Grand West Coast 40-Day RV Caravan
From the palm trees of sunny southern California to the dense forests of the northwestern United States, the west coast of the United States offers a diverse geographic landscape – as well as a fascinating history and an assortment of cultures along a magnificent coastline. Whether you’ve traveled here previously or this is all new to you, here’s your chance to explore our country’s western shores and important sites on Fantasy’s Grand West Coast adventure!
Our tour begins in the small town of Kelso, located in southern Washington. We begin with the customary orientation, a Fantasy Welcome Party and Dinner, where we meet our fellow west coast travelers. Southern Washington is a beautiful area to explore, so we have arranged the first of many bus tours — this one to the Mount St. Helens Volcanic Monument. On Sunday, May 18, 1980 following a major earthquake, the north face of this mountain collapsed, creating an avalanche of massive rocks and ice which roared down the Toutle River. Pressurized gases within the volcano were released by the avalanche and Mt. St. Helens erupted, covering 150 square miles of forest. The eruption lasted nine hours, and the mountain did not rest until 1986, when it finally created its own lava dome. Today, we are able to discover the power and drama of the volcano. We stop at the Fire Mountain Grill for a delicious lunch and to admire the spectacular views of the mountain and the surrounding forest. Johnston Ridge Observatory, sits just 5-1/2 miles from the crater, offering grand views of Mount St. Helens and much of the 1980 blast zone.
Our tour is the ‘Grand West Coast’ tour, so we waste no time heading to the coast, stopping in Warrenton, Oregon. It’s a small city which is home to Fort Stevens State Park and its broad clean ocean beaches. It’s also the western end of the Lewis and Clark Trail. We visit Fort Stevens, a 4300-acre state park with hiking and biking trails as well as an important history. We visit the quaint town of Astoria, aka the ‘Little San Francisco of the Pacific Northwest’ as its architecture is dominated by hundreds of Victorian era homes clinging to steep hillsides. We stop at the Astoria Column, which stands above the city with an unrivaled view of Young’s Bay, the Coast Range, the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean in the background. We learn more about the Pacific Northwest’s rich maritime history at the Columbia River Maritime Museum, where we can virtually experience piloting a tugboat, participate in a Coast Guard rescue and learn about the fishing life of Astoria.
Next, we take a brief detour inland to the town of McMinnville where we visit the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum. Ever wonder what happened to Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose, aka, the flying boat? It’s right here in Oregon. And that’s not all – we can immerse ourselves in World War II flying history through the various aircraft on display – including the Flying Fortress, a B17 bomber. We’ve plenty of time in this part of the country to take on some optional exploring ourselves – and for those wishing more aeronautical history, there’s the Tillamook Air Museum, originally a World War II military hangar for K-Class airships!
Returning to the beautiful Oregon coast, home is in picturesque Newport. There’s lots to do here, beginning with a visit to Heceta Head Lighthouse in a magnificent setting, said to be the most photographed lighthouse in the United States. It beams 21 miles out to sea, and is the brightest light on the Oregon coast. We will stop at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center, where the exhibits, programs and classes demonstrate how scientific research helps to interpret the natural patterns and forces of our world. There’s time to explore Newport’s beautiful harbor and the historic Nye Beach area, culminating in dinner at a beach-side restaurant.
It’s a short drive to North Bend, where we visit a Myrtlewood factory. Due to the slow growth of Oregon’s myrtle trees, the wood is extremely dense and develops intricate burls which can be polished into exquisite bowls, trays and other items. We venture further south to our last stop in the Beaver State – beautiful Gold Beach. Here, we experience the beauty and wildlife of the Rogue River aboard an exciting jet boat. These boats function on a jet system without propellers which allow them to swoop and skim over the water’s surface. After all the adrenaline and excitement, we stop for a riverside lunch.
The redwoods of northern California beckon as we cross the state line and stop in Klamath. We visit the magical Redwood National Park – home to the tallest trees on earth. The next day we visit the Trees of Mystery, located right in the center of the Park. While we are here, we stroll the interpretive trails and climb aboard the SkyTrail gondola to ride through the tree tops with spectacular views of the redwoods and the Pacific Ocean.
We continue exploring the Golden State with a stop in Garberville, camping in Benbow Valley. You may choose to stop as we head south for lunch at the Samoa Cookhouse, the last surviving cookhouse in the west for a lumber jack style lunch. Our route departs the freeway to travel the scenic 31-mile Avenue of the Giants – with more than 50,000 acres of redwood groves. From Benbow Valley you can return to Humboldt Redwoods State Park which boasts the largest remaining stand of virgin redwoods in the world. Meanwhile, back at the campground, there’s plenty to do. Benbow is a destination unto itself, located on the banks of the Eel River and attracting guests with a nine-hole golf course. The park is right next door to the historic Benbow Inn which has attracted travelers since 1926, offering fine dining and a fun happy hour. Our Fantasy WagonMasters prepare a delicious campground cookout for us while we’re staying in this beautiful, historic part of the country.
We continue south to California’s most famous wine country – spending seven nights in Napa. Naturally, the fun begins with a wine tour and tasting at one of the famous Estate Wineries that this magnificent valley has to offer. Next, we relax and enjoy more tastings with exquisite views of endless vineyard-covered hills. But that’s not all – we have reserved your space aboard the famous Napa Valley Wine Train, a three hour journey through spectacular scenery of some of the most expensive agricultural real estate in the world. We’ll have a gourmet lunch in a 1952 Pullman domed railcar – dining in elevated splendor while we watch the vineyards roll by.
