♪ And we were trying different things
We were smoking funny things
Making love out by the lake to our favorite song
Sipping whiskey out the bottle, not thinking ’bout tomorrow
Singing Sweet home Alabama all summer long ♪
When I put my right hand out of the car window, I felt the Pacific breeze on my skin while Kid Rock’s “All summer long“ was on the radio. My hair blew in the wind and the sun rays warmed my face. When I looked out of the window I saw the ocean; smelled the salty sea. I sang along. I was happy and finally on the road.
Road trips are always a good idea to feel carefree – especially when you’re driving on the famous Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). It shows the beauty of nature and makes you forget all bad thoughts by just looking at the ocean. So it’s not surprising that the 1055 km (655 mi) long highway is one of the most picturesque streets in the world.
I started my route on Highway 1 in San Diego and stretched all the way up to San Francisco. From there I took another route back to San Diego to stop by at Disneyland in Anaheim. So there lay more than 1000 km (620 mi) full of adventure, fun and excitement ahead of me. And lots of moments I would never forget.
Here are the best and most beautiful stops along the highway.
LA and Santa Monica Beach
My first stop was in Los Angeles and the Santa Monica Beach. I’ve been to Santa Monica before so it was not new to me. But no matter if first time or not, you should definitely rent a bike and cruise to Venice. It’s beautiful to enjoy the beach on a bike and you almost feel like a local since everyone is biking and skating around the beach.
When it comes to L.A., it’s impossible to miss Malibu. It’s exciting to look up the hills and see the houses from the celebrities. But also the beaches need to be mentioned. They are mostly private, but you can head to Malibu Pier to take awesome pictures.
Long beaches, laid-back people: Santa Barbara is a beautiful place and worth a stop. You can explore the beaches, go shopping and hiking or enjoy the fine dining there. By the way, Santa Barbara is known for its award-winning wineries. So sign up for a special wine dinner to try it yourself.
Point Piedras Blancas
In 1990 there was just a small number of elephant seals in Point Piedras Blancas, but now you can watch thousands of them. Stop by to see them relaxing on the beach and do their day-to-day rituals. Although the area smells a little unpleasant, it’s always fascinating to see the animals in their natural environment.
If you have time to see art, gardens and water elements, you should stop at the Hearst Castle. The museum was built by newspaper giant William Randolph Hearst in 1919 and is located in the middle of San Francisco and San Diego. Also, it’s the perfect place for a little time journey.
Only because I had to fill up the gas I visited Ragged Point. This place turns out to be a beautiful spot to have lunch and stroll around after. So if you are looking for a great lunch break, go to this resort and enjoy the amazing view.
One of the highlights on the PCH is the McWay Falls in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. It’s a little waterfall that drops right into the Pacific Ocean. Sometimes it also happens that you see gray whales from there. Be sure to bring wander shoes since you have to take a short trail through the forest.
A very touristic, but must-see stop is the Bixby Bridge which is one of the tallest single-span concrete bridges in the world. It’s 218 m (700 ft) long and 85 m (260 ft) high. I recommend you to stop before and after the bridge for breathtaking photos.
Carmel-by-the-Sea was my favorite spot on the whole route. It looks almost like a movie set with its clean streets, the idyllic cottages and the dog-friendly beaches, but it’s real. I also had the chance to spend the evening there to watch the sunset and it was too perfect to be true.
The last stop before heading to San Francisco was Santa Cruz. It’s a great place to walk along the beach and the pier. In the end of the pier you can have some lunch or dinner in one of the restaurants and enjoy a fantastic view over the ocean. In Santa Cruz you also find the Natural Bridges State Park which has a beautiful rock arch in the water and is great to capture this rock – especially during sunset.
So that was my route and the most beautiful stops on Highway 1. I hope I could inspire you for your next road trip. If you have been to other places along the highway, write it in the comments below. I’m always looking for new spots to visit. If you need more inspiration, read here my top travel hotspots and find here my packing list guide with a printable checklist.