California Coast Road Trip: 7 Must See Stops

When I read that Big Sur, perhaps the most popular stop along the Pacific Coast Highway, was closed due to a landslide I was upset. For me, when I used to think about California this is what I would think about. Dream about. Research. Alas, there was nothing I could do and the road trip had to go on. I’m happy it did. And, I’m sort of happy Big Sur wasn’t an option because I was able to see so much more. My focus wasn’t on getting the iconic shot of Bixby Bridge or McWay Falls, it was on the experience and all of the beauty that lies within the rest of the PCH.

The drive started all the way in Lake Tahoe. Yep. From there, we made our way south.

Stop 1: Shark Fin Cove

I have to be honest, I didn’t even know this place existed. Or, that a place with so much beauty could ever exist. I didn’t have the chance to see Shark Fin Cove during the day, only at sunset. And let me tell you, this is when you should be there too. The contrast of the cliffs and the golden light made for a picture perfect scene.

Shark Fin Cove


Stop 2: Santa Cruz

If you made it to Shark Fin Cove for sunset, base yourself in Santa Cruz for the night. A quaint seaside town about a half hour (ish) away from Shark Fin Cove. Wake up early for sunrise to get your day started. Head to Natural Bridges State Beach- the rock formations cast the most beautiful reflections on the wet sand.

Santa Cruz Santa Cruz

Stop 3: Monterey

Big Little Lies fan? You should stop here if only for an hour. Which is what I did. Walk the pier, and grab a coffee or tea from Water + Leaves and enjoy it on the outdoor patio.

Monterey, California

Stop 4: 17 Mile Drive – Pebble Beach

For $10 per car you can drive the 17 Mile Drive. It’s 17 miles of straight coastal views. The water is turquoise, the flowers are blooming, and the tourists…well they’re there too. Luckily there are a number of pull off points sans tourists. You’ll be able to take in all the beautiful views in peace and quiet with nothing but the sounds of the waves.

17 Mile Drive 17 Mile Drive

Stop 5: Pismo Beach

There is more to this beachside town than meets the eye. While yes the beach is beautiful, especially at sunset and you can camp on it, a bit further down are the sand dunes. Yes. Endless sand dunes. This is what I envision Morocco to look like. If you’re feeling adventurous, rent a dune buggy or four wheeler and ride off into the sunset. If not, frolic the dunes, bring a bottle of wine and good company. Don’t forget to bring a blanket and a sweater, it gets chilly once the sun sets!

Pismo Beach

Pismo Beach

Stop 6: Santa Barbara

When I think of California, this is the type of town I think about! Terracotta buildings, palm tree lined streets and local coffee and juice shops. Spend the day wandering the streets a shop with local artisans.

Santa Barbara

Stop 7: Malibu

Queue Miley Cyrus’ new song. Chances are you don’t need me to tell you about this place. Celebrity and surfer central. Traffic is rough but make it a point to pull over and snap some photos of this iconic California spot.



Over to you! What are your favorite spots along the PCH? If you haven’t been, what is your favorite road trip you’ve ever taken?


1 Comment

  1. mackenzienoelm
    May 29, 2017 / 9:13 pm

    I can’t get over these photos!!! So, so gorgeous Hannah. Those Sand Dunes look absolutely incredible. If I can’t get to Morocco, I think that going there is definitely a close second. Your trip looked like so much fun!!! Get me back to cali 🙂 xo


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