A Coastal Road Trip on California’s HWY 1Highway 1 is one of the most beautiful drives in the United States, and if you’re planning a trip to the Pacific Northwest. Start your trip in San Francisco, and spend a few days exploring the city with your family. Look into the Travelers Haven furnished apartments, and eat until bursting from one of the many food trucks in the city.
When you’ve had your fill of San Francisco, drive south on highway 101, until you see the junction for highway 1. I’ve driven this highway from the South, up to San Francisco, but driving from the North, down, will give you more turnout options, and trust me, with this coastal highway, you’ll want to stop and soak in the scenery from time to time.
Highway 1 hugs the California coast. The road winds around cliffs on one side, and ocean waves crash against the shore on the other. Although you can make the drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 8-9 hours, consider taking two days. This will give you a chance to slow down, and enjoy.
- Monetrey has a fabulous Aquarium, and if you time things, you may arrive in time for the Penguin feeding at 10:30 a.m.!
- Carmel (Carmel-by-the-sea) is a quaint town, and a good place to pickup some snacks, and items for a picnic lunch.
The drive from Carmel to Plaskett is gorgeous. The road is small and it winds around the cliffs. As you drive there will be several opportunities to pull over, and enjoy the ocean views. Take your time, and enjoy. In summer this road can be quite busy, so sit back, relax, and look for a spot to stop. A picnic lunch on the beach is a great way to relax for an hour or so.
Big Sur is only 17 miles from Plaskett, and a good place to pull over, and find a hotel, or campsite. If it’s still light out, take a small family hike, or look for a local diner, and have some dinner.
The drive from Big Sur to San Simeon will be similar to your first day, but just outside San Simeon is a seal colony, and definitely worth some time. There are quite a few seals in the area, and your kids will love watching them lay on the beach, making fart-like noises, and grunting.
The drive from San Simeon to Los Angeles leaves the coast from time to time, and this is where you’ll drive through bigger towns and cities like Santa Maria and Santa Barbara. Although Los Angeles can be a fascinating city, consider finding a place to stay in Santa Monica. There are some great properties near the beach, and your kids will go crazy for Santa Monica Pier, and the craziness of Venice Beach.
The California coast is beautiful just about any time of year. The key to enjoying this drive is to relax, take time to get out, and explore, and to make it fun for everyone.