Road Trip from Portland to the Redwoods in Cali with 3 Small Children...

Updated on April 27, 2009
S.S. asks from Portland, OR
6 answers

We're leaving on Monday for an impromptu little vacation with our kids. We decided to do an inexpensive camping roadtrip down the coast to the Redwoods. Our kids are young (4, 3, & 18 months) so we're going to take it easy and not drive for extremely long periods of time. We've reserved campsites along the way at Sunset Bay state park just south of Coos Bay and at Jedediah Smith state park in Cali just north of the redwoods. Does anyone have any recommendations for fun things to stop and do/see in those areas or along the way that is appropriate for little children. We can't do the caves in southern OR because the kids are too young (they require a certain age/height minimum for it to be safe) and other than going to see the Redwoods and hiking, I'm not sure what kind of attractions there are down there that would be fun for our little ones.
Also, on our way back up, we're thinking of going to Crater Lake and then possibly stopping in Eastern OR somewhere for another night before heading home. We're planning on being gone about 4 or 5 nights. We haven't made reservations for the latter part of the trip just in case things go bad and we feel the need to come home (you never know with kids so young!)
Thanks in advance for any advice!

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So What Happened?

Marda, thanks for the kind warning. We have done a fair bit of traveling with the kids including tent camping (which is what we are doing-no trailer). We've never done anything quite so intense but we've mapped out our trip so that other than the first day with around 6 hours of driving, we should only be driving about 3 hours any other day which we will aim to do during naps. We are also planning to stay at a motel on the 3rd night to vary the pace and have a break back in civilization for one night (it also has an indoor pool which will be nice for the kids). We've left the trip details open ended after that just in case we feel the need to do just what you mentioned which is to pitch a tent and stay a couple days somewhere without driving...or come home, depending on the case.
Anyway thanks for the suggestions and hopefully we won't come home much more exhausted than when we left :)

More Answers



answers from Portland on

ooo, I forgot about Wildlife Safari! It is VERY cool--but maybe more so for 4 and ups. There is another tigers and such place near Ashland, if you guys come back up the I-5 instead of heading east on the way back.

As for Sunset Bay, it is the perfect little kid beach, physically. There were drug problems about six(?) years ago with locals, but from what I hear they cracked down on that a few years ago. Anyhow, it's a small for grownups crescent bay ... the water is still enough to absorb a little warmth from the sun even, and there is always fun (for the littles) wave-jumping on the gentle slope at the surf.

We used to go Portland-->Charleston (the town right next to Sunset Bay) all the time to visit my grandparents. Mum grew up there. With no stops it's 4 hours using the "Drain" exit just south of Eugene. We always stopped for an hour lunch-run-pee at a reststop just before getting off I-5, and usually, when we were small, had to also stop at a gas station for a pee-break at some small or large town between I-5 and getting to the house.

When I did it with my tiny kids, I drove at night so they would be asleep--based purely on the time my youngest brother was six months old and teething and *literally* cried the entire way down. Obviously you plan to sleep at night ;) ... but absorbent disposable diapers and driving when they regularly sleep did work for a kid-silent drive ;).

That's all I know :).


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answers from Portland on

Southern Oregon Coast: Sea Lion Caves. I remember going there when I was young and I thought it was really cool!

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answers from Portland on

if you go up on 5, there's a cute farm you can check out in medford, OR:

they do only start operating once it gets warmer so make sure to call first.

there's also enchanted forest in salem but it might be too scary:

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answers from Portland on

Just south of Roseburg in Winston is a wildlife safari that is fun.

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answers from Portland on

My parents live in Leggett, CA (south of Eureka and Garberville...and north of Ukiah). Leggett is known for the "Drive Thru Tree" is is a giant redwood tree that was carved out (I think in the early 1900's) so that cars and smaller SUVs can drive thru it. I think you can do picnicing there too. This is off of Hwy 101. Just north of Leggett on Hwy 101 is something like a "mysterious forest" (sorry, forgot the actual name), where they odd visual effects..something about magnetism....there is also some shops along the way, like a guy that makes the chainsaw carvings, you can get smaller ones that are cute and not too expensive. There is a little lake by the Benbow Inn (also along this same strech of Hwy), you can have a picnic and even rent a canoe. Of course, all of this depends on how far south into California you plan on going. Have a good time either way! LOL

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answers from Portland on

Whew! That is a whole lot of miles to cover in 5 or 6 days. Especially with 3 children so young. Have you done much camping? camped with small children? Do you have a camper, travel trailor or are you pitching a tent? Have you traveled and camped with your children before this trip?

I feel overwhelmed just by reading your post.

I've traveled frequently on a similar route. As a single adult with adult friends I drove to Ashland, stayed overnight 2 nights, crossed to the coast and down to the Redwoods; then on To San Francisco. We stayed overnight in Crescent City on the way back and also Ashland That was 4 overnights going south and then back north. Travel time was 6-8 hours each day. We did stop for lunch and dinner. Although we were all independent adults who only had ourselves to take care of we were very glad to get home.

If you're planning to drive down the coast from Portland to Coos Bay, I've done that one too. It's a 5 or 6 hour trip with one brief stop for lunch. It's quicker cutting across from I-5 in Eugene or you can cut over in Roseburg.

The road up to Crater Lake is curvy and slow driving. I was motion sick. I have relatives near Bend. It's a several hour trip from Portland to Bend.

We drove to Crater Lake from Roseburg and came back the same day. We had a 4 yo and a 7 yo with us on that trip. I was exhausted by the time we got back to Roseburg.

The times I give are only estimates. It's been several years since I've taken any of those trips. Roads may be better. My experience with Central Oregon roads is that you do have to drive slower than on the freeway. You may also have construction delays. Based on my experience I think that you will mostly be traveling the whole time if you try to do all of that.

I've traveled with a 3 yo from Portland to Roseburg and although she was quite good I looked forward to the time we arrived at our destination where we stayed several days. We stayed at a motel and even tho the 3 yo had a crib with all of her own night time stuff she had difficulty getting to sleep. Lots of crying. She was happy during the day but not at night.

When I was in grade school our family camped with a 3-4 yo and a baby not yet walking. They were quite fussy as I remember.

I enjoy camping when I stay in one campground for a couple of days at the very least. To drive all day, set up camp, and leave the next day is tiring. And then to do it 3 or 4 more times feels impossible to me. Being on the go with little children would take it out of the realm of possibility for me.

If you've done this sort of long distance travel in this few of days, I'm glad to say go for it. I'm writing this in case you lack experience under these circumstances.

As to things to see and do. I think it's Bandon that has a good beach and a sea port. They have a harbor where the boats are winched out of the water up to the dock. Something like that.

There is Wildlife Safari in Winston, south of Roseburg if you go that way. You drive thru the park and see the animals in a more natural habitat than at the zoo. If you go during the morning you will be more apt to see animals close to your car. In the afternoon they find shade and nap.

I'll get out a map and see if it helps me remember more places. I've enjoyed all of my trips but I just cannot imagine doing them with 3 babies in a limited amount of time. Of course you can start out and then modify your plans based on how the babies react to traveling.

In the Redwoods there is a very large statue of Paul Bunyan and his blue ox, Babe, a redwood tree thru which cars could drive many years ago (people walk thru now) and an outdoor "chapel." I don't remember the name of the last site. And I don't know how far into the Redwoods these sites are located. As a grade school kid I liked stopping at each one.

The two older ones will be in awe of the size of the trees in the Redwoods. I still am.

I don't want to discourage you. I do hope that you have a great time. I really enjoy travel and hiking but not so much so with kids under the age of 4 or 5.

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