Highway 101 North

31 May

Way excited to kick off a fun travel series with my girlfriend, amazingly talented photographer (and writer!), foodie-wine-coffee-design lover (a.k.a. all of the important things when taking travel tips), Stephanie Russo over here on CITNB today.  As mentioned in yesterday’s post on Upper Lake, I’ve been more interested in the cities less traveled lately.  A bit more off-the-grid, the slower pace, and exploring new routes.  I think all of us California natives have driven the 101 south more times than we can count but how far have you gone north?  Stephanie recently returned from a pretty epic road trip and so it seems rather appropriate to kick-off our getaway series (a nod to summer’s adventures) with her guide along the 101 from Sacramento to Seattle.

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U.S. Highway 101. The Royal Road. Route 101. Its known by several names, but by the end of this trip, I was simply referring to it as, “The most beautiful stretch of road on the face of the earth.” Like many Californians, I was familiar with Highway 101…Highway 101 South, that is. Upon mention of the 101, my thoughts drifted to palm trees, sunshine, warmth and everything we so commonly associate with our beautiful Golden State. What I didn’t think of was densely enchanted forests, hidden glassy lakes, unparalleled seafood, seemingly other-worldly beaches and the reassurance that there were still nooks and crannies of our beloved West Coast untouched, waiting to be discovered.

So, for those of you feeling a bit fatigued from the weight of routine, or the lot of you seeking a change of scenery without the TSA line, this is for you. This is the trip that breathed life into my soul, discreetly reminding me to slow down, breathe deeper, talk slower, practice presence and to remember: perspective. This is your guide from Sacramento to Seattle, by means of the 101 North.

Alright, let’s get to it. There are quite literally thousands of ways to do this journey, I’m sharing one. But if you’re a foodie with a mild sweet tooth, who prefers design-savvy accommodations and wakes up craving a decent cup of joe then WHOA, you’re in luck – this travel guide is for you. And we should probably be friends.

the ultimate highway 101 north travel guide: sacramento to seattle

Day 1:

Good-bye, Sacramento. Hello, open road. We took the I5 and hopped on that 101 North as quickly as we could.

Our first stop? The Peg House. Two words: Barbecued oysters.  I believe in fate and the fact that this stand on the side of the road in the little town of Leggett, California happened to be placed exactly where we needed a mid-day snack could not have been more serendipitous, as these turned out to be the best barbecued oysters I’ve ever had. Come to find this unassuming stand has been mentioned in Sunset Magazine and the likes thereof, several times. I mean, their slogan is “Never Don’t Stop” …how could you not?

Next up, a quick stop in Trinidad for, you guessed it, more food. Pop in to Beachcomber Cafe for a melt-in-your-mouth tuna sandwich on crispy ciabatta with a side of soup du jour (or go for the gold with one of their gluten-free baked goods). Afterwards, walk off lunch with a short jaunt to the beach, because the harbor looks like something straight out of Pirates of the Caribbean and is not to be missed (fog be damned). *Note: Trinidad is also an awesome destination in itself. Reserve a campsite at Patrick’s Point (well in advance) and catch sunset at Moonstone Beach.

the ultimate highway 101 north travel guide: sacramento to seattle

Alright now back into the car, but don’t pass up scenes like this one. Pistol River, home to colossal sea stacks and endless sand dunes. Between the wind, sand and total desolation, we likened the experience to the closest we’d ever get to feeling on another planet.

the ultimate highway 101 north travel guide: sacramento to seattle

After a few photos and a couple of jumping jacks, we climbed back into the car and headed for our last town of the day: Newport, Oregon. It was between the sea stacks of Pistol River and small town of Newport that the scenery really began to change, and the gravity of our trip began to sink in. The view went from perpetual beaches, to dense forests sprinkled with small lakes inhibited by campers catching their dinner. The coastal highway gave way to windy roads strewed with wildflowers and as we bid adieu to the ocean and drove further into the Siuslaw Forest, I began to relax.

Right around sunset, we arrived in Newport, Oregon. The little town of NYE Beach could not be cuter and served as the perfect overnight stop before our second day on the road.

Stop for dinner at Nana’s Irish Pub (hello chicken pot pie, tomato soup and arguably the best reuben this side of the Mississippi), and then retire at the Inn at NYE Beach.

the ultimate highway 101 north travel guide: sacramento to seattle

Day 2:

You’re looking at a solid 8 hours in the car today, so you might as well throw on those running shoes you [albeit reluctantly] brought and jog this adorable seaside town.  After getting your sweat on, grab breakfast at Cafe Stephanie (who serves complimentary lemon/cranberry scones while you wait for your meal) before hitting the road. *Note: Yes, these scones will ruin whatever grand plans you had for a decent, balanced breakfast. But they’re hot and moist and somehow, after 3-4 bites, it becomes okay.

By the time you reach Astoria, you’ll be famished. I wish we could have spent more time perusing the record shops and breweries in this quaint town, but we had a ferry to catch and eventual dinner reservations which were not to be missed. Thus, a quick stop at Bowpicker for their famous ahi tuna fish and chips which exceeded all hype. I’m not much of a fried food girl, but these lightly beer battered, freshly caught ahi chunks with a proper dousing of malt vinegar was…incredible. *Note: Bowpicker only serves until they run out of fish, which happens almost every day. So, get there early and expect a line, which moves quickly. Also, they are a cash only establishment, so bring your Benjis. 

the ultimate highway 101 north travel guide: sacramento to seattle

Around 5:00 p.m., we arrived at the Faunterloy Ferry, which would take us to our next destination: Vashon Island. At a mere 37 square miles, there are no bridges connecting this rural island with the mainland. It is quiet, beautiful and full of character and a uniquely its own.

