West Coast Vacation Ideas for Summer Break 

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With summer just around the corner, you may be looking for summer vacation ideas along the west coast of the United States. We can’t blame you! The west coast has picture-worthy views, beautiful temperatures, national forests, waterfalls, lighthouses, and more. We are giving our top west coast summer vacation ideas.

Summer is not complete without a vacation. Whether you are from the Western United States and hoping to stay close to home, or you want to travel to admire the beauty of the pacific west coast, Washington, Oregon, and California are a great pick for your next summer vacation.

Not sure where to go? We have plenty of vacation ideas on the west coast for you.

The Pacific West Coast is well-known for its rugged beach landscapes and marvelous ocean views. All along the coast, you’ll discover dozens of lively cities as well as laid-back beach towns nestled there, with each of them offering endless activities and things for your family to see and do.

The journey to reach these marvelous destinations is also an equally important part of the trip. After all, you don’t want to take a boring highway to get there.  

With so much to take into account, it’s hard to know where to even begin. Fortunately for you, I’ve got a chunk of your next summer vacation already planned out. These are several West Coast vacation ideas for you and your family this summer break. 

West Coast Summer Vacation Ideas

Here are a few ideas of where to take a vacation this summer on the west coast of the United States.

Big Sur, California

Searching for that epic California road trip this summer that your family will never forget? Then let me introduce you to Big Sur, a scenic Pacific Coast Highway where you’ll drive past some of the most breath-taking vistas and dramatic ocean views that you’ll find anywhere else in the country.

There are plenty of beautiful natural sites to stop in at, including Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

When you reach the iconic Bixby Bridge, be sure to pull over and take a picture of the impressive structure along with the crashing ocean waves and the jutting rocks in the backdrop. If it’s entertainment and beach scenery that you’re longing for, the city of Monterey is a charming and historic place to visit.

You’ll stumble upon great shopping opportunities, top-notch golf courses, kayaking, and terrific hiking trails. It’s also a great location to spot wildlife such as whales, sea otters, and other marine life.   

San Francisco, California 

With so much for visitors to see and do, the city of San Francisco is arguably one of the best places to visit along the West Coast, including for summer vacation.

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The iconic Golden Gate Bridge is truly a mesmerizing sight to see the first time you lay eyes on it while a tour through Alcatraz is an absolute must.

Your family also will enjoy taking a ride on one of the city’s historic cable cars, and the Painted Ladies, as well as visiting the seals and other exciting attractions at Fisherman’s Wharf

Some of the most well-known California lighthouses also happen to be in close proximity to the city, including the Point Bonita Lighthouse, Yerba Buena Lighthouse, and the Lime Point Historic Lighthouse.

When you’re ready to hit some trails, hiking beneath the giant trees of Muir Woods is another humbling experience that you’ll never forget.

If your heart is set on seeing the world’s tallest trees at the famous Redwood National Park, you can do so by traveling north for several hours along the scenic Highway 101.   

Florence, Oregon 

Are you hoping to take your family to the beach somewhere this summer, but want to avoid the crowds and the big cities? Or perhaps you’re more of an outdoorsy person that’s hoping to catch a glimpse of the beauty that nature has to offer?

Heceta Head beach south of Newport, Oregon

Whichever may be the case for you, the small town of Florence, Oregon is an excellent vacation spot for you and your family. Jessie M. Honeyman State Park provides year-round camping, fishing, boating, and pristine beach and surrounding views close by. 

During the spring and winter months, thousands of gray whales migrate through Florence’s waters, which is certainly a marvelous sight to see.

The Sea Lion Caves is a touristy family activity near FLorence Oregon
Sea Lions resting on the coastal rocks at the Sea Lion Caves

Also along the Florence coast is the Sea Lion Caves, which is considered to be America’s largest sea cave and is a sanctuary for birds and over 200 sea lions. 

If you’re still in search of a thrill and something that’s a little more unique, your family is sure to enjoy sandboarding down one of the many sand dunes at Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.    

Sandboarding is a great family activitiy in Florence Oregon

Newport, Oregon 

Although considered to be a small seaside city in Oregon, Newport boasts some of the most spectacular scenery, along with the neatest places to explore that you’ll find anywhere on the coast.

Over the years, both beach-goers and nature enthusiasts have grown to appreciate some of its impressive gems and natural wonders, including Seal Rock State Park and Devil’s Punchbowl.    

After your family has spent an afternoon at Nye Beach, there are also plenty of shopping opportunities and great places to eat nearby.

If you run into a rainy day and don’t know what to do, keep in mind that the Oregon Coast Aquarium is considered to be amongst the best aquariums in the country.

Are you planning on crossing several Oregon lighthouses off your bucket list while you’re there? If so, the Yaquina Head Lighthouse and the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse are two impressive historic beacons located nearby.   

Oregon Coast Lighthouse Tour

If you are into the history and design of lighthouses, an Oregon Coast Lighthouse tour may be a great way to see the entire Oregon Coast.

Oregon Coast Lighthouse Yaquina Bay
Yaquina Bay Lighthouse

Travel Highway 101 from Tillamook and the Cape Mears Lighthouse down to Cape Blanco in Port Orford taking in lighthouses, coastal views, and more.

Seattle, Washington 

The Space Needle is typically what people think of when they first hear Seattle, Washington in a sentence, but the city itself has way more to offer than just venturing to the top of the scenic overlook!

It’s a great city to visit, especially for those that have a love for coffee, street art, and microbreweries. And let’s not forget about the epic view of Mt. Rainier off in the distance.  

Upon arrival, one of the first places you should check out is the Pike Place Market. It’s where you will find coffee shops and cafes, all sorts of tiny shops, as well as delicious foods, including fresh seafood.

The Alki Point Lighthouse is also located in the city and is just one of many Washington lighthouses you can explore. Puget Sound is an inlet with incredible scenery and a great location to spot whales and other wildlife.

As far as breweries are concerned, Optimism Brewing Company and the Georgetown Brewing Company are two popular choices that locals highly recommend.  

If you wish to travel Washington’s coastline, check out my guide to Washington Lighthouses.

These are a handful of some of the top West Coast vacation destinations that will make for an incredible summer family getaway.

Each of them is truly unique in its own way, but you can rest assured that whichever one you go with, there’ll be plenty of gorgeous scenery and exciting places to explore while you’re there.  

Did one of these summer vacation ideas on the west coast make you want to plan a trip? Let me know in the comments.

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