Where on the US west coast should I go to escape?
August 17, 2021 4:32 AM   Subscribe

The state of the world is too much for me and nothing feels safe anymore. I would like to take a week off and go somewhere on the west coast where I can essentially hide for a bit and process my emotions. Where should I go, and how do I plan?

I live in Los Angeles. I would like to go somewhere green, ideally near the ocean. It would be nice if I could walk everywhere and be around people, but not be suffocated by anti-maskers. I need to avoid exposure to world news. I also have 0 experience planning vacations or trips, and since my passport is expired, Canada is not an option. All of my coworkers are going to Hawaii right now but I have seen multiple posts on social media from native Hawaiians about how tourism is fucking up their access to much needed resources, so I don't want to contribute to that.

Where would you go if you were me?
posted by Hermione Granger to Travel & Transportation (29 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
I'd go to Seattle for the week.

The Seattle waterfront is a fantastic day's walk.
posted by nathanfhtagn at 4:40 AM on August 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

posted by kevinbelt at 4:53 AM on August 17, 2021 [5 favorites]

I have very fond memories of Jughandle Creek Farm, but it’s been 20 years and I’m sure it’s changed in some ways. It’s a few hours north of San Francisco, between Mendocino & Fort Bragg where you can find stores and restaurants. When I was there, the farmhouse was run like a small hostel (shared kitchen, bring your own sheets) and they also had a few separate cottages for rent. There’s a sheltered beach, and trails in the woods.
posted by jon1270 at 4:55 AM on August 17, 2021

Seconding Carmel. Catalina Island is another easy option. No idea what the boat ride is like today with regard to covid.
posted by eotvos at 5:55 AM on August 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

Eureka. Redwood forests and a college town that feels like a place from 50 years ago.
posted by johngoren at 6:20 AM on August 17, 2021 [4 favorites]

I third Carmel. Also a stop over in Big Sur, Deetjen’s specifically is amazing. They also don’t have WiFi so you’d really be cut off from all the worries of the world.
posted by Champagne Supernova at 6:35 AM on August 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

Before you go, check the smoke conditions. Many places are dealing with bad air quality due to smoke from wildfires.
posted by eleslie at 6:36 AM on August 17, 2021 [20 favorites]

Are you driving or flying to this destination?
posted by DixieBaby at 6:41 AM on August 17, 2021

Seconding a stay at Deetjen's. It is one of the most beautiful little places I've ever stayed in, and one of the best photos I've ever taken in my life happened when I followed an innocent-looking trail behind one of the sheds on the property about 20 yards into the woods and came upon a scene that looked like freakin' Rivendell. There is another short trail on the property that leads you up a hill to a bench where you can sit and look out on the Pacific.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:44 AM on August 17, 2021 [7 favorites]

Wind Wolves Preserve in Bakersfield is nearby (relatively) and doable as a daytrip or for camping. Has a variety of interesting landscapes. It's free. Not sure how crowded it has been but maybe you could call or ask if you know anyone in that area?
posted by Wretch729 at 7:37 AM on August 17, 2021

I've never been, but I've always wanted to visit Mendocino. It's where they filmed a lot of the outdoor scenes for Murder She Wrote.
posted by Beholder at 7:44 AM on August 17, 2021

I think I would go to Monterey/Pacific Grove. It's not smoky along the coast right now, although that could change (and unfortunately there's also a risk of fire, like the fires that started last August in that area). I don't think anything is especially green right now because of the drought along the entire West Coast, but the Central Coast is really beautiful.
posted by pinochiette at 8:20 AM on August 17, 2021 [4 favorites]

I'd head to Santa Monica, hang a right on Highway 1, and just drive north along the cliffs until I didn't need to anymore.
posted by ook at 10:17 AM on August 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

Mendocino is having a massive water shortage right now. See here. It would normally be perfect though.

Monterey, Carmel, Santa Cruz, Capitola could all suit your needs I think.
posted by JenMarie at 10:36 AM on August 17, 2021

Point Reyes - there's a cute little town that you can walk around that should be pretty good at mask compliance and if you can get a place on the bay to me there is truly nothing more relaxing than sitting by the water, hearing nothing but the sound of waves and seabirds, and watching the fog roll in. Bliss.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 10:38 AM on August 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

My ex and I stumbled on the most amazing place of respite during a stressful business trip to Seattle in 2011. One day, we had enough and just decided to take two days to go to the coast. We randomly drove ourselves to this hotel in Long Beach (on Long Beach?) WA, and it was so glorious I can't describe it. Glorious ocean-front room, bike rides down the beach, etc. etc. I remember feeling more peaceful there than I had in some time. (I now have a much less stressful lifestyle, thank goodness.)
posted by nosila at 11:39 AM on August 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

We are pretty good about masking up in Portland (Oregon has a mask mandate for indoor public settings right now), but we're not really green this time of year. Likely greener than LA? You could get out to the ocean for a day trip, I suppose. Cannon Beach is a nice little town, though busy in August. Very walkable. I can't speak to masking behaviors.

