Dreaming of a coastal escape? One of the best ways to get in the California state of mind is a road trip along the rugged coastline connecting San Francisco to Los Angeles.
Pacific Coast Highway offers more than 725 kilometres of spectacularly scenic cliffs, forests and coastal Californian towns.
You can see it all in one day or savour it slowly over a few nights. Either way, this route lets you soak in sunshine amidst coastal views and iconic landmarks in a memorable, relaxing way.
Here are our “must-see” stops along California State Route 1.
Leave your heart in San Francisco and fall in love with Carmel-by-the-Sea
This chic, European-style village is a must-see along the California coast.
Ranked a top-10 U.S. destination year after year by Condé Nast Traveler, Carmel-by-the-Sea is filled with exquisite art galleries, unique boutiques, cozy inns and delicious cuisine.
Rich in history, Carmel is home to many celebrities but stays true to its roots by preserving a quaint and inviting atmosphere.
Whether you’re staying the night or stopping off for a stretch, be sure to stroll along the majestic white sands of Carmel Beach before hitting the road.
Cheers to the sunset in Big Sur
After departing Carmel-by-the-Sea, cross Bixby Bridge (a prime photo opportunity!) and enter Big Sur— 145 kilometres of picturesque cliffs and redwood trees filled with rare wildlife, like endangered California Condors and migrating whales.
Refresh yourself with the mist from McWay Falls — a 24-metre waterfall that cascades into the sand of McWay Beach in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.
Big Sur’s gorgeous stretch of nature has many lodging options including campsites, cabins, inns and resorts for those who aren’t just passing through.
A trip to Big Sur isn’t complete until you watch the sunset from 245 metres above sea at Nepenthe, the historic, cliff-topping restaurant overlooking the Pacific that’s been family owned and operated since 1949.
Snap a “Seal”-fie and explore castles in San Simeon
San Simeon may be small, but it’s home to some of the most interesting attractions in California. Founded in 1919 by eccentric newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, this American “castle” in the picturesque Santa Lucia Mountains draws travellers from all over the globe.
In Hearst’s day, glamorous guests included Hollywood glitterati and political powerhouses, ranging from Charlie Chaplin to Winston Churchill.
Exquisite architecture, eclectic artwork and expensive antiques span 165 rooms and 127 acres of gardens, terraces, pools and walkways. Tours begin daily at 9am.
On your way to the castle, get up close and personal with some of San Simeon’s most famous locals. Piedras Blancas rookery is home to more than 17,000 elephant seals that migrate thousands of miles to this small cove near Piedras Blancas lighthouse.
Peak seasons to visit the rookery are between April and August when they return to molt, but visitors are welcome year round. “Seal”-fies are allowed, as long as you don’t get too close!
Cycle around the palm tree-lined streets of Santa Monica and Venice
After all this driving, why not beat the traffic by exploring the City of Angels via bicycle? Ditch your vehicle and explore these legendary beach cities with Breeze bikes, docked at over 70 hubs around Santa Monica and Venice and rentable by the hour using a credit card.
First, hit Pacific Park, on Santa Monica Pier where visitors can enjoy views of the beach from the iconic Ferris wheel.
If you’ve had enough beach time, cycle along the famous Venice canals and then explore Abbot Kinney — a palm tree-lined street voted the coolest block in America by GQ — for some great shopping and a wide & eclectic choice of cuisines.
To plan your ultimate Californian road-trip, contact your personal travel manager or find one here.