Seattle to Newport?
July 10, 2014 4:51 PM   Subscribe

I’m driving from Seattle, WA, to Newport, OR (on the coast). Would it be better to take I-5 all the way down to Corvallis and then US20 over to Newport, or should I leave I-5 at Olympia and take 101 down the coast? I’ll be hitting Olympia around 4pm on a Monday, and I’ll hear arguments for both efficiency and pleasantness. Thank you!
posted by Janey Complainy to Travel & Transportation around Newport, OR (10 answers total)
You're going to hit rush hour if you get near Vancouver/Portland. OTOH, the WA side of the drive down to the Astoria Bridge was, to me, very twisty and unpleasant. Personally, I'd take I-5 to where the route to 101 hits right by Lincoln City. The drive on that ride is lovely for most of it, and you'll travel through the Van Duzer (Van Duzen? It's been a few years and I'm across the country now.) corridor, where there is a rest stop that has a lovely creek, on either side of the highway. You get to see Lincoln City, and drive down the coast from there. I believe it's about an hour. If it weren't rush hour, I might suggest taking the Sunset Highway, and ending up in Astoria, for the scenic drive down the coast, but the Sunset is nasty during rush hour. Sun in your eyes ~and~ horrible traffic.
posted by Meep! Eek! at 5:46 PM on July 10, 2014

Best answer: I studied in Cannon Beach for a year or so, and when I'd go to and from home north of Seattle, my typical route was I-5 to Kelso/Longview, cross the river there and take 30 to the coast, and 101 down. 101 is fine for short stretches, but it really sucks to get stuck behind someone, and it's not a freeway, so it slows down a lot. It's a very pretty drive, though.

If you just want to get there with minimal fuss, I'd take I-5 all the way to Albany, then 20 west to Newport. Not as scenic, but less hassle.

(This was '97 so things may have changed since then)
posted by xedrik at 5:58 PM on July 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

Can't speak for the road north of Portland, so I'll just list some of my thoughts on the Oregon portion:
- If you were in Olympia at 4pm, by the time you got to Portland, it'd be the tail end of rush hour.
- There's a huge travel time difference between I-5 and 101. Google Maps is trying to tell me it's only an hour more to go all the way on 101... in my personal experience, it's closer to adding an hour or more just going around the Astoria way from Portland to Newport.
- The soonest you're likely to reach Newport, in best possible circumstances, is 8pm-ish. An hour or two (or more) later is probably more realistic.
- If you want fast, go through PDX and then either across on 20, 18, or 6. There'll be more traffic on 20 and 18 than 6.
- If you were going to go through Astoria, you wouldn't come all the way into Portland - you'd turn west at Longview-ish on Hwy 30 - which is twisty and can seem like it takes forever.
- Going to Portland, and then west on 26 is almost as pointless if you're headed south, unless the purpose is to drive the coast.
- In general, locals tend to go I-5 as far south as they need, then head to the coast... unless they are driving the coastline for scenic purposes or because they need to stop somewhere, because of that whole time difference thing.
posted by stormyteal at 6:11 PM on July 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

I would do xedrik's plan, almost exactly. It's a nice hybrid between making Good Time and having a Good Time. Your choices really are Efficiency vs Pleasantness, but the above route is probably the closest to splitting the difference.

However, if you want to err on the side of straight up beautiful, and want to take a Real Nice Drive™ on an amazing little windy highway, the Washington side of the Columbia is WAY prettier than the Oregon side. The highway hugs the Columbia for a long time, and it's just goddamn beautiful. To do that you'd still get off I5 at Kelso/Longview, but hike up the 4 to the 401, connecting to 101 down in Astoria. I used to do this before came along; it adds some time, but the view really can't be beat. Look out for motorcycles, the 4 is a popular route for them.

It makes for a longer drive (7 hours +/-), but you get to Astoria in like 4 hours, which is a really nice place to stop and take a break, grab lunch and hang out for a few (and actually, in this lifelong Oregonian's opinion, one of the best little cities on the coast).
posted by furnace.heart at 6:13 PM on July 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

The 101 is gorgeous. If you can't do it on the way down, try to do it on the way back?
posted by Jacqueline at 6:54 PM on July 10, 2014

This route.

I wouldn't try and one-day it if you are hitting Olympia at four and I don't mind going slow on the coast highway though. I like Astoria as an overnight on that route.
posted by vapidave at 8:46 PM on July 10, 2014

Just thought of something to mention for you and possible future readers, since it might affect "pleasantness"...

You didn't say when you're making this trip, but if someone is contemplating it in the rain, do yourself a favor and go major highways as much as possible. The curvy coastal roads are just no fun when slippery, and the region around Astoria seems especially prone (at least in my experience) to fog and muck. I'd say the same if the majority of the trip was going to be in the dark.

Granted, we're answering this in July in the midst of a nice hot spell with more to come, no rain in sight - but it occurred to me that this might not necessarily be an imminent trip - and we *are* talking about Oregon and Washington after all.
posted by stormyteal at 10:32 PM on July 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

My experience is that it takes a really long time to get to the Washington Coast before heading south. I like the suggestions here that you get down to the Longview/Kelso area first and then make your way to the Oregon Coast. This might mean going on to Portland, first or heading out on highway 30. I really like the route along Highway 18 that leaves via Portland area. Coming back, take a different route to see more countryside...perhaps go inland directly from Newport to Corvallis and then take highway 99W up. That Alsea river valley is pretty.

Stay off I-5 in the Oregon section as much as possible...that highway is not how you want to see Oregon. In fact, it lacks soul.
posted by BearClaw6 at 7:07 AM on July 11, 2014

xedrik is 100% right, and said exactly what I came in here to say. Things have not changed since '97, these are still your two best options depending on whether you prefer speed or scenery.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:06 PM on July 11, 2014

Response by poster: Hey, thanks, everybody! My husband and I ended up opting for efficiency and took I-5 to Hwy 20. The wooded, winding drive on 20 was absolutely lovely. If we have more time and energy next time, we might explore one of the less direct routes along the coast, but the fast way worked perfectly for us. Great advice all the way around.
posted by Janey Complainy at 12:06 PM on August 8, 2014

« Older Not taking care of myself out of spite?   |   Training for consecutive distance runs Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.