5 Best JDM Driving Routes in the West Coast

5 Best JDM Driving Routes in the West Coast

The West Coast has some of the best scenic views in North America and you'll find loads of things to see and do all the way up the coast, from California to British Columbia. And what better way to cross a West Coast road trip off your bucket list than by zipping up and down the coast in a fabulous JDM vehicle? Whether you veer south or turn your car north, you will never forget the incredible drive that you'll find on the West Coast. So, get your car packed, stock up on snacks, and hit the road on any of these routes. 

San Francisco to Los Angeles

Free Golden Gate Bridge Stock Photo

There's nothing more iconic than the drive that takes you from San Francisco to Los Angeles. If a West Coast road trip is on your bucket list and you only have time for one route, this is the one to choose. As you drive along the classic Highway 1 you'll be granted incredible views and lots of beautiful stops along the way. 

The Route

While there are some shorter routes along the way, you're going to get the most iconic coastal drive by getting on Highway 1 at Golden Gate State Park or near the Presidio in San Francisco. From there, you'll drive south, all along the coast. On this route, you'll pass a variety of adorable little beach towns.

Once you arrive in Santa Cruz, you'll turn inland toward the Monterey Peninsula. As you near the 230-mile mark, Highway 1 connects with State Route 101, as you drive through San Luis Obispo and north through wine country. 

Continue until you reach Santa Monica, Malibu and then Los Angeles. In Los Angeles, you will find even more lovely views of the sun and surf, loads of tourist attractions and plenty of opportunities to eat and drink.

Stops Along the Way

As you can imagine, there is a long list of places to stop and things to see as you make your way from San Francisco north to the City of Angels. Consider taking a detour via the 17-mile drive to Pebble Beach. As you meander along the road, take in the glorious cliffs that drop off to white sandy beaches. Interspersed along the drive, you'll also take in soaring views of the many giant trees that make California so iconic. Don't miss the trees at Croker Grove and the Lone Cypress in all their inspirational glory. If you love golf, there are several clubs at which to make a stop and whack a few balls. 

If you're impressed by the Golden Gate Bridge, you are going to fall in love with the equally awe-inspiring Bixby Creek Bridge. Located near Big Sur, this bridge happens to be one of the most Intagrammed photos on the West Coast. There are several pullouts to take in the views, but you won't want to miss the southern edge as a place to watch the sun go down. 

The Highway 1 Discovery Route is another stop you won't want to miss. Not only are there jaw-dropping ocean views, but you also get a pretty good taste of what grapes ripening the sun look and smell like. Take in the historic lighthouses and piers that dot the coast and imagine what life was like when they were built. 

Make time to visit Hearst Castle, which is a historic estate turned museum along Highway 1. Tour the opulent rooms that hark back to years past, including the grand rooms and kitchen. Hearst Castle is filled with fine art and has glorious gardens, and a theater that showcases the history and glitz and glamour of the castle. 

No trip along Highway 1 would be complete without a winery tour (or two, or three....). There are many cities along the way with wineries that you can tour and taste, including San Luis Obispo, Edna Valley, Saint Ynez Valley and Santa Barbara. If wine is the theme of your road trip, consider taking a detour on a wine tour-specific drive. The Pacific Coast Wine Trail and the Avila Beach Wine Trail are both outstanding options, with stops at many cellars and plenty of options to revel in the wine and food that the area offers. 

When you reach Los Angeles, there's no shortage of tourist attractions, including the Hollywood sign, the Hollywood Walk of Stars, Disneyland and Universal Studios. You won't want to miss everything that Santa Monica has to offer, including the Santa Monica Pier, Muscle Venice Beach and all of the gorgeous places where sand meets surf.

What to Eat

When you plan your road trip, keep in mind that you'll want to taste what the West Coast has to offer. There's no shortage of places to have a meal, but make the most of your trip by making a point of enjoying the cuisine at some of the most popular places along the route. 

