Tips and Tricks for Driving the Pacific Coast Highway

Tips and Tricks for Driving the Pacific Coast Highway

While the country is chock-full of amazing touring options, few compare to the experience of driving the Pacific Coast Highway. It takes you past some truly spectacular views of the sea, through some of the most iconic cities in the nation, and gives you an opportunity that few others get. With that being said, there are a few things that you should know in order to make the most of the trip. Below, we’ll explore what you need to know before heading off on a Pacific Coast Highway road trip.

North to South

One of the most important tips is this – go north to south along the highway. You’ll want to get on around San Francisco and point your nose south, toward Dana Point (the terminus of State Route 1). Why? Simply put, driving north to south gives you the best views out over the sea, but it also makes it simpler to pull over for photo ops and panoramic views. If you were go to south to north, you’d have to cross the road with every stop.

Know Your Stops

There’s so much more to the Pacific Coast Highway than incredible views of the Pacific Ocean. You’ll also have access to a broad range of things to see and do along the way. Make sure you plan at least a few stops. Winging it is fine to an extent, but at least plan out the high points. What are some of the major stops to consider?

  • Big Sur
  • 17-Mile Drive
  • Carmel-by-the-Sea
  • Huntington Beach
  • Malibu
  • Hearst Castle

Start Above California

While State Route 1 is usually referred to as the Pacific Coast Highway, the road actually continues well north of California. Consider starting your trek in Portland or Seattle and driving south if you really want to make the most of your time and explore some areas that many visitors never see.

Map It

Yes, the Pacific Coast Highway is mostly a single, straight trip, but that does not mean that you won’t get sidetracked here and there. Make sure you have either a standalone GPS unit in your car, or a decent GPS app on your smartphone. Supplement those with a real map in case of a power outage of a damaged device, too.

Visit Smaller Communities

A lot of people plan to visit major cities along the highway. San Francisco, Los Angeles, Malibu – these are pretty common. However, you can and should make time to explore some of the lesser known options along the way. For instance, Long Beach, Washington is small, quaint, and beautiful. Aberdeen, Washington is home to a Kurt Cobain memorial, but is worth exploring even if you are not a fan of Nirvana. Astoria, Oregon, is surprisingly charming.

In Conclusion

The Pacific Coast Highway can be an amazing destination for anything from a weekend getaway to an entire summer-long trip. There’s something to see and do for just about anyone, too. Get out there and have fun!



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