Things to do on highway 1

This guide to the best Pacific Coast Highway road trip stops will help you plan your Highway 1 road trip up the California coast. Includes Pacific Big Sur, Monterey, Morro Bay, Mendocino, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara tidepools, redwoods, vineyards, beaches, waterfalls, where to stop, what to eat, things to do, California travel tips, and more!

Sunny seashores. Foggy shoreline. Swaying palm bushes. Towering redwoods. Playful otters. Flomping elephant seals. Contemporary oysters. Classic wines. Driving the Pacific Coast Freeway isn’t solely the most effective California highway journeys: it’s the most effective highway journeys on this planet!

Our favourite technique to spend a weekend is to hop right into a automobile and head down the Pacific Coast Freeway, home windows rolled right down to let the ocean breeze in, singing loudly alongside to our Driving in California Playlist, and stopping each couple of minutes to soak up the view. It’s the most effective components of residing in California; and for Jeremy, it’s house: the Pacific Coast Freeway runs proper by the center of his hometown!

See more: Things to do on highway 1

Despite the fact that we’ve pushed Freeway One dozens of instances, every journey we attempt to cease someplace new and come upon new secret and hidden spots, factors of curiosity, cities to discover, and eating places to return to many times. Right now, we’ve lastly thrown all of our favorites into this information to the perfect Pacific Coast Freeway stops, created in partnership with Moon Journey Guides.

Psst: Planning a California coast highway journey? We’ve created a free, printable model of the best Freeway One itinerary! Plus, we’ll additionally ship you our favourite ideas that can assist you plan your California highway journey! Simply join under.

Psst: We’ve obtained a complete bunch extra assets that can assist you plan your California highway journey. Check out the posts under, or click on right here to see all of our California journey guides.

  • Pacific Coast Freeway Highway Journey Itinerary
  • Issues to Do in Mendocino
  • Issues to Do in Morro Bay
  • Paso Robles Journey Information & Vineyard Information
  • Locations to Go to on the Central Coast

We even have a Freeway One podcast episode! A humanist cult, a Danish hideaway, a gravitational anomaly, towering bushes, a spoiled wealthy child’s citadel, clothing-optional scorching springs, and the cutest (and weirdest) animals possible: on this episode, we cowl the whole lot you have to plan your journey up the California Coast – and all of the bizarre historical past you by no means knew alongside the way in which.

Hear under or simply click on right here! Oh, and don’t neglect to subscribe so that you don’t miss new episodes.

California Coast Highway Journey Ideas

Earlier than we dive into the perfect stops on Freeway 1, listed below are a couple of necessary ideas to bear in mind as you’re making ready on your Pacific Coast Freeway highway journey!

  • The Pacific Coast Freeway can be known as Freeway One, or simply “The One.”

You’ll hear them used interchangeably, together with on this publish.

Simply don’t get the One combined up with the 101, which is a completely totally different freeway that simply occurs to overlap the 1 a number of instances! (Enjoyable truth: on my first Freeway One highway journey I unintentionally drove the 101, and was tremendous confused the whole time.)

The time period “Pacific Coast Freeway” can be generally used to lump collectively a number of highways alongside the whole western coast of the US, all the way in which up into Oregon and Washington. However on this publish, we’re solely speaking about Freeway One on the California coast!

  • Freeway One runs from southern California in Orange County, all the way in which up the California coast to Mendocino county.

Its southern terminus intersects with Freeway 5 in San Clemente (between Los Angeles and San Diego), and its northern terminus merges into Freeway 101 north of Mendocino.

  • Price range Journey Tip: Reserving a rental automobile? We suggest utilizing Kayak to price-compare costs on automobile leases on your journey! Check out automobile rental offers in LAX.
  • We suggest driving the Pacific Coast Freeway south to north, from San Diego or Los Angeles.

In Los Angeles, the “freeway” is definitely extra of a crowded avenue in a busy metropolis. It makes for a superbly wonderful begin to a highway journey, since you clear the visitors after the primary few hours of your journey, however it’s a bummer to finish an incredible journey by sitting in visitors.

As an alternative, we suggest ending your journey all the way in which up previous the northern terminus of the freeway within the towering redwoods of Avenue of the Giants – a extra becoming finish for an unimaginable journey!

For extra particulars, take a look at our detailed 10-day Pacific Coast Freeway highway journey itinerary!

  • The most effective time of the 12 months to drive the Pacific Coast Freeway is in mid-to-late February by Could.

February is often the top of California’s annual wet season, which turns California’s golden hills vivid inexperienced and covers the coast with colourful wildflowers that final by April and into early Could.

This time of the 12 months additionally overlaps with elephant seal pupping season in addition to whale migration season!

  • You’ll be able to’t depend on cell service alongside Freeway One.

So obtain some podcasts (like ours), load up your music upfront, and produce a guidebook for whenever you inevitably get misplaced or hungry! The Moon Pacific Coast Freeway Highway Journey information covers the whole California coast (plus Oregon and Washington) intimately and with easy-to-read maps.

