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Pacific Coast Highway of California

Updated: May 28, 2023

The entire coast of the Unites States is striking and beautiful, but California has the vast majority of the coastal highway within its borders! Exploring the whole Pacific Coast highway is something everyone should do!


California...so much to do, so many stories to tell. But everytime we are in California (6 times and counting!), we drive at least a part of this famous scenic highway, but we've finally covered the full stretch! It would take 10 hours without stops to complete the entire length, so it is no wonder we needed multiple trips to complete it!


Early Morning Haze Along Pacific Coast Highway (California State Route 1)
Early Morning Haze Along Pacific Coast Highway (California State Route 1)

Pacific Coast Highway (California State Route 1)


Construction on what is now known as the Pacific Coast Highway, began in the 1930’s and runs just under 656 miles (1,055 km), it is the longest state route in California. It runs North-South from Smith River, through the Redwood National Forest, past San Francisco, Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Pebble Beach, Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, Venice Beach, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Orange County, and down to San Diego. This list by all means, is not exhaustive...California is a large State and this roadway passes through/by over 100 cities and towns.


Ocean Views for Miles
Ocean Views for Miles

The views from this roadway gives some of the most incredible vistas you will ever see. And there are lighthouses too (my fav)! For the most part, SR 1 runs parallel to the coastline, or close to it, but does turn several miles inland at various locations to avoid several federally controlled or protected areas. In addition to connecting the coastal cities and communities along its path, the route provides access to beaches, parks, and other attractions along the coast, making it a popular route for tourists.


Bays and Inlets Abound Along the Pacific Coast
Bays and Inlets Abound Along the Pacific Coast

Pelican State Beach – San Francisco (North Coast)


This is the first section of the Highway as you drive south from Oregon into California. We’ve done this stretch of highway multiple times (we do veer off the highway to visit the Redwood Forests sometimes…subject of another blog). This stretch also has the longest section that does not follow the coastline and goes inland.


Elk Found in the Redwood Forest
Elk are Found in the Redwood Forest

Along with the beautiful redwoods, there are lovely communities to explore – Crescent City has the Battery Point Lighthouse and is one of the larger communities along the north part of this route. There are quite a few lighthouses along the way.


Battery Point Lighthouse
Battery Point Lighthouse

And you will stay on this highway to cross the Golden Gate Bridge to enter into San Francisco.


Golden Gate Bridge  San Francisco
Golden Gate Bridge (Yes, it is part of the Pacific Coast Highway!)

San Francisco to Monterey Bay & Big Sur


The most well-known stretch of this famous roadway and the section that we have driven the most times (3 and counting!) is between San Francisco and Monterey Bay.


Another lighthouse along the way to visit is the Pigeon Point Lighthouse. It is the tallest lighthouse on the US west coast and is still active. The tower stands on a rocky promontory and has long been a landmark for ships approaching San Francisco from the south.


Pigeon Point Lighthouse
Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Make sure you visit the Santa Cruz Boardwalk which has old-fashioned roller coasters, an arcade and more attractions along the way to Monterey Bay.


Santa Cruz Boardwalk
Santa Cruz Boardwalk

And my favourite parts of visiting Monterey Bay are visiting the Old Fisherman’s Wharf, Monterey Bay Aquarium (I've visited many aquariums and this one is my fav!) and the 17-Mile Drive of Pebble Beach.


Old Fisherman's Wharf, Monterey
Old Fisherman's Wharf, Monterey

Shark in Kelp Forest, Monterey Bay Aquarium
Shark in Kelp Forest, Monterey Bay Aquarium

nemo clown fish
I found Nemo!

Dory Hippo Tang
And Dory!

Not only is Big Sur known for its fantastic surfing, it is perhaps the most recognizable section of this route with the historic Bixby Creek Bridge (most commonly seen in almost every California tourism commercial). Sadly, in 2016, there was another landslide which has closed a section of highway until at least 2018 to replace a bridge near Big Sur State Park.


Bixby Creek Bridge
Bixby Creek Bridge

Big Sur to Los Angeles


There are many stops along this stretch of road, including well known San Luis Obispo, Solvang, and Santa Barbara. In and around San Luis Obispo there are many wineries and stunning views to take in. Solvang is Denmark in miniature with traditional Danish bakeries, houses and windmills! Santa Barbara is home to many celebrities but it is also a city filled with adobe homes, Spanish Colonial Revival architecture and mansions.


Windmill in Solvang
Windmill in Solvang

And of course, there is much to see in Los Angeles and area, including Santa Monica Pier and Venice Beach right along the Pacific Coast Highway!


Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica Pier

Venice Beach
Venice Beach

Venice Beach Three's Company
Venice Beach (Did you Know the Opening Sequence of Three's Company was Filmed on Venice Beach?)

Los Angeles to San Diego


You will journey through Long Beach (the home of the Queen Mary) on your way to Orange County, a well-known affluent area, where you will find Huntington, Newport and Laguna beaches. Laguna Beach is one of the prettiest of the 3 with lush vegetation and it is also a well know artist community, as a wide variety of artists were drawn to the area by the scenic beauty of the coastline.


Queen Mary in Long Beach
Queen Mary in Long Beach

The southern end of the Pacific Coast Highway is just past San Diego, just before you enter Tijuana, Mexico. The climate in this area is fairly steady year round and has a mild climate averaging around 21-22 degrees Celsius year-round and only 9-13 inches of rain annually. There are many great attractions to explore in and around San Diego.


San Diego
San Diego

San Diego Beach
San Diego Beach

If you ever go to California, make sure you travel even just a small area of the Pacific Coast Highway. You won’t be disappointed!


Sailboats
Sailboats

Life Guard Station and Vehicles
Life Guard Station and Vehicles - Just like Baywatch!

fishing poles in ocean
Fishing Anyone? Or is it Anyone Fishing?

Gull Prints in Beach Sand
Gull Prints in Beach Sand

20-Minute Complementary Love to Explore Session


I’d love to chat with you! In your Love to Explore session, we will spend about 20 minutes on the phone talking about your travel dreams. I’ll share with you tips and ideas. You’ll leave our call inspired and excited about possibilities!


If you’re ready to plan your next great adventure, I’d love to help you get there! You can contact me by clicking below or emailing me (ExplorewithBrendaRowe@gmail.com) to book your 20-minute Love to Explore Session.


BONUSES


When you reach out to book your complimentary Love to Explore session, I’ll also send you my:

  • Ultimate Packing Checklist, and

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All FREE to help you plan your best vacation yet!


If you have any questions, please reach out ExplorewithBrendaRowe@gmail.com

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Hi, thanks for dropping by!

As an avid explorer and Travel Agent, I hope to inspire you to travel and explore the world, or even explore just outside your own backyard!

I’d love to give you a complimentary Love to Explore vacation planning session.  We’ll spend about 20 minutes on the phone talking about your travel dreams and budget.  I’ll share with you tips and ideas and explain how the process works to book through me.  You’ll leave our call inspired and excited about possibilities!

 

If you’re ready to plan your next great adventure, I’d love to help you get there! You can contact me by clicking below or emailing 

(Brenda@ExplorewithBrendaRowe.com) to book your

20-minute Complementary Love to Explore Vacation Planning Session.

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