15 Stops Along California's Pacific Coast Highway

PHOTO: A coastal California sunset along the beach in Oxnard. (photo courtesy of Oxnard Convention & Visitors Bureau)
Monica Poling
by Monica Poling
Last updated: 9:00 AM ET, Tue July 17, 2018

Pacific Coast Highway

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Now that Caltrans has officially announced that California's iconic Pacific Coast Highway will re-open on July 20 (after a $54 million recovery project,) it's time to dust off your driving gloves and plan the great western road trip. First time on this iconic highway? Here are some favorite stops:

Humboldt Redwoods State Park

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Not only does it house the world's largest remaining contiguous old-growth forest of coastal redwoods, Humboldt Redwoods State Park is also home to the famed Shrine Drive-Thru Tree.

Mendocino

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Don't miss this adorable coastal village, complete with Victorian homes, saltbox cottages and incredible sea views, that was the site of Angela Lansbury's "Murder She Wrote."

San Francisco

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Naturally, San Francisco is a must-visit locale for roadies, with an obligatory drive (or walk or bike ride) over the Golden Gate Bridge topping the to-do list.

Santa Cruz

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Home to one of the oldest wooden roller coasters in the country, the Giant Dipper, the Boardwalk at Santa Cruz is synonymous with summer fun.

Monterey

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Scenic Monterey has so many attractions, you'll need to spend some extra time here. Top-rated Monterey Bay Aquarium is a must, as is Cannery Row.

Carmel-by-the-Sea

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Connecting Monterey with Carmel-by-the-Sea, the scenic 17 Mile Drive is among California's most famous and beautiful stretches of roadway. While in town, try to spot famous former mayor, Clint Eastwood.

Big Sur and Pfeiffer State Beach

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Not to be missed, Big Sur is also a gorgeous way to view the Pacific Ocean. Pfeiffer State Beach is worth a visit due to its purple-shaded beach, thanks to nearby manganese garnet deposits.

San Simeon

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Although never completed, the 115-room Hearst Castle built by newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst is plenty impressive. Even more so when you consider it was designed in 1919, by one of California's first female architects, Julia Morgan.

Pismo Beach

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Much of the coastal route's charms are found in the smaller towns found along the way. That's the story for quaint Pismo Beach, which has a delightful stretch of coast, complete with rocky cliffs, a sandy beach and a mountain-studded backdrop.

Santa Barbara

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Known as the American Riviera, Santa Barbara is revered not only for its stunning views of the Pacific framed by the Santa Ynez Mountains but also for the wineries and vineyards that make their home in the area.

Oxnard

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Midway between Santa Barbara and Malibu, Oxnard is the epitome of chill beach getaways. And it is one of the few destinations in California to actually have a resort located on the beach. Hang out locally, or use this as a jumping off point to explore Channel Islands, National Park.

Malibu

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At the northernmost part of Los Angeles County, Malibu is known for its sleek beaches and celebrity homes. It's also a great place to catch a wave. Surfrider Beach, located near the Malibu Pier, was named the world's first surfing reserve.

Santa Monica

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Get your kicks in Santa Monica, the western-most point along famed roadway Route 66. The Santa Monica Pier, with its own amusement park, is an ideal spot to watch the sun go down over the Pacific Ocean.

Laguna Beach

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Orange County is at its most charming in Laguna Beach, a beachside artist retreat. The local tidepools and the free-of-charge Pacific Marine Mammal Center, where injured seals and sea lions recuperate, make this a charmer for families.

San Diego

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At the southern-most points of California's Coastal Drive, San Diego County alone features 70 miles of glorious shoreline. Be sure to visit the famed Hotel Del Coronado, which starred in the epic Marilyn Monroe film, "Some Like it Hot."

Dust off your driving gloves and set out for the great western road trip.

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Helping leisure selling travel agents successfully manage their at-home business.

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Agent Specialization: Group Travel

Laurence Pinckney

Laurence Pinckney

CEO of Zenbiz Travel, LLC

About Me