Summer is almost here and it's also the perfect season to plan a road trip! If you are making a trip to California soon I highly recommend renting a car and take a road trip down the California Coast. It is an absolutely unforgettable way to see so much of what the state has to offer. From waterfalls and castles to high deserts, untouched redwood forests and remarkable beaches, there’s really no shortage of things to do and see. Although it’s more popular to go from north to south for better views (as we’ve mapped out in this guide), no doubt the reverse direction is great too. Being one of the most scenic drives in the world, we advise you to take your sweet time exploring what each of the diverse areas have to offer.
No trip to California is complete without a jaunt through wine country, and this is a great place to start off your journey if covering the coast from top to bottom. Napa Valley
and Sonoma are the predominant wine country towns, but anywhere nearby should be able to give you a taste. Visit some of the bigger vineyards for sure, and also consider checking out the smaller, family-run ones to get a sense of the variety!
Driving across the Golden Gate Bridge will be the perfect welcoming into San Francisco
(it’s also quite beautiful to walk or bike over). While you’re here spend some time on Fisherman’s Wharf and try the infamous clam chowder, take a tour of Alcatraz Island or relax while riding the retro streetcars up and down Market Street. If you feel like taking in some nature, head over to Lyon Street Steps, which takes you past flower gardens and grand mansions and leads to a walking tour of Presidio Park.
Morro Bay is a quaint seaside town with surrounding beaches that have lots of year-round activities including boating, kayaking, beachcombing, hiking and biking. It is the ideal destination for travelers in search of outdoor adventure in a picturesque natural setting. If you’re spending a few days, consider visiting the Elfin Forest recreation reserve that offers 11 miles of enchanting forest full of native plants, or the Hearst Castle, located just 30 minutes north in San Simeon.
Big Sur is a rugged stretch along the coast with winding turns, seaside cliffs and views that will honestly take your breath away. To get there you’ll travel over the Bixby Bridge, one of the tallest and most photographed single span bridges in the world. Other amazing sights and stops along the Big Sur
include Pfeiffer Beach, McWay Falls, Point Sur State Historic Park and Raggad Point.
The sea meets wine country in this laid-back, picturesque surf town where the slow life reigns. Pismo Beach has also been self-dubbed the “Clam Capital of the World”, and you’ll find that the heritage of clamming is still strong. While fewer than 10,000 people actually live here, you’ll find a slew of hotels and restaurants with great views of the Pacific Ocean. Hop over to the accidentally-discovered natural mineral hot springs for some relaxation and rejuvenation.
Santa Barbara has often been referred to as the American Riviera. It’s not hard to see why with the pleasant year-round temperatures, beautiful beaches and gorgeous Spanish architecture all set against the Santa Ynez Mountains. Historical State Street is the perfect place for some light shopping and perusing among unique boutiques, showrooms, cafés and bars. Adventure enthusiasts and active travelers will no doubt enjoy the hiking scene throughout the county.
Just about an hour south of Santa Barbara sits the city of Ojai,
a hippie hideaway that has long drawn in the spiritually minded and those looking to leave behind the stress of big city life. Set in a valley in the Topatopa Mountains, the city has a village-like center dotted with art galleries and new age shops. The town also has its very own citrus and olive groves, an outdoor bookstore and several wine tasting rooms. Walk around and mingle with locals and you’ll hear them talk about the town’s “magnetic pull”.
L.A., another must-visit on every California road trip, is a known hotbed of culture, entertainment and fashion. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure sort of city, with options for a broad range of visitors. Hit up Beverly Hills to get a feel for luxury, cruise through Silver Lake to pop into some eclectic dives or spend the day in Malibu surfing the waves. Also be sure to check out views of the Hollywood sign before you go and take a tour of celebrity homes if you have the time!
The beaches, museums and the food scene make San Diego
the ultimate vacation city and the perfect ending point of your road trip. It’s also super outdoorsy, and it has the perfect climate for everything from sailing to hiking to biking. Relish in the nightlife of the Gaslamp District, hit up Balboa Park for some culture or visit The Children's Pool for the best place on the Pacific Coast to get up close and personal with seals!
As you can see, there's arguably something for everyone on this dream drive. Of course you’ll need the perfect outfit for the ultimate coastal road trip. You’ll want something you can be comfortable sitting for hours in, but also something that’s chic, easy to slip into and can be re-purposed later along the trek. Think roomy jumpsuits you can belt or dress up, sunglasses you'll never want to take off and shoes that are comfortable for walking and other outdoor activities. Checkout the perfect outfit to go with our chevron crossbody bag
. It's roomy enough to fit all of your necessities (map, water bottle, snacks, etc) and comfortable to carry with you on short hikes and walking around and discovering new hot spots! Thanks for letting me share some of my favorite places with you. Happy Travels!