Seattle is great, of course. I was just there and folks are sometimes wearing masks inside, but not always. You'd be on the Puget Sound, not the ocean, but you can easily wander around. The arboretum is fantastic.

I don't think it's a great time to travel, but how about taking the train north from Los Angeles? That would likely feel like you were pretty removed from day to day life.
posted by bluedaisy at 1:13 PM on August 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

If you can afford it (and assuming there aren't any unfavorable smoke conditions, etc.), La Jolla is freaking paradise. It's all beach, though; not sure whether you want that or forests.
posted by praemunire at 3:45 PM on August 17, 2021

I would go to the Yachats Inn in Yachats, Oregon.
Stay in one of the “rustic” rooms, the North or South Front if you can get them.
Activities: Sleeping, listening to the surf, tidepooling, watching the little blowhole at high tide, searching for agates or seashells. Also: fix your own breakfast, walk into town for other meals, window shop, browse around a couple of little art galleries,, and that should fill up your week nicely.
posted by SLC Mom at 4:07 PM on August 17, 2021

Response by poster: I think it would be safest for me to drive wherever I end up going given the number of COVID variants on deck. Going north is ideal as I have lived along the southern California coast my whole life (and agree wholeheartedly that La Jolla and Santa Monica are sublime!)

If I did LA to Big Sur to Monterey and Carmel, I could take the 1 the whole way up. Is driving the 1 safe? I would love to avoid the 5 because of the dust bowl.
posted by Hermione Granger at 4:21 PM on August 17, 2021

Response by poster: To clarify my question about safety on the 1: I grew up being told that driving along the 1 is extremely dangerous because you're waterside so I've never done it. Is this really the case?
posted by Hermione Granger at 4:31 PM on August 17, 2021

I grew up being told that driving along the 1 is extremely dangerous because you're waterside so I've never done it. Is this really the case?

It's safe as long as you don't drive off the road! But yeah, it's a winding road carved into the cliffs above the ocean, and there are many places where if you drove off the edge there's nothing to stop you until you hit the water or rocks several hundred feet below. If you're not comfortable with that type of driving I'd recommend a different route.

There is also the danger of rockslides/mudslides, and those do somewhat regularly take out sections of the road. Not likely that mudslides are an issue in the summer during a drought, but rocks can come down anytime (although much less often when there's not rain encouraging them to do so.)
posted by Jawn at 4:57 PM on August 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

Adding to note that the fact that it's a winding road on a cliff above the ocean is why it's such a beautiful drive!

And realistically it's probably safer than having to drive 85 on the 5 just to keep up with traffic.
posted by Jawn at 5:03 PM on August 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

I’m not really sure how things are during the “tourist season,” but the Washington coast is wilder and less populated than the Oregon and California coasts. There are lots of little inns from the Columbia up to Forks, as well as fair-sized towns like Aberdeen/Hoquiam, Westport, Long Beach, and Ocean Shores. The weather is usually much cooler than on Puget Sound. You can head north and east along to the top of the Olympic Peninsula, through Port Angeles and Port Townsend.
posted by lhauser at 6:31 PM on August 17, 2021

As long as you're not afraid of heights and winding roads and have extra time on your hands, PCH is gorgeous. But you could also take the 101 up to Salinas and then over (it's by the coast part of the way, too, at least through Santa Barbara). I would avoid the 5 if you can...it's much less scenic, people speed, and the air is bad now.
posted by pinochiette at 7:41 PM on August 17, 2021

I've driven the 1 and didn't feel unsafe, especially since I was going north and the cliffs were on the other side of the road! If you are comfortable driving, you should be fine, but if you have concerns, you could take the 1 north and then the 101 or 5 back south. If you've grown up in California, you owe it to yourself as a taxpayer to drive that road you helped maintain.
posted by Dansaman at 8:31 PM on August 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

tree bones , Gorda California.
posted by hortense at 9:10 PM on August 17, 2021

Speaking here as a Brit who's road-tripped on the West Coast a few times:
I grew up being told that driving along the 1 is extremely dangerous because you're waterside so I've never done it. Is this really the case?
Modulo your experience of driving winding roads, it's fine (I'm used to UK country lanes and Italian cliffside roads; YMMV). It's only ever a problem if there's a rockslide, but just keep an eye out for warning signs about highway closures (I ignored one once and ended up taking a huge detour through the mountains to get from Big Sur to Monterey). This time of year with the drought conditions, you're unlikely to encounter the big rainfalls that cause real problems.

If you're looking for somewhere further North, then Point Reyes is lovely, as is Port Townsend up in WA — depending on smoke conditions, of course.
posted by gmb at 3:03 AM on August 18, 2021

Response by poster: Ok! My first trip will happen in late September ish and I will be going to Big Sur, Carmel, and Monterey for a weekend. I'll drive the 1 there and the 101 back.

Next year I will do Seattle and Portland, provided I can fly to both because I cannot be in a car for the number of hours required to go round trip.

This is very exciting and liberating. I can't wait to sit on the beach, knit, and not think about anything other than the sand and what I am going to eat next.

Much love to you all for helping me figure out my first true vacation.
posted by Hermione Granger at 5:31 PM on August 24, 2021 [2 favorites]

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