This 10-day California coast road trip itinerary covers all of our favorite Californian things: sunny beaches and foggy coastline, swaying palm trees and towering redwoods, playful otters and flomping elephant seals, fresh oysters and vintage wines - there's even a clothing-optional hot spring, if you're up for it. Here's everything you need to know about driving Highway One/the Pacific Coast Highway.

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Barking sea lions. Salty air. Waves crashing on critter-filled tidepools. Rolling hills dusted with vibrant orange poppies and intersected with redwood-filled valleys. Driving Pacific Coast Freeway is essentially the most lovely highway journey in your complete world. Certain, as a born-and-raised Californian I’m positively biased, but in addition – it’s true. 

Our favourite method to spend a weekend is to hop right into a automotive and head down the Pacific Coast Freeway, sea breeze whipping Lia’s hair into my mouth someway, low-cost sun shades glinting within the solar, singing alongside to our Driving in California Playlist, and stopping each couple of minutes to absorb the view. It’s among the finest components of residing right here, and as Lia likes to say, we fell in love on lengthy drives down Freeway One.

At this time, we’ve poured that love into creating the perfect 10-day California Pacific Coast Freeway highway journey itinerary, stuffed with the very best stops alongside Freeway One.

Our itinerary covers all of our favourite Californian issues: sunny seashores and foggy shoreline, swaying palm bushes and towering redwoods, playful otters and flomping elephant seals, contemporary oysters and classic wines – there’s even a clothing-optional scorching spring, for those who’re up for it.

We’re so excited to share all of the issues we love about this superb journey via this unbelievable state. Let’s get began!

We’ve received an entire bunch extra assets that can assist you plan your California highway journey. Check out the posts beneath, or click here to see all of our California journey guides.

Psst: We’ve created a free, printable model of this Freeway One itinerary! Throughout some sections of the Pacific Coast Freeway, you’ll end up GPS-free with no cell service. Be sure you obtain the itinerary to be sure you don’t miss your exit.

We even have a Highway 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 conceivable: on this episode, we cowl every part it’s good to plan your journey up the California Coast – and all of the bizarre historical past you by no means knew alongside the best way.

Pay attention beneath or just click here! Oh, and don’t neglect to subscribe so that you don’t miss new episodes.

Pacific Coast Freeway Highway Journey FAQ’s

We get a whole lot of questions on driving the California Coast, so we’ve finished our greatest to reply essentially the most continuously requested ones beneath! When you’ve got a query about one thing that isn’t talked about right here, drop us a remark.

Must you drive the Pacific Coast Freeway highway journey north to south or south to north?

We advocate driving south to north. In our PCH itinerary, you’ll begin in Los Angeles and finish by taking a brief detour to drive via the Avenue of the Giants.

You’ll find yourself within the far north of California, and we’ve included particulars on getting again to civilization from there.

Why can we advocate doing it this manner? Truthfully, it’s as a result of the Pacific Coast Freeway is at its least lovely and thrilling in Los Angeles. It’s identical to, an everyday highway, with strip malls and fast-food joints. We advocate dashing via this a part of the journey as shortly as attainable.

What’s the greatest time of yr to drive the Pacific Coast Freeway?

The very best time of the yr to drive the Pacific Coast Freeway is in mid-to-late February via April. California’s wet season usually ends in early February, turning its golden hills vibrant inexperienced and masking the coast with colourful wildflowers which final via April and into early Could.

This time of the yr additionally overlaps with elephant seal pupping season – sure, you’ll be seeing elephant seals throughout your journey – in addition to whale migration season, so preserve an eye fixed out for migrating grey whales, humpback whales blowing plumes of water out at sea when you drive!

Plus, that is additionally the time of yr the place you would possibly be capable to catch a “superbloom,” a phenomenon that solely occurs after a very wet winter. It’s additionally the very best time of the yr for gushing waterfalls and operating creeks!

When you do resolve to drive the California Coast through the summer time, the hills can be turning golden once more, however your drive will nonetheless be nice.

However in fall, when every part is roofed in dry brush and intensely flammable, you’ll need to be cautious of wildfire season (and extra-careful for those who’re tenting). Throughout the winter, you possibly can anticipate rain and heavy fog to make your drive tougher – and be cautious of landslides, which regularly block off sections of the Pacific Coast Freeway.

Are you able to do that Pacific Coast Freeway Itinerary from San Francisco or Los Angeles?

Probably the most lovely stretches of Freeway One is between Los Angeles and San Francisco, together with Large Sur and the Central Coast! You may completely focus your journey simply on this space and do a shortened San Francisco to Los Angeles highway journey, however you’ll be lacking out on some lovely shoreline north of San Francisco.

That stated, it takes a LOT much less time to drive between San Francisco and Los Angeles on Freeway One – it’s even doable as a weekend journey for those who return residence on the 5. We do it fairly continuously!

In our Pacific Coast Freeway itinerary, you’ll be starting your journey in Los Angeles, driving via San Francisco, and persevering with all the best way up north to Eureka on the northern border of California.

Ending your highway journey in Los Angeles would go away you with a less-than-ideal picture of Freeway One, whereas ending your highway journey up north in a stretch of a few of the oldest bushes on the earth is a way more satisfying and soul-fulfilling finish to your journey!

The place does the Pacific Coast Freeway begin and finish?

Freeway One runs from southern California, at Dana Level in Orange County, all the best way up the California coast to Mendocino county. Its southern terminus intersects with Freeway 5 and its northern terminus merges into Freeway 101.

On this PCH highway journey itinerary, you’ll be beginning in Los Angeles – a bit north of the southern level of Freeway One – and persevering with alongside the 101 a bit after the 1 ends.

When you really feel the necessity to drive the ENTIRE Pacific Coast Freeway, be at liberty to tack on these additional hours in your first day and begin your journey in San Diego as a substitute of Los Angeles – however be cautious of site visitors via Los Angeles. We personally desire to skip the underside bit via LA as a result of it’s not very scenic.

Foggy Boardwalk in the Central Coast California on a Highway One Road TripFoggy Boardwalk in the Central Coast California on a Highway One Road Trip
One factor to know earlier than you begin your California coast highway journey: a lot of the coast is foggy, not sunny – convey a jacket and anticipate day by day fog earlier than midday. Pictured: Los Osos

Issues to Know Earlier than Driving the California Coast

There are some things you must now about Freeway One which aren’t continuously requested about – we’ve included a number of useful suggestions beneath!

  • California State Route One has a whole lot of nicknames. You would possibly comprehend it because the Pacific Coast Freeway, the PCH, Freeway One, The One, the Cabrillo Freeway, the Shoreline Freeway, the Redwood Freeway, and so forth. One factor it’s by no means referred to as is the 101, as a result of that could be a utterly totally different freeway which simply so occurs to overlap the 1 a number of instances.
  • Driving instances on Google Maps are usually correct. Nevertheless, you’re going to cease WAY greater than you assume, so that you’ll need to add loads of additional time. We’ve finished our greatest to take this itinerary as gradual as attainable to accommodate!
  • Watch your gasoline gauge! There are stretches of hours earlier than coming throughout gasoline, and the remoted ones are understandably costly. When it doubt, fill ‘er up!
  • That is additionally the case with bogs, so watch out with these Large Gulps.
  • We are going to advocate nice locations to eat or snack. Don’t really feel like you must loot a comfort retailer until you get notably munchy on the highway (but in addition, similar).
  • Leave no trace! That is extra than simply “don’t litter.” The vast majority of the shoreline is made up of fragile ecosystems. 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, AND NOT GOING SOMEWHERE DANGEROUS FOR A PICTURE!
  • California is colder than you assume. A number of stretches of the coast get very chilly, with loopy wind and a whole lot of fog. However simply to make issues extra complicated, there are additionally odd patches of scorching climate. See our what to pack part beneath for recommendations on tips on how to put together!
Couple in Red Car with Suitcases California Highway One Road TripCouple in Red Car with Suitcases California Highway One Road Trip
Right here’s what to pack to your Freeway One highway journey – matching pastel suitcases not required.

