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Road Trips Along The California Coast - A Scenic Adventure


Are you planning your next adventure and considering road trips along the California coast? Well, you are in for a treat. The Pacific Coast Highway offers some of the most beautiful and iconic scenery in the world.

From dramatic cliffs to sandy beaches, charming towns, and stunning national parks, California's coastline has it all. We will guide you through the best road trips along the California coast.

The Classic Road Trips Along The California Coast

The classic California coast road trip is a must-do for anyone visiting the state. Starting from San Francisco, drive south on Highway 1, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), and make your way down to San Diego.

The route is approximately 650 miles long and takes about 10-14 days to complete, depending on how much time you want to spend in each location. Here are some of the highlights of this iconic road trip:

San Francisco

Begin your journey in San Francisco, the city by the bay. Explore the famous Golden Gate Bridge, stroll through Golden Gate Park, and take a cable car ride up and down the city's steep hills.

Monterey And Carmel

The next stop is Monterey, known for its world-famous aquarium and Cannery Row. Just a few miles down the coast is the charming town of Carmel, with its quaint streets, art galleries, and beautiful beaches.

Big Sur

Driving south on Highway 1, you'll reach Big Sur, a rugged and mountainous stretch of coastline that offers some of the most breathtaking views in the world. Be sure to stop at Bixby Bridge, Pfeiffer Beach, and McWay Falls.

Santa Barbara

Further south, you'll reach Santa Barbara, known for its Spanish-style architecture, stunning beaches, and wine country. Don't miss the Santa Barbara Mission, Stearns Wharf, and the Funk Zone.

Los Angeles

The next stop is Los Angeles, the city of angels. Explore Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and the famous Venice Beach. Don't forget to visit the Griffith Observatory and take a hike in Runyon Canyon Park.

San Diego

The final stop on this road trip is San Diego, a laid-back coastal city with a vibrant downtown, a world-famous zoo, and beautiful beaches. Don't miss the USS MidwayMuseum, Balboa Park, and the Gaslamp Quarter.

Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip: 7 Days Driving Along the California Coast

The Redwoods And The Lost Coast

For those looking for a more off-the-beaten-path road trip, consider exploring the Redwoods and the Lost Coast in Northern California.

This road trip takes you through some of the most stunning and remote areas of the state.

Humboldt Redwoods State Park

Start your journey in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, home to some of the tallest and oldest trees in the world. Drive through the Avenue of the Giants, a 31-mile stretch of road that winds through towering redwoods.


Continue driving north to Mendocino, a charming coastal town with stunning ocean views and Victorian-era architecture. Visit the Mendocino Headlands State Park and the Point Cabrillo Light Station.

Fort Bragg And The Glass Beach

Further north is Fort Bragg, home to the famous Glass Beach. The beach is covered in small pieces of colorful sea glass, which were once discarded trash that has now been polished by the ocean into a beautiful mosaic.

The Lost Coast

From Fort Bragg, head north on Highway 1 to the Lost Coast, a remote and rugged stretch of coastline that offers some of the most stunning and untouched scenery in the state. Hike the Lost Coast Trail, camp on the beach, and spot sea lions and whales.


End your journey adventure in the charming town of Trinidad, a coastal gem with beautiful beaches, hiking trails, and a picturesque lighthouse. Be sure to visit Trinidad State Beach, Patrick's Point State Park, and the Trinidad Head Lighthouse.

The Central Coast Wine Country

If you're a wine lover, then the Central Coast Wine Country road trip is perfect for you. This road trip takes you through some of the most famous wine regions in the world, offering picturesque views of vineyards, rolling hills, and charming towns.

Paso Robles

Begin your journey in Paso Robles, a charming town located in the heart of wine country. Visit the wineries in the area, take a hot air balloon ride, and explore the historic downtown.

San Luis Obispo

The next stop is San Luis Obispo, a college town with a laid-back vibe and beautiful architecture. Visit the famous Bubblegum Alley, hike to the top of Bishop Peak, and explore the charming downtown.

Santa Barbara

Further south is Santa Barbara, which we already mentioned in the classic California coast road trip. However, it's worth a second visit to its famous wine region. Be sure to explore the wineries in the area and enjoy the stunning views.