We even have the Moon Northern California Highway Journeys information, which incorporates a number of different once-in-a-lifetime highway journeys, scenic drives, and itineraries to proceed your California journey. This guidebook lives in our glovebox!

You may as well use this budget-friendly self-guided Freeway One audio information. Your digital audio information will share fascinating details and insights as you drive, all synced with the built-in GPS. Plus, your downloaded information gives you loads of alternatives to tug off the highway and discover! We want we created this ourselves, however … we’re not technically savvy sufficient for that. But.

  • Watch your gasoline gauge!

There are stretches of hours earlier than coming throughout gasoline, and the remoted ones are understandably costly. When unsure, fill ‘er up! (The identical recommendation applies to bogs.)

  • Depart no hint!

That is extra than simply “don’t litter.” The vast majority of the shoreline is made up of fragile ecosystems, from the succulents rising on coastal rocks to the underwater kelp forests and reefs offshore (psst: all the time put on reef-safe sunscreen for those who’ll be going into the ocean).

Do your half to cease erosion and injury by not going someplace harmful for an image, staying on trails, watching your youngsters and pets, not going someplace harmful for an image, not touching animals, not throwing apple cores or orange peels out of the window, AND NOT GOING SOMEWHERE DANGEROUS FOR A PICTURE!

  • California is colder than you suppose.

A number of stretches of the coast get very chilly, with sturdy wind and heavy fog that lasts till noon. However simply to make issues extra complicated, there are additionally odd patches of scorching climate.

Rule of thumb: carry a whole lot of layers, and don’t neglect to pack a heat jacket!

The Greatest Locations to Cease on the Pacific Coast Freeway

Lots of the finest locations to cease on Freeway One are charming little coastal getaways which might solely be accessed by driving Freeway One. And every of those Pacific Coast Freeway cities is nicely value a cease or an in a single day! We’ve included a couple of of our favourite issues to do in every.

  • Word: We haven’t included large cities, like San Francisco or Los Angeles or San Diego, on this publish. We determine you most likely already know that you must cease and discover them, proper? However simply in case you want some ideas, we’ve obtained a improbable self-guided San Francisco strolling tour, an in depth San Diego weekend getaway information, and a enjoyable Los Angeles self-guided brewery tour, in addition to a bunch of different Bay Space suggestions!

Let’s begin from the northern tip of the Pacific Coast Freeway and head all the way in which down. Prepared?

Mendocino

Mendocino is an enthralling coastal city on the far northern finish of the Pacific Coast Freeway recognized for wine and marine life. Too many guests drive the California Coast between San Francisco and Los Angeles with out persevering with up north – that’s a mistake! The northern stretch is each bit as scenic, and Mendocino is the crown jewel of the Northern coast.

Listed here are a couple of of the perfect issues to do in Mendocino:

  • Mendocino is legendary for its wine tasting! Go to one of many many lovely vineyards off the coast alongside Freeway 128, aka The Wine Highway, or cease by the Mendocino Nation Retailer’s beautiful tasting room within the coronary heart of city.
  • Stroll by the charming downtown and cease in completely each store (particularly Mendocino Jams and Preserves, which we love as a result of they’ve hella samples and their chutney is next-level).
  • Hire a kayak at Catch a Canoe and take a peaceful, self-guided kayak journey down the Large River Estuary. Hold an eye fixed out for otters and sea birds!
  • Mendocino’s shoreline is dotted with beautiful pure sea caves – you possibly can discover them on the Kayak Mendocino Sea Cave Nature Tour, led by Kayak Mendocino.
  • Go mountain climbing at Van Damme State Park. Half redwood forest, half coastal park, half Pygmy forest, Van Damme is a day-hikers dream.
  • Discover the tidepools at MacKerricher State Park. We suggest driving to the Seal Watching Station to go to the tidepools at Laguna Level!

We’ve obtained loads extra options for issues to do in Mendocino in our Mendocino journey information:

Stinson Seashore

Positioned underneath an hour north of San Francisco, Stinson Seashore is considered one of Northern California’s most well-known seaside cities, well-known for its lengthy, extensive, sandy seaside. All the pieces within the city of Stinson has a nostalgic surf-town vibe, and a lot of the tiny city is walkable – excellent for a day on the seaside!

That is the place San Franciscans come to go to the seaside, as a result of Ocean Seashore throughout the metropolis is a frigid arctic tundra which is so foggy it usually resembles Silent Hill.

Additionally, for those who like, there’s a nude seaside. As a result of it wouldn’t be Northern California if there wasn’t. There are literally a LOT of clothing-optional stops on the Pacific Coast Freeway, from seashores to scorching springs. Get pleasure from!

Whenever you’re able to towel off – or put a towel again on – head to The Siren Canteen on the base of the lifeguard tower for a scrumptious post-beach snack, like tacos, ice cream, or loaded nachos.

The famous Painted Ladies on Alamo Square in San Francisco, California.
Hey, it’s us! Simply bein’ mushy in entrance of the enduring Painted Women on Alamo Sq..

San Francisco

Ahhh, the perfect metropolis alongside the Pacific Coast Freeway (all tea, all shade – sorry Los Angeles and San Diego, however we’re primary)! We’ve lived next-door to or inside San Francisco for the previous decade, and we completely love this bizarre, ever-changing metropolis by the Bay.

