The Pacific Coast Highway, also known as Highway 1, was constructed in the early 1900s as part of a plan to provide a coastal route for motorists traveling from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The road was built piece by piece, with its initial stage beginning with the road between Ventura and Santa Barbara, completed in 1913, and the road along the Big Sur coast, completed in 1937. Over the next few decades, many expansions followed, albeit it wasn’t until 1964 that the entire route was dedicated as Highway 1. Known for its bluff-side drives and scenic vistas, PCH is a memorable drive, to say the least; however, landslides and erosion along the cliffs have caused portions to be closed for repairs.
What To Do & See
For those departing from San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge is the perfect launching point to this epic road trip. If you’ve got some extra time on your hands, be sure to take advantage of the city’s many notable attractions – Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf, Union Square, Chinatown, Haight-Ashbury, and Lombard Street. Before heading on your way, grab a bite from Tartine, SF’s legendary bakery, and a coffee from Blue Bottle Coffee; or head to the Mission District for the city’s claim to fame, the Mission-style burrito.
On the way to Santa Cruz, must-stops include Half Moon Bay, a picturesque cliff with stunning ocean views, and the Ano Nuevo State Park – a marine park. Once you’ve made your way into the 1960s hippie village known as Santa Cruz, head to the Boardwalk for a relaxing stroll to the lighthouse, beach views, and people watching. For lunch, head to the Wharf; then spend some time perusing the vintage stores on Pacific Avenue, or opt for a hike in the Wilder Ranch State Park. Be sure to dress warmly as this coastal town is usually plagued with cold temps and a layer of fog.
About an hour later, find Monterey Bay – renowned for its aquarium, this seaside community makes for a pleasant stop to enjoy the marine wildlife, discover natural beauty at the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, or a grab a quick bite at the Old Fisherman’s Wharf. Plus, there are plenty of outdoorsy activities – such as sailing, kayaking, golf, and biking – for those who want to make an extra long pit stop. Not pressed for time? Head to Carmel-by-the-Sea, a quaint, little coastal town with cafés, shops, and restaurants.
Passing over the famed Bixby Bridge (be sure to stop and snap a photo!) on the way to Big Sur, keep in mind this isn’t the only beautiful landmark along this section of the route. Once in Big Sur, revel in the scenic vistas from Point Sur State Historic Park, Ragged Point, Pfeiffer Beach, or McWay Falls, or get your history on at the Henry Miller Memorial Library. If you’re planning to stay over in this artsy town to enjoy its serene beauty, check out the Fernwood Resort or Big Sur River Inn for budget-friendly stays, or splurge at the Bernardus Lodge &