Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip: The most scenic stops along the way

Seeker Editors

Ready to hit the road and feast your eyes on some of the most stunning coastal views America has to offer? Buckle up, because the Pacific Coast Highway, also known as Highway 1, is a road tripper's dream—a ribbon of tarmac stretching along the edge of the western United States, flaunting ocean vistas, charming towns, and awe-inspiring landscapes that you'll be reminiscing about for years to come. As you wind your way from the misty shores of the north to the sun-kissed beaches in the south, there are some stops that simply can't be missed. So let's talk about the Pacific Coast Highway road trip and all the scenic pit stops that make this journey an adventure of a lifetime.

Balboa Island, Molo di Santa Monica, Pismo Beach, Hearst Castle, Venice beach, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Point Reyes National Seashore, Morro Bay, Point Arena Lighthouse, Glass Beach, Coos Bay, Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, Crystal Cove State Park, Heceta Head Lighthouse, Astoria-Megler Bridge, Yaquina Head Lighthouse, The Queen Mary, Santa Barbara, Bixby Creek Bridge, Golden Gate Bridge, Cannon Beach, Long Beach, 17 Mile Drive, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Malibu, Laguna Beach, Tillamook Creamery, Bodega Bay

  • Balboa Island in Newport Beach, United States

    Image of Balboa Island on Seeker
    • seeker

      Balboa Island is a charming coastal gem nestled in Newport Beach, California, and is a must-see stop on any Pacific Coast Highway road trip. Accessible via a short ferry ride or by crossing the Marine Avenue bridge, visitors are greeted with picturesque bay-front paths, boutique shops, and the famous Balboa Bar—a delectable frozen treat to enjoy while strolling the island. Taking a detour to this quaint island community offers a delightful contrast to the scenic coastal drive and an opportunity to experience the laid-back Southern California island lifestyle.

  • Molo di Santa Monica in Santa Monica, United States

    Image of Molo di Santa Monica on Seeker
    • seeker

      The Molo di Santa Monica, known as the Santa Monica Pier, is a quintessential landmark for anyone embarking on a Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip. This iconic pier, extending into the Pacific Ocean, offers breathtaking views and serves as a picturesque stop where travelers can enjoy an amusement park, aquarium, restaurants, and often live entertainment. It's a delightful spot to stretch your legs, soak in the vibrant atmosphere, and capture memorable photos against the backdrop of the vast coastline.

  • Pismo Beach, United States

    Image of Pismo Beach on Seeker
    • seeker

      Pismo Beach is a quintessential stop along the Pacific Coast Highway, renowned for its stunning ocean views, broad sandy beaches, and the iconic Pismo Pier stretching into the Pacific. It's a perfect spot for road trippers to stretch their legs with a walk along the shore or indulge in some fresh seafood at local eateries. This coastal city is also known for its opportunities for beachfront camping, making it an ideal place to spend the night under the stars to the soothing sound of crashing waves.

  • Hearst Castle in San Simeon, United States

    Image of Hearst Castle on Seeker
    • seeker

      Hearst Castle, perched atop the enchanting hills of San Simeon, is a historic and opulent landmark that is one of the most scenic stops along the Pacific Coast Highway. This grand estate, conceived by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst and architect Julia Morgan, offers visitors a glimpse into the lavish lifestyles of early 20th-century America with its stunning collection of art, antiques, and its famous Neptune Pool. As you journey along the iconic coastal route, a visit to Hearst Castle provides not only a visual feast of ornate architecture but also breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape and the vast Pacific Ocean.

  • Venice beach in Los Angeles, United States

    Image of Venice beach on Seeker
    • seeker

      Venice Beach stands out as a vibrant and eclectic stop along the Pacific Coast Highway road trip, offering travelers a unique glimpse into Southern California's beach culture. Its world-famous boardwalk is lined with street performers, artists, and vendors, presenting an entertaining backdrop to the beautiful stretch of sandy beach. Visitors can take a break from the drive to enjoy the colorful murals, the iconic Muscle Beach outdoor gym, or simply relax and watch the sun set over the Pacific.

  • Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in Big Sur, United States

    Image of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park on Seeker
    • seeker

      Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is an essential stop along the Pacific Coast Highway famed for its stunning beauty and the iconic McWay Falls, an 80-foot waterfall that plunges directly into the Pacific Ocean. The park offers some of the most enchanting views of California's rugged coastline, with trails that meander through redwood forests, and lookouts that provide breathtaking vistas of the ocean. This picturesque destination is a highlight for any road tripper seeking the quintessential blend of land and sea that makes the Pacific Coast Highway one of the most scenic drives in the world.

