PHOTO: See the Hearst Castle while driving the PCH. (Courtesy Flickr/Othree)
Were you to drive the length of the Pacific Coast Highway from its northernmost point, where Oregon meets California, down to San Diego without stopping, it would take about 10 hours of scenic vistas and winding highway.
But to speed down one of the world’s most picturesque drives without making a few stops along the way would border on criminal. While the Pacific Coast Highway passes through some of the America’s best-loved cities, there are numerous smaller spots worthy of exploration.
So hop in your Enterprise Rent-A-Car and check out our top eight great stops on the Pacific Coast Highway:
Humboldt Redwoods State Park and the Shrine Drive-Thru Tree. Start the journey off in the home of the world’s largest remaining contiguous old-growth forest of coast redwoods. It’s here that you can (and should) take a slow drive through the famous Shrine Drive-Thru Tree. Don’t forget to snap a picture.
Glass Beach. Starting the late 1800s through the 1960s, this stretch of beach outside the town of Fort Bragg was a city dump. Over the years, hundreds of thousands of bottles and pieces of pottery were smashed upon the rocks only to be tossed by the waves until they became smooth colorful pebbles.
Mendocino. You will be hard pressed to find a more adorable coastal village, complete with Victorian homes, saltbox cottages and breathtaking views of the sea. Fans of “Murder She Wrote” will recognize it as the home of Angela Lansbury’s famous detective Jessica Fletcher.
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Moss Beach Distillery. Get cozy in front of the fire, while you take in views of the Pacific and snack on tasty appetizers on the spot that was once a popular speakeasy. Luckily, Prohibition-era rules about alcohol no longer apply so you can sip your wine while scanning the horizon for passing whales.
Santa Cruz. Take a ride on one of the oldest wooden roller coasters in the country, the Giant Dipper, or spend the day on the beach, sailing among the sea otters and hearing live music while you rest up before an afternoon of thrift shopping in the Pacific Garden Mall.
Monterey. There’s a lot to see and do in Monterey, from the Monterey Bay Aquarium to Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. Take a detour and head down the scenic 17 Mile Drive to Carmel-by-the-Sea, where you can stroll down its charming streets filled with shops and cafes. You may even catch a glimpse of its famous former mayor, Clint Eastwood.
Big Sur and Pfeiffer State Beach. The Central Coast of California has some of the most stunning scenery of the drive, where dense pine forests grow right up to the beach and deep gorges cut through the mountains. Don’t miss Pfeiffer State Beach, where nearby manganese garnet deposits have given the beach a lovely purple color.
Hearst Castle, San Simeon. Newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst built this 115-room mansion to serve as a repository for his vast collection of European art and antiques. The castle sits on 127 acres where visitors can explore its manicured gardens, terraces and walkways.