Side Street Kitchen is not to be missed with its menu packed full of freshly roasted chicken, topped with tangy yogurt and herby chimichurri. The apple fritters are another menu item that you simply can't leave without trying. 

Make a stop at the Boat Oyster Bar for raw or barbecued oysters with a variety of dips to spice them up with your favorite flavors. Don't miss the chipotle bourbon garlic butter. 

Dad's Luncheonette is a transformed red train caboose, but despite its humble appearance, the restaurant's chef has three Michelin stars from his former kitchen. Enjoy a cheesy hamburger with fresh pickled onions or a mushroom sandwich with as much flavor as the beef. 

Take a trip back to 1894, which is when Duarte's Tavern opened along Highway 1. California continental cuisine still graces the menu today, with choices that include fresh applesauce on pork chops, fresh seafood cioppino (it's said that people drive all the way from San Francisco to eat this) and the specialty artichokes. 

Closer to San Luis Obispo is the Cracked Crab, which as the name implies features crab in all its most delicious iterations. Try the mouthwatering Dungeness crab with lime and avocado, lobster rolls stuffed with crab or the delightful pan-seared blue lump crab cakes. 

West Coast National Parks Road Trip

Free  Aerial Photo of Bixby Creek Bridge  on the Big Sur coast of California,USA Stock Photo

For fans of the great outdoors, a national parks road trip makes sense, at least once in your lifetime. Naturally, much of the trip will wind its way through California, but there are also some fabulous national parks to be found in Oregon and Washington. In total, there are 13 of them, spanning the three states, along with hundreds of state parks, a plethora of national monuments and dedicated wilderness areas. 

The Route

This could be a very long and intensive road trip, so instead of navigating the entire thing, let's narrow it down to the best section, letting you see the best of the national parks without spending weeks on the road. The Redwood National Park's scenic drive is the best of the best, though it's up to you to put together the logistics of how and when you'll make stops at the other parks.

Start in Klamath by getting on Highway 101, then follow the scenic curving roads as you get a lovely eye full of the Pacific Ocean and the Klamath River Estuary. This means the exciting opportunity to see whales, sea lions and pelicans as you drive. Be prepared to make plenty of stops to take Instagram-worthy photographs. 

Stops Along the Way

As this is a fairly short coastal drive, there won't be a ton of attractions to visit, but that doesn't mean there won't be anything to stop and see. You won't want to miss High Bluff Overlook, where you'll find a place to enjoy a picnic, as well as astonishing views of the vista beyond the cliffs. There's a geology exhibit to enjoy and the place is also home to peregrine falcons and eagles. 

The World War II radar station, built in the 1940s and disguised as a farmhouse, is something to make time to see. It was used to protect the coast during the war and you can tour some of the existing buildings on the site, including the power building and operations building. 

There are also a few campsites along the route and you can pitch your tent and turn the road trip into a couple of days while you hike, take photos and enjoy everything the natural surroundings have to offer. 

What to Eat

The nature of this scenic drive presents the perfect opportunity to pack a picnic lunch and enjoy a meal in the great outdoors. Your favorite picnic foods should be on the menu, whether that's sandwiches and chips or barbecued chicken and potato salad. 

During your time in Redwood National Park, some restaurants will add the ideal touch to your trip. Try the Larrupin Cafe for its cozy ambiance and outstanding steaks and seafood. Don't miss the phyllo-wrapped chicken or the lamb chops with balsamic and figs. 

Head to the Sunset Restaurant for lovely views during your meal, as well as a cozy fireplace to gather around as you dine. Shrimp fettucine, filet mignon and baby back ribs are just a few of the delights that the kitchen is ready to make for you.

Seattle to Vancouver, British Columbia

Free Aerial View Of City Buildings Stock Photo

While California might be what you think of when considering a drive on the West Coast, there's much to see further north as well. Seattle is full of great sights, sounds and tastes, and makes the perfect starting point for a coastal drive that makes its way even further north for something new and different. 