What to Pack for Your California Coast Highway Journey

Listed here are a number of suggestions that can assist you pack to your Pacific Coast Freeway highway journey!

  • Bathing fits. Sure, that is California; after all you’re going to get into the water in some unspecified time in the future. However one thing to notice is the water is FREEZING! Which may appear unusual to folks unfamiliar with California seashores however put together yourselves. The seashores could also be heat (besides in San Francisco – Ocean Seaside is just like the Arctic), however the water is all the time close to an icy 50 levels.
  • Rain Jacket. The additional north you go, the deeper you get into redwoods and fog. The state total is pretty dry exterior of. winter, however the fog can get actually heavy and moist. That is our favourite packable rain jacket.
  • Mild AND heavy jackets. Californians are specialists at layering; it’s not uncommon to want a brief sleeve, sweater, and down jacket all inside a matter of hours. We love these packable down jackets for cold nights and windy days.
  • Loungewear. On our itinerary, you’re going to be within the automotive for a complete of about 25 hours. You want some comfortable garments! Don’t get too fearful although; it’s just a few hours at a time. I usually go for my heat Merino Shifters and Lia loves her Outdoor Voices Cloudknit Sweatpants.
  • Climbing garments. We’re speaking about a number of jaunts…you don’t want the heavy-duty stuff. Simply be sure you have sturdy pants (like this) and footwear that may deal with hikes or any outside exercise (such as these). 
  • Transportable charger. You’re going to be snapping footage and operating GPS. Even when your automotive has a charger, we advocate grabbing an Anker charger. It supercharges your telephone AND holds a cost for days on finish. We swear by it! Prefer to the purpose the place Lia refuses to make use of her precise telephone charger at residence and grabs the Anker. After which I’ve to recharge the transportable all of the friggin time after which it’s like “God Lia why don’t you simply use your charger” and she or he’s like “No I like this one higher” and I’m like “that doesn’t make sense, how can a conveyable be higher than the producer’s charger” and she or he’s like “I don’t know Jeremy, what am I Steve Jobs” and I’m like “What does that even imply, you don’t have an iPhone!” Marriage is enjoyable.
  • Digicam. In case your telephone has an ample digicam, nice! If not, you’re going to need to convey a digicam to seize a few of the views and sights you’ll see. Ensure you’ve received an honest zoom vary as a result of there are going to be huge vistas and arduous to see wildlife! We advocate a GoPro to seize these sweeping views. You may even mount it in your dashboard and take a timelapse of your drive!
Kirk Creek Campground in Big Sur CaliforniaKirk Creek Campground in Big Sur California
Kirk Creek Campground in Large Sur, one in all our favourite locations to camp alongside Freeway One. Don’t fear: you don’t must camp to do that itinerary.

The Pacific Coast Freeway Highway Journey Itinerary

Earlier than we dive into the small print of our Pacific Coast Freeway 10-day itinerary, we’ve a number of extra issues to notice.

First, whereas that is designed to cowl ten days from the flight into Los Angeles all the best way to the flight out, there are alternatives to tack on days when you have additional time – and we’ve a number of strategies on the place to spend that additional time.

Second, most days you’ll solely be driving for a number of hours, however a number of days of the itinerary are driving heavy. When you’re something like me, you’ll stress to get to the subsequent vacation spot. Keep in mind to sit back and take within the good vibes. I say this whereas waving a shaka.

Lastly, there are a number of methods to finish the journey. You’ll both take a shortcut again to LAX, otherwise you’ll return your rental car at a distinct airport (and incur a one-way price). It’s your name! Extra particulars are on the finish of the itinerary.

So with that, let’s bounce in!

Palm tree lined street in Redondo Beach in Los Angeles, CaliforniaPalm tree lined street in Redondo Beach in Los Angeles, California
Welcome to Los Angeles! At this time you’ll discover the realm close to Redondo Seaside, among the finest components of LA (and in addition the place Lia’s dad grew up).

Day 1: Los Angeles

  • At this time, you’ll be exploring Los Angeles, staying on the seashore in South Bay, and absorbing the solar.
  • Drive time: None (besides inside LA)

At this time is your probability to take pleasure in Los Angeles! LA is completely monumental – it’s like a mega-city composed of lots of of smaller cities. It takes hours to drive from one aspect of the town to a different, and your complete time you’ll be sitting in site visitors and hating your life.

For that cause, we advocate selecting one part of the town to discover and staying inside that space. 

Chances are high you’re in all probability flying into LAX, however for those who landed additional east in Burbank or one other smaller airport, you’ve received a bit of bit extra driving to do right this moment to get your self to the coast.

Our favourite a part of Los Angeles is in South Bay, which encompasses the scenic coastal townships of Manhattan Seaside, Hermosa Seaside, and Redondo Seaside and is linked by a strolling/bike path operating alongside the seashore referred to as The Strand. It’s completely beautiful, very LA, and the proper place to base your self throughout your temporary time in Los Angeles. 

  • Freeway One Journey Journey: When you’ve got additional days in your schedule, Los Angeles could be a great spot so as to add on to. With additional time, you possibly can head nearer to downtown and take a look at a few of the metropolis’s greatest museums, like The Getty or the LACMA

That can assist you discover The Strand, we’ve created the proper Beer and Bike Tour, which mixes a visit to a number of of the breweries lining the seashore with sight-seeing by bike! You too can swim or surf on the seashore, or simply loosen up on the sand.

Prime off a day within the solar with a celebratory dinner at our favourite sea-to-table restaurant within the space, Hook and Plow in charming Hermosa Seaside.

For lodging, this lovable turn of the century VRBO is positioned proper by the Redondo Seaside pier, strolling distance from Hermosa Seaside and every part on the town! We advocate reserving instantly via 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 observe document and lax security.

Day 1 Abstract

Santa Barbara, California waterfront at sunsetSanta Barbara, California waterfront at sunset
Santa Barbara is likely one of the most “Californian” cities in southern California.

Day 2: Santa Barbara and Solvang

  • At this time, you’ll be driving from Los Angeles as much as Solvang, with a cease in sunny Santa Barbara. 
  • Drive Time: About 3.5 Hours

The vast majority of this California highway journey will happen on Freeway 1, AKA the Pacific Coast Freeway, AKA the PCH, AKA Cabrillo Freeway, AKA Shoreline Freeway, AKA The Prettiest Freeway within the World. However all of these are simply methods to say “The 1.” 

Sure, I’m from California so I say “The” earlier than each freeway. 

However one thing you may not notice about The 1 is that inside Los Angeles, it’s actually only a busy metropolis road. It’s nowhere close to as thrilling as it will likely be quickly, and it’s not a very fascinating or fairly road.

So, for that cause, step one of the day right this moment is to make your method to Santa Monica – and we DON’T advocate taking the Pacific Coast Freeway to get there.

When you’re in Santa Monica, search for the Santa Monica Pier – it’s the very best GPS marker, as The 1 crosses in entrance of it. NOW you possibly can formally start your Pacific Coast Freeway highway journey! (Until you make a pit cease.)

Now that you’re formally on Freeway One, head north. The 1 will drift slowly across the shoreline resulting in Malibu, the place the Hollywood elite have their seashore houses.

You’ll gawk on the mansions mocking you from the rolling hills after which go via Topanga State Park, Santa Monica Mountains Recreational Area, and Point Mugu State Park. All of those are chock stuffed with locations to hike and discover – be at liberty to take benefit. In any other case, preserve driving till you hit Oxnard.

It’s right here in Oxnard the place you’ll expertise one of many freeway’s extra annoying patterns. Sometimes, The 1 will get absorbed by The 101. It’s extremely complicated as a result of the freeway names sound precisely the identical to everybody who isn’t from California.

Actually, on her very first Freeway One highway journey, Lia by accident took the 101 your complete means from San Francisco to Los Angeles and couldn’t work out why everybody made such an enormous deal out of The One till she realized her mistake – years later. Whoops.

From Oxnard, keep on the freeway – which is each Freeway 1, and Freeway 101 – and also you’ll go via Ventura. Relying on timing, you would possibly need to cease and take a look at Surfer Point and the Ventura Pier.