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How do you clarify a metropolis like San Francisco? San Francisco is the town the place “the subsequent large factor” has already arrived; a metropolis that belongs to everybody and nobody on the similar time; a metropolis of expertise, artwork, tradition, meals, and fog; a metropolis that’s as traditionally necessary to the story of this nation as it’s at present. It’s a metropolis with so many quirks and oddities that I created a whole publish all about them.

However San Francisco can be a little bit of an acquired style. It’ll push you out of your consolation zone, each bodily and emotionally.

We may go on and on perpetually, however as an alternative, we’ll direct you to some of our different assets and simply provide the must-do highlights:

  • Spend a day exploring San Francisco by foot on our self-guided San Francisco strolling tour, which is able to take you thru 6 historic and distinctive neighborhoods.
  • Go to the Mission District to know and respect the Mexican historical past of the town & California. Admire the road artwork, eat a burrito at a taqueria, and loosen up with a picnic in Dolores Park.
  • Go to the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood to relive the Summer season of Love.
  • Spent a day open air in sprawling Golden Gate Park and go to the Japanese Tea Backyard, stroll round Stow Lake and hike up Strawberry Hill, search for a herd of Bison, and discover the California Academy of Sciences, the Conservatory of Flowers, and the de Younger Museum.

If you happen to’re planning to spend a while within the metropolis, we’ve additionally obtained a information to the place to remain in San Francisco (and a information to the perfect espresso in SF, on your mornings).

Pacifica

Positioned a couple of minutes away from Half Moon Bay alongside the peninsula south of San Francisco, to locals Pacifica is legendary for one factor: probably the most lovely Taco Bell on this planet. It’s lovely, and sure, we’ll go all the way in which down from San Francisco simply to eat there.

However there are many different causes to cease in Pacifica (though sure, we completely suggest visiting the Taco Bell):

  • Pacifica can be well-known for its wonderful browsing at Linda Mar Seashore – though earlier than hopping within the water, you’ll need to verify that it’s not Nice White Shark migration season. (Enjoyable Truth: do you know there are generally Nice White Sharks within the Bay? This complete space is called “White Shark Café” and I’ve to ask, why wasn’t a minimum of one Jaws sequel set on Alcatraz??)
  • Take a tour of the quirky McCloskey Citadel, aka Sam’s Citadel. Constructed on a hill overlooking the ocean by an anxious wealthy man and designed to be an earthquake-proof haven after the devastating 1907 earthquake that destroyed a lot of San Francisco, over time the citadel has been an underground abortion clinic, a speakeasy, an epic occasion palace, and a brothel. Right now, the citadel is crammed with a very odd collection of furnishings and decor. It’s best to completely cease for a tour: it’s a prime instance of Northern California weirdness.
  • Hike the well-known Satan’s Slide, previously a section of Freeway One however was deemed too precarious. Now accessible on foot, the Satan’s Slide Path is a 1.3 mile lengthy path with jaw-dropping cliffside views over the surf.
  • One other wonderful hike in Pacifica is Mori Level, a beautiful 2.5 mile loop.
  • Nerdy plant lovers (hello, me) should cease on the Shelldance Orchid Backyard, situated simply off Freeway One. The crops are wonderful and the views are phenomenal.

Half Moon Bay

Half Moon Bay is a small coastal city simply half-hour south of San Francisco made semi-famous by the award-winning movie Birdemic: Shock and Terror! (really I feel it received an award because the “Worst Movie Ever Made”, so clearly we adore it, please go watch the trailer).

However there’s extra to Half Moon Bay than terrible chicken motion pictures: there are additionally beautiful seashores, annual pumpkin patches, a quaint little downtown, and a number of the finest browsing on the West Coast.

Right here’s what to do on a cease in Half Moon Bay:

  • Spend a day on the seaside and take a protracted stroll on the shore.
  • Take a browsing lesson – and wipeout – on the well-known Maverick’s Seashore, house of the largest surf on the west coast!
  • Go gray whale watching throughout the seasonal whale migration season, from January by March! By the way, that’s additionally probably the most lovely time of the 12 months to take a Freeway One highway journey. Now we have a complete publish about whale watching!
  • Discover tide-pools on the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. Whilst you’re there, you may also stroll by a Cypress tree tunnel!
  • Get a sustainably sourced lobster roll – the perfect in California – at Sam’s Chowder Home.

For extra options, our good friend Jess at A Ardour and A Passport lives close by and has a improbable information to issues to do in Half Moon Bay.

Santa Cruz

Simply south of the Bay Space, Santa Cruz is a laid again, quirky hippie city. From the seaside boardwalk to the luxurious redwoods, Santa Cruz is without doubt one of the finest locations to cease on the Pacific Coast Freeway. And it’s arduous to overlook: you’ll be driving proper by, so whenever you see curler coasters, it’s time to cease.

You may discover a wierd phenomenon whenever you’re in Santa Cruz, and we’re not simply speaking concerning the gravitational anomaly and kitschy fever dream that’s the Thriller Spot, which by the way in which, is a blast to go to.