  • Carmel-by-the-Sea, United States

    Image of Carmel-by-the-Sea on Seeker
    • seeker

      Carmel-by-the-Sea is a picturesque small town in California known for its fairy tale cottages, art galleries, and beautiful white-sand beach, making it a must-visit stop on a Pacific Coast Highway road trip. Travelers can enjoy wandering through the charming streets, visiting the historic Carmel Mission, or taking in the stunning views of the rugged coastline at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, located just south of the town. This enchanting enclave offers a blend of cultural experiences and natural beauty, perfectly encapsulating the diverse attractions found along the scenic route of the Pacific Coast Highway.

  • Point Reyes National Seashore, United States

    Image of Point Reyes National Seashore on Seeker
    • seeker

      Point Reyes National Seashore is a captivating stop along the Pacific Coast Highway, offering visitors dramatic ocean vistas, expansive sandy beaches, and a wealth of wildlife including elephant seals, tule elk, and numerous bird species. The seashore features the iconic Point Reyes Lighthouse, perched atop a rugged cliff, which provides an excellent photo opportunity and a historical perspective on coastal navigation. This natural sanctuary, crisscrossed with hiking trails and dotted with pastoral landscapes, is an ideal location for a refreshing break from the road to embrace the wild beauty of the Northern California coast.

  • Morro Bay, United States

    Image of Morro Bay on Seeker
    • seeker

      Nestled along the stunning central coast of California, Morro Bay is a picturesque stop on a Pacific Coast Highway road trip, offering travelers the chance to admire the dramatic Morro Rock, a volcanic plug standing mightily at the harbor's entrance. Visitors can marvel at the rich marine life, take a stroll along the charming waterfront, or explore the vibrant estuary while enjoying fresh seafood caught by the local fishing fleet. With its breathtaking coastal views and serene natural beauty, Morro Bay provides a tranquil retreat and a chance to witness the diversity of the Pacific coastline.

  • Point Arena Lighthouse in Point Arena, United States

    Image of Point Arena Lighthouse on Seeker
    • seeker

      Nestled on a rocky peninsula along the majestic Pacific Coast Highway, Point Arena Lighthouse stands as an iconic beacon of the Northern California coastline. As one of the most scenic stops on a PCH road trip, visitors can climb the lighthouse for panoramic views of the rugged cliffside and expansive ocean, or explore the nearby tide pools and coastal trails that offer a glimpse into the area's natural beauty and wildlife. This historic lighthouse and its surrounding nature reserve provide a serene and picturesque break from the road, inviting travelers to soak in the maritime history and stunning vistas.

  • Glass Beach in Fort Bragg, United States

    Image of Glass Beach on Seeker
    • seeker

      Glass Beach, located near Fort Bragg in Northern California, is a unique and photogenic stop along the Pacific Coast Highway road trip. Famous for its sparkling sea glass created from years of discarded glass being polished by the surf, this beach offers a colorful and unusual landscape that's a testament to nature's ability to transform human waste into beauty. Visitors to this scenic stop can explore the glistening shore, capture stunning photographs, and reflect on the convergence of human history and natural wonder.

  • Coos Bay, United States

    Image of Coos Bay on Seeker
    • seeker

      Coos Bay, situated along the Oregon Coast on the renowned Pacific Coast Highway, is a picturesque stop that captures the rugged beauty of the Pacific Northwest. As the largest city on the Oregon coast, it offers travelers a mix of stunning natural scenery with the Cape Arago State Park nearby, and cultural attractions such as the Coos Art Museum and historical boardwalk. This scenic stop provides an array of activities, from beachcombing and exploring tide pools at Sunset Bay, to watching seals and sea lions at Simpson Reef Overlook, making it an unforgettable part of any Pacific Coast Highway road trip.

  • Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, United States

    Image of Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area on Seeker
    • seeker

      The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is one of the standout scenic treasures along the Pacific Coast Highway. Stretching for roughly 40 miles along the coastline, visitors are captivated by its vast expanses of wind-sculpted sand dunes, some towering up to 500 feet high. This unique coastal ecosystem offers a plethora of activities, including off-highway vehicle adventures, hiking, and photography, making it an essential stop on any Pacific Coast Highway road trip.

  • Crystal Cove State Park in Laguna Beach, United States

    Image of Crystal Cove State Park on Seeker
    • seeker

      Crystal Cove State Park is a dazzling jewel along the Pacific Coast Highway that offers travelers a splendid mix of natural beauty and recreational activities. Nestled between Newport Beach and Laguna Beach, it boasts 3.2 miles of pristine coastline, coastal cliffs, and a historic beachside colony of cottages that capture the laid-back essence of Southern California's coast. During a road trip down this scenic route, a stop at Crystal Cove is the perfect opportunity to stretch your legs on picturesque hiking trails, explore tide pools, or simply soak in the panoramic ocean views that make this drive unforgettable.