Book your stay at the Lodges on Vashon, whose modular and contemporary setup is perfect in its simplicity. Each lodge features a gas fireplace, heaps of natural light, a kitchen set up, spacious bedroom, living area and bathroom with private patio.

After checking in, we walked down the street into town and had, hands down, the best Thai food of our lives at May. With no exterior signage, we walked passed this unassuming hole in the wall several times before finally finding the door. I won’t spoil too much, as this place is all about experiential dining, but I highly recommend the spring rolls, pad thai and opting in for the table side magic show (…yes, tableside magic show). *Note: Make reservations several weeks in advance, as May is known for booking out.

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Day 3:

First things first: coffee. Walk from your pre-fab lodge into town and grab coffee at Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie. They also have an impressive selection of loose leaf teas, if that’s your jam. Simply pluck any jar off the wall, bring it to the barista, and they’ll make you the perfect cup.

the ultimate highway 101 north travel guide: sacramento to seattle

After you’ve fueled up, it’s time to grab your E-Bike. That’s right, your E-Bike. As cyclists, we were skeptical of the whole E-Bike idea, but after hopping on one and flying up and down hills at 22 MPH exerting hardly any force, we were hooked. You can rent them from Vashon E-Bike and suddenly, the whole island is yours for the taking. We rode all over, exploring back roads, farms, orchards, beaches, lighthouses and more.

Stop at Pure Organic Kitchen and Juicery for a pressed juice and a Buddah bowl before continuing on to your next stop: cider tasting at Dragon’s Head (not to be missed). The property is lined with apple orchards and the tasting is done by the owners themselves, who took the time to explain each note and gave us the history of Dragon’s Head.   the ultimate highway 101 north travel guide: sacramento to seattle

Finish your bike tour with an ice cream from Glass Bottle Creamery, who sources all of their ingredients from around the island. We enjoyed tastes of honey lavender (local honey, local lavender) and coffee ice cream (using Vashon Island Coffee).

the ultimate highway 101 north travel guide: sacramento to seattle

For dinner, we headed to Gravy. Adorned with fresh flowers and market lights, this adorable restaurant came highly recommended. Their famous burger consists of duck breast, ham hock and sirloin (whoa) and is perfectly for those craving a decadent meal. For those in search of something lighter, don’t hesitate when you see Arctic Char on the menu. A fish fresh from Alaska, this mix between salmon and trout is, in my humble opinion, better than both.

the ultimate highway 101 north travel guide: sacramento to seattle

Day 4:

Grab brunch at Bramble House before saying, “Farewell, Vashon!” Enter, Seattle.

First, grab yourself a pick me up from Slate Coffee, who plays vinyl, boasts incredible coffee, and serves local non-homogenized cream in minimalistic digs. Yes, please.

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While there are tons of places to stay in Seattle, Hotel Sorrento is the city’s oldest hotel centrally located in “First Hill.” It’s walking distance to some of the city’s best shops and restaurants and was a fabulous stay.

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After checking in, grab a complimentary glass of wine in the lobby while you play a game of cribbage by the fire.  As far as dinner goes, there is certainly no lack of incredible food. A few recommended spots include, Tallulah’s, The Walrus and the Carpenter, Stateside, Bar Melusine, Oddfellows, Black Bottle, and The Whale Wins. After dinner, you can catch the sun set over the city from several vantage points like Kerry Park or Gas Works Park.

Once you’ve taken in the views, waste no time in getting over to Hello Robin for the best dessert of your life. Molly Moon ice-cream shoved between two cookies of your choice. Yes, there is a line, YES, it is worth it.

the ultimate highway 101 north travel guide: sacramento to seattle

Day 5

Hotel Sorrento offers a Jazz Brunch, which is, well, live jazz as you brunch. It’s an experience in itself, and the build your own Bloody Mary boasts more accouterments than most dinner buffets.

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After brunch, we headed to Ebbetts Field Flannels in search of some vintage baseball hats before swinging by E. Smith Mercantile to peruse their thoughtfully curated selection of goods from jewelry to patches, candles to cookbooks and beyond. There’s also a rad bar in the back of the shop serving retro cocktails in discreet quarters.

the ultimate highway 101 north travel guide: sacramento to seattle

All of that shopping and you’ve worked up an appetite – migrate over to Pioneer Square for lunch at London Plane.

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What’s that? You could use another coffee? I thought so. Lucky for you, Elm is just a stone’s throw. While everything is fabulous, they’re one of the few shops I’ve seen offering hazelnut milk. Thus, hazelnut Cortados were had by all. And by all, I mean me.

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Day 6

Alas, our time has come to an end. Before getting on the road, swing in to Coyle’s Bakeshop and try their famous croissant/pretzel combo (annnnnd everything else, but especially this)!

the ultimate highway 101 north travel guide: sacramento to seattle  the ultimate highway 101 north travel guide: sacramento to seattle

Photography + Post by Stephanie Russo

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