The regions of North America’s West Coast share the mighty Pacific in common, but otherwise offer travelers very different experiences. California is home to the sunny beaches of San Diego and the glittering hills of San Francisco, with some of the state's famous wine regions as well as towering redwoods nearby. Continuing north, the rugged Oregon and Washington coasts are all about dramatic windswept grandeur. Finally, Canada’s British Columbia is a province of rain forests and fjordlike channels, where orcas swim, bears roam the coast and eagles soar overhead. Head west, and you’ll find a world that will likely both charm and awe you.
Astoria, Oregon, US
Astoria is awash in history and raffish port town charm. For a city of just 10,000 people, there’s much to do. Climb its famous column to see a panorama of water and woods. Pub-crawl the Riverwalk and feast on fresh seafood. Explore a state-of-the-art maritime museum, a low-tech cannery museum or a river pilot’s Gilded Age mansion. Or trek to Fort Clatsop, named for the local tribe, where Lewis and Clark hunkered down in the cold, rainy winter of 1805.
Today Astoria’s fine restaurants, brewpubs, trendy hotels and quirky shops—along with its views and nearby Pacific beaches—make it ideal for a relaxed visit.
San Diego, California, US
Easygoing San Diego embodies the Southern California surfer town fantasy, with its more than 300 days of sun, mild year-round temperatures and accessible outdoor activities. You can hike the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve to get a glimpse of whale migrations, go sailing in the bay and, of course, surf the famous swells of Del Mar, Oceanside and La Jolla. But the sixth-largest city in the United States also has some surprising neighborhoods: Old Town, North Park, Point Loma and Coronado are all within a few miles of the port, while the Gaslamp Quarter and Little Italy are also within walking distance.
Seattle, Washington, US
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Start your visit to Victoria’s sights and attractions at the Inner Harbour. Whale-watching cruises and floatplane excursions begin and end here, and towering totem poles indicate the importance of the area’s First Nations culture. Nearby Fisherman’s Wharf is filled with fishing boats, barking harbor seals and busy seafood restaurants serving up the catch of the day. Take time for a jaunt to the Butchart Gardens, a show garden developed on the site of a depleted quarry. And be sure to enjoy afternoon tea or a walk in the park, or a shopping trip to Market Square or along Government Street.
Vancouver, B.C., CA
Once a trading post and a rough-and-tumble sawmilling settlement, today’s Vancouver is a bustling, ethnically diverse metropolis that’s a mix of glassy new skyscrapers, quaint historic neighborhoods and plentiful green spaces. Its culinary and cocktail scene is on the rise, with excellent restaurants and buzzing bars that have a distinctively local stamp on them. If you are looking for where to go in Vancouver for music, theater and the arts, they are thriving in the city’s many museums, galleries and performance venues. Beyond the downtown attractions in Vancouver, days of exploration and sightseeing await among the colorful suburbs, the unspoiled islands and the vast, rugged wilderness.