Highway 1, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway, is one of the most scenic routes in the United States. Spanning the beautiful California coastline, it offers a plethora of breathtaking views, charming towns, and exciting attractions. In this article, we will guide you through the must-see spots and things to do along this iconic highway.
Beginning the Adventure: Northern Terminus – Leggett
Highway 1 begins in Leggett, located in Northern California. Here, you can explore the magnificent redwood forests.
Drive Through a Tree
One of the quirkiest things to do at the beginning of Highway 1 is to drive through the famous Chandelier Tree, a 276-foot tall redwood tree with a hole large enough for your car to pass through.
Rugged Coastlines and Historic Lighthouses
As you continue south, the road meanders along rugged coastlines.
Point Cabrillo Light Station
Point Cabrillo Light Station offers a glimpse into maritime history just north of Mendocino. This historic lighthouse has a museum and you can take guided tours to learn about the lives of former lighthouse keepers.
Experience the Beauty of Big Sur
Arguably the most stunning section of Highway 1 is Big Sur, where the Santa Lucia Mountains rise abruptly from the Pacific Ocean.
Bixby Creek Bridge
One of the most photographed bridges in the United States, Bixby Creek Bridge is an architectural marvel. Stop here for a photo op with the bridge and the coastline in the background.
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
A must-visit spot in Big Sur is Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, home to the enchanting McWay Falls, which tumbles into the ocean from a height of 80 feet.
Coastal Town Charm in Carmel and Monterey
As you leave Big Sur, you’ll enter a region filled with delightful towns.
Pebble Beach and 17-Mile Drive
This famous scenic drive offers views of some of the most splendid coastal landscapes. Stop at the Lone Cypress and take a tour of the prestigious Pebble Beach Golf Links.
Monterey Bay Aquarium
In Monterey, visit the renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium. It’s considered one of the best aquariums in the world, showcasing a stunning variety of marine life.
Continuing through Central California
Heading further south, you’ll pass through several coastal cities, such as Santa Cruz, and then eventually through the vibrant city of San Luis Obispo.
In San Simeon, take a detour to visit the Hearst Castle, a National Historic Landmark. The castle is a palatial estate built by William Randolph Hearst, known for its opulent architecture and art collection.
Southern Stretch: Santa Barbara and Malibu
As Highway 1 approaches its southern terminus, it passes through the stylish town of Santa Barbara and the celebrity haven of Malibu.
Santa Barbara’s Historic Downtown
Explore the Spanish-style architecture in Santa Barbara’s historic downtown area and take a stroll along Stearns Wharf.
Zuma Beach in Malibu
Relax on the sandy shores of Zuma Beach, which is known for its clean waters and vibrant beach culture.
Concluding the Journey: Los Angeles
Highway 1 concludes in the bustling city of Los Angeles. Celebrate the end of your road trip by experiencing the city’s countless attractions, including Hollywood, the Getty Center, and Santa Monica Pier.