Your subsequent vacation spot – and first official highway journey pit cease – isn’t too far up the freeway: Santa Barbara. 

PCH Pit Cease: Santa Barbara

When individuals who aren’t from California take into consideration what the state appears like, as a rule they’re imagining Santa Barbara. Once I consider this stretch of Southern California, I think about lengthy stretches of coastal views, tall palm bushes, Spanish structure, and morning fog lifting to disclose the solar. It’s an attractive space!

We advocate taking a break right here in Santa Barbara to stretch your legs and eat lunch (seafood, after all). 

No journey to Santa Barbara could be full with no journey to East Beach, adopted by a stroll to the top of Stearns Wharf. The wharf has loads of lunch choices, however our selection is the well-known Santa Barbara Shellfish Company.

When you’ve received additional time, listed here are a pair extra strategies for issues to do in Santa Barbara:

  • Ganna Walska, the famed late opera singer, had a little bit of a inexperienced thumb and created the sprawling Lotusland – a 37 acre botanical backyard thought of to be among the finest gardens on the earth! It’s a bit out of the primary hub, however value a cease.
  • Go to the Old Mission Santa Barbara. Historic Spanish missions like this one pepper the California coast. When visiting, take into account what these buildings had been for – changing Native Individuals to Catholicism. They weren’t comfortable locations, however they inform an essential piece of the complicated historical past of California.

After lunch and a few sunshine and leg-stretching, hop again on The 1 (which continues to be additionally the 101 at this level)

After about an hour, you’ll hit Buellton. It will later be the setting for dinner, however for now take a detour on the 246 East to the city the place you’ll be sleeping tonight. After about 3 miles, you is likely to be confused and assume you drove into Denmark…and also you type of did!

PCH Pit Cease: Solvang

Permit us to elucidate why there’s a random slice of Denmark in the midst of Southern California. Within the late Nineteenth-Century, a lot of Danes moved to the USA – particularly the Midwest – for brand spanking new financial prospects. They introduced with them the Danish strategy to schooling, which concerned Lutheran colleges with an emphasis on creativity and poetry. 

Certainly one of these Danes, Benedict Nordentoft, dreamt of a Danish faculty on the rising American West Coast. As soon as the chance introduced himself, he purchased land within the Santa Ynez Valley. Different Danes moved out west, uninterested in the frigid Midwest winters. 

And thus, Solvang was shaped: a captivating Danish Village in the midst of California.

You’d be hard-pressed to discover a city that’s begging to be photographed as a lot as Solvang; it’s adorably European, full with gingerbread structure, Danish windmills, and a whole park devoted to Hans Christian Anderson.

Our vote for the place to remain in Solvang is The Wine Valley Inn. The rooms are reasonably priced and the place is cute AF. When you desire a trip rental to an inn, this cozy home nestled within the Santa Ynez mountains is a brief drive from city and has beautiful views!

After checking in and exploring the city, take the brief drive again to Buellton and get dinner on the well-known Pea Soup Anderson’s. When you need assistance deciding what to order, simply take a look at the identify of the restaurant. Belief me; I hate peas however I really like their soup!

  • Freeway One Journey Tip: For extra concepts on making essentially the most out of your cease in Buellton, our buddies at Fortunately Ever Adventures have a implausible Buellton weekend getaway guide!

Day 2 Abstract

Morro Bay, California is a tiny coastal town along California's Central Coast and one of the best places to stop on a California road trip down Highway One/the Pacific Coast Highway! Here are all the best things to do in Morro Bay.Morro Bay, California is a tiny coastal town along California's Central Coast and one of the best places to stop on a California road trip down Highway One/the Pacific Coast Highway! Here are all the best things to do in Morro Bay.
Morro Bay, California is a tiny coastal city alongside California’s Central Coast and among the finest locations to cease on a California highway journey down Freeway One. Oh, and it’s the place Jeremy grew up!

Day 3: Pismo Seaside & Morro Bay

  • At this time, you’ll be driving from Solvang to Morro Bay, with a cease in Pismo Seaside.
  • Drive Time: 2.5 hours

Begin your day with essentially the most Danish factor attainable: jam-filled aebleskiver from Solvang Restaurant.

When you’ve had your fill of scrumptious fluffy balls, take the 246 again to Freeway One and head north all the best way to Pismo Seaside.

  • Freeway One Pit Cease: When you get up early and have a passing curiosity in massive, odd-looking birds, Ostrichland USA is positioned between Solvang and Buellton.

PCH Pit Cease: Pismo Seaside

Pismo Seaside, and the encompassing seashores, are a implausible place to spend the day – there’s a lot to do! When you’re up for browsing, that is the very best place to attempt it – or, hire bikes or boogie boards.

Pismo additionally has big sand dunes, so for those who’re up for an journey, go dune buggying! Dune buggying is principally like being on a curler coaster, solely there’s no observe and also you’re the one controlling the wheel. Ahhh! You may hire an ATV made to careen gracelessly over the sand dunes at Sun Buggy.

  • Freeway One Highway Journey Tip: We’ve received extra strategies for issues to do in Pismo Seaside (and close by) in our Central Coast getaway guide.

After working up an urge for food, it’s time for lunch at Brad’s or Splash Cafe. These competing eating places are some extent of competition with guests: some swear by one and hate the opposite. The actual fact is, they’re each stable choices and for me the one deciding issue is the wait time (However don’t inform my household that…they’re Brad’s stans).

The very best choices at both spot are the clam chowder (in a bread bowl after all), tri-tip sandwich, and fish and chips.

After lunch, you’ll want dessert! Head to Old West Cinnamon Rolls for some, effectively…cinnamon rolls. Locals-only tip: for those who get the icing on the aspect, they provide you a bit of greater than ordinary.

After you’ve stocked up on cinnamon rolls, get again on The 1 and head north. Quickly you’ll attain San Luis Obispo!

San Luis Obispo – domestically often called SLO – is likely one of the main Central Coast cities; it is usually residence to Cal Poly, and residential to a whole lot of school college students.

  • Freeway One Highway Journey Tip: SLO isn’t one in all our beneficial stops, however when you have the additional time, I do counsel testing the Madonna Inn to see the inside design. It’s like if Dolly Parton designed a Barbie Dream Home. That’s what we’re working with, and sure, it’s as superb because it sounds. The well-known resort is true off the freeway, and also you don’t must be a visitor to go to (or order a slice of scrumptious cake from the bakery).

North of San Luis Obispo, the driving instructions get a bit of dicey. The 1 type of disappears then reappears as a essential road.

Mainly, you’ll get off on the Santa Rosa exit and go north on Santa Rosa. Santa Rosa quickly turns into a freeway and life is smart once more. Alternatively, you possibly can simply punch your subsequent Pacific Coast Freeway cease, Morro Bay, into your GPS.

Lia and Jeremy in Morro Bay, California along California's Central Coast.Lia and Jeremy in Morro Bay, California along California's Central Coast.
Welcome to Morro Bay, aka my hometown!

PCH Pit Cease: Morro Bay

Welcome to my lovable little hometown: Morro Bay! I grew up right here! Regardless that I’ve since moved up north to San Francisco, we come down to go to continuously as a result of Morro Bay is likely one of the greatest locations to cease on the Pacific Coast Freeway.

The centerpiece of Morro Bay is unquestionably Morro Rock, a large volcanic plug sitting on the fringe of the coast alongside the bay. The rock has acted as a pure beacon for seafarers as early because the 1500s, and was thought of sacred floor to the Chumash and Salinan native tribes. To me, the rock was the place we took our lunch breaks in school or surfed on weekends. #JustCaliforniaThings

Morro Bay is a vacationer vacation spot, and the city continuously has simply as many guests because it does locals. Which implies for those who ask a neighborhood one thing extremely apparent like “the place is the rock?” – the enormous rock you possibly can see from completely in every single place on the town – you would possibly simply get a sassy reply like “Oh, it’s seasonal! You simply missed it.”

