shower pretty big time; the place before had lost our reservations...and the innkeeper was well....we're still telling our friends about that story.

So yes, do book in advance.

Have fun.

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34 posts
5 reviews
7. Re: Driving from San Francisco to Vancouver

Healdsburg has no motel 6 but there is a travel lodge and dry creek best western. The fairview and the L and M might work for you too. These will be the least expensive.

Heading in to Fort Bragg right above Mendocino (stop at Mendo but lodging will be much less expensive in Fort Bragg. The Harbor Lite Inn is great and reasonable. The beach walk and McKerriker State park are work the stops. McKerriker is the site of the old logging operations for the area.

North to Eureka and the oregon border the jet boat rides are excellent, do those for sure, it is a full day, take the full river route to the lodge. Gold Beach.

Cannon Beach on the upper oregon coast has a beach voted one of the ten best in the world by one of the travel mags. This is an excellent overnight stop.

Cross the bridge at Astoria and head in to Washington. I am less familiar with that side but live in Healdsburg and my parents are in portland with a house at cannon so know that very well.

Driving from Cannon Beach in to portland is one hourish. and the "sunset hwy" takes you directly in to downtown portland you need not make any turns off of this hwy. Portland is a great city to explore and is largely comprised of districts. Burnside, NW, downtown, NE each of these has gotten very unique in the last few years, check the portland board as recommended.

Once you leave Cannon Beach on the Sunset Hwy - do stop at Camp 18, the old logging camp about 7 miles outside of Cannon, for their cinnimon rolls and to see the building it is kind of interesting

Wirral, United...
Level Contributor
160 posts
44 reviews
8. Re: Driving from San Francisco to Vancouver

We've made a few more plans now -

Day 1 & 2 - San Francisco

Day 3 - Pick up the car in the morning

Day 10 - Drop off the car in Seattle and take the clipper ferry to Victoria

Day 11 - Bus/ferry to Vancouver

Day 12/13 Vancouver (before catching The Canadian)

So as you can see there is a gap in the middle that we are trying to work out the best way to fill now! Some of the info you have given so far has been great, and will help with that too. We definitely want to see the Redwoods, spend plenty of time on the coastal routes etc. We will be travelling over 4th July so I'm sure we will need to pre-book pretty much everything.

We are thinkin g of catching the 7.30am clipper from Seattle - in which case I assume we will need to stay there oernight for Day 8 and 9 in order to see the place properly before we head off.

Any more advice now we have more specific times will be most welcome!


Uden, The...
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
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9. Re: Driving from San Francisco to Vancouver


There's a lot to see but here're some locations we never want to have missed:

1. Avenue of the Giants in Humboldt Redwoods SP.

2. Redwood NP

3. Crater Laker NP

4. Columbia River gorge

5. Portland

6. Mt St. Helens NM

7. Mount Rainier NP

I know you won't have time to see them all. Driving along the coast would rule out Crater Lake and Columbia River Gorge and from the ferry you will have (on a sunny day!) fantastic views on Seattle and Mount Rainier.


Wirral, United...
Level Contributor
160 posts
44 reviews
10. Re: Driving from San Francisco to Vancouver

Thanks Tet,

Portland and seeing the redwoods are on our list, and I think Mount Rainer will be seen from a distanc eon the ferry (assuming a sunny day). I managed to pick up a great book from the library for the California part and we have identified that we will most likely stay in Mendocino/Ft Bragg on the first night, and Crescent City on the second night, but we've had less luck finding info on Oregon after that.

Of our five nights travelling, assuming we make the 5th one in Portland that 's 3 taken care of, so I guess it's just the two between Crescent City and Portland that we need to work out now.

I had seen a suggestion to someone going the other way to skip Portland and instead see that top piece of Washington coast round to Seattle, so I was starting to consider that as an option for us too...