The Pacific Coast Highway was probably the most exhilarating and most beautiful part of our road trip to the USA back in October 2015. When you plan your trip down this iconic road that winds down the most gorgeous shorelines, it does become a bit daunting on what to see and what to do. It's not just one place, it's a lot of places dotted along a journey that takes 2-3 days. We did our research thoroughly and I think we managed to see most of the important places. So without further ado here are 10 Places You Must see along the Pacific Coast Highway.
10 Places You Must see along the Pacific Coast Highway
1. Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara will enchant you immediately as you enter the city premises. The big pier (Stearn's Wharf) over looking the bay is both historical and entertaining. But venturing into the city has its flavors as well. It's a modern and stylish place. We had breakfast at Sambo's Restaurant and drove a bit through the city. It was a wonderful start for our road trip.
2. Pismo Beach
Pismo Beach is a bit stuck in time, but that's not a bad thing. It oozes charm and flavor. From the huge (mostly lonely) pier to the streets filled with bright yellow and orange houses, huge palm trees, and amazing beaches and rocky shorelines. Photography fans will rejoice here, and those who want to see some authentic California towns will be fulfilled as well.
3. Morro Bay
Morro Bay is a very quiet place, just what we needed after a whole day of driving. We made a stop for the day here. It's a fisherman's town with a lovely harbor and great seafood restaurants. The town's most striking feature is Morro Rock, a 576 foot high volcanic plug which stands at the entrance to the harbor and is a protected bird reservoir.
4. Elephant Seal Vista Point
You can't miss this one. The beautiful and cute seals come to two places along the shores of the Pacific Ocean in California to rest and this is one of them. The vista point is located just a couple of miles north from Cambria, but you won't miss it, since there are a lot of people here parked and taking photos.
5. Juila Pfeifer Burns State Park
This is not a place where you'll stay long (simply because there is not much to do here), but you have to come for the beautiful (and protected) crystal clear water that rushes to the beach, with a waterfall emerging from the cliffs and going in directly into the ocean. Park on the side of the road (which is actually not allowed, but everyone does it) or park inside the park which costs 10$ (we were not about to do that).
6. Bixby Bridge
The bridge is one of the most photographed features on the West Coast due to its pleasing aesthetic design and because of its location along the scenic Central Coast of California. When we got there fog started rolling in from the ocean. I suggest you park behind the bridge since you will get a better view of it.
7. Carmel By The Sea - Crossroads Shopping Center
I know, I know, I'm including a shopping center into this list, but let me explain. First, you'll need a place to get lunch while you're driving, and there is a great burger joint here called R.G. Burger which has amazing food. Second, this charming shopping center is located just along the Pacific Coast Highway, you don't need to enter a city or go off the map. The little houses in which the shops are located if worth stopping alone. The brands are local with some bigger chains being there as well. We loved taking a break here.
8. Natural Bridges State Beach
We arrived here just as the sun started to set. Natural Bridges State Beach is named for the naturally occurring mudstone bridges that were carved by the Pacific Ocean into cliffs that jutted out into the sea. The beach is small and sheltered which gave me a really great opportunity to take photos. When the ocean water goes down, you will see the holes in the rock formations, for which the park got its name.
9. Pigeon Point Lighthouse
I will redirect you to my main post for this place right away for more coastal lighthouse pictures, but let me just say that I still dream of this place. The freedom and happiness we felt here was unbelievable. Even though you can't go inside the lighthouse (since it's not in use), you can still roam around and chill out back on benches overlooking the wast, open ocean. Make sure to be here at sunset.
10. San Francisco
I know that this is a bit grand for a stop and also a obvious choice, but the Pacific Coast Highway actually goes through the city, over the Golden Gate Bridge and moves on further north towards Oregon. You can read more about our time spent in San Francisco here, with detailed instructions on what to do here.
These suggestions were all in chronological order going south to north from Los Angeles to San Francisco.
I hope that this post will be of use to the future traveler and if you are interested in out big travel series to the USA click here to view it!