Pacific Coast Drive: Ocean Meets 'Wow!'

Highways are corridors to vacation destinations. In one long stretch from California to Washington the route is the destination.

No picture or poem truly captures the landscape’s majesty. It’s truly something that must be experienced firsthand. Skilled engineering supports the roadway without taking away from the seemingly unending views.

The drive predominantly hugs the western border of the United State’s mainland.  Waves cascade over jagged rocks jutting out from constantly roiling water. The squawks of circling seabirds complement the chorus of white capped waves pounding the surf.  

Officially known as State Route 1, the Pacific Coast Highway technically only exists in California. Yet, the road connects to Highway 101 and stretches northbound through Oregon and Washington.

There’s plenty of places to stop along the way and stretch your legs. Here’s only a few recommendations of spots to sightsee, take pictures, or have a picnic in the ocean breeze.

California

-Mugu Rock, Point Mugu State Park

This distinctive, bulbous outcropping rises from the white sand beach at Point Mugu State Park in Oxnard, a coastal city in Southern California north of Malibu.

Mugu Rock’s distinctive appearance stems from the highway’s construction. In 1925, crews cut a path through the stone with surplus explosives from World War I.  

-North side of the Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito

Arguably the world’s most famous suspension bridge, the Art Deco masterpiece is located on Highway 101. The bridge also designates where San Francisco Bay ends and the Pacific Ocean begins.

Make a point to cross the Golden Gate Bridge headed southbound. This route brings you into San Francisco from the Marin Headlands, providing peerless vistas of a world class city.

-Big Sur

This community along the central California’s coastline is perhaps most famous for a Jack Kerouac novel bearing its name. The first part of what came to be known as the Pacific Coast Highway was built here in the 1930s.

The highway hugs the coast for more than 90 miles before turning inland and heading into a redwood forest in the Big Sur River Valley.

-Monterey and Carmel

The Pacific Coast Highway runs directly beside the storied Pebble Beach Golf Course, a public course bordering the water.

-Hearst Castle, San Simeon

Back when people learned the news from newspapers and not the internet, the Hearst family commissioned revered San Francisco architect Julia Morgan to develop structures for a lot sprawling across a quarter million acres.

Hearst Castle, a California State Park since 1958, features clusters of suites, cottages, secluded bedrooms, and inviting public rooms. The architecture stands out as Morgan’s best work and attracts more than 1 million visitors a year.

-Malibu

This could be the place most commonly associated with the Pacific Coast Highway. Multimillion dollar homes lean over the cliffsides as surfers and swimmers bask in the pristine beaches and tame waters.

Oregon

-Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

This is where Highway 1 resumes its path along the shoreline. Expect to be on Highway 1 for a little bit before seeing any water. The pavement pushes through miles of sand dunes before the Pacific Ocean returns to view.

-Sea Lion Caves, Florence, Oregon

America’s largest sea cave plays home to hundreds (if not thousands) of sea lions. The cavernous setting provides them shelter and a breeding ground as waves surge into the caverns. The caves sit 12 stories beneath the highway and are accessed by an elevator.

Washington

-Port Townsend

Found on the northeast tip of the Olympic peninsula, Port Townsend celebrates its history as a Victorian seaport. Victorian homes overlook the shoreline and nearby Water Street hosts galleries, boutiques, and an old-fashioned ice cream shop.

-Raymond

Established in 1907 as a lumber-mill town, Raymond is easily identified by steel sculptures lining the roadway. Local tourist attractions include the Willapa Seaport Museum and the Northwest Carriage Museum.