The Route

Start on Route 5 in the direction of Everett, Washington. As you head toward Vancouver, you'll pass through Burlington and will cross the border into Canada when you arrive in Blaine. Route 5 continues all the way to Vancouver. There are lots of hotels along the route, so you can break up the drive and make the enjoyment last for more than a couple of days. 

Stops Along the Way

One of the best things to see on this coastal drive is the Peace Arch. Located half in Canada and half in the United States, the arch is in Washington State Historical Park and was erected to honor the treaties made to end the War of 1812. It's a place to feel peace and serenity in a lovely natural setting. There are lots of gardens and places to do some quality birdwatching. 

Take a side trip from Route 5 and get on the ferry that will take you from Mukilteo to Whidbey Island. There are public beaches that are sparsely visited so you'll have some peace and quiet. There are places to go camping, as well as plenty of hiking, fishing, wine tasting, art galleries and outdoor sports. Try kayaking or windsurfing to satisfy your adventurous nature. 

Detour onto State Route 20 to visit Deception Pass State Park and Fidalgo Island, both of which are packed with gorgeous scenery and beautiful wildlife. You'll want to keep your camera handy because there will be loads of photo opportunities. 

The Boeing Factory Tour is also very cool and allows you to see where the eponymous airplanes are constructed. Tour the factory and watch the aviators in action as you learn about how air travel has changed over the years. 

What to Eat

For any serious foodie, the Whidbey Island portion of this coastal drive trip is sure to be a dream come true. Its incredible location near the water means top-notch seafood, which you can enjoy at Front Street Grill, where steamed clams, saffron mussels and margarita shrimp are just a few of the delicious menu offerings. 

Visit Frasers Gourmet Hideaway for a fancy meal, complete with linens and an extensive wine list. Don't miss the seafood chowder, the juicy duck breast, fresh red snapper and freshly caught scallops. 

Off Whidbey Island, there are quite a few choices. Before leaving downtown Seattle, visit Pikes Place Market where you can enjoy crostini and risotto at The Pink Door or fresh ahi tuna or king salmon at Wild Fish Poke. 

Near Bellingham, you'll find the Lynden Dutch Bakery near an old windmill. Enjoy some hot drinks and sweet treats as you meander through the area and enjoy the history and scenic views. Try the chocolate caramel cream pie, the Dutch butter cookies or the gooey cinnamon rolls. 

Once in Vancouver, dining options are endless. Try Meat & Bread in Gastown, where the menu features just four sandwiches, but you'll want to try them all. The grilled cheese features aged white cheddar on sourdough and you'll love the fresh crackling porchetta sandwich too.

Los Angeles to San Diego 

Free An Island With Resort House Stock Photo

If you're looking for an excellent weekend road trip, the quick drive from Los Angeles to San Diego should be a major contender. It takes just two to three hours, but with so much to see and do along the way, you can easily stretch it to an entire day or two. There are lots of hotels in both cities, so this could be the weekend coastal drive that changes your entire life. 

The Route

Start in Long Beach and take Highway 1 south. Some of the lovely spots you'll pass along the way include Huntington's Beach, Laguna Beach, and Dana Point. You'll cross into San Diego County where you'll drive through Carlsbad, Del Mar and La Jolla, each of which offers plenty of photo ops and scenery to enjoy.

And, of course, once you arrive in San Diego, there's no shortage of things to do and see, so you're sure to create the coast drive of your dreams. 

Stops Along the Way

In Surf City, you'll encounter the Huntington Beach Pier as you wind your way along the Pacific Coast Highway. Here, you'll see the 1,850 foot pier as it juts out into the ocean. Take in the ocean views as you enjoy the breeze and sound of the waves crashing below your feet. It's free to visit and features restaurants, fishing and shops. 