Just a few miles east of Santa Barbara is Solvang, a charming Danish-style town known for its wineries, bakeries, and windmills. Be sure to try the famous Danish pastries and explore the quaint streets.

Monterey And Carmel

The final stop on this road trip is Monterey and Carmel, which we also mentioned in the classic California coast road trip. However, it's worth a second visit to its famous wine region. Be sure to explore the wineries in the area and enjoy the stunning views.

Tips For Planning Road Trips Along The California Coast

Planning a road trip along the California coast can be an exciting and memorable experience, but it also requires careful planning and preparation.

Here are some tips to help you plan the perfect road trip:

Start Planning Early

One of the most important tips for planning a road trip along the California coast is to start planning early. This will give you plenty of time to research and book accommodations, rental cars, and any activities you want to do along the way.

It's especially important to plan ahead during peak travelseasons, such as summer, when accommodations can fill up quickly.

Create A Rough Itinerary

While it's important to remain flexible during your road trip, having a rough itinerary can help you stay on track and make the most of your time.

Consider which cities and attractions you want to visit, and roughly plan out how many days you'll spend in each place. Remember to build in some buffer time for unexpected delays or changes in plans.

Research The Best Times To Visit

California's weather can vary greatly depending on the season and location. Research the best times to visit certain areas and attractions to avoid extreme heat, cold, or crowds.

For example, fall and spring are often the best times to visit because the weather is mild and the crowds are smaller.

Consider Alternative Routes Or Detours

While the classic California coast road trip is a must-see, consider taking alternative routes or detours to avoid heavy traffic or crowds.

Some lesser-known routes can offer equally stunning views and unique experiences, such as the Avenue of the Giants in Humboldt County.

Check The Weather Forecast

California's weather can be unpredictable, so be sure to check the weather forecast before setting out on your road trip.

Pack accordingly for sudden changes in temperature or weather conditions, and be prepared for fog, rain, or wind along the coast.

Stay Safe On The Road

Finally, it's important to stay safe on the road during your California coast road trip. Obey traffic laws, avoid distracted driving, and take breaks to prevent fatigue.

Remember to always wear your seatbelt, and consider using a GPS or navigation app to help you navigate unfamiliar roads.

People Also Ask

What Is The Best Time Of Year To Take A Road Trip Along The California Coast?

The best time of year to take a road trip along the California coast is from September to November or from March to May. During these months, the weather is mild, and the crowds are smaller.

What Should I Pack For A Road Trip Along The California Coast?

Be sure to pack comfortable clothes, sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat for sunny days. Also, pack a jacket or sweater for the cooler evenings, and comfortable shoes for hiking and exploring.

How Long Does It Take To Drive The California Coast?

It takes approximately 10-14 days to drive the classic California coast road trip from San Francisco to San Diego. However, if you're looking to explore other areas, like the Redwoods or the Central Coast Wine Country, you'll need to add extra time to your trip.

What Is The Pacific Coast Highway, And Where Does It Go?

The Pacific Coast Highway, also known as Highway 1, is a scenic highway that runs along the California coast, from the border with Oregon in the north to the border with Mexico in the south. The highway is known for its stunning ocean views, winding roads, and iconic landmarks like the Bixby Bridge in Big Sur.

What Are Some Unique Stops To Make Along The California Coast?

If you're looking for some unique stops along the California coast, consider visiting the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, the Elephant Seal Rookery in San Simeon, the Bubblegum Alley in San Luis Obispo, and the Danish-style town of Solvang.


California's coastline offers some of the most iconic and beautiful scenery in the world, and deciding on road trips along the California coast is a perfect way to experience it all.

Whether you're looking for stunning beaches, charming towns, national parks, or world-famous wine regions, California has it all. So pack your bags, hit the road, and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime.

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About The Authors

Jane Resture

Jane Resture- Since she embarked on her first world trip in 2002, Jane Resture spent the past decades sharing her personal journey and travel tips with people around the world. She has traveled to over 80 countries and territories, where she experienced other cultures, wildlife she had only read about in books, new foods, new people, and new amazing experiences. Jane believes that travel is for everyone and it helps us learn about ourselves and the world around us. Her goal is to help more people from more backgrounds experience the joy of exploration because she trusts that travel opens the door to the greatest, most unforgettable experiences life can offer and this builds a kinder, more inclusive, more open-minded world.

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