Following the fantastic fun of Napa Valley we have two days of touring in the Golden City — San Francisco. Naturally, we visit the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, with her amazing views of the city and bay. We stop at Lombard Street – the famously crooked street with sharp switchback curves we’ve seen on television or at the movies. We tour Chinatown – one of the oldest and largest Chinatowns in the United States. We explore historic Fisherman’s Wharf and head down for chocolate at Ghiradelli Square. At Pier 39, it’s polite to say, ‘hello’ to the resident sea lions and enjoy a delicious fresh-caught seafood meal at Fog Harbor Fish House, where they say every meal is served with a side of the Golden Gate Bridge – as the dining room faces directly onto the bay. We board a ferry boat and cruise out to the most infamous island prison of all time – Alcatraz – once home to many bad guys including Al Capone and The Birdman. We step behind the bars to see where prisoners ate, slept and exercised while doing their time on ‘The Rock’.
After a breakfast at the Warm Puppy Café in Santa Rosa the following morning, we enjoy a guided tour of the Charles M. Schulz Museum, displaying the largest collection of his artwork in the world. Here we’re reminded of the simple joys proclaimed by his beloved Peanuts characters. Later in the day we head into downtown Sonoma where we have time to explore Sonoma Plaza, with an array of shops, wine tasting rooms and restaurants.
The scenery changes dramatically the next morning when we turn inland for camping in Yosemite. We’re introduced to the spectacular views and attractions of the park on our guided bus tour to Glacier Point, towering 3,200 feet above the Yosemite Valley floor. Along the way, we’ll encounter some of the park’s most beloved sights – Half Dome, El Capitan and Bridal Veil Falls. Our schedule leaves us plenty of free time to explore and experience the beauty of the park, and we also enjoy another campground cookout courtesy of our Fantasy WagonMaster team… as well as a trip to the village of Coarsegold where we can try our luck panning for gold.
Our next destination is Marina, located on one of California’s most iconic areas – Monterey Bay. We have a few nights here, which begins with a guided area tour, visiting the charming town of Carmel, and a ride through the famous 17 Mile Drive, opened in the 1880s as a carriage road to a local hotel, and where we see several famous golf courses, including Pebble Beach and the Lone Cypress, a 250+ year old Monterey cypress tree perched on a granite hillside and the emblem of the Pebble Beach Company. We stop to shop and sightsee at Cannery Row, named to honor John Steinbeck and consisting of shops, galleries and restaurants all housed in updated shiny versions of turn-of-the-century canneries.
We have some time to spend at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, located at the ocean’s edge on Cannery Row and our window into the underwater world. We can see penguins, sea otters, jellies, sharks and more, all while learning about the important steps this organization is taking toward preserving our oceans.
We depart the Monterey peninsula and continue our journey south, we’ll stop in charming Morro Bay, and the next morning take off on the famous Highway 1 with its magnificent vistas, heading for our guided tour of Hearst Castle. This incredible complex of ornate towers and buildings is now a California State Park, but was the original vacation residence of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst. The castle has two pools – the outdoor Neptune Pool with marble statues of Neptune and Nereid guarding over it and the indoor Roman Pool with intricate mosaics depicting a star-filled night sky and surrounded by marble sculptures of Greek and Roman gods and heroes.
Our next stop, Buellton, is known as the home of Pea Soup Andersen’s. This is a convenient location (without the crowds and traffic) for us to visit beautiful Santa Barbara, aka ‘The American Riviera’ due to the city’s classic Spanish architecture. The city lies in a perfect setting, along the Pacific Ocean with expansive beaches and a backdrop of the Santa Ynez Mountains. It’s also possible for you to visit Solvang, a Danish village …a little inland, but right in the middle of Santa Barbara’s wine country. Shops, restaurants and galleries abound — all with a Danish flare!
We continue to our final destination, but we’re not done yet! We’re spending a few nights in Newport Beach, camping beachside in this city where the best activities are found in and along the water. Surfing, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding and sunning are just some of the options. On our first day here, we board the Catalina ferry and cruise to nearby Catalina Island, where we enjoy a tour of the amazing ecosystem of natural wonders to be found both on land and in the sea. It’s definitely laid back and functions on ‘island time’!
The following day we drive along the beautiful California coast to Long Beach, retirement port to the Queen Mary. Royally launched in 1936 by King George V, she boasted five dining areas, two cocktail bars and swimming pools, a grand ballroom, a squash court and a small hospital, setting a new benchmark in transatlantic travel between Southampton, England and New York. The rich and famous considered this as the only civilized way to travel and she set a new speed record. However, once World War II started, she was transformed into a troopship, painted a camouflaged grey and stripped of the luxurious amenities. Known as the ‘grey ghost’, she was the largest and fasted troopship in the ocean, capable of carrying up to 16,000 troops traveling at 30 knots. After the war, she was restored to her original glory and resumed her role as a luxury passenger liner until 1965. We relive her colorful history with a tour and elegant lunch on board.
We’ve got another day to explore Newport’s piers, the Balboa Fun Zone, the shops, the beaches or just hanging out at the campground to soak up the sun and watch the boats go by. That evening, we enjoy a traditional, Fantasy Farewell Dinner with fellow travelers and marvel at the sights we’ve shared along this fabulous west coast.