Surfers catching waves with Morro Rock in the background. Surfers catching waves with Morro Rock in the background.
Surfers catching waves with Morro Rock within the background. Simply faux that is me (it isn’t).

Whenever you arrive on the town, head to the Embarcadero to walk and go to the retailers and eating places alongside the waterfront, in addition to meet our pleasant sea neighbors.

Morro Bay is a marine wildlife sanctuary, and there are all the time tons of sea lions and harbor seals who make the docks their nap spots. They’ll greet you with a wave and a BWAAAAAAH.

  • Freeway One Journey Tip: When you see vacationers throwing meals to the animals, please don’t take part! It is likely to be cute, nevertheless it’s dangerous to our animal buddies.

One cease you completely should make as you stroll alongside the Embarcadero is the dock exterior of Great American Fish Company. When you look to the left of the dock, you’re more likely to see a pack of otters being the cutest animals in existence. Throughout the spring, you would possibly even see as much as 30 of them – together with their infants!

There are many scrumptious locations to eat a sundown dinner in Morro Bay overlooking the water. My private favourite is Tognazzini’s Dockside; do your self a favor and order the barbecued oysters! Dorn’s Breakers Cafe is my second selection, however reservations are inspired since they’ve the very best view on the town.

Windows on the Water can also be phenomenal, however it’s on the pricier aspect. When you’re on the lookout for a less expensive possibility, Dutchman’s Seafood House is a neighborhood favourite. Regardless of the place you select, clam chowder, fish and chips, and oysters are just about obligatory!

The place to Keep in Morro Bay: There isn’t a scarcity of resorts within the space. Our choose for a price range Morro Bay resort is The Sandpiper Inn, whereas the Marina Street Inn is a brilliant cute mid-range possibility.

  • Freeway One Journey Tip: For extra implausible issues to do in Morro Bay, try our detailed Morro Bay travel guide.

Day 3 Abstract

Watching the fog roll in over the hills on a California Highway One stopWatching the fog roll in over the hills on a California Highway One stop
Your drive right this moment passes by Green Valley Viewing Point. Pull over to observe the fog roll in over this unbelievable view.

Day 4: Morro Bay & Paso Robles

  • At this time you’ll be exploring extra of Morro Bay, after which taking a bit of detour into wine nation!
  • Itinerary Possibility: When you desire, you possibly can flip this right into a day journey as a substitute of an in a single day and proceed staying in Morro Bay. Or, skip it and spend at the present time elsewhere if wine nation isn’t your factor!
  • Drive Time: 1 hour

Begin your morning with a hearty breakfast at Frank and Lola’s Front Street Cafe. Anticipate a little bit of a wait, as this place could be very small and in style. If it’s good to go the time, the otters are positioned proper throughout the road.

The remainder of the morning is a Select-Your-Personal-Journey! We’ve got a whole post devoted to the plethora of actions in Morro Bay, however listed here are some concepts:

  • Hike Black Hill, a reasonable 2.5 mile out and again path proper exterior city. For more information, try AllTrails
  • Hire a kayak at A Kayak Shack and stand up shut and private with our sea life
  • Go online at Morro Rock or Cayucos Pier (check out our guide to Cayucos).
  • Drive to the neighboring city of Los Osos for a wide ranging view. Set your GPS for Alamo Drive to see the view that the locals name “The Prime of the World”
  • Hike Montaña de Oro State Park, additionally in Los Osos. There are a whole lot of path choices for various folks, however most individuals go for the tremendous straightforward Bluff Path (4.6 miles of flat terrain).

After working up an urge for food, it’s time for lunch! Our votes are the well-known roast beef french dip from Hofbrau, fish and chips from Dutchman’s Seafood House, or clam chowder in a bread bowl and contemporary crab legs from Giovanni’s. Not hungry but? Don’t fear. The subsequent city has loads of choices as effectively.

Sadly, it’s time to say goodbye to Morro Bay. Get again on The 1 and head up the coast.

Paso Robles scenic road in California's Central CoastPaso Robles scenic road in California's Central Coast
Let’s take a short detour from Freeway One and head inland, since you simply can’t have a California highway journey with out stopping wine nation.

After 16 miles or so, You will notice an indication for Paso Robles/CA-46. Flip proper to move inland, into wine nation and Paso Robles.

The 46 is an attractive stretch of freeway that cuts via chaparral and grass-covered rolling hills all the best way to Bakersfield. However don’t fear; you’ll NOT be venturing that far.

About 6.5 miles down the highway, you’ll attain the apex of the hill; look to the fitting and also you’ll see Green Valley Viewing Point, an remark level that provides a wide ranging view of the encompassing hills.

PCH Pit Cease: Paso Robles

Proceed on the 46 as you go via wineries and rolling hills. Paso Robles is likely one of the greatest wine nations in California, and it’s each beautiful and surprisingly budget-friendly!

As you drive previous the wineries, you’ll meet The 101. Take it north a bit and also you’ll enter the city of Paso Robles. When you haven’t eaten but, we advocate Thomas Hill Organics, The Hatch, Fish Gaucho, or Orale Taqueria. All of them are proper off the city sq. and completely scrumptious.

No matter the place you select to eat, you MUST cease at Brown Butter Cookie Company and pattern…effectively, every part. Lia likes the unique recipe, and I like almond…and espresso…and chocolate…and the unique. 

Lastly, it’s now formally time to style ALL OF THE WINES! There isn’t a scarcity of tasting rooms inside strolling distance proper in downtown Paso, so you possibly can actually take your choose.

Our favourite is LXV (get the spice pairings!). Significantly y’all, we love LXV a lot that we really signed up for his or her wine membership. Different good choices close by are Diablo, Indiginé, and Cypher. However just about any tasting room in that space is more likely to be a success.

When you’ve got a driver, the world opens up. Paso has actually lots of of locations to style wine! We’ve got a full write-up of the best wineries in Paso Robles. A number of of our prime picks are Niner Wine Estates (search for the enormous coronary heart), Shale Oak, Zenaida Cellars, and Barton Family Wines.

  • Freeway One Highway Journey Tip: As a result of we’re accountable adults, we’ve to say it: pattern wine responsibly! Don’t drink and drive, particularly since you might be on a freeway the place folks are inclined to drive recklessly. We’ve got a number of strategies for getting round from vineyard to vineyard in our Paso Robles wineries guide.

There’s far more to do in Paso Robles than drink wine (though that’s our favourite factor… effectively, apart from the pure scorching springs). We’ve received all the small print in our information to the best things to do in Paso Robles.

After a day of wine tasting and exploring charming downtown Paso Robles, head to dinner – once more, our suggestions are Thomas Hill Organics, The Hatch, Fish Gaucho, or Orale Taqueria.

You’ll be sleeping in Paso tonight. Our vote? The Paso Robles Inn! It’s positioned within the heart of downtown Paso Robles, simply off the central plaza and across the nook from our favourite espresso store on the town, Spearhead Coffee. It’s the proper location to stroll to the very best eating places & tasting rooms in Paso Robles!

Plus, the rooms are vineyard themed – and are available full with a hot-springs fed jacuzzi tub on the balcony, which is as romantic because it sounds.

Are you able to consider a greater method to finish your day than soaking in your individual non-public mineral scorching spring? We are able to’t both.

Day 4 Abstract

Day 5: Paso Robles, San Simeon, & Large Sur

  • At this time you’ll be driving from Paso Robles to Large Sur, with a cease at a well-known mansion and a go to to see California’s most well-known marine residents.
  • Drive Time: 2.5 Hours

At this time is likely one of the most packed days of the journey, so get up early for a cup of scrumptious brew from Spearhead Coffee and breakfast at whichever restaurant you didn’t already go to for lunch or dinner.

After you’re fueled up, take The 46 West (which is the best way you got here in yesterday) all the best way till it meets The 1; flip proper onto The 1 North. 

Quickly you’ll hit Cambria, a sleepy city perpetually lined in fog and coastal pines. When you’re a sucker for dessert, like we’re, cease right here to choose up a slice of well-known Ollalieberry Pie from Linn’s (we gained’t choose you for those who don’t reserve it for later).