No, we’re speaking about banana slugs! These neon yellow slimy pals are the mascot of UC Santa Cruz and the patron saint of the world. You’ll see them in every single place, and if you may get previous the truth that they’re large slugs, they’re really sort of cute!

Aside from befriending slugs, listed below are the perfect issues to do in Santa Cruz:

  • Take a mountain bike guided tour by Santa Cruz. The tour begins with espresso and ends with a neighborhood chilly brew and nice meals.
  • Stroll by the quaint Santa Cruz downtown sq.. Remember to cease at Verve Espresso Roasters for an expertly brewed single-origin pour-over or espresso (espresso snob authorised).
  • Go to the campy however traditional Thriller Spot, house to an unexplainable gravitational anomaly which will or is probably not a portal to a different dimension… or aliens!
  • Hold it kitsch and head simply north of Santa Cruz to the Bigfoot Discovery Heart to trace the elusive creature – or a minimum of meet the person who’s so obsessive about Bigfoot that he created this quirky roadside attraction.
  • Go tide-pooling at Pure Bridges State Seashore
  • Hike by the redwoods at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

If you happen to resolve to remain in a single day, we extremely suggest staying at this beautiful cabin within the redwoods subsequent to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. We suggest reserving instantly by VRBO as a result of it has fewer charges and extra versatile cancellation insurance policies than Airbnb – additionally, we’re not followers of Airbnb’s unethical monitor document and lax safety.

Monterey

Greatest recognized for its unimaginable aquarium and John Steinbeck’s novel Cannery Row, Monterey is all about celebrating sea life and the gorgeous California coast. Hire kayaks, experience bikes, and go tide-pooling as you discover this coastal paradise.

Right here’s what we suggest doing on a cease in Monterey:

  • Go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. There’s a motive why it’s well-known! The aquarium is without doubt one of the finest on this planet and is an element interactive museum, half animal conservation facility, and half analysis lab. Don’t miss the otters – they’re freakin’ lovable.
  • After studying concerning the native kelp forest ecosystem, hire kayaks or standup paddleboards from Monterey Bay Kayaks to stand up shut and private with otters, seals, and different Monterey Bay residents.
  • Hire a motorbike and discover the scenic Coastal Path.
  • Discover the tidepools and nature walks in Level Lobos State Pure Reserve.
  • Stroll round Fisherman’s Wharf and benefit from the boardwalk.

Large Sur

Though Large Sur is technically a city, when most people speak about Large Sur they’re referring to the 90-mile stretch of coast between Hearst Citadel and Carmel – a number of the most lovely shoreline in the whole world.

The enchantment of Large Sur lies primarily in its completely jaw-dropping surroundings. Large Sur is gorgeous, rugged, and remoted. Mountains and redwoods and valleys loom on to at least one facet of Freeway One, the ocean on the opposite. There’s not a lot various insanely costly houses and a small cluster of companies. And you’ll’t get there by way of every other means than driving the Pacific Coast Freeway – electrical energy didn’t even attain this space till the 1950’s!

Arguably probably the most well-known cease alongside Freeway One, Large Sur is understood for a lot of issues: it’s the oldest and most historic stretch of the Pacific Coast Freeway, and its repute is connected to creatives and artists. People like Jack London, John Steinbeck, Jack Kerouac, Ansel Adams, and plenty of many others have both lived or frolicked in Large Sur.

  • Sidenote: Like a lot of our favourite locations in Northern California, Large Sur has a complete bunch of bizarre, quirky historical past, my favourite of which entails a cult-like “institute,” clothing-optional scorching springs, and a shootout involving Hunter S. Thompson. If you happen to’re curious, we get into it on our Freeway One podcast episode.

One of the crucial influential artists to make their mark on Large Sur is Henry Miller, whose Memorial Library stays the cultural heart of Large Sur and attracts artists from everywhere in the world to offer impromptu concert events. It’s nicely value a cease!

Listed here are some extra of our favourite issues to do in Large Sur:

  • Dive into the quirky historical past of Large Sur (actually) and head to the Esalen Institute to loosen up within the scorching springs. Clothes, after all, is non-compulsory.
  • To finest get pleasure from Large Sur, we suggest lacing up your mountain climbing boots and exploring on foot. The Partington Cove path leads by a tree-lined canyon and a tunnel to an attractive rocky seaside. The Pfeiffer Falls & Valley View Path is a simple 2-mile hike crammed with waterfalls and sweeping vistas. For an extended hike, or a reasonably straightforward in a single day backpacking journey, the 10-mile out and again Vicente Flats hike showcases all the perfect components of Large Sur: sweeping coastal surroundings, redwoods, and even a campsite with a babbling brook operating by it. For extra particulars, head to our publish about the perfect Northern California hikes.
  • Whether or not you’re up for a hike or simply passing by, remember to cease at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and to see the enduring McWay Falls, considered one of California’s two tide falls – waterfalls that spill instantly into the ocean. There’s no hike wanted to see the falls, that are completely in view proper off the facet of the freeway.
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We suggest spending an evening in Large Sur, both tenting or staying at an enthralling little inn (we suggest Large Sur River Inn). There’s one thing really magical about waking up in Large Sur: the coastal fog, the scent of salt and redwoods, the quiet stillness of the encompassing forest….

