Olivia Lopez has been documenting her life as a creative freelancer for over 10 years on her site, Lust for Life. She spent six days uncovering the unique coastal destinations of the Pacific Northwest through a road trip from Los Angeles to Portland—and captured it all on her Canon EOS M50.
I love road tripping, I think it’s a huge part of growing up in Los Angeles. I spent a lot of my childhood weekends road tripping to Palm Springs and Ojai in California, and in the summers my family did cross country routes like Route 66 or driving up the Eastern seaboard. Now, I spend most of my summers touring sleepy coastal towns along the Mediterranean.
Travel has played a huge part in who I am, it feeds my curiosity and it constantly informs and evolves my work and perspective. I’ve shot photos every day since I was 14, and being able to make a career out of it still feels surreal because documenting the world around me feels like an extension of breathing. I’m inspired by great architecture, vibrant cities, and also the most remote places.
I was most excited about going up north, especially because it’s always hot in L.A. I wanted a change of landscape. The beaches are always packed in SoCal.
We spent a week researching beautiful beach rest stops and some under-the-radar design and architectural sites we could visit along the way. I also spent a week curating some songs for the road—a mix of Alt-J, Neil Young, and HONNE. We took also the trip as an opportunity to bring out all our dusty coats, sweaters and thick socks from the back of the wardrobe.
I was glad that we had prepared such a concrete idea of where to go. We mapped out every detail, which saved us time to do more stops on the trip—we preselected the coffee shops and cafes along the route. Driving allowed us to see more of each place we came across, more time to enjoy some of the wilderness.
We loved the beaches up North, despite the cold and windy weather conditions. The beaches were so beautiful and untouched. The fall/winter season is much less crowded on the West Coast in general—it’s a very serene time to be there. I loved having each place to ourselves.
Day 1: Venice Beach, California
Stay: Rose Hotel, Venice Beach. I live on the east side of town so staying overnight by the beach was a completely different perspective of the city.
Eat: One of my favorite west side restaurants in L.A. is Gjusta Bakery, a casual all day eatery that sells everything from fresh baked sourdough bread to banh mi.
Do: We wanted to kick off our road trip on the Pacific Coast Highway, so we did a sunny stop at Venice Beach. It’s the best beach for people watching—one of the most eccentric places with almost a carnival feel on the busy boardwalk.
Day 2: Big Sur, California
Stay: We stayed at Glen Oaks Big Sur, a lodge located inside the forest by the river stream. The air is so fresh; it has a distinct taste and quality there.
Eat: We stopped by Big Sur Bakery for dinner, which was a restaurant which offered fresh fare from the area. The space was rustic, romantic, and incredibly cozy – and quite surprisingly attracted an international crowd with travelers from all over.
Do: Big Sur is one of the most beautiful places in California, and its heavily alluded by many great American writers who ventured here in seek of solitude and inspiration. I read Big Sur by Jack Kerouac before I came. It has such a special energy. We hiked around the river by the hotel and the air smelled like clean pine. It really felt like we were inside a wilderness novel, especially because your phone service cuts off!
Day 3 and 4: San Francisco
Stay: San Francisco doesn’t have many design-driven boutique hotels, but the Proper Hotel located on Market Street is a beautiful new property centrally located near Union Square.
Eat: We visited Tartine Bakery for their famous toasts and later snagged seats at a well-loved Japanese eatery named Rintaro, which feels like a classic Japanese home with modern fixtures.
Do: We seriously lucked out with weather on this road trip, and spent the day strolling through all the different neighborhoods. We strolled down Valencia street, a trendy SF neighborhood packed with vintage shops and concept stores, and purchased books at the storied City Lights Bookshop in historic Chinatown.
On our way up to Oregon the next day, we stopped at one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s last projects—the Marin County Civic Center, a beautiful, citrus and sunset-toned building that is so stunning in detail, it’s hard to believe that it’s an operating government building for public facilities, housing everything from a courthouse to a large library. It’s also jus an hour outside of the city.
Day 5: Gold Beach, Oregon
Stay: The Tu Tu Tu’n Lodge. This charming hotel is located along a beautiful river bend. Try to arrive on the earlier end of the day, because they have a ton of social hours and activities, a spa, and other amenities to take advantage of.
Eat: There weren’t a ton of options food-wise on this route, but we subsisted on your average roadside amenities. The views, however, made up for this.
Do: The drive from San Francisco to Portland is one of the longest in terms of time and distance, but also the most scenic, so we stopped at Gold Beach to break up the drive. The stretch of beaches on this drive are completely serene and quiet, and we stopped along Humboldt Bay and Cape Blanco where we were often the only people on the lookout points. Catching the sunset on Humboldt Bay – there are no words to capture how beautiful the light and the mist were.
Day 6: Portland, Oregon
Stay: We stayed at the Ace Hotel in Portland, which is very centrally located. Constructed in a 1930s building, it has a very vintage-modern feel—classic Americana mixed with the rustic Portland vibe. I felt like I was in an episode of Portlandia.
Eat: We had appetizers at a beautiful diner called Doug Fir, and ordered Portland’s signature cold brew cocktail—vodka and local cold brew coffee—followed by dinner at an artisanal pizza shop called Lovely’s 50/50, which I would highly recommend—it’s such a Portland experience, so artisanal. The menu even featured local flowers!. In the evening we shared brews at the Ace which is great for people watching.
Do: In the morning we explored Alberta Street, where we picked up some art books and apothecary items before our flight home. There are some amazing vintage stores off this street as well—definitely check out House of Vintage.