California’s Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip

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This beautiful coastal road trip takes you down the breathtaking Pacific Coast Highway and includes numerous famous attractions such as Big Sur and Hearst Castle.  While in Monterey pay a visit to the world-reknown Monterey Bay Aquarium to view some of the most fascinating creatures of the deep sea.Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip

Below is the step-by-step itinerary with links to TripAdvisor where you can research more about each destination and find great hotel deals and compare prices.

Begin the trip in Monterey, CA, and while there make a visit to Cannery Row, once the site of a sardine cannery and now home to many shops and restaurants, or to the  Monterey Bay Aquarium and explore Pacific marine life through interactive exhibits.Monterey Bay Aquarium

Next, head to the tony village of  Carmel-by-the-Sea (4.4 miles) to do some celebrity spotting or walk along the fine beach.  On the way to Carmel be sure to take a detour on 17-Mile Drive, the coastal road that winds in and around world famous Pebble Beach golf course.17 mile drive

Next stop at Point Lobos State Reserve (3.9 miles) and take a hike along the many trails that lead up and around the bluffs overlooking the ocean for some magnificent vistas.Point Lobos Reserve

Now head to Garrapata State Park (3.5 miles) for some more excellent hiking trails through coastal vegetation and redwood forests, and while at the beach explore the marine life which includes harbor seals, sea lions and sea otters. Garrapata State Park

As you head further south on your way to Big Sur you’ll cross over Bixby Bridge (7.1 miles), one of the tallest single-span concrete suspension bridges in the world and also one of most photographed thanks to its beautiful design and coastal setting.Bixby Bridge

Up ahead is the dramatic scenery of Big Sur (12.8 miles), a sparsely populated coastal region with an astonishing biodiversity including many rare and endangered species.  The Santa Lucia Mountains rise abruptly from the sea and top out on Cone Peak at over 5,000 feet making it the highest coastal mountain in the contiguous 48 US states.Big Sur

While in Big Sure stop to grab a bite to eat and enjoy the magnificent views of the Pacific  from Nepenthe Restaurant (.5 miles)Photos of Nepenthe, Big Sur
This photo of Nepenthe is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Now its onto to San Simeon , the site of the spectacular Hearst Castle constructed by newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst (68.1 miles).  Set high on a hill overlooking the ocean the “ranch”, as Hearst referred to it, drew many of the most popular Hollywood stars during the 20’s and 30’s including Cary Grant, Charlie Chaplin and Clark Gable.Hearst Castle

From San Simeon head to the seaside village of Cambria (12.9 miles), a city that benefitted much from Hearst Castle’s construction as it created jobs during the depression.  Tourism is now the main source of industry for the town, which has called “One of America’s Prettiest Towns”.Cambria, California

End your trip midway between LA and San Francisco in the city of Morro Bay, CA (19.6 miles).  Walk the long beach while viewing the imposing edifice of Morro Rock, or head out into the bay in a kayak for some whale watching.Morro Bay California

NG Drives of a LifetimeThis road trip is one of National Geographic’s Drives of a Lifetime.  Find out more about the Pacific Coast Highway and other ultimate road trips on the National Geographic Traveler Website or purchase the beautiful hardcopy book of 500 ultimate road trips from the National Geographic online store for only $40.  Buy Now