Follow this spectacular California Highway One coast-hugging drive, making time for stops in places like Huntington Beach, Santa Barbara, and Monterey. It is one of the great trips you can start in California.
San Diego is one of California’s sunniest destinations. This waterfront city is overflowing with exceptional dining and craft beer experiences, outdoor adventures, family fun, and great shopping. Explore diverse neighbourhoods like Little Italy, the Gaslamp Quarter, the East Village, North Park, and Old Town, head to Balboa Park for a museum-filled day or a trip to see the giant pandas at the San Diego Zoo. Enjoy a day at the water at one of the city’s many beaches, such as Ocean Beach, Mission Beach, or Pacific Beach. You can rent stand-up paddleboards or kayaks at sparkling Mission Bay.
Continuing north on California Highway One plan at least a day to hang out and catch the surf vibe in this classic Huntingdon Beach town, where the main drag heads straight to the beach. Southern California’s beach culture thrives along this city’s curving shoreline, where you can bicycle down an oceanfront path, play volleyball, and, of course, surf. Surfing definitely sets the tone in Huntington Beach, and even if you never grab a board, there’s shopping at leading surf retailers and great views of the locals riding the waves alongside the landmark Huntington Pier.
From the pier, it’s a short walk to the outdoor mall Pacific City, or Main Street’s stylish boutiques and restaurants, many with sidewalk tables or decks that let you bask in Huntington Beach’s fresh ocean breezes and sun-soaked afternoons.
Santa Ynez Valley Wine Country
The Santa Ynez Valley, just north of Santa Barbara, is one of most diverse grape-growing regions in the county, with five distinct American Viticultural Areas (AVA). Near the Pacific, fog and cool air rolls in at dusk, ideal for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. Thirty miles inland at Happy Canyon, it’s sunny and hot—perfect for Bordeaux varieties like Cab Franc and Merlot.
Start your visit by buying a pass from the Santa Ynez Valley Wine Country Association to save on tastings at more than a dozen participating boutique wineries. And if you’re looking for a totally different way to tour the region, sign up for a Cloud Climbers Jeep Tour to go four-wheeling on mountain roads to various wineries, including picnic lunch.
Now for a truly unique place. Designed by legendary architect Julia Morgan, Hearst Castle is positively enthralling: a collection of priceless art and antiques from all over the world, exquisitely assembled in a mountaintop Mediterranean estate that Hearst dubbed La Cuesta Encantada (The Enchanted Hill).
The castle out-Hollywoods Hollywood and is as grand as the finest palaces of Europe. And the story of its visionary owner, William Randolph Hearst, is a made-in-America fable that proves that fact is truly stranger than fiction.
Welcome to Big Sur, one of the world’s most unforgettable stretches of coastline. This roughly 90-mile-long expanse of redwood- and fog-trimmed waterfront between Carmel-by-the-Sea and Hearst Castle draws you in with a magic allure. This is, quite simply, a place you want to be.
Drive Big Sur via twisting Highway One. One favourite photo op: McWay Falls, a silvery cascade falling some 70 feet from the cliffs to a remote beach in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. You can see it from the open sections of the park’s Overlook Trail. Look up to see endangered California condors, or look down to scan the swells for migrating whales or sea otters floating among dense beds of kelp.
Set along the curving sweep of its namesake bay, Monterey is a community in touch with both the natural world and the tides of history. This is one of the great treats on California Highway One.
On Cannery Row you’ll find luxurious waterfront hotels and remnants of old cannery buildings as you walk toward Old Fisherman’s Wharf, the historic pier that juts into Monterey Bay. Set out on a whale-watching or fishing trip, and don’t miss the clam chowder at the wharf’s many seafood restaurants. Or spend the day at Monterey Bay Aquarium, which gives you close-up looks at the bay’s remarkable marine life. Go nose-to-nose with adorable sea otters and catch glimpses of leopard sharks and schools of sardine swimming through the kelp forest exhibit. With 28-foot windows, it’s one of the world’s tallest aquariums. And just a short distance from town, some of the world’s finest golf courses await at Pebble Beach Golf Links.
Famous for grand-dame Victorians, classic cable cars, dynamic diversity, trend-defining, Michelin-starred cuisine, a beautiful waterfront, and a soaring crimson bridge, San Francisco, aka the “City by the Bay”, truly has it all and stands out as an ultimate must-see.
Pedal bikes across the Golden Gate Bridge and back, then explore the lush Presidio, a former military base that’s now a park, or head into Golden Gate Park to visit museums and row across a secret gem, Stow Lake. Continue along the flat Embarcadero to the bustling Ferry Building Marketplace, the Exploratorium science and learning museum, and colourful Fisherman’s Wharf.
There you end your journey on California Highway One.