The Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) is one of the most well-known and scenic drives in the entire world.
Embarking on this journey, you will experience hours of coastal views, winding mountain roads, and seaside villages. The drive begins close to Baja, California and travels up the coast where it finally ends at the Olympic Peninsula in Oregon.
Spend a few moments with me and let's visit a few sites we cannot miss on the Pacific Coast Highway that need to be discovered.
Just before we reach Santa Barbara, we need to make our first stop; so let's get out and stretch our legs.
We are at the Carpinteria Harbor Seal Preserve and Rookery. There are two main reasons we are stopping here. The first reason is to witness the hundreds of adult seals that live on the shoreline. During the pupping season, you will even see baby seals. The second reason is the astounding view. From the top of the cliffs, we can blissfully look down the rocky shoreline and out over the blue-green ocean.
To experience the best nature spot on the PCH, we have to take a couple days to meander through Big Sur and Pfeiffer State Beach. This area showcases the best scenery on the Pacific Coast Highway.
Over the next couple of days we explore pine forests, watch towering waterfalls, and relax on sandy beaches. Pfeiffer State Beach is also one of the rarest beaches in the world. Due to the mineral deposits, the sand on the beach is purple. The contrast of the blue waves against the purple beach makes a unique and beautiful combination.
If there is one must-see sight on the Pacific Coast Highway, then we just discovered it!
Just after we leave Big Sur, and about an hour before we get to Santa Cruz we decide to take a break at Monterey, where there’s plenty to keep you busy for a few days. We can spend time relaxing at the Old Fisherman's Wharf, shopping at Cannery Row or wandering around the old seaside village of Carmel-By-The-Sea.
In fact, all of these are sites we can not miss on the PCH so we spend the day enjoying them all.
Take a visit back in time to the 1960's in Santa Cruz. A majority of the buildings have a quaint, vintage style which seems to beckon us to delight in the friendliness of the locals.
Santa Cruz also has tons of fun water activities like paddle boarding and sunset boat rides. We ride the oldest wooden roller coaster in America, listen to live music and enjoy the beach as we spot sea lions and other wildlife. For the shoppers, there is also an extensive outdoor mall full of bargains.
We cannot drive through San Francisco without at least stopping to see some of the city's iconic sites.
For the best view of the city, we take a relaxing ride on a cable car. Later, we take a tour of Alcatraz Island, the infamous prison in the bay. Of course, as we continue over, we cross the most famous landmark, the Golden Gate Bridge.
Our next stop is the small town of Fort Bragg. Here we will walk along Glass Beach. Another rare beach, it is completely made up of thousands upon thousands of pieces of sea glass. At one time, this area was the city's dumping grounds, which is where all the smooth, colorful glass comes from. It's amazing how time and nature has turned trash into such beauty.
For our next must-see site, we have to venture a tiny bit off the Pacific Coast Highway and head down State Route 211 back to the coast. Once back at the beach, we discover one of California's untouched shorelines.
While there is a good chance we will have this hidden paradise to ourselves, we might see some surfers riding the massive, foamy waves. The waves along this coast have made this place a legend. The surrounding landscape is painted gorgeous hues of green with rocky shorelines meeting the deep blue waters. Succumbed by the peace and quiet of California, we decide to spend a few days just to take it all in.
One not to miss site on the PCH along our way is the Redwoods National Park. Here we gaze high up at the tallest trees in the entire world. Their towering presence is overwhelming and almost unbelievable. We decide to spend some time hiking through the grandeur. The forest is filled with a blanket of thick pine needles and crystal pools. We come to the sandy beaches and peer out in hopes of glimpsing a gray whale.
The Pacific Coast Highway is a beautiful mix of natural retreats, seaside towns and large cities. The road offers fantastic views and fun activities. For people looking to go on a great American road trip, the Pacific Coast Highway is a fantastic place to start.
Where is your favorite place to drive and discover new sights?
Note: Available plans and coverages may have changed since this blog was published.
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Stephen Schreck is a world traveler, nomad, and adventure backpacker. Knowing a life of aimlessly wandering the globe in search of adventures was the only life for him he set out to make his dream his reality. Currently he is trying to conquer his fears and tackle his bucket list. Follow Stephen's adventures at A Backpacker's Tale or on social media on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.
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