California Road Trip: Best Stops Along Highway One

From San Diego to San Francisco, discover the best stops along the iconic Highway One for the ultimate California road trip. 

If you've been following FOXY OXIE on Instagram, you already saw that the husband and I have been road tripping up the coast of California in celebration of many things, including our three-year wedding anniversary. Although my initial plan was to remain almost entirely unplugged, it's nearly impossible not to share just a glimpse of the beauty that has (literally) been taking my breath away for the past eight days.

For someone who has traveled to nearly 30 countries, it's quite embarrassing how very few of the States I have seen. So when our international travel plans fell through at the last minute, I was surprisingly okay with keeping our travels a bit more local – our idea of local being to fly to the opposite end of the country and then drive nearly 800 miles up Highway One – what is, quite possibly, the most scenic drive in the United States.

I'm planning a series of in-depth travel guides and photo diaries of where to go, what to see, where to eat and stay, but in the meantime I wanted to give you just a taste of some of my favorite stops we made along the iconic Highway One. 

San Diego

Beginning our road trip in southern California, we were greeted with San Diego's sunny skies and mild climate – a welcome change from the cold and rainy Tennessee we had left behind. More surprising than the summer weather in November, however, was the city's super chill vibe. Despite being the second-largest city in California, San Diego was one of the most pedestrian-friendly cities we have ever visited. With its miles of charming seaside neighborhoods like La Jolla, some of the best Mexican cuisine north of the border and year-round sunshine, there's always something fun to do in San Diego.

California Road Trip: Best Stops Along Highway One

California Road Trip: Best Stops Along Highway One

California Road Trip: Best Stops Along Highway One

California Road Trip: Best Stops Along Highway One

Laguna Beach

We arrived in Laguna Beach in early afternoon and immediately fell in love with the seaside resort village best known for its beautiful coastline isolated from urban life by surrounding hills. Wandering down the miles upon miles of sand, we discovered the mysterious Victoria Beach Pirate Tower that could only be accessed after waiting for the crashing waves to recede before running across the stretch of sand to where the tower stood. The rugged coast, modern mansions and exotic plant life provided a captivating background as we watched the sun drench the coast in its golden light.

California Road Trip: Best Stops Along Highway One

California Road Trip: Best Stops Along Highway One

California Road Trip: Best Stops Along Highway One

California Road Trip: Best Stops Along Highway One

Los Angeles

After arriving in Los Angeles, we immediately headed to Hollywood before the throngs of tourists arrived. Some of our favorite tourist spots were the Hollywood Boulevard, otherwise known as the Walk of Fame, Runyon Park for panoramic views of LA mansions, and, of course, Rodeo Drive, where the Holiday Lighting Ceremony just happened to be taking place, adding to our already festive mood. The next day, to make up for our tourist traps of the previous day, we drove past Malibu to El Matador Beach, one of the dreamiest beaches along Highway One.

California Road Trip: Best Stops Along Highway One

California Road Trip: Best Stops Along Highway One

California Road Trip: Best Stops Along Highway One

California Road Trip: Best Stops Along Highway One

Big Sur

After making a quick stop in Santa Barbara, we headed out for a day of exploring Big Sur, making sure we had plenty of extra time to make as many stops as possible along the way. These 90 miles of redwood- and fog-trimmed waterfront between San Simeon and Monterey is without boundaries and urban cityscapes. It draws you in with a magic allure that is almost palpable. Big Sur is, quite simply, heaven on earth. 

California Road Trip: Best Stops Along Highway One

California Road Trip: Best Stops Along Highway One

California Road Trip: Best Stops Along Highway One

California Road Trip: Best Stops Along Highway One

San Francisco

After stopping in rugged Monterey and romantic Carmel, we finally reached San Francisco. While we initially started exploring “the City by the Bay” by foot, we soon found that the cough which had previously plagued me for three days straight would force us to revert to exploring by car, which wasn't so bad after all, considering the freezing temperatures. From The Painted Ladies to the Golden Gate Bridge and everything in between, this city has so much to offer that a lifetime in this city wouldn't be enough to discover all of its hidden gems. 

California Road Trip: Best Stops Along Highway One

California Road Trip: Best Stops Along Highway One

California Road Trip: Best Stops Along Highway One

California Road Trip: Best Stops Along Highway One

Which of these stops look most interesting to you? Which one do you want to read about next?

I can't wait to share in more detail with you!

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25 Comments

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    • Thanks so much, Scott! You are absolutely correct, totally my mistake! Not sure where I got third-largest from… I did so much reading about each destination while we were on the road that I must’ve simply mixed up my facts! Thanks for the correction, and thank you for your feedback!

      Have you done the Highway 1 drive yourself? What were your thoughts?

      • Yes, I have had the pleasure of driving Highway 1 or the Pacific Coast Highway on 2 occasions. First time was from LA to San Francisco and the second time was from San Diego to LA. Laguna Beach was one of my favorite areas. It’s such a great artist community and there are great restaurants there as well.

        In the future I’m hoping to conquer other coastal drives like the Hana Highway in Maui and The Great Ocean Road in Australia.

        You have a wonderful blog. Keep up the good work.

    • Thanks so much for your sweet words! I was blown away by the range in landscape as we drove along the coast! Any destination that is of particular interest to you? I’m working on lots of travel photo diaries on each destination, so feel free to tune in for more vacation inspiration! XO

    • Hi Jess, Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts! Any destination that is of particular interest to you? I’m working on lots of travel photo diaries on each destination, so feel free to tune in for more vacation inspiration! XO

    • Hi Harmony, Thanks so much for your sweet encouragement about my photography! Any destination that is of particular interest to you? I’m working on lots of travel photo diaries on each destination, so feel free to tune in for more vacation inspiration! XO

    • Oh yes, these photos are only a tiny fraction of everything we saw and did! I’m working on lots of travel photo diaries on each destination, so feel free to tune in for more vacation inspiration! Any destination that is of particular interest to you? XO

    • Hi Sarah, Thank you for the positive feedback! At the risk of sounding cliche, Big Sur is truly life-changing. I was blown away with its rugged beauty and undisturbed coastline. Have you ever been? Any destination along the PCH that is of particular interest to you?

    • Hi Roza, Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts, as well as sending recommendations along the way! If it wasn’t for you, I would never happen upon the Victoria Beach Pirate Tower and the lovely Carmel-by-the-Sea. So sad our paths didn’t cross in Cali, but I’m looking forward to having you over when you’re in Tennessee! XO

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