It's been such a long time since my husband and I did a road trip! Our first was in Australia back in 2009 when we drove from Darwin to Sydney. Our second was our honeymoon around the south of France (it's SO beautiful there) three years ago.
This time, we embarked on a 19-day journey from Vancouver, Canada to Los Angeles, California in December 2017.
We had our hearts set on one goal: Escape winter and soak up some California sun. Having visited Cali as a child, all I could remember was Disneyland and Universal Studios, so I was pretty excited to head down and explore the state a little more. My husband, meanwhile, had spent some time in Berkeley as a student, and was looking forward to re-visiting it.
But the one thing that was different on this road trip compared to our previous ones? The size of our RV.
Previously, we had driven tiny campervans and four to six-berth campers, but the one we rented this time around was HUGE. It should've been more accurately described as a camperbus.
We dubbed it The Beast, and it should be clear why: It sure wasn't easy driving it! We took up the width of an entire lane, and my husband felt really stressed driving such a big vehicle too (it was 34 feet-long). Hence, we avoided going into the cities where the roads would be narrower, and stuck to Interstate-5 for most of the way down.
Our original plan was to drive on Highway 101, which would've been super scenic, but the roads there would not have been kind to The Beast. Plus, we would be driving close to the edge of the road, and navigating curves would NOT be a breeze in this.
As a result, the only "attraction" I saw for the first three days of our road trip (which was when the date of our third wedding anniversary occurred) was... Walmart.
Suffice to say, I was terribly bored. But after doing some frantic research on my phone, I uncovered a promising lead: A wildlife safari in Winston, Oregon. It's located only three hours south of Portland, and is pretty close to the I-5. The compound has a Safari Village (free entry) as well as a drive-through area that showcased animals from all around the world.
We weren't sure whether The Beast could participate in the drive-through because of its size, so we called ahead and they assured us that it would be possible (though it was a little slow-going as we passed through several gates during the drive).
We spent about 10 to 15 minutes in the Safari Village, which had a little petting zoo area where hungry goats waited to be fed, flamingoes wandered about on a grass patch, and fat snakes lay coiled up behind glass.
Then we headed to the drive-through, which cost US$19.95 per adult - not exactly cheap, but it was definitely worth it!
The entire drive-through area is a whopping 600 acres, so the park rangers recommended that we spend at least one to one-and-a-half hours inside. Also, there's a speed limit within the park so you have to drive at a snail's pace. And there's no getting out of your vehicle, tempted as you might be for a close-up. While the more dangerous animals like lions and bears are kept behind a fence, other animals like elks and yaks were pretty much roaming freely.
Keep scrolling for some of the awesome sights we enjoyed, and some useful tips to have before you go:
Here are some things you should know before visiting the Wildlife Safari in Oregon:
Go early. We reached the safari late in the afternoon and only started the drive-through at 3pm. The drive-through opening hours are 10am-4pm (from November-March) and 9am-5pm (from March-November). That means we didn't have a lot of time to leisurely explore the place, although we did complete the drive-through in an hour or so.
- Come to a complete stop when you take photos. Ok, it might be a no-brainer for professional photogs, but it's hard to take photos in a moving vehicle, so ask the driver to stop before you whip out your camera or phone and get trigger-happy.
- Make a longer pitstop at the cheetah enclosure. You DO have an option to get off your vehicle and chat with a park ranger near this enclosure. We didn't do so, but I'm sure it will be informative and enthralling!
- You might not spot every single animal listed. While we were there, the elephants and giraffes were kept in a separate enclosure that wasn't easily visible on the drive-through roads. It was a little disappointing, but we were happy to have seen so many other animals nonetheless.
I hope this post was informative for anyone who's thinking of doing a road trip in Oregon! Leave me questions or comments below if you have any, and I'll do my best to reply them :)
1790 Safari Road
Winston, OR 97496