There’s something so iconic about taking a road trip down the California Coast. And while there’s really no such thing as a “bad” coastal drive, there happen to be a few that are exceptionally beautiful. From stunning ocean views to delicious roadside dining, these road trips deserve a spot on your travel bucket list.
Big Sur: Monterey to Cambria
In this case, the destination is definitely the journey. This is one of California’s most enchanting drives, and arguably one of the best in the country. Drive down State Route 1 from Monterey to Big Sur, zig-zagging along the ocean. Once you’re there, you’ll have all sorts of places to explore, from the Hermitage in Big Sur (monastery) to the beautiful Limekiln State Park and seeing McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. For lunch or dinner with a view, treat yourself to a meal at Nepenthe. Consider one of Big Sur’s unique lodgings if you plan to make this a two day road trip. After enjoying the town of Big Sur you can continue down the Big Sur Coast on Highway 1 to Cambria which is home to the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk. Don’t forget that Hearst Castle is on the way to Cambria!
Santa Monica to Solvang
People who visit Solvang tend to fall in love, and for good reason—this charming Danish town in the Santa Ynez Valley is full of vibrant architecture, shops and great restaurants. Take the scenic route by cruising up State Route 1 and Highway 101 from Santa Monica. You’ll pass Malibu, Ventura and the scenic Mussel Shoals Beach, enjoying plenty of water views along the way. When you reach Solvang, check out the town square, which features a replica of Copenhagen’s famous Little Mermaid statue. Then proceed to the nearest Danish bakery.
Long Beach to Coronado
Be prepared to make plenty of stops on this trip—you’ll have plenty of beaches and attractions tempting you from your drive down I-5. Stretch your legs in the relaxing city of San Clemente, best known for being the midway point between LA and San Diego. Stop in Carlsbad for lunch at Karl Strauss Brewing Company, a local favorite, or swing by the In-N-Out in Encinitas if you’d rather keep it quick. To reach Coronado Island, you’ll take a beautiful ferry ride from San Diego. This peaceful place is perfect for an overnight getaway.
San Francisco to Santa Cruz down Highway 1
There are several routes you can take from San Francisco to Santa Cruz, but heading down Highway 1 will be the most scenic. The 77 mile drive takes you through Davenport, Coast Dairies State Park and Pescadero, so you can stop and have a picnic at Pescadero State Beach with goodies from Norm’s Market in town. Santa Cruz is undeniably charming and a great place for kids as well as kids at heart.