And probably most significantly, the croissants at Large Sur Bakery, which generally promote out earlier than midday!

  • Otters in the harbor in Morro Bay, California

Morro Bay

Positioned within the coronary heart of California’s Central Coast on the scenic stretch of Freeway One between Los Angeles and San Francisco (nearly precisely midway, actually), Morro Bay might be simply recognized by its two main landmarks: an previous energy plant whose three massive smokestacks might be seen from anyplace on the town, and Morro Rock, a large volcanic behemoth situated instantly on the seaside.

Morro Bay is fastened on a pure harbor, making it a improbable place to see marine wildlife, in addition to an lovable little coastal city. Morro Bay is house to nice eating places, pleasant locals, and a ton of wildlife. It’s a pure refuge for animals like harbor seals, sea lions, sea otters, snowy plovers, peregrine falcons, and extra.

Additionally, enjoyable truth, it’s the place Jeremy grew up! Morry Bay is his hometown.

The most effective issues to do in Morro Bay are:

  • Take a soothing stroll alongside the charming Embarcadero to see the otters and harbor seals who name the Bay their house. You’ll be able to often discover them hanging out by the docks throughout from the Nice American Fish Firm.
  • Go kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding within the harbor – the higher to satisfy marine critters! You’ll be able to hire gear at Kayak Horizons.
  • Get pleasure from a scrumptious contemporary seafood dinner with a sundown view at Tognazzini’s Dockside, Dorn’s Breakers Cafe, Home windows on the Water, or Dutchman’s Seafood Home

For extra options, take a look at Jeremy’s detailed Morro Bay journey information, filled with native’s insider ideas:

  • Cayucos Coastline on a Central Coast California Highway One Road Trip
  • Girl on Pier in Cayucos on a Central Coast California Highway One Road Trip

Cayucos

Positioned simply north of Morro Bay alongside the coast, Cayucos is smaller and extra undiscovered by guests. The vibe right here is tremendous mellow, a bit bit Wild West, and really chill surfer, however there are many choices right here to make a cease value your whereas!

Listed here are a few of our favourite issues to do in Cayucos:

  • Seize a board at Good Clear Enjoyable and surf – you’ll discover a number of the finest browsing round proper beneath the pier.
  • After you tip your toes within the surf, hop subsequent door to crusty pirate dive Schooner’s and drink with the locals whereas watching the waves roll in.
  • Cease at Brown Butter Cookie Firm for a San Luis Obispo County native staple! Actually the title tells you the whole lot you have to find out about it, besides for a way addictive they’re…however Extremely Addictive Soften In Your Mouth Cookies From Heaven doesn’t movement as nicely.
  • For the perfect avenue tacos alongside the Pacific Coast Freeway – yup, we mentioned it – pop into the Cayucos Gasoline Mini Mart. Sure: it’s a gasoline station. But it surely’s additionally house to a tiny little Mexican eatery whose avenue tacos are legit AF. Additionally, main bonus factors for those who’re there on Taco Tuesday: the tacos are solely 99 cents. Bless.

For extra options, head over to our Cayucos journey information:

Pismo Seashore

Pismo Seashore is the Central Coast’s enjoyable seaside city, a laid-back seaside city in shut proximity to the numerous fantastic locations to go to in San Luis Obispo county.

However Pismo Seashore additionally has a few further methods up its sleeve that make it a must-stop: dune buggying, and actually good cinnamon rolls. Right here’s what to do in Pismo Seashore:

  • Hire a dune buggy for a loopy sand dune journey! Dune buggying is principally like being on a curler coaster, solely there’s no monitor and also you’re the one controlling the wheel. Ahhh! You’ll be able to hire an ATV made to careen gracelessly over the sand dunes at Solar Buggy – and put together to carry on for expensive life.
  • Hop in a kayak and discover Pismo’s unimaginable sea caves on a Sea Cave tour with Central Coast Kayaks! Hold your eyes open for sea lions, otters, and dolphins.
  • Need to give browsing a attempt? Hit up Pismo Seashore Surf Store, the place you possibly can decide up a board and wetsuit.
  • A should do in Pismo is renting a seaside cruiser and cruising down the coast. Wheel Enjoyable Leases is situated proper within the coronary heart of Pismo and rents all forms of bikes and water gear.
  • Chill out on the seaside. Stroll alongside the pier and boardwalk. Watch an unimaginable sundown over the Pacific Ocean. Construct a sandcastle. Chill. Stay the SLO life.
  • Outdated West Cinnamon Rolls. serves up heavenly cinnamon rolls and addictive icing in a classically old-school, unassuming little store. Insider tip: order the cream cheese icing on the facet and also you’ll get a bit greater than normal to eat with a spoon later.

Santa Barbara

When individuals who aren’t from California take into consideration what the state seems like, most of the time they’re imagining Santa Barbara: lengthy stretches of sand, waving palm bushes, Spanish structure, and morning fog lifting to disclose the solar.