  • Freeway One Highway Journey Tip: For extra issues to do in Cambria, our good friend Kristen from Travels and Treats has a implausible information to things to do in Cambria.

Proceed alongside Freeway One via Cambria till you begin seeing indicators for San Simeon. That’s whenever you – er, whoever’s not driving – ought to begin to look to the hills to the fitting to catch a glimpse of gaudy, palm-tree-covered Hearst Castle off within the distance, perched atop the hills. 

PCH Pit Cease: Hearst Fortress

A quick historical past of Hearst Castle: famed newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst owned stole most of this land to construct an over-the-top property. His inspiration for constructing his ridiculous Fortress was a household journey to Europe, the place he spent months pointing at castles and saying “Daddy, I would like that one.” His purpose was to have unique animals roam the property, and his zebras are nonetheless noticed (err…striped) on the hills.

By the point Hearst moved away from the citadel in 1947 as a result of frail well being,  his mansion had 165 rooms and 123 acres of gardens….and it nonetheless wasn’t finished. Hearst was a unusual man, to say the least.

The famous  movie Citizen Kane is loosely based on his life, however he tried to dam manufacturing of the movie and disliked it so deeply that he banned it from being performed on the citadel throughout his life and seven DECADES after he died. So yeah, he held a grudge. 

When you, like us, are obsessive about judging ostentatious wealthy folks and their frivolous grandeur (assume Versailles, The Biltmore Estates, and so on), Hearst Fortress is ideal. It’s completely, supremely over-the-top. All the things in Hearst Fortress exists only for present, and it’s a mish-mash of really complicated design choices pushed totally by the will to seem as fabulously rich as attainable.

Whereas we’re clearly on our judgmental excessive horse in regards to the over-the-top wealth of Hearst Fortress, the citadel itself isn’t. All the things from the welcome video to the tour guides to the Alex Trebeck narrated bus experience video (yep) paint Hearst as a rugged pioneer or some type of hero, when in actuality he was extra just like the grown-up model of one of many youngsters from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Manufacturing unit.

Anyway. We’ll allow you to resolve for your self if Hearst was a hero, a visionary, or simply one other rich white dude. However both means, we extremely advocate visiting – and reserving a tour prematurely.

  • Freeway One Journey Tip: In our opinion, Hearst Fortress is a must-see California icon! That stated, for those who aren’t within the opulence of Hearst Fortress, you possibly can take issues a bit of extra leisurely right this moment.

After you are feeling good and poor the tour, exit the Hearst parking zone and switch proper again onto The 1 North. 

San Simeon Elephant Seal Rookery San Simeon Elephant Seal Rookery
We love these derpy little flompmuffins SO MUCH!

PCH Pit Cease: The Elephant Seal Rookery

About ten minutes up the highway, you will note indicators for The Elephant Seal Vista Point. Flip left into the filth parking zone and put together to satisfy my patronus.

The cliff right here overlooks an elephant seal rookery. These majestic beasts will be seen all year long at this sanctuary. Between December to March – our favourite time of yr to drive Freeway One – you’ll see principally pups on the seashore, which is as cute because it sounds!

  • Word from Lia: Elephant seals are NOT majestic. They’re the doofiest, oddest trying animals on the earth. They sound like howler monkeys and they’re the roundest, blubberiest belongings you’ll ever see. Pups are really lovable, however just for like a month after which they hit puberty and begin horrifically shedding their pores and skin like an episode of The Flopping Lifeless. And but for some cause, we’re obsessive about them. When you assume “ugly” canine like Frenchies and Bulldogs are lovable (like Jeremy does) you’ll in all probability love them too!

After you’ve fallen in love with our unironic favourite marine animal, head again up the freeway to take pleasure in essentially the most scenic a part of the route. 

Mcway Falls in Foggy Big Sur California Highway One Road TripMcway Falls in Foggy Big Sur California Highway One Road Trip
Should-stop view: these are the long-lasting McWay Falls, one in all California’s two tidefalls – waterfalls that spill instantly into the ocean.

PCH Pit Cease: Large Sur

All through your drive right this moment you’ll be doing a whole lot of “WOW! Pull over, I need to take an image!” 

Ostensibly, you solely have a 90-minute drive forward of you. In actuality, it can take for much longer as a result of you’ll be stopping for footage each couple of minutes. The beautiful surroundings right here alongside the Large Sur shoreline is completely jaw-dropping, and arguably the very best shoreline alongside your complete Pacific Coast Freeway.

Truthfully, any quantity of phrases would by no means do that stretch of California’s shoreline justice. Simply roll the home windows down, placed on some good music – like our favourite Driving in California Playlist – and let the prettiest freeway on the earth (actually, it’s ranked) communicate for itself. 

Be sure you cease at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and to see the long-lasting McWay Falls, one in all California’s two tidefalls – waterfalls that spill instantly into the ocean. There’s no hike wanted to see the falls, that are completely in view proper off the aspect of the freeway (though you possibly can’t get any nearer to them than that) however when you have time you possibly can hike into the redwoods for much more beautiful coastal views on the Partington Cove trail, which leads via a tree-lined canyon and a tunnel to an attractive rocky seashore. 

It’s best to arrive in Large Sur fairly near time for supper. Restaurant choices are scarce right here, however we advocate native barbecue spot Big Sur Smokehouse.

The place to Keep in Large Sur: It isn’t straightforward to discover a budget-friendly place to remain right here, so anticipate to pay a bit of extra for this night time – until you intend to convey tenting gear, that’s!

We advocate a cabin on the Big Sur River Inn. Guide early although; Large Sur is a bucket record vacation spot.

Day 5 Abstract

Whale Breeching in Monterey on a California Highway One Road TripWhale Breeching in Monterey on a California Highway One Road Trip
When you drive Freeway One through the spring, there’s a superb probability you’ll see whales migrating within the Pacific ocean in locations like Monterey!

Day 6: Monterey & Santa Cruz

  • At this time you’ll be driving from Large Sur to Santa Cruz, with a cease in Monterey for extra lovable sea life. 
  • Drive Time: 1.5 Hours

There’s one thing really magical about waking up in Large Sur. Possibly it’s the coastal fog, or the odor of salt and redwoods. It may very well be the quiet stillness of the encompassing forest. 

Wait, really it’s the truth that you get to go to Big Sur Bakery! This excellent bakery and restaurant fills up shortly and sells their baked items out earlier than midday, so if redwoods and salty air wasn’t sufficient to get you away from bed early, their almond croissants ought to. 

After breakfast, take a brief hike on The Pfeiffer Falls & Valley View Trail, a straightforward 2-mile hike full of waterfalls and sweeping vistas.

After your hike, it’s time to get again on the highway. 

Bixby Bridge on California Highway One Road TripBixby Bridge on California Highway One Road Trip
Certainly one of my favourite stops alongside Freeway One is on the Bixby Bridge for this beautiful view.

PCH Pit Cease: Bixby Creek Bridge

Head north on The 1 for about 11 miles and you’ll discover a ton of individuals pulled over on the north aspect of a bridge. It’s best to be part of them and look south to seek out out why. That is the Bixby Creek Bridge (or Bixby Canyon Bridge for those who’re Demise Cab for Cutie), one of many space’s most iconic picture spots. 

Right here’s the deal although. Erosion is a factor; don’t be the one that plummets to their demise for an image. Rising up, I had heard one group went down the canyon for a celebration, received caught, and needed to be rescued when the tide received too excessive. Keep close to the highest the place everybody else is, please.

Proceed north! After about 20 miles you would possibly hit some site visitors. It’s completely regular: you’re about to hit Carmel-by-the-Sea.

If that identify sounds fancy, it’s as a result of it’s. These houses aren’t any joke and I envy all of them. What do you anticipate, if Pebble Beach (sure, THAT Pebble Seaside) is your yard?

Monterey Bay Aquarium on a California Highway One Road TripMonterey Bay Aquarium on a California Highway One Road Trip
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is hands-down the very best factor to do in Monterey, and among the finest aquariums on the earth. Photo Credit

PCH Pit Cease: Monterey

Simply previous Carmel is Monterey, your subsequent cease. Monterey was made well-known by the native darling, literary large, and one in all my favourite authors, John Steinbeck, in his novel Cannery Row. Which is extremely related, as a result of that’s the place you’re going. 