Both Newport and Laguna Beach deserve a spot on your itinerary. At Newport Beach, take time to enjoy the water while you fish, swim or surf. Walk along the promenades to take in the views and take a sunset cruise to make memories to last a lifetime.

Laguna Beach boasts seven miles of sand and coves, giving you lots of space to sunbathe while you read a book. There are lots of hotels here, and as it's about at the halfway mark, this is a fantastic stop if you plan to make the incredible drive a two-day endeavor. Also in Laguna Beach are plenty of art galleries, outdoor sports and beautiful scenery.

Carlsbad is a particularly great stop along the way. Of course, there's the caverns, where you can take a guided or self-tour. But there's so much more. The Sea Life Aquarium and Legoland are both there too. The Flower Fields are a great place to see nature and any wine enthusiast will appreciate the area's wine tours and walking tours. 

Once you've arrived in San Diego, make time to go to Balboa Park, where there are lots of hotel rooms to be had, including affordable options, mid-range options and resorts. This is also where you'll find 1400 acres of open land, much of which is formally landscaped. There are lots of opportunities to see wildlife and plenty of old foliage to photograph. Mission Bay, the zoo and Sea World are other major attractions in San Diego. 

What to Eat

When you make your stop at Huntington Beach Pier, make time to partake of lunch or dinner at nearby Hurricane's Bar and Grill. The menu is filled with delectable options, but don't leave without trying the mahi mango tacos, the hot honey salmon or the loco coco shrimp, all while you enjoy the live entertainment.

One of Newport Beach's best restaurants is the Stag Bar + Kitchen, which was established in 1902. The menu has changed over the years, but one thing is for sure - there's something mouthwatering to enjoy every time you visit. That includes homemade meatballs, short ribs and award-winning pizzas. 

If you plan to make a stop to eat in Laguna Beach, choose Bodega Laguna for coastal Mexican food that includes the best California has to offer. Choose from fresh street corn, Spanish octopus ceviche and halibut Veracruz.

In San Diego, go to Rare Society, mere minutes from the San Diego Zoo and enjoy dry-aged ribeye and homemade roasted bone marrow. Make a reservation at Jeune et Jolie for fresh crab legs, mussels and rabbit sausage. You'll love the blue cheese ice cream and poached pears at Campfire. 

Seattle to Astoria, Oregon

Free The Astoria‚ÄďMegler Bridge, Astoria, Oregon, United States Stock Photo

Want a shorter northern road trip along the West Coast? This incredible drive starts in Seattle and makes its way south into Oregon. You'll pass through Olympia and take in quite a few scenic byways and lots to do on your coastal drive. If charming little towns and sweeping views out to sea are on your priority list, this is the choice for you. 

The Route

Start in Seattle and head south toward Tacoma on Interstate 5. Alternatively, if scenery is what you want, State Route 509 is the best choice. If you choose Interstate 5, continue until you get to State Route 8, which you'll follow west to U.S. Route 101, also known as the Oregon Coast Highway, and go south until you reach Astoria. 

Stops Along the Way

The route from downtown Seattle to Astoria is filled with delightful little coastal towns, rugged coastline that makes for iconic photographs and plenty of state parks and beaches. If you stop to watch the wildlife, there are chances to witness whales during their migration, as well as loads of birds and other small creatures. 

You'll definitely want to see the Astoria-Megler Bridge, which spans 4 miles and connects Oregon to Washington on the Pacific Coast Highway. As you pass over, you'll be granted spanning views of the coastline and the flora and fauna beyond. 

Take time to make a stop at famously photogenic Cannon Beach, a lovely place to take a walk along the sand while you listen to the surf and inhale the fresh, ocean air. Don't miss a photo op at Haystack Rock, an iconic Oregon landmark that helps make Cannon Beach one of National Geographic's 100 most beautiful places in the world. 

