The Pacific Coast Highway is one of the most impressive scenic drives in the World. Start all the way up in San Francisco and cruise down to San Diego, or vice versa. The route takes about ten hours to complete with no stopping (but what’s the point of that?!). We recommend stopping properly and taking your time as the 600+ mile road trip will take you through spectacular beaches, untouched forests and lush vineyards.
The Golden Gate Bridge is an excellent place to start. Cruise across it and you’ll feel like you’ve properly arrived in San Fran! After you’ve made time to see some of the city, it’s definitely worth heading out about 3 hours east to Yosemite National Park famous for its stunning scenery and diverse wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for black bears! Also be sure to check out San Jose, a quirky little stop about an hour south of San Francisco, and stop at the Winchester Mystery House, a weird and wacky “Fun House” with dead-end hallways, staircases up to the ceiling and 165 rooms. Bizarre.
About an hour south from San Jose, you’ll find yourself in Santa Cruz. The beach boardwalk has a cool 60’s Americana vintage vibe. Don’t miss the “Mystery Spot” which holds a collection of strange phenomena from the last 70 years; it makes for hilarious entertainment after being cooped up in the car!
Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey Bay
Two gorgeous little stops. Carmel is a beach town on Monterey’s peninsula, and you’ll definitely want to explore its fairy-tale cottages straight out of a story book! Don’t miss the stunning Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. You’ve got the chance to go whale watching, sailing, kayaking, biking and golfing.
Next, cross over the Bixby Bridge (one of the tallest single span concrete bridges in the world). There are so many incredible beaches and trails along Big Sur, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself stopping every 5 minutes to explore! Here’s a few: Pfeiffer Beach, McWay Falls, Point Sur State Historic Park and Ragged Point.
We have to mention McWay Falls, the 80-foot waterfall is located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (easy to spot off Highway 1), not to be confused with Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. There are a number of ‘Mcway Falls’ trails to choose from. If you’re short on time go for the ‘McWay Waterfall trail’, the original. It’s only 0.64 miles! Fancy stretching your legs a bit? Then try out the ‘Ewoldsen trail’, 4.5 miles long. Perfect after a long car journey.
San Luis Obispo
Bubblegum Alley is a little bit gross but kinda cool. Leave your mark on the world by sticking your gum along the 15-foot high, 70-foot long alley lined with thousands of pieces of gum from travelers across the world. A bit disgusting, but when in San Luis Obispo- stick gum on a wall! Along with gum sticking there are some pretty cool hikes up Black Hill, Islay Hill, Bishop Peak and around the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden. Pismo Beach is a classic California beach town also known as the “Clam Capital of the World”. Yum!
Makes for a refreshing stop before you hit the bright lights of LA. Stick to the coastline and you’ll see Stearn’s Wharf and East Beach. Check out Santa Barbara Zoo and Botanical Gardens. Lobero Theatre and Santa Barbara Museum for something a bit more cultural. Get into the right lane for the best views along the Pacific Coast Highway.
Check out the Kodak Theatre, Santa Monica Pier, cruise down Sunset Boulevard, stroll down Rodeo Drive and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Visit Universal Studios and spot the stars on a ‘Homes of the Stars’ tour. Gaze at the Hollywood sign from Griffith Observatory! It’s just like in the movies.
Huntington Beach and More…
Breeze past Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, Newport Beach and Dana Point. Think Ryan, Summer, Seth and Marissa. You’re in Orange County now. Try your hand at surfing at one of California’s top surfing spots Huntington Beach. Loads of surf competitions are held here throughout the year. Grab some brunch on Laguna Beach, refresh that tan on Newport Beach and go for dinner on Dana Point Harbor. Who knows, you might meet Seth? (maybe).
The drive down to San Diego Bay means you’ll cruise along the 2-mile-long Coronado Bridge. Head past Mission Beach, Pacific Beach and La Jolla. Spot the beautiful lagoons emerging from the Pacific Ocean. Check out the backpacker hotspots of Balboa Park, Downtown and Old town. Must do – head up Cabrillo National Monument at the tip of Point Loma, take in the stunning view of San Diego and the Bay. An awesome way to end the trip!