  • Heceta Head Lighthouse in Florence, United States

    Image of Heceta Head Lighthouse on Seeker
    • seeker

      Perched atop a sheer cliff along Oregon's rugged coast, Heceta Head Lighthouse stands as a historic beacon and one of the most picturesque stops on a Pacific Coast Highway road trip. Built in 1894, this iconic lighthouse offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and is considered to be one of the most photographed lighthouses in the United States. Travelers can take a guided tour of the lighthouse, stroll the surrounding trails for panoramic vistas, or explore the nearby sandy coves, making it an unforgettable pit stop along the scenic coastal route.

  • Astoria-Megler Bridge in Astoria, United States

    Image of Astoria-Megler Bridge on Seeker
    • seeker

      The Astoria-Megler Bridge, spanning the mighty Columbia River, is a not-to-be-missed landmark on a Pacific Coast Highway road trip. As the longest continuous truss bridge in North America, this impressive structure connects Oregon to Washington and offers breathtaking views of the river and its surroundings. Stopping here allows travelers to take in a panoramic vista that encompasses the maritime charm of Astoria, the rolling hills of the Pacific Northwest, and the vast expanse of the river that once guided explorers Lewis and Clark to the Pacific Ocean.

  • Yaquina Head Lighthouse in Newport, United States

    Image of Yaquina Head Lighthouse on Seeker
    • seeker

      Yaquina Head Lighthouse stands as a historic and picturesque beacon along the Pacific Coast Highway, offering a memorable stop on this epic road trip. Perched on a bluff at Yaquina Head, just north of Newport, Oregon, the lighthouse is the tallest in the state and has been guiding ships since 1873. Visitors here can soak in panoramic ocean views, explore tide pools, and possibly catch a glimpse of migrating whales, making it one of the most scenic and enriching experiences along the Pacific Coast.

  • The Queen Mary in Long Beach, United States

    Image of The Queen Mary on Seeker
    • seeker

      As you embark on your Pacific Coast Highway road trip, one of the most historic and visually striking stops you should schedule is a visit to the Queen Mary in Long Beach. Moored as a floating museum and hotel, this grand ocean liner not only offers panoramic views of the coastline but also a nostalgic glimpse into maritime history with its preserved art deco elegance and rich seafaring legacy. A tour of the ship or a leisurely meal at one of its onboard restaurants provides a unique, luxurious respite from the road, steeped in the glamour of transatlantic travel from a bygone era.

  • Santa Barbara, United States

    Image of Santa Barbara on Seeker
    • seeker

      Santa Barbara is a picturesque coastal city that serves as a premier stop on any Pacific Coast Highway road trip. Known for its stunning Spanish colonial architecture, lush gardens, and sandy beaches, it offers travelers a chance to explore its historic Mission, wander through vibrant downtown areas or relax at Stearns Wharf with views of the Pacific. As you drive along the PCH, you’ll find Santa Barbara's combination of cultural attractions and natural beauty to be a refreshing and unforgettable break in your coastal journey.

  • Bixby Creek Bridge in Monterey, United States

    Image of Bixby Creek Bridge on Seeker
    • seeker

      Bixby Creek Bridge stands as one of the most breathtaking stops along the Pacific Coast Highway road trip, offering travelers an iconic glimpse into the rugged beauty of California's coastline. Perched majestically above the rocky cliffs of Big Sur, this historic concrete arch bridge provides a perfect photo opportunity, with expansive views of the azure Pacific Ocean stretching out beneath its grand span. Visitors often pause here to marvel at the engineering feat and the serene beauty that embodies the quintessential scenic drive along Highway 1.

  • Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, United States

    Image of Golden Gate Bridge on Seeker
    • seeker

      The Golden Gate Bridge stands as an iconic landmark and a quintessential stop on any Pacific Coast Highway road trip, offering breathtaking views where the San Francisco Bay meets the Pacific Ocean. As travelers approach this majestic suspension bridge, they are greeted with its unmistakable International Orange color and grandeur, making for an unforgettable photo opportunity and a memorable highlight of the coastal journey. Crossing the bridge also provides a chance to stop at Vista Point on the northern side, where panoramic vistas of the city skyline, Alcatraz, and the Marin Headlands await road trippers.