Arguably the centerpiece of Monterey is the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Y’all, I’ve to be sincere. Aquariums have been RUINED for me due to this place. This world-class aquarium isn’t solely on the forefront of scientific research & conservation efforts, it’s additionally a wildlife refuge! 

Our favourite factor to see – apart from the enormous walk-through aquarium hallway, which is epic – is an otter feeding! The resident otters are all rescues and can be launched when they’re wholesome sufficient to return to the wild.

That is additionally why you may have a very excessive probability of seeing otters whereas out kayaking or diving within the bay close to the Aquarium: the kelp forests are stuffed with wholesome, comfortable otters who continuously come to go to their outdated residence!

After you’ve dragged your companions away from watching the otters eternally, choose up lunch at Mundos, a beloved sandwich spot with killer Argentine steak sandwiches, and get again on the highway.

After about half-hour, you’ll begin to see fruit stands pop up alongside the freeway. The reply to the query in your thoughts is, “Sure you ought to cease for a snack.” 

Proceed on for one more 20 minutes and you’ll attain the very quirky and distinctive metropolis of Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz Boardwalk, CaliforniaSanta Cruz Boardwalk, California
Welcome to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk! If it appears like Disneyland, that’s as a result of Disneyland’s Pixar Pier is designed to appear to be it! (To be clear: Santa Cruz did it first.)

PCH Pit Cease: Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is bizarre, y’all – and happy with it. When you’ve ever heard one thing that sounds actually granola and also you’ve rolled your eyes and thought “Pssh, California,” you’re in all probability considering of Santa Cruz with out realizing it.

Truthfully, although, it’s lovable. The city stretches from the redwoods to the seashore and has a stunning mixture of each – together with a cute little steam train to take you in between!

You’ll additionally discover an odd phenomenon whenever you’re in Santa Cruz, and we’re not simply speaking in regards to the gravitational anomaly and kitschy fever dream that’s the Mystery Spot, which by the best way, is a blast to go to.

No, we’re speaking about banana slugs! These neon yellow slimy buddies are the mascot of UC Santa Cruz and the patron saint of the realm. You’ll see them all over, and if you may get previous the truth that they’re large slugs, they’re really type of cute!

One thing that you simply can’t miss in Santa Cruz is the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. When you’ve ever seen the film Us then the boardwalk ought to look acquainted. To not fear although, there aren’t any Tethered to talk of (however then once more…why would I let you know if there have been…?). 

  • Word from Lia: Nobody will get your references, Jeremy.

After a number of hours of enjoyable on the boardwalk, seize some dinner on the pier and watch the sundown.

The place to Keep in Santa Cruz: Santa Cruz is tremendous quirky, so it’s no shock the lodging are as effectively. Certainly one of our favourite locations to remain in Santa Cruz is at this quirky redwood treehouse subsequent door to the Thriller Spot!

Day 6 Abstract

Giant arrow statue along the Embarcadero south of Market Street in San Francisco, California.Giant arrow statue along the Embarcadero south of Market Street in San Francisco, California.
Welcome to San Francisco! At this time, you’ll be exploring my 2nd hometown.

Day 7: San Francisco

  • At this time you’ll be exploring the best metropolis on earth: San Francisco. Yep, we’re biased. Welcome to our residence!
  • Drive Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Get up early in your quirky lodging and make a pit cease at Verve Coffee Roasters earlier than hitting the highway – you’re headed to the Metropolis by the Bay!

That is the place we’ve referred to as residence for the previous decade, so welcome! So long as you don’t name it Frisco, we promise everybody can be good (locals hate that).  

You have to be reaching San Francisco by mid-morning, and the primary place we advocate is a go to to the San Francisco Ferry Building, which is the epicenter of the town’s Embarcadero, or waterfront. 

The Ferry Constructing is the place the town’s many day by day ferries to surrounding cities like Oakland, Alameda and Marin County arrive and go away from. It’s a well-known spot as a result of it was the primary route out and in of San Francisco earlier than the  Golden Gate Bridge was constructed within the Nineteen Thirties. It additionally occurs to be a large market stuffed with scrumptious meals. Win-win! 

The Ferry Building in San Francisco, California.The Ferry Building in San Francisco, California.
You’ll begin your day on the San Francisco Ferry Constructing, a beautiful indoor meals corridor and dealing ferry station.

The Ferry Constructing has tons of native eating places and meals stalls inside and is the proper place to compile a bit of picnic lunch, eaten exterior overlooking the Bay. We advocate selecting up cheese at Cowgirl Creamery, stopping on the iconic Acme Bread for a loaf of San Francisco sourdough, and grabbing a number of empanadas from El Porteno.

And don’t neglect dessert: attempt a chocolate chip cookie from Dandelion or ice cream from Humphrey Slocombe. 

When you’d somewhat an off-the-cuff seated lunch, head throughout the road and for scrumptious scorching clam chowder in a bread bowl from Boudin, San Francisco’s different well-known sourdough bread firm. We take our bread significantly, y’all. 

When you’re full and able to proceed your journey, you’ll spend the subsequent few hours exploring San Francisco on foot with our self-guided San Francisco walking tour, which can take you to iconic spots like Ghiradelli Sq., Coit Tower, and Pier 39. Honest warning: there are a number of hills.

On the tour, you’ll make a cease in San Francisco’s Chinatown, which is the biggest exterior of Asia and the oldest in North America! It’s a reasonably particular place, and never simply due to the unbelievable meals. 

San Francisco's Chinatown, signs and lanternsSan Francisco's Chinatown, signs and lanterns
San Francisco’s Chinatown is the biggest exterior of China is a vital a part of the wealthy, complicated historical past of San Francisco’s Chinese language residents.

Chinatown has distinctive Chinese language-inspired structure, natural medication retailers, and artwork and jewellery galleries that every one spotlight San Francisco’s wealthy Chinese language historical past and heritage. The primary Chinese language immigrants arrived in San Francisco through the Gold Rush within the mid-1800s, and they faced segregation and discrimination for decades. San Francisco’s Chinatown is a testomony to the resilience of the town’s Chinese language neighborhood. 

To essentially take pleasure in Chinatown, you must pattern some Chinese language delicacies! For dinner, make your method to Hunan House or  Z & Y (enjoyable truth: Chinese language presidents have eaten there!). Each are implausible for genuine and scrumptious Chinese language dishes. When you’ve got room for dessert, discover actually any Chinese language bakery for a pastry – Golden Gate Bakery’s custard tarts are in style, however Lia prefers the coconut buns.

The night time’s not over but! Throughout baseball season, we positively advocate going to see a Giants sport at Oracle Park in your night time within the metropolis. However throughout the remainder of the yr, make your method to a traditional San Francisco cocktail spot for drinks as a substitute.

Bourbon & Branch is a enjoyable, themed speakeasy bar with distinctive cocktails–however honest warning, it’s unmarked. When you handle to seek out it, you’ll want a password to enter the library (right here’s a touch: what you discover inside a library?) and you should definitely flip your telephone off – you’ll be requested to remain “in character.” 

One other of our favourite bars in San Francisco is the Tonga Room, a tremendous and distinctive Tiki Bar within the Fairmont Lodge in Nob Hill. Sneak out onto the rooftop backyard for an unbelievable view – that is the place I proposed to Lia!

The place to Keep in San Francisco: In your brief keep in San Francisco, we advocate staying at The Hayes Valley Inn in lovely Hayes Valley, or The Washington Square Inn in North Seaside. For (rather a lot) extra info, we’ve an extended, detailed information about where to stay in San Francisco!

Day 7 Abstract

The Point Arena Lighthouse and coastal flowers in Mendocino, California.The Point Arena Lighthouse and coastal flowers in Mendocino, California.
My favourite cease alongside the best way to Mendocino is the Level Enviornment Lighthouse. Be sure you cease for a photograph and look carefully on the rocks beneath for napping sea lions!

