One of the most famous and beloved highways in America, California State Route 1 runs along the coast, offering beautiful vistas of the Pacific Ocean and surrounding landscape. It meanders along the Golden State's coast for 655 miles, from its southern end in Dana Point (a 20-minute drive south of Laguna Beach) up to Leggett (a six-hour drive from San Francisco). From large oceanside metropolises to quintessential beach towns, the drive provides travelers with an array of worthwhile attractions -- suitable for both quick roadside iPhone snaps and week-long retreats. If you're thinking of taking this epic road trip, read on for the 11 stops you need to make along the Pacific Coast Highway.
Though San Diego isn't actually along Highway 1, it makes an excellent starting off point for travelers driving up the coast. Plus, it's jam-packed with stunning sights and family-friendly attractions. Famed Balboa Park alone has over a dozen museums and the San Diego Zoo; Coronado is a peninsula with a quaint town and beautiful beach; and the Gaslamp Quarter is the hip downtown area with quality restaurants and bars. After a day of exploring all that the sunny city has to offer, head a bit north to La Jolla, an upscale community with art galleries and the cliffside Torrey Pines Golf Course.
Check out our full travel guide to San Diego.
You don't have to be an actor or movie buff to enjoy Los Angeles. In addition to year-round lovely weather, the City of Angels offers Disneyland and the Hollywood Walk of Fame for kiddos, surfing at Santa Monica Beach, skateboarding and top-notch people-watching along the Venice Beach Boardwalk, and high-end shopping on Rodeo Drive. That barely scratches the surface of how to spend time in L.A., so grab a green juice and burrito and get to sightseeing.
Check out our full travel guide to Los Angeles.
After experiencing the highly populated L.A., you'll want to head to the lovely seaside town of Santa Barbara, which has a population of just around 90,000. Though small, it offers a surprising amount of things to do amid charming Mission-style architecture (a local ordinance requires all commercial construction to follow this design). Set between the Pacific Ocean and Santa Ynez Mountains, the city has great hiking trails, world-famous wineries, the historic Stearns Wharf pier, and a main street lined with boutiques and tasty eateries.
Check out our full travel guide to Santa Barbara.
Located a 45-minute drive from Santa Barbara, Solvang is a small Danish town with a population of around 6,000. Aside from walking the streets dotted with adorable Danish architecture, travelers can tour the Old Mission Santa Ines that was founded in 1804, get a picture in front of the windmill at Hans Christian Andersen Park, sample the region's wines at the numerous vino tasting rooms, and of course, eat delectable Danish pastries. The town also has a Danish celebration in September and Christmas celebration in December. For a weekend getaway, consider the Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort, which is situated a five-minute drive outside town. The family-friendly spot is set on a 10,000-acre working cattle ranch.
Want to spot wildlife without having to go to a zoo? Head to Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery in San Simeon, where a beachfront boardwalk allows visitors to get a good look at the pretty sea creatures for miles. While they can be spotted year-round, the peak times are in late January, early May, and late October. Entrance is free and there are several hotels nearby for those that want to extend their time.