It’s an attractive space, and it additionally occurs to be the southernmost city we suggest visiting alongside Freeway One – earlier than the PCH turns right into a busy avenue in the course of sprawling Los Angeles.

Right here are some things to do in Santa Barbara:

  • Santa Barbara County produces wonderful wine, and you may style all of it proper in downtown Santa Barbara alongside the City Wine Path.
  • No journey to Santa Barbara can be full with out a journey to East Seashore, adopted by a stroll to the top of Stearns Wharf. If you happen to’re hungry, seize lunch on the well-known Santa Barbara Shellfish Firm.
  • Go to Lotusland, a 37 acre botanical backyard thought-about to be the most effective gardens on this planet! It’s a bit out of the primary hub, however value a cease for those who get pleasure from a great backyard.
  • Go to the Outdated Mission Santa Barbara. Historic Spanish missions like this one pepper the California coast. When visiting, be mindful what these buildings had been for – changing Native People to Catholicism. They weren’t glad locations, however they inform an necessary piece of the advanced historical past of California.

Factors of Curiosity on the Pacific Coast Freeway

Lots of the finest locations to go to alongside the Pacific Coast Freeway should not situated inside an precise city, which makes it very straightforward to go them proper by. The trick is to know what you’re in search of and hold an eye fixed out – otherwise you’ll drive proper previous!

Listed here are the perfect Freeway One factors of curiosity not situated in one of many cities we beneficial above.

Battery Spencer

Simply over the Golden Gate Bridge on the 1/101, Battery Spencer is as soon as of the perfect viewpoints of the bridge and the San Francisco skyline!

The perspective itself is a fast cease, however you possibly can add onto it with a detour into the lovable city of Sausalito, simply throughout the water from San Francisco.

Muir Woods

Muir Woods is an attractive place to discover California’s well-known old-growth redwoods, a few of that are completely large: the tallest tree within the park is over 250 toes excessive!

Muir Woods is called after well-known naturalist John Muir, generally known as the grandfather of the trendy conservation motion and the Nationwide Park Service. However Muir Woods has been an necessary Bay Space landmark since lengthy earlier than Muir’s motion – it was house to the Indigenous Miwok Tribe for generations.

Muir Woods has hikes for all ability ranges, together with a loop that takes about half an hour which you are able to do proper from the park entrance.

  • Essential Journey Tip: If you happen to plan to go to Muir Woods, you will have to make a reservation upfront.
  • Hearst Castle in San Simeon on a California Highway One Road Trip
    Picture Credit score
  • Hearst Castle California Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip
    Picture Credit score

Hearst Citadel

If you happen to, like us, are obsessive about judging ostentatious wealthy individuals and their frivolous grandeur (suppose Versailles, The Biltmore Estates, and many others), you completely should cease for a tour of Hearst Citadel. It’s completely, supremely over-the-top.

Positioned simply north of Cambria on the beautiful stretch of Freeway One between San Luis Obispo and Large Sur, the sprawling property of Hearst Citadel is without doubt one of the weirdest, gaudiest factors of curiosity alongside the Pacific Coast Freeway.

Constructed by famed newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, who was impressed on an expensive household trip to Europe as a baby to construct his very personal extraordinarily costly citadel, the mansion has 165 rooms, 123 acres of gardens, and a bunch of unique animals – you possibly can nonetheless see zebras roaming alongside the freeway.

The opulent decor is a mish-mash of high-priced stuff from everywhere in the world, combined along with jaw-dropping swimming swimming pools and engaging tales of Classic Hollywood’s elite, who partied right here of their heyday.

Touring the citadel is nicely value a cease – simply remember to ebook upfront!

Elephant Seals yawning on the beach at the San Simeon Elephant Seal rookery.
If you happen to’re driving up Freeway 1, Piedras Elephant Seal Rookery in San Simeon is without doubt one of the finest stops for watching lovable, flomping, uglycute elephant seals lay round on the seaside and make bizarre noises at one another.

San Simeon Seal Rookery

Positioned nearly throughout the road from Hearst Citadel, The Elephant Seal Vista Level is the perfect cease alongside Freeway One to satisfy considered one of California’s most underrated marine stars: elephant seals! You’ll discover these unusual animals on the rookery year-round, however between December to March – our favourite time of 12 months to drive Freeway One – you’ll see largely pups on the seaside, which is as cute because it sounds!

We should always warn you, although: elephant seals are a little bit of an acquired style. They’re the doofiest, oddest trying animals on this planet – sort of like a cross between a manatee and an elephant, besides not cute. They make a horrifying screeching sound like howler monkeys and largely flomp round on the seaside, often preventing with one another and regularly sneezing.

Elephant seal infants are really lovable, however just for like a month … then they hit puberty and begin horrifically shedding their pores and skin like an episode of The Flopping Useless.

And but for some motive, we’re obsessive about them. We love them SO MUCH. Their bizarre noises, their awkward lazy flops… if there’s anybody animal that finest represents us, it’s undoubtedly an Elephant Seal. If you happen to suppose “ugly” canine like Frenchies and Bulldogs are lovable you’ll most likely love them too!