Day 8: Muir Woods, Level Reyes & Mendocino

  • At this time you’ll be crossing the Golden Gate Bridge and following the coast north, with a few fast stops for redwoods and oysters. Timing is tight right this moment however we consider in you!
  • Drive Time: 5.5 hours

At this time is packed to the gills, so get up early! There isn’t a scarcity of wonderful espresso close by that can assist you with this process – right here’s a information to the best coffee shops in San Francisco.

First issues first: no highway journey via San Francisco is full with no cease on the Golden Gate Bridge. Whereas the bridge is seen everywhere in the Bay Space, my private favourite viewpoint is from Battery Spencer on the north aspect of the bridge. The wind right here will be intense, so be sure you’ve received a jacket on!

After taking loads of footage, set a course for the Muir Woods Customer Heart.

Muir Woods North of San Francisco California  on a Pacific Coast Highway Road TripMuir Woods North of San Francisco California  on a Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip
Simply north of San Francisco, Muir Woods is likely one of the hottest locations to hike via an outdated development redwood forest. (Inventory Picture from Unsplash)

PCH Pit Cease: Muir Woods

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

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

Muir Woods has hikes for all ability ranges, however we advocate doing a shorter one to permit extra time for stress-free driving. There is a loop that takes about half an hour which you are able to do proper from the park entrance.

  • Freeway One Journey Tip: Muir Woods can get crowded and with a purpose to handle influence on the park, the NPS enforces a cap on guests. So you’ll need to make a reservation prematurely.

After you’re finished taking within the awe and surprise of the redwoods, take into account making an non-obligatory pit cease. It’s solely a brief drive from Muir Woods to Stinson Beach, one in all Northern California’s most well-known seashore cities. Stinson has an extended, huge seashore, which is uncommon in NorCal, the place we normally have smaller rocky seashores.

Additionally, if nude seashores are your factor, Stinson has one. If not, there’s loads of seashore area the place you possibly can preserve your garments on! 

All the things within the city of Stinson has a nostalgic surf-town vibe, together with Parkside Cafe, which is a beachside lunch possibility for those who’re craving burgers and milkshakes.

From both Muir Woods or Stinson Seaside, preserve heading north to Level Reyes.

Delicious fresh oysters at Bodega Bay Oyster company in Northern California.Delicious fresh oysters at Bodega Bay Oyster company in Northern California.
There may be nothing extra Northern California than contemporary oysters. Besides like, redwoods. And vineyards.

PCH Pit Cease: Bodega Bay & Level Reyes

When you keep on Freeway One, you’ll drive via charming Bodega Bay. However throughout the Bay is the coastal peninsula often called Point Reyes National Seashore, a mecca for backpackers and hikers everywhere in the world because of its wildlife and superb views. There’s additionally a cute city, a beautiful lighthouse, and a resident herd of Tule Elk.

  • Freeway One Journey Tip: When you take a detour off of Freeway One to discover the Nationwide Seashore, add a number of additional hours to your route: the roads on the peninsula are gradual and winding. However you’ll be rewarded with lovely surroundings, charming small cities like Inverness and, when you have time, a surprising Cypress Tree Tunnel. Our favourite hike on this space is to Tomales Point, however it can take all day – plan accordingly!

This space has a few of the greatest farm to desk meals in California, and is greatest recognized for contemporary oysters! You know the way you’ll discover clusters of roadside lobster shacks in Maine? That’s the vibe of this stretch of Freeway One, often called the Point Reyes Oyster Trail.

Our favourite locations to cease for contemporary oysters on or proper off Freeway One are Bodega Bay Oyster Company, The Marshall Store or Hog Island Oyster Co. 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.

Fresh seafood at Wild Fish restaurant in Mendocino, California! Arrive early or make a reservation - there are only a handful of tables.Fresh seafood at Wild Fish restaurant in Mendocino, California! Arrive early or make a reservation - there are only a handful of tables.
Save room to your dinner tonight: contemporary seafood at Wild Fish restaurant in Mendocino, California!

From Level Reyes, you’ll be finishing a pleasant lengthy stretch of stop-free driving. Put in your California playlist, roll down the window, and benefit from the view! You’ll be passing via a number of charming coastal cities and previous one picturesque lighthouse (for what it’s value, Point Arena is effectively value a cease for a lighthouse picture).

It’s best to attain Mendocino by early night. We advocate an intimate, romantic, native and sustainable (and sure, a lil’ expensive – however effectively value it) dinner at Wild Fish.

The place to Keep in Mendocino: We love the quirky Andiron Seaside Inn & Cabins, an independently owned boutique resort full with funky themed cabins, a day by day comfortable hour, and three resident goats!

Day 8 Abstract

Mendocino, California is located a few hours north from San Francisco along the scenic Highway One/Pacific Coast Highway. It's the perfect destination for a weekend getaway!Mendocino, California is located a few hours north from San Francisco along the scenic Highway One/Pacific Coast Highway. It's the perfect destination for a weekend getaway!
Snapshots from Mendocino, one in all our favourite stops alongside the Pacific Coast Freeway!

Day 9: Mendocino & Avenue of the Giants

  • At this time you’ll be exploring Mendocino earlier than driving the Pacific Coast Freeway all the best way to its finish – after which persevering with on the 101 to essentially the most jaw-dropping stretch of redwoods on the earth.
  • Drive Time: 1.5 Hours

In your closing full day of California journey (see what I did there? °o°) you’ll be exploring one in all our favourite coastal cities and wine nations north of San Francisco – after which taking a detour to one of the jaw-dropping drives on the earth via historical groves of huge redwoods. 

To place it mildly, for those who haven’t fallen in love with California but, you’ll right this moment! (But additionally, how have you ever not but? Are you okay??)

Brunch at Circa 62 in Mendocino, California.Brunch at Circa 62 in Mendocino, California.
Brunch at Circa 62. Not pictured is the menagerie of lovable critters out entrance snacking on seeds and nuts.

First issues first: scrumptious breakfast at Circa 62! Other than having the very best breakfast within the space, the restaurant places feed out so you possibly can watch woodland creatures snacking, like California quails and bunnies. It’s principally a Disney film! Additionally, the restaurant has a canine menu, so there’s a excessive probability of constructing a furry friend-o.

Proceed north on Freeway One till you attain Mendocino correct. Mendocino is an lovable coastal city recognized for wine, marine life and journey!

Top-of-the-line issues to do in Mendocino is to hire a kayak at Catch a Canoe and take a relaxed, self-guided kayak journey down the Large River Estuary. Maintain an eye fixed out for otters and sea birds!

Mendocino’s shoreline can also be dotted with beautiful pure sea caves – you possibly can discover them on the Kayak Mendocino Sea Cave Nature Tourled by Kayak Mendocino.

After you’ve labored up an urge for food, spend a while exploring charming downtown Mendocino and make a cease for lunch at Good Life Bakery, which we’re obsessive about. They’ve two sorts of bread pudding custard, blueberry and espresso, and they’re each unbelievable. Strive each! 

When you’ve got some room in your suitcase for goodies, cease at Mendocino Jams and Preserves to choose up (and pattern) some superb chutney, jam or nut butter. YUM.

After your morning in Mendocino, head north on the Pacific Coast Freeway till you arrive at Glass Beach in Fort Bragg. This well-known seashore will get its identify from its sand-like colourful glass stones, created by a pure phenomenon: Glass Seaside was really as soon as a dump, however the trash was became treasure by the pounding waves. Cool, proper??

After you’ve checked out Glass Seaside, proceed north to MacKerricher State Park, among the finest spots for tide-pooling on the northern California shoreline. We advocate driving to the Seal Watching Station to go to the tidepools at Laguna Level!

Whenever you’ve had your fill of tide-pooling, it’s time to drive the final stretch of the Pacific Coast Freeway… and bid it goodbye. However don’t fear! This isn’t fairly the top of your California Coast highway journey simply but.

Avenue of the Giants on Highway 101 CaliforniaAvenue of the Giants on Highway 101 California
The Avenue of the Giants is a surprising stretch of highway operating via a redwood forest. It’s a little bit of a detour, however effectively value it and the proper method to finish a Freeway One highway journey.

