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Must-See Stops on the Pacific Coast Highway

Must-See Stops on the Pacific Coast Highway


Are you in need of an epic road trip? California’s Pacific Coast Highway has all of the makings of an unforgettable adventure, boasting 123 miles of scenic landscapes from national parks to virtually untouched beaches, among a seemingly endless slew of other natural wonders. Whether you’re peering from your driver’s side window or making your way down this all-American route on your motorcycle, there are no shortage of pit-stops to make this voyage the experience of a lifetime.

Most start their journey in the rocky hills of Monterey, where Route 1 begins. By descending through Big Sur and into the quiet coastal village of Carmel-by-the-Sea, road trippers only begin to scratch the surface of the beauty to be found on this legendary roadway. By following the coastline, drivers can view spectacular landforms, regional wildlife and other treasures before ending their trip in Morro Bay, a spot named for it’s signature attraction, Morro Rock. This extinct volcano has towered at its 576-foot height for more than 23 million years, but even this prehistoric gem is just a side note among the outstanding attractions to be found along the winding, coastal highway.

Pacific Coast Highway CA

Intrigued yet? The following are just a few of the must-see stops to behold along the one-of-a-kind Pacific Coast Highway.

1.) Redwood National and State Parks – Sightsee into the past with a pit stop at Redwood National and State Parks, home to the world’s tallest living trees. These Redwood giants soar at heights exceeding 375 feet, but their astounding statures are just one very big reason to visit California’s favorite national park. Inside visitors can also expect to find winding rivers, open prairies and a 40-mile stretch of rocky coastlines where guests are invited to pitch tents at four established campgrounds, all of which are accessible to a variety of the country’s most beautiful and challenging hiking trails.

Redwood National State Parks

2.) The Lost Coast – Taking its name from a time when the Northern Coast of Humboldt and Mendocino Counties became desolate during the 1930s, The Lost Coast lives on as a destination for lovers of solitude in the great outdoors. Avid explorers will find nearly 80 miles of undeveloped coastline set against a stunning King Range Mountain backdrop. The comparably quiet Lost Coast Trail stretches for 24 miles and is ideal for advanced hikers, mountain climbers and those who simply love tranquil scenery that enthralls until it concludes at Black Sands Beach.

The Lost Coast Photo by Daniel
The Lost Coast Photo by Daniel

3.) Humboldt Redwoods State Park’s Shrine Drive-Thru Tree – Located just off US Highway 101, along the famous “Avenue of the Giants”, drivers have the rare chance to cruise right through a living Redwood Tree. The natural opening at the base of the Shrine Drive-Thru Tree is big enough to accommodate an SUV, and provides the perfect photo-op for your Pacific Coast Highway scrapbook. Families with children will enjoy the nearby tree houses carved from real trunks of fallen Redwoods.

Redwoods State Park Photo by Carmen Edelson (Carmen's LuxuryTravel)

4.) Glass Beach at Fort Bragg – Trash becomes treasure at Glass Beach, a state park in Fort Bragg featuring sea glass that has been tossed and tumbled to a smooth finish. Man may have caused damage by dumping garbage into the coastline during the 1940s, but the power of the waves eventually created this colorful 38-acre stretch, which is now a popular destination for tourists who come from near and far to collect pieces of the eye-catching, rounded glass.

Glass Beach at Fort Bragg

5.) Mendocino – The cliffside community of Mendocino sits 154-feet above sea level. This small coastal town, known for its stunning scenery, is located atop a rugged headland overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Its attractive qualities, plus attractions like the Mendocino Art Center, have made it a favorite vacation spot for those with artistic souls and eccentric spirits.

Mendocino CA

6.) Bodega Bay – Positioned off a rocky inlet in beautiful Sonoma Country, Bodega Bay is a quiet village known for its shallow waters and excellent fishing opportunities. While many commercial fishers, sporting fishers and shellfish harvesters frequent this spot to profit from its dense marine life, others visit Bodega Bay for its sheer natural beauty, which is made even more inviting by the Estero de San Antonio and Estero Americano streams that flow freely into the main body of water. Visitors can sunbathe on the Bay’s well-kept beaches, including the popular Doran Regional Park and Pinnacle Gulch.

7.) Moss Beach – Those looking for a romantic getaway will find it at Moss Beach, an intimate spot in San Mateo County that is home to the Seal Cove Inn, a famous beachside lodge. During your stop here, be sure to visit the marine wildlife sanctuary known as Fitzgerald Marine Reserve and dine at the legendary Moss Beach Distillery, a restaurant and bar that historically operated as a speakeasy and reestablished itself as a successful restaurant following the end of the Prohibition Era in 1933.

Moss Beach

Note:  This is a guest post by Candice Schaffer; the views and opinion expressed are those of the author. Candice Schaffer works at Knightsbridge Park, a leading digital marketing firm for luxury real estate brands such as Jardim , Cavalleri Malibu , and Manhattan Park.

