The Pacific Coast Highway, also known as Highway 1, is an infamous stretch of road that winds along the rugged California coastline, offering breathtaking views and unforgettable experiences. When I went to college in Monterey, I once decided to take the 1 from Monterey all the way down to Santa Barbra on my way back home to Palm Springs. I’ve now done a few different variations of this drive and recommend a few key stops actually starting from Santa Cruz and ending down in Morro Bay. Join me as we explore these essential stops and hidden gems along this incredible route.
Santa Cruz Boardwalk
Start your journey at the lively Santa Cruz Boardwalk, an iconic seaside amusement park that’s been a California staple for over a century. Enjoy thrilling rides, classic arcade games, and the lively atmosphere of this beachfront destination before hitting the road.
Panther Beach, Santa Cruz
While in Santa Cruz, also be sure to make a stop at Panther Beach. Here, you’ll find a beautiful beach with an opening in a cliff that creates a picturesque (and very instagrammable) arch.
Abandoned Pier Swing, Davenport
Make a stop in the charming town of Davenport, known for its pristine beaches and the captivating abandoned pier swing. Davenport’s history dates back to the mid-1800s when it was established as a small whaling town. This unique swing is perched on the remnants of an old pier that was used for businesses in the whaling industry. Today it offers a thrilling experience and panoramic views of the coastline. It’s a perfect spot for a dose of adventure and adrenaline (having to scale the side of the cliff to get down there) and a memorable photo opportunity.
17-Mile Drive, Monterey Bay
One of the best ways to see the stunning panoramic views Monterey Bay has to offer is with the 17-mile drive. The 17-Mile Drive offers a breathtaking route through exclusive neighborhoods, championship golf courses, and stunning coastal landscapes, including famous stops like the Lone Cypress and Bird Rock. It’s a must-do experience for anyone visiting the area.
Bixby Creek Bridge, Big Sur
Bixby Creek Bridge is an iconic stop. When people think of Big Sur, this bridge likely comes to mind. It’s actually one of the tallest single-span concrete bridges in the world. Stop here to capture panoramic views of the coastline.
McWay Falls, Big Sur
Another iconic Big Sur location is McWay Falls. You’ve probably seen a picture of this stunning waterfall at some point in your life. It’s a waterfall that cascades directly onto a pristine beach in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. It’s a photographer’s paradise and it requires a a short hike to get to.
Elephant Seal Beach, San Simeon
My next recommendation is to make a quick stop in San Simeon to see Elephant Seal Beach. From December through March, female elephant seals arrive on the beach to give birth. Witnessing thousands of these magnificent creatures up close is a truly awe-inspiring sight.
Morro Rock, Morro Bay
And last but not least, I recommend making a stop in Morro Bay to see the infamous Morro Rock. Stop and explore the bay’s picturesque waterfront, enjoy fresh seafood, and reflect on the incredible journey you’ve just completed!
Did this journey get your travel blood pumping? Pack your bags, hit the road, and let the California coast take your breath away! Let us know what stop we missed and should add to this list. As always, travel on my friends.