If you love cheese, you'll adore the city that carries the name of one of the most popular dairy brands - Tillamook. Located at the confluence of three rivers, which means lots of hiking and scenery, the city offers up cheese tours, beer tours, and lots of well-known kayaking locations. This is also the place to go to check out the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad. 

What to Eat

Obviously, if you are in Tillamook, you'll want to eat plenty of cheese, so stop by the Blue Heron French Cheese Company and the Tillamook Creamery. When you've had your fill of cheese, head over to the Dutch Mill Diner for juicy burgers and creamy milkshakes. Kitty's Food and Spirits is an all-time favorite in town for gourmet pizza and cocktails. 

For fresh catch seafood and locally brewed beer in Cannon Beach, Public Coast Brewing Company gets awesome reviews for their food and drink. Likewise, you'll get loads of excellent reviews from the locals for the Wayfarer Restaurant and Lounge, which serves up freshly caught seafood with a Pacific Ocean view. 

When you get to Astoria, you will love wandering the town's streets and taking in the seaside architecture and soak up the small town coastal vibe. Bowpicker Fish and Chips is not to be missed, with its menu filled with delightful meals that include beer-battered albacore tuna and crisp potatoes. Northwest Wild Products offers the region's best exotic meats, including a wide range of local seafood. 

What to Drive on Your West Coast Road Trip

blue bmw coupe on road near snow covered mountain during daytime

What could make an incredible drive even better than having a zippy little car that you can maneuver along the roads as you take in the gorgeous giant trees, go on hiking adventures, and take in the gorgeous views up and down the Pacific Coast Highway as you experience everything that the West Coast has to offer. Check out these cool cars as you decide what you're going to drive on your adventures up and down the coast. 

Nissan 300 ZX

This powerful sports car is perfect for taking all of the curves as you take in the sights from San Francisco all the way up to Canada and back again. With a 26 mpg on the highway, it's an affordable option that also looks great as you drive it. There's ample space for a couple of overnight bags or your camping gear, so you can take it out into nature, wherever your destination.

Mazda Miata

A coastal drive gets so much better when you have a convertible that lets you feel the wind in your hair, smell the sand and surf as you drive along the ocean and is small and versatile enough to take you into any of the coastal towns and national parks you encounter along the way. Not only is the Miata nimble enough to handle the winding roads, but it also gets awesome reviews for being one of the best on the market, with fuel efficiency and sportiness to take your coastal drive to the next level. 

Mitsubishi FTO

Called a touring coupe, it makes sense to choose this sporty little car to take you on your road-tripping excursion, whether you're heading to Venice Beach or you want to take it slow by camping at Olympic National Park. The FTO gets excellent reviews as being dependable, as well as exciting to drive. What could be better for your next trip into wine country?

Honda S2000

Craving a convertible for your coastal drive? This one is sporty and combines comfort and luxury in one model. The S2000 features a high-powered engine with a sleek design that will have heads turning everywhere you go. Enjoy the gorgeous views of the West Coast in style by zipping along the roads in this fancy little sports car. 

Nissan 370Z

Looks and performance come together in this sports car that has a 300-horsepower engine and a responsive drive, making it ideal for whipping around curves and climbing the hills of the Pacific Coast Highway as you see out all of the best historic parks and coastal landmarks on your drive. If you want to go extra sporty, choose the roadster version of the 370Z.

In Summary

No matter where your road trip itinerary takes you, from San Diego to Crater Lake National Park to Yosemite National Park to Palm Springs to Santa Barbara, planning your road trip, including what you're going to drive is going to turn an incredible drive and thoroughly enjoyable route into a memory you'll never forget. The West Coast is packed with endless ocean views, city parks, national parks, national monuments, historic buildings, outdoor sports galore, and more food than you'll ever be able to eat in a lifetime. Make your journey one to remember with the right car and the right list of things to see. 

Ensure your car is in tip-top condition for your drive. Get an engine checkup and if you need parts, contact JDM West Coast.

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