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About the author

Carmen Edelson is the Founder of Carmen's Luxury Travel. Carmen has been traveling the world for over a decade. Her travels allow her the opportunity to pursue her itch to travel to the best luxury destinations, and experience those first class tastes from around the world.


  1. The Adventure Ahead
    February 25, 2017 at 10:53 am

    Our kids love collecting sea glass when we are at the beach – Sea Glass Beach looks like it would be a dream come true for them. You really noted some great places for side road trips – will keep these suggestions in mind.

    • Carmen Edelson
      February 27, 2017 at 1:02 pm

      I’m happy to hear it! This is such a fun road trip for kids as well.

  2. melody pittman
    February 25, 2017 at 3:06 pm

    I wish we had stopped by the Redwood Forest when we (my daughter and I) did this drive last year. The glass beach is fantastic. I’m not at all familiar with it.
    melody pittman recently posted…The Opulent Flagler Museum & Afternoon TeaMy Profile

    • Carmen Edelson
      February 27, 2017 at 1:04 pm

      Definitely visit with your daughter! There’s so much to see.

  3. Samantha Sparrow
    February 26, 2017 at 3:40 am

    I love the idea of visiting Redwood and being amongst those extremely tall trees! It would feel like something out of a fantasy film! Glass beach is so unusual, I’ve never seen anything like it. It would be amazing to visit.

    • Carmen Edelson
      February 27, 2017 at 1:13 pm

      Yes, you must visit the Glass Beach! Very neat.

  4. Ticker Eats The World
    February 26, 2017 at 7:41 am

    …aaaaand SOLD!
    WOW!! I had heard and somewhat seen the beauty of the pacific coast in movies and magazines, but this is just taking it to another level. First of all the photos are beautiful and it’s so nice to see that there is so much nature and unique locations one can visit and experience it. The glass beach of course, but the parks with those monster trees – imagine how they’ve seen the world change – and the Lost Coast and Moss Beach… amazing. This is what nature is all about.
    Ticker Eats The World recently posted…The Association Vinicole – 100 Years of Swiss Wine MakingMy Profile

    • Carmen Edelson
      February 27, 2017 at 3:22 pm

      You’re so right! This is what nature is all about and what a great way to explore it.

  5. Rachel Elizabeth
    February 26, 2017 at 1:49 pm

    I remember Bodega Bay from the Hitchcock movie “The Birds,” hahaha. I really want to see the Redwoods soon. They’ve been on my bucket list for ages now.

    • Carmen Edelson
      February 27, 2017 at 3:35 pm

      It’s time to start planning!! 🙂

  6. Shannalyn West
    February 27, 2017 at 12:17 am

    I love this! This is one of my favorite drives. There will always be a special place in my heart for Mendocino. I have yet to go to the glass beach yet. Need to stop there next time. Thanks for sharing!

    • Carmen Edelson
      February 27, 2017 at 3:36 pm

      Definitely visit the glass beach during your next visit, Shannalyn!

  7. Chrysoula
    February 27, 2017 at 7:37 am

    That looks like an amazing road trip. The scenery and the views are stunning. I would love to visit the Glass beach, never seen anything like it before

    • Carmen Edelson
      February 27, 2017 at 3:40 pm

      The Glass Beach is so unique! I’d highly recommend it.

  8. Megan Jerrard
    February 28, 2017 at 8:45 pm

    Yes! Love this! We did the Pacific Coast highway last year and it’s so difficult to choose a favorite stop. Though the Redwoods were just incredible and it blew me away at the enormity of those trees!

    • Carmen Edelson
      March 1, 2017 at 10:37 am

      We did the road trip with our kids over a two week period and stopped along the way in many areas. It was probably one of the best trips we did.

  9. Travel Gear Depot
    March 3, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    I did that trip many years ago, in the mid 80’s to be a bit more exact. It was awesome! We also visited Hurst Castle and had a guided tour. Very interesting! We missed the Glass Beach though, but not the Redwoods. You feel kind of small and insignificant faced with the age and enormousness of the trees.

    Wonderful pictures, tank you!

    • Carmen Edelson
      March 4, 2017 at 11:12 pm

      We stopped along the way and visited Hurst Castle as well. It was one of the best road trips we took with our kids.

  10. Visa EB1
    March 7, 2017 at 11:40 pm

    Beautiful photograph of Mendocino but my most favorite was your photo of Moss Beach. All that’s included here were so breathtaking and it’s something that is worth visiting for.

  11. John
    August 8, 2020 at 3:07 pm

    Redwood national park has always been first on my bucked list. Everyone should go at least once to see those beatuiful trees. Now i can use this blog as something to look forward to.

    • Carmen Edelson
      August 12, 2020 at 8:30 pm

      Yes I agree!

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