The Pacific Coast Highway stretches from the northern part of California up to Los Angeles. It offers a scenic view of the vast ocean as it follows the California coastline and never falls short of wonderful destinations than you can visit along the way. These places tell stories of the areas history, nature, and culture, making your trip more meaningful. Here’s our pick for the ten stops you shouldn’t miss on the Pacific Coast Highway.
1. Point Reyes
Point Reyes National Seashore is a protected area covering 71,028 acres and 80 miles of shoreline. It is a favorite nature destination for people living in the San Francisco Bay area. You can enjoy walking and hiking through trails in the day, and witness the beauty of the Point Reyes lighthouse against the sunset by dusk.
2. Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco
The Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco provides a glimpse of the county’s history and culture. The place rests on the rubble of buildings destroyed in the fire and earthquake of 1906.
You can enjoy walking through the boardwalk and take photos. Afterwards, you can pick from a variety of restaurants offering homey dishes. One of the most famous establishments there is the Boudin Bakery which is known for its sourdough bread and clam chowder.
3. Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge is an icon almost synonymous to San Francisco itself. It was once dubbed as “the bridge that couldn’t be built.” The bridge was completed in 1937 after four years of combating winds, fog, rocks, and tides. It connected San Francisco and Marin counties.
Today, it is one of the seven wonders of the modern world. The bridge is easily recognized by its “International Orange” color. You can snap photos from different angles. One of the most frequented areas close to the bridge is the parking lot on the Marin side.
4. The Royal Presidio Chapel, Monterey
The Royal Presidio Chapel is a lasting reminder of the Spanish influence in California. The sandstone chapel was completed in 1794, when Monterey was still the capital of California. It was elevated to the status of cathedral in 1849. The Royal Presidio Chapel remains the oldest functioning church in California.
5. Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk offers a nostalgic ‘60s feel to locals and tourists alike. Built in 1907, it is one of the oldest surviving amusement parks on the West Coast.
Two of its rides, the Giant Dipper roller coaster and Looff Carousel, are national landmarks. It makes a nice road trip destination for families who want to spend some fun time together.
6. 17-Mile Drive at Pebble Beach
Pebble Beach is known for its fairways and coastal sceneries. You can take a quick detour from the Pacific Coast Highway to drive through Pebble Beach’s 17-Mile Drive. This route offers a scenic drive through of the cliffs, beaches, and forests. There are parking spaces through the loop should you decide to snap postcard-worthy photos.
You can also catch the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance every August. The event features a variety of exquisite classic cars displayed on the lawn that is a one of a kind experience for car enthusiasts.
7. Bixby Creek Bridge
The Bixby Creek Bridge is one of the most photographed bridges in California aside from the Golden Gate Bridge. It was completed in 1932 with a budget of over $200,000. The bridge is 260 feet above the bottom of the canyon where Bixby Creek flows.
You can explore different areas around the bridge for a picturesque view. It is best to wait for the sunset to capture the magnificence of the structure.
8. Hollywood, Los Angeles
Hollywood is best known as home to the United States film industry. It’s filled with a variety of interesting establishments like the Kodak Theatre, Madame Tussauds, and Universal Studios.
You can also stroll along the Hollywood Walk of Fame and catch impersonators doing their best impressions of well-known artists.
9. Griffith Observatory
The Griffith Observatory offers exhibits and live science shows for free throughout the week, except on Mondays. It can be quite an experience for adults and children who are interested in space.
You can also get a fantastic view overlooking Los Angeles in the nighttime. Griffith Observatory is just a quick drive up from Hollywood.
10. Santa Monica Pier
The Pacific Coast Highway passes through the Santa Monica Pier. Its boardwalks and admission-free amusement park make it a desirable road trip destination. It was also known for the iconic Coney Island Ferris Wheel built in 1916. Unfortunately, the original structure was eventually replaced with the one being used today.