  • Cannon Beach, United States

    Image of Cannon Beach on Seeker
    • seeker

      Cannon Beach, nestled along the magnificent Oregon coast, is a highlight for travelers embarking on a Pacific Coast Highway road trip. Known for its iconic Haystack Rock towering 235 feet above the shoreline, this picturesque beach offers stunning views and a chance to explore tide pools teeming with marine life. A stop at Cannon Beach not only promises breathtaking coastal scenery but also a quaint town experience with art galleries, boutiques, and cozy cafes, making it one of the most scenic and charming stops along the Pacific Coast Highway.

  • Long Beach, United States

    Image of Long Beach on Seeker
    • seeker

      Long Beach, California, is an iconic stop along the Pacific Coast Highway, offering travelers a vibrant seaside escape with its bustling waterfront and the historic Queen Mary ocean liner turned museum. The city's Shoreline Village provides picturesque views, unique shopping experiences, and an array of dining options that showcase the area's diverse cuisine. While cruising through Long Beach on the PCH, visitors can also explore the renowned Aquarium of the Pacific or relax on the sandy beaches that epitomize Southern California's laid-back coastal lifestyle.

  • 17 Mile Drive, United States

    Image of 17 Mile Drive on Seeker
    • seeker

      As you journey along the Pacific Coast Highway, one of the most iconic and breathtaking stretches is the 17 Mile Drive in Pebble Beach, California. This famous coastal landmark offers travelers a chance to immerse themselves in stunning natural beauty, as the winding road meanders through forests, past dramatic seaside cliffs, and iconic golf courses. With photo-worthy vistas at every turn, including the Lone Cypress and the Ghost Tree, it's a must-see detour that encapsulates the picturesque essence of the Californian coast.

  • Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in Santa Cruz, United States

    Image of Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk on Seeker
    • seeker

      Nestled along the sun-kissed shores of the Pacific, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk emerges as an enchanting stop on any Pacific Coast Highway road trip. Boasting a vintage charm with its historic amusement park—one of the oldest surviving amusement parks in California—it offers a delightful mix of nostalgic rides, classic games, and seaside snacks, all set against the backdrop of a pristine beach. This iconic attraction not only provides a lively break from the long stretches of road but also serves up panoramic ocean views that exemplify the scenic grandeur of the California coast.

  • Malibu, United States

    Image of Malibu on Seeker
    • seeker

      Malibu, a quintessential stop along the Pacific Coast Highway, offers a dazzling mix of coastlines and celebrity homes, making it a must-see destination for road trippers seeking the essence of California's shoreline. With its iconic Surfrider Beach, pristine stretches of sand, and the rugged beauty of the Santa Monica Mountains, Malibu is not only a surfer's paradise but also a picturesque spot for anyone to soak in the golden sunsets. Visitors can explore the local culture at the Malibu Country Mart, enjoy fresh seafood at the Malibu Pier, or take a detour to the Malibu Wine Safaris for a unique tasting experience amidst the rolling vineyards.

  • Laguna Beach, United States

    Image of Laguna Beach on Seeker
    • seeker

      As you wind along the Pacific Coast Highway, a must-visit scenic stop is the picturesque town of Laguna Beach, renowned for its stunning coastal views, pristine beaches, and artsy vibe. Here, travelers can explore unique art galleries, boutiques, and a variety of oceanfront dining options that offer panoramic vistas of the Pacific Ocean. Don't miss the chance to witness the golden sunset from Heisler Park or take a stroll along the iconic Main Beach, ensuring a memorable moment on your coastal road trip adventure.

  • Tillamook Creamery, United States

    Image of Tillamook Creamery on Seeker
    • seeker

      During a Pacific Coast Highway road trip, one of the most delightful stops for food lovers is the Tillamook Creamery in Tillamook, Oregon. This famed cheese factory and visitor center offers self-guided tours where travelers can learn about dairy processing and cheese-making while sampling some of the creamery's delicious offerings. Situated just a short detour from the stunning coastal route, it's a perfect place for visitors to indulge in fresh ice cream, cheese, and other dairy products, ensuring a tasty and educational break amidst the breathtaking views of the Pacific Northwest.

  • Bodega Bay, United States

    Image of Bodega Bay on Seeker
    • seeker

      Bodega Bay is a picturesque coastal town nestled along the stunning Northern California shoreline, making it an essential stop on any Pacific Coast Highway road trip. Travelers can enjoy breathtaking views of the rugged coastline, watch for migrating whales from the headlands, or savor fresh local seafood in the quaint fishing village atmosphere. With its proximity to other scenic attractions like Point Reyes National Seashore and the towering Redwoods, Bodega Bay offers a tranquil respite and a slice of coastal charm amid the grandeur of the PCH journey.