The world is full of incredible beauty, and while most popular destinations are popular for a reason, you can find some great vacation spots off the beaten path if you dig a little. From charming coastal towns and wine villages to secluded beaches and national parks, the West Coast is full of awe-inspiring locations perfect for your next vacation.
Suppose you are craving exploration in a getaway and want to avoid the obnoxious crowds and sea of tourists that flock to overpriced popular destinations. In that case, any of these hidden gems will fit the bill.
The Top 10 West Coast Destinations off the Beaten Path
Windsor is a small city in Sonoma County, California. If you are a wine lover, then you are aware that Sonoma County is one of the premier wine regions in the Country. It’s second to its much larger neighbor, Napa Valley. When planning a wine getaway, Napa tends to be the first city that comes to mind. It’s to wine what Las Vegas is to partying.
While Napa is great, the wineries can often be overcrowded, expensive, and booked solid, putting a real damper on a vacation. If you want all the history, charm, and delicious wines of Napa without the crowds, Windsor is the perfect place! It is a great place to explore! You’ll find historic buildings that date back to the 19th century and incredible boutiques and restaurants scattered throughout the charming small city.
One of the best ways to take in the gorgeous sights along the West Coast is going on a road trip along Highway 1. There are countless beautiful stops along the route, but if you are looking for a cozy beach town that holds all the charm of the popular destinations without the crowds.
Avila Beach sits on California’s central coast. Its unique micro-climate allows you to sit on the beach and break in the fresh salt air while soaking in the sun. You’ll find lovely hotels, oceanfront restaurants, incredible shopping, and local wine. During the warm months, you can peruse the farmer’s market, and if you plan right, you might be lucky enough to catch one of the small festivals or concerts hosted in the town.
In Yachats, Oregon, you will find Thor’s Well, a striking natural wonder that looks like a giant drain in the ocean. It’s only a sinkhole, but the image of the powerful water rushing into what was once a sea cave.
For the most breathtaking experience, we suggest timing your visit to coincide with high tide. Just be careful if you do. The area surrounding the well can be slippery and, therefore, dangerous. It is best to keep a safe distance when you soak in the view.
This eerie beach lives up to its name thanks to the preserved spruce stumps sprinkled throughout the sand. They were part of an ancient forest supposedly destroyed by a large natural disaster that somehow killed the trees while preserving the trunks deep in the ground.
The stumps were buried for who-know-how-long until a storm passed in the late 90s, uncovering their preserved remains. Now they pop their heads out of the grey ocean water, covered in barnacles, ready to inspire your next fantasy novel.
While the Ghost Forest tells a story of a once beautiful forest being destroyed by nature, Glass Beach tells a very different story. It tells a story of the restorative power of nature. This site was once a trash dump full of broken bottles and garbage from residents.
Over time, the sea has transformed the trash into unique, colorful sea glass. The entire beach is covered in the most beautiful, smooth glass. It is a photographer’s dream!
If you do decide to visit, please do not take any of the sea glass home with you. It’s not likely that nature will be making more of it, and it’s our responsibility as guests to respect the beauty where it is.
This subterranean marvel can be found in the Chihuanhuan Desert in southeast New Mexico. The Carlsbad Caverns are 73 square miles of underground cavers that connect over 100 caves. It was first discovered in 1998 by 16-year-old Jim White and his friends. Together they mapped the system.
Visitors can choose to explore the expansive park above ground or the miles and miles of rooms and formations beneath the surface. This includes the Mystery Room and the ‘bottomless pit,’ named by White. Entertainer Will Rogers once described it as the “Grand Canyon with a roof on it,” which is the perfect description. No one knows how deep the caverns go, but we know that it’s spectacular.
Head to the North Cascades National Park for incredible hiking trails, stunning lakes, and surreal glaciers and waterfalls without random tourists blocking your views. The park sits about 3 hours from Seattle and provides a beautiful space to hike, camp, mountaineer, or picnic.
Despite the incredible beauty and free entry, the park is one of the least visited national parks on the West Coast, making it the perfect off-the-beaten-path destination.
Just off the coast of Washington state, you’ll find a remote island oasis full of art, wildlife, and picturesque views. From whale watching to sailing, kayaking, camping, and more. There are endless ways you can explore the 172 mini landmasses that make up the San Juan Islands.
In Lassen National Forest, near the small town of Old Station, California, you will find the Subway Cave. It’s called a cave, but it is actually a lava tube formed by a volcanic event over 20,000 years ago.
An unimaginable amount of lava flowed through what is now known as Hat Creek. The top layer was exposed to the air long enough to form a hard cap, covering the molten lava that continued to flow below. The molten lava eventually drained, leaving hollow tubes behind. Today, hikers enjoy the trails that lead in and out of this unique lava tunnel.
10 - Depoe Bay, Oregon
This endearing village by the sea is known as the whale-watching capital of the Oregon coast. During the months of May through December, visitors can spot one of the gray whales that live off the shore. There are various observation spots and boat charters that offer you views of the beautiful beasts. There’s no guarantee you’ll see one, but the likelihood is very high.
Whale-watching isn’t the only reason to visit Depot Bay. Along with the incredible glimpse at sealife, you can enjoy the various restaurants, shops, and hidden coves. Beaches like Gold Beach are tranquil and perfect for a romantic picnic.
In the end,
these are only a fraction of the fantastic hidden gems all along the West Coast. Whether you visit one of these or find others on your own, you won’t regret stepping off the beaten path to explore the beauty our world has to offer. Finding affordable accommodations won’t be difficult either with your 2xcape membership. Learn more today!