Typically, launching from San Diego means you’re heading south to sunny Mexico for popular destinations like Cabo San Lucas for beaches and marlin fishing.
For some though, the calling is north, cruising the majestic coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington toward the lush Pacific Northwest and the overwhelming beauty of Seattle, Puget Sound, the San Juan Islands, and British Columbia.
While heading north up this roughly 1,300 nautical mile route can be challenging (you are nose to the weather all the way and dealing with constantly changing sea and weather conditions) these waters are absolutely safely doable and enjoyable in sail boats and motor yachts. For this kind of trip, perhaps an attractive choice is a luxury long distance cruising yacht brand, such as Endurance Yachts, that are made specifically for comfort and class on challenging routes such as this.
Your route choice can help you avoid some of the unpleasant conditions, and by following good planning and preparation procedures (for things such as weather holds) and using common sense, you’re in for a fun adventure.
Whether hugging the coast or venturing offshore to avoid some of the troublesome weather and go island exploring, what awaits is nothing short of magical.
Here are five amazing locations to add to your itinerary as you cruise up the west coast, creating memories for a lifetime.
After departing San Diego, head right out to sea for your first stop – Catalina Island. Approximately 30 miles west of Newport Beach and south of Long Beach, Catalina Island features countless coves, landings, beaches, and harbors to explore.
The Two Harbors system offers over 700 moorings and anchorages in more than a dozen different sites, including Isthmus, Fourth of July, and Cherry Coves, Emerald Bay, Howland’s Landing, Little Geiger, White’s Landing, Moonstone, Hen Rock, Buttonshell, Catalina Harbor, and Wells Beach. 100’+ yachts can be accommodated.
Avalon is the only incorporated city on Catalina and has been a popular tourist destination for well over a century. Wrapping around beautiful Avalon Bay on the southeast end of the island, Avalon offers numerous hotels, restaurants, beaches, spa experiences, land and ocean adventures, a golf course, and myriad recreational activities for visitors to enjoy.
Channel Islands National Park
From Catalina, head northwest to the pristine marine environment of Channel Islands National Park. Composed of five islands (Anacapa, Santa Cruz, San Miguel, Santa Barbara, Santa Rosa) and their surrounding one mile of the ocean, here you will find solitude and splendor.
The islands are ideal for quiet, uninterrupted time with family and friends, and are wonderful places to hike, camp, snorkel, kayak, birdwatch, or just relax to the peaceful sounds of the natural world. Inspiration Point on Anacapa Island is one of the best views in the park.
Be sure to plan ahead. There are no public moorings or all-weather anchorages around the islands and there are no services such as food stores or gear rental shops on the islands.
San Francisco Bay and Sausalito
Enjoy the serenity of the ocean and rugged Pacific cliffs as you cruise up the coast on a nice jaunt to the city by the bay, beautiful San Francisco and the San Francisco Bay, a great place to reload, refuel, and recharge.
You’ll find plenty of top-notch marinas here, such as Marina Bay Yacht Harbor, which can accommodate up to 850 vessels from 20’ to 120’ long. The marina’s location in the East Bay means you’ll be close to everything on San Francisco Bay. A deep draft harbor gives you easy access to Central Bay, San Pablo Bay and the Delta, San Francisco, and the Pacific.
And of course, don’t forget to stop by Pier 39, in the thick of the action, near Fisherman’s Wharf. This vibrant and lively waterfront area is teeming with restaurants, attractions, and services.
Sausalito is also a great town to enjoy and prep for the next leg. Clipper Yacht Harbor is Sausalito’s largest and only full-service harbor, with over 700 slips and dry storage spaces and the ability to accommodate up to 80’ yachts.
If you’ve never experienced the majesty of California’s famed redwood forests, take this chance to do so by stopping in Northern California’s Humboldt Bay in Eureka at Woodley Island Marina. They can accommodate yachts up to 114 feet – almost as big as the giant redwoods.
Portland via the Columbia River
America’s fabled “Gateway to the Pacific,” the mighty Columbia River is a 1,200-mile-long waterway that stretches through gorges, mountain ranges, and high deserts all the way from the Canadian Rockies to the Pacific.
On your way to Salpare Bay Marina (one of Portland’s best marinas,strategically placed on the Columbia River right off of Hayden Island, able to accommodate vessels up to 200’) for service, you can easily explore the stunning scenery of Columbia River’s main stream and all it has to offer – snow-covered peaks, forested cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and national and state parks.
Heading into the Emerald City, you’ll have no shortage of top-notch marinas. As stated by Superyachts.com, “Set against the backdrop of the imposing Seattle skyline, the…marina facilities that make up Port of Seattle offer yacht visitors top class services and amenities, all on the doorstep of one of the west coast’s most vibrant cities.”
Whether this is your final destination before heading back south, or the launching pad for your next adventure further into the picturesque Pacific Northwest, you’ll find everything you need to relax and plenty to do around Puget Sound, Mt. Rainier, Alki Beach, and of course the famed Pike Place Market.