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Bixby Bridge

One of the crucial iconic locations to cease alongside the Pacific Coast Freeway is the Bixby Creek Bridge (or Bixby Canyon Bridge for those who’re Demise Cab for Cutie). Positioned simply south of Monterey en path to Large Sur, the bridge has an attractive lookout and makes a superb picture op to doc your Freeway One journey!

There are parking areas on both facet of the bridge, and also you don’t need to go far to seek out the perfect views.

Essential security be aware: erosion is a factor; don’t be the one who plummets to their demise for an image. Not like the lyrics of that Demise Cab for Cutie music would counsel, you can’t safely descend the sheer canyon cliffs, and doing so solely places you in peril of excessive tide. Keep on the prime the place everybody else is, please.

  • The Point Arena Lighthouse and coastal flowers in Mendocino, California.
  • Exploring Point Arena Lighthouse in Mendocino, California in my AviatorUSA black jeans.

Level Area Lighthouse

Positioned on the northern stretch of Freeway One between San Francisco and Mendocino, this lovely lighthouse is considered one of my favourite scenic stops alongside the Pacific Coast Freeway, the right place for a bit picnic or only a cute picture op. If you happen to’d prefer to spend extra time right here, you possibly can even ebook a room contained in the lighthouse!

The tiny city of Level Area itself can be charming, as are the close by small cities of Elk and Gualala. If you happen to study nothing else from this publish, let it’s that completely each small city alongside Freeway One is charming and value a cease to discover, regardless of how small!

Level Area can be situated close to Schooner Gulch seaside, aka Bowling Ball Seashore, house to uniquely spherical geological formations.

Pigeon Level Lighthouse

Yeah yeah, one other lighthouse. However that is no bizarre lighthouse: there’s a hostel inside, with a cliff-side scorching tub searching over the ocean! Sundown watching? Test. Falling asleep to the lulling sound of waves and barking seals? Test. Price range-friendly? CHECK!

If you happen to do resolve to make a pit cease at one of many coolest hostels within the nation, you’ll need to make a reservation months upfront – it’s understandably fairly well-liked.

Whilst you’re within the space, you may also hike the redwoods in Butano State Park, watch majestic elephant seals elegantly flomp round at Año Nuevo State Reserve, pattern goat cheese at Harley Farm Goat Dairy, and seize a beer at Freeway 1 Brewing Firm.

  • Bonus: If a lighthouse hostel alongside Freeway One is up your alley, take a look at Level Montara Lighthouse Hostel as nicely, situated between Half Moon Bay & Pacifica. There’s no scorching tub on a cliff, however there’s a close by alpaca farm, which we predict is simply nearly as good. By the way in which, we now have a complete publish about distinctive locations to remain close to San Francisco!

Glass Seashore

Glass Seashore is situated in Fort Bragg, simply north of Mendocino all the way in which up nearly to the northern terminus of the Pacific Coast Freeway. The title comes from its distinctive sand, which is stuffed with easy, colourful little pebbles. At sure instances of day, you possibly can catch rainbows reflecting off the glass alongside the shore. This can be a fantastic place to look at the sundown!

Though it seems to be a pure phenomenon, the true origin of the rainbow array of glass pebbles may shock you: this lovely seaside was as soon as a dump! Over time, the pounding waves turned trash to treasure, ensuing within the distinctive sand we now get pleasure from. Isn’t nature wonderful??

Level Reyes Nationwide Seashore

Positioned throughout the water from the charming city of Bodega Bay, Level Reyes Nationwide Seashore is a shocking coastal peninsula simply north of San Francisco that has lengthy attracted backpackers and hikers everywhere in the world due to its wildlife and wonderful views. Inside the expanse of Level Reyes you’ll discover a lighthouse, a resident herd of Tule Elk, and a beautiful Cypress Tree Tunnel.

However this isn’t a fast cease alongside Freeway One: you’ll must take a detour into the Nationwide Seashore and plan to spend a couple of hours exploring its winding roads.

To your efforts, you’ll be rewarded with lovely surroundings and loads of marine life. When you’ve got time, we extremely suggest a hike to Tomales Level – hold an eye fixed out for elk!

For a shorter cease, head to the charming little city of Inverness to see the Level Reyes Shipwreck and luxuriate in contemporary oysters at Saltwater Oyster Depot.

The stretch of Freeway One round Bodega Bay and Level Reyes is called the Level Reyes Oyster Path – so even for those who don’t go into the Nationwide Seashore, you must a minimum of cease for contemporary oysters at Bodega Bay Oyster Firm, The Marshall Retailer or Hog Island Oyster Co. And don’t fear, you don’t must attempt them uncooked if that’s not your factor – they’re additionally scrumptious grilled, barbequed, or smothered in cheese and butter.

Bonus: Avenue of the Giants

Technically, Avenue of the Giants isn’t situated alongside the Pacific Coast Freeway. It’s really situated off the 101, about half an hour after the northern terminus of Freeway One. However for those who’re driving all the way in which up there anyway, it’s WELL well worth the detour. It’s really one of the vital lovely, humbling stretches of highway on this planet (sure, possibly much more so than Freeway One itself).