Freeway 101 Pit Cease: Avenue of the Giants

On the very finish of Freeway One, you’ll merge onto Freeway 101 and head to the Avenue of the Giants. You’ll hop off the 101 onto the Avenue, which runs parallel to the 101.

Avenue of the Giants is likely one of the most lovely and humbling stretches of highway on the earth. The 31-mile route winds instantly via a dense forest of old-growth redwoods. These unbelievable bushes are lots of of years outdated, extremely tall, and ridiculously thick (or thicc, for those who’re hip and with it, which I’m positively not in keeping with my college students). There’s even a tree so massive you can drive right through it – kitschy and campy, sure, but in addition a type of issues you possibly can solely do in California.

Our favourite method to expertise the Avenue of the Giants is a gradual, awe-filled drive with the sunroof open, gazing all the best way up till the bushes appear to bend collectively to kind a cover.

We actually have a favourite tune to take heed to alongside the route: Holocene by Bon Iver. “and without delay I knew, I’m not magnificent” is the lyric that completely encapsulates the best way that the redwoods make us really feel.

On the finish of the day, you’ll begin your journey residence. There are two choices–you possibly can head north, towards Eureka, and fly out from there, or you possibly can go on 101 South towards Sacramento.  

Day 9 Abstract:

  • Large breakfast at Circa 62
  • Spend the morning in Mendocino
  • Proceed on the 1 to Leggett, the place the 1 sadly ends
  • Proceed north on the 101
  • Take a detour off the 101 to Avenue of the Giants
  • (Possibility 1) Take the 101 South to the 20 to the 5 and cease in Sacramento for the night time
  • (Possibility 2) Take the 101 North to Eureka and keep in Eureka
Couple Looking at View Central Coast California Highway One Road TripCouple Looking at View Central Coast California Highway One Road Trip
Wave a tragic goodbye to views like this! California will miss you.

Day 10: Returning Dwelling

At this time you’ll be sadly forsaking the California coast and heading again residence.

Relying on which possibility you picked yesterday, you’ll both get up in Sacramento or Eureka.

You may have a number of choices for returning residence. Earlier than your journey, research flight deals in addition to one-way rental car prices to see which possibility is best for you!

Possibility 1: Fly residence from Eureka

  • Fly from Eureka to LA, SF, or Denver
  • Join from there to get residence

When you opted to remain in Eureka for the night time, you’ll catch a connecting flight via LA, SF or Denver.

This selection positively has the least quantity of driving, nevertheless it’s additionally the smallest airport on our record – that means it might be the priciest possibility!

Possibility 2: Fly residence from SAC, SFO, SJC, or OAK

When you drove south and stopped in Sacramento for the night time, it might be best to return your automotive and fly out straight from there.

However Sacramento can also be simply 1.5 hours away from the Bay Space, which has 3 airports: San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose.

Between these 4 airports, you must be capable to discover a respectable flight again residence!

Possibility 3: Drive to LAX & fly residence

  • Take the 5 South all the best way from Sacramento to LA
  • Fly residence from LAX

There’s a superb probability that the most cost effective possibility is to return your automotive to LAX – or one other regional airport inside LA – and fly residence from there. Fortunately, there’s a shortcut within the type of California’s quickest and least scenic freeway: the 5.

This shortcut will take about 6 hours, and sadly, we don’t have any enjoyable stops to advocate, apart from In ‘N Out. Placed on a podcast episode or 3 (could we advocate the Practical Wanderlust podcast?) and simply get it finished.

That’s it – you probably did it! Wave goodbye to California’s sunshine and palm bushes (and fog, and elephant seals) however don’t fear – we’re certain you’ll be again once more sometime. California will miss you till subsequent time!

Freeway One Itinerary Abstract

We’ve created a free, printable abstract of this Freeway One itinerary! It will come in useful as you drive, since a lot of the Pacific Coast Freeway has terrible cell service.

The 7-page PDF additionally features a printable model of our San Francisco Self-Guided Walking Tour to your day within the metropolis. Plus, we’ll additionally ship you our favourite suggestions that can assist you plan your California highway journey!

You may get all of it despatched straight to your inbox by filling out the shape beneath:

We hope you loved each second of your California Coast highway journey! Which cease are you most enthusiastic about? The place are you considering of extending or shortening our itinerary? Drop us your entire questions and feedback beneath!

Psst: We’ve received an entire bunch extra assets that can assist you plan your California highway journey. Check out the posts beneath, or click here to see all of our California journey guides.

We even have a Highway 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 conceivable: on this episode, we cowl every part it’s good to plan your journey up the California Coast – and all of the bizarre historical past you by no means knew alongside the best way.

Pay attention beneath or just click here! Oh, and don’t neglect to subscribe so that you don’t miss new episodes.

Till subsequent time,

xo Lia & Jeremy signature graphicxo Lia & Jeremy signature graphic


Did you discover this publish informative? Reserve it for in a while Pinterest!

Our Prime Journey Suggestions & Sources

Listed here are our favourite journey suggestions & assets for saving cash and planning journey logistics! For extra suggestions, try our travel tips resource page or our guide to planning a trip.

  • Reserving Flights: To attain flight offers, search on Google Flights or Kayak. Cash-saving suggestions: fly mid-week or on the weekend; fly carry-on solely on a price range airline; and take red-eyes or early morning flights.
  • Lodging: We normally keep in budget-friendly trip leases, boutique resorts or non-public rooms in hostels. We use to guide resorts (we love their versatile cancellation coverage) and Hostelworld to guide hostels (low deposit, straightforward change/cancellation, and glorious evaluations). For trip leases, we desire to guide utilizing VRBO as a result of they have decrease charges and higher help than Airbnb, and we’re not followers of Airbnb’s unethical observe document. You too can guide trip leases on Expedia and We additionally use TrustedHousesitters as each hosts (for our residence and our fur-child) and vacationers!
  • Journey Insurance coverage: We all the time, all the time, ALWAYS purchase journey insurance coverage for worldwide journeys, and we STRONGLY counsel it – go to our Travel Insurance Guide to seek out out why. We advocate both World Nomads or SafetyWing for worldwide journey insurance coverage. SafetyWing is likely one of the few insurance policies that covers Covid-19, and so they have glorious month-to-month insurance policies which are excellent for Digital Nomads and long run vacationers!
  • Journey Credit score Card: We guide all of our journeys on our favourite journey bank card. Not solely can we earn money again that we are able to spend on extra journey, however the card affords implausible journey perks like journey insurance coverage, journey delay and cancellation protection, misplaced baggage reimbursement, and rental automotive protection, which helps shield us on our travels. Learn more here.
  • Vaccines & Meds: We use the journey guides on the CDC website to analysis beneficial drugs and vaccines for worldwide journeys. We all the time advocate getting each vaccine beneficial by the CDC! You may get them at your major care physician’s workplace or a walk-in pharmacy.
  • Excursions: We love reserving guided excursions, particularly meals excursions and strolling excursions, to get a neighborhood’s perspective and a historical past lesson whereas sight-seeing! We guide our excursions utilizing Viator and GetYourGuide.
  • Transportation: We use Rome2Rio to determine tips on how to get from place to position, and guide native transportation on-line utilizing Bookaway wherever we are able to. Once we guide a rental automotive, we use DiscoverCars to check rental firms and discover the very best deal.
  • Baggage Storage: Every time we’re testing early or benefiting from an extended layover, we use LuggageHero to securely retailer our baggage whereas we’re operating round. Use the code PRACTICALW for two hours of free baggage storage on us.
  • VPN Service: A VPN retains your digital info (like web site login particulars, financial institution data, and so on) secure, even whenever you’re linked to an unsecured community whereas touring. Plus, it allows you to use Netflix & different streaming websites overseas! We use NordVPN. Use the code WANDERLUSTPROMO whenever you join!
  • What to Pack: Here are the travel essentials that we convey on each journey. We even have packing lists for hot weather, cold weather, and lots of extra. Check out all of our packing guides!

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