Ride the CA-1!
The Pacific Coast Highway, Route 1 from Los Angeles to San Francisco, is one of the best road trips you can take! It’s approximately 500 miles of less-than-highway-speed driving and you’ll want to plan some stops along the way.
Going north from Los Angeles, you’ll drive by the star-studded Malibu, Pepperdine and see an endless stretch of Pacific beaches all the way up to Oxnard. You’ll swing through the orchards and produce farms and re-join the coastline near Ventura for a scenic ride up to Santa Barbara.
Santa Barbara is worth a stop for a meal or snack and it’s shopping (if you’re into that sort of thing). There are some great restaurants here and beaches, if you’re staying overnight. Nearby Ojai also has some great hiking trails in Los Padres National Forest with vistas that can see the Channel Islands!
Driving north, you’ll enter a stretch of some inland driving and glimpse into the agricultural heart of this state. When you reach Cambria, there’s a town called “Moonstone Beach” that we stayed at overnight. This oceanfront town was really nice with a wooden walkway along the beach. Named for the highly polished multi-colored rocks that sparkle all over the sands, Moonstone Beach was the perfect spot to relax for a seaside dinner, walk, and great all-over evening.
Nearby to Cambria and a must-see stop if you have the time is Hearst Castle in San Simeon. Named for by the newspaper giant, former congressman, and businessman, William Randolph Hearst, Hearst Castle entertained many of the early Hollywood superstars from in the 1940s and 50s. Designed by famous architect, Julia Morgan, this mammoth structure is perched up on the mountainside with 165 rooms and more than 127 acres of gardens, patios and terraces.
It’s indoor and outdoor pools, stunning vistas, and absolute grandeur make it a truly unique site. The tour guide’s stories of how they built this castle were alone worth the price of admission. It was built on the 240,000 acre ranch that Hearst inherited from his parents. After William Randolph Hearst’s death in 1951, his estate donated Hearst Castle to the State of California in 1957 who now maintain it as National Historic Landmark.
Heading north along the Pacific Coast Highway into Big Sur and the rocky Pacific shorelines is where the classic coastline scenery of CA-1, Pacific Coast Highway lies. Stop in one of Big Sur’s few coffee shops along the way to soak in the clean pine air or pull off at any one of the multiple viewing areas to take it all in. These are areas that pictures can hardly do justice. Rocky Creek Bridge (pictured below) is on the PCH between Big Sur and Carmel.
Heading north, you will re-join civilization as you approach Monterey and north to San Francisco. If you’ve never been to San Francisco, you’ll want to stop here! Our favorite sights there, include: Muir Woods, the Trolley Museum, Walking Lombard street, ice cream at Ghiradelli, the Alcatraz audio tour, Boudin sourdough bread bowl chowder, Seals at Pier 39, and the Golden Gate Bridge…great city!
Road trips can scare many families away. The thought of 500 miles of driving can be intimidating. But don’t think of it that way…the drive is the destination! Split it up with an overnight and enjoy some of the most pristine coastline that our country has to offer – may it stay that way for generations to come!