The 31-mile route winds instantly by a dense forest of old-growth redwoods. These unimaginable bushes are a whole bunch of years previous and mind-blowingly extremely monumental. There’s even a tree so massive you possibly can drive proper by it – kitschy and campy, sure, but in addition a kind of issues you possibly can solely do in Northern California.

Our favourite technique to expertise the Avenue of the Giants is a sluggish, awe-filled drive with the sunroof open, gazing all the way in which up till the bushes appear to bend collectively to type a cover.

We also have a favourite music to hearken to alongside Avenue of the Giants: Holocene by Bon Iver. “and without delay I knew, I’m not magnificent” is the lyric that completely encapsulates the way in which that the redwoods make us really feel.

The Greatest Locations to Eat on the Pacific Coast Freeway

We’re main foodies, and we’ve been recognized to plan a whole itinerary round the place we need to eat! By means of our many journeys alongside the California coast, we’ve collected an inventory of locations to eat on Freeway One – and what to eat there – which might be nicely value a cease whether or not you’re driving proper by or planning to cease in a single day. Bookmark this web page for whenever you get inevitably hungry in your drive!

  • Circa ‘62 in Little River: The most effective brunch close to Mendocino, hands-down.
  • Queenie’s Roadhouse Cafe in Elk: Completely unimaginable burgers – nicely value a cease on this quiet stretch north of San Francisco.
  • Wild Fish in Mendocino: A wonderful eating restaurant with sustainably sourced native elements – and wine.
  • Taqueria Cancun in San Francisco: San Francisco is understood for its Mission burritos, and that is the place to attempt them.
  • Cayucos Gasoline Mini Mart in Cayucos: Glorious, no-frills Mexican meals. Cease right here for gasoline, and likewise the perfect avenue tacos within the Central Coast.
  • The Marshall Retailer in Marshall: One phrase: OYSTERS! Attempt them BBQ’d, smoked, smothered in cheese and garlic butter, or of their purest type: uncooked.
  • Brown Butter Cookie Company in Cayucos on a Central Coast California Highway One Road Trip
  • Brown Butter Cookie Company in Cayucos on a Highway One California Central Coast

What’s the level of consuming for those who don’t get dessert, amiright?! Hear, don’t decide us. We eat a whole lot of dessert and we now have a whole lot of options for the place to cease.

  • Linn’s Bakery in Cambria: Cease right here for a slice of freshly baked olallieberry pie with whipped cream – a Central Coast specialty!
  • Outdated West Cinnamon Rolls in Pismo Seashore: Big, fluffy traditional cinnamon buns topped with the whole lot from raisins to nuts – and cream cheese icing, after all!
  • Brown Butter Cookie Firm in Cayucos: Nutty little bites of shortbread deliciousness. Additionally, they’ve samples, so you don’t have any motive to not cease.
  • Large Sur Bakery in Large Sur: One phrase: CROISSANTS. Really, 2 phrases: ALMOND CROISSANTS. Additionally, get up early – these promote out quick.
  • Goodlife Cafe & Bakery in Mendocino: Attempt the bread pudding – particularly the espresso caramel bread pudding probably the most.

Are we lacking your favourite? Please go away us a remark! We’ll completely use it as an excuse to take one other weekend journey.

Pacific Coast Freeway Map

We threw a ton of locations to cease alongside the Pacific Coast Freeway at you, from cities to factors of curiosity to eating places – how are you going to hold all of it straight? Our handy-dandy map will assist! Simply bookmark this web page to return again to later, or save the map to your telephone.

We’vealso created a free, printable model of our 10-Day Freeway One highway journey itinerary! Plus, we’ll additionally ship you our favourite ideas that can assist you plan your California highway journey! Simply join under.

Are you able to pack your baggage, roll the home windows down, and hit the freeway? Which Pacific Coast Freeway stops are you most excited to go to? Drop us a remark under!

Psst: We’ve obtained a complete bunch extra assets that can assist you plan your California highway journey. Check out the posts under, or click on right here to see all of our California journey guides.

  • Pacific Coast Freeway Highway Journey Itinerary
  • Paso Robles: Journey Information, Vineyard Information, & Brewery Information
  • Central Coast: Locations to Go to on the Central Coast, Morro Bay information, Cayucos information
  • San Diego Weekend Getaway Itinerary
  • Issues to Do in Mendocino

We’ve additionally obtained loads of posts about our house, the Bay Space:

  • 30 Issues No person Tells You About San Francisco
  • The Final Self-Guided Strolling Tour of San Francisco
  • The place to Keep in San Francisco (& The place NOT to)

We even have a Freeway One podcast episode! A humanist cult, a Danish hideaway, a gravitational anomaly, towering bushes, a spoiled wealthy child’s citadel, clothing-optional scorching springs, and the cutest (and weirdest) animals possible: on this episode, we cowl the whole lot you have to plan your journey up the California Coast – and all of the bizarre historical past you by no means knew alongside the way in which.

Hear under or simply click on right here! Oh, and don’t neglect to subscribe so that you don’t miss new episodes.

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