I’m a long-time Californian, so come cruise with me through an ideal California Coastal Road Trip and then customize your own California Cruisin’ Dream Trip.
California runs nearly 800 miles; that makes this road trip the equivalent of going through nine eastern states. You’ll be amazed at the different environments you’ll find in the many cities dotting this expansive coastline.
In cities like Eureka, Fort Bragg, and Mendocino, you’ll find life there is laid-back, even bucolic. Yet here, you’ll see some of the prettiest coastlines imaginable along this curving highway. Get your camera ready to catch the rock formations jutting out of the deep ocean blue, or capture the fog rolling through tree skeletons stretching out to greet the horizon, and even the occasional cow meandering across the road as you round the next bend.
Of course, just because you’re hugging the coastline doesn’t mean you’ll be relegated to endless beach views (though that’s a darn nice way to cruise!). Include in your Road Trip Planning a hike through the Humboldt Redwoods State Park in Eureka, California’s largest redwood state park with more than 52,000 acres of old growth coast redwoods. If it’s occurring then, be sure to indulge in the Mendocino Music Festival in Mendocino & be swept off into an evening of wine and music. Take your shoes off at Glass Beach in Fort Bragg & marvel at the colors of the glass pebbles, all rounded smooth through years of wave action. Did you know that Glass Beach holds the highest concentration of sea glass in the world?
A relatively unknown attraction to add to your Road Trip Plan is to stop in at the Sea Ranch Chapel, one of my favorite examples of “free-hewn” architecture I’ve ever seen. Traveling south toward the Bay Area, stop at Tiburon for lunch & take the Ferry to Angel Island for the day. Beautiful Bay views and a fun ferry ride to the Westcoast Ellis Island. From the island, you’ll see spectacular views of the San Francisco Skyline.
Once you cross over the marvel of the Golden Gate Bridge, must-sees are the Golden Gate Park and Fisherman’s Wharf. Grab a loaf of San Franciscan French Bread and a freshly cleaned/boiled crab, dangle your feet from the pier & simply savor the flavor of “a day in the life” of a San Franciscan.
As you continue south, you’re in for a treat as you come to Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz, and Monterey; each city has a distinct pace, yet the easy going atmosphere remains. Personal favorites in Half Moon Bay is the Moss Beach Distillery, boasting a spectacular ocean view from the dining room and a firmly entrenched ghost! In Santa Cruz, there’s a wooden roller coaster at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. In 1987, it was honored as a national historic landmark, and still provides thrills after 84 years! Dance barefoot in the sand with their free beach concerts every Friday night during the summer.
The Monterey-Carmel-Big Sur area is my favorite recommendation to add to your Road Trip Planner because of all everything area offers: Old Fisherman’s Pier, Cannery Row, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Carmel Beach, the world-renown Pebble Beach, Point Lobos, and a breathtaking meeting of land and water as you travel to the stunning Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in Big Sur.
Next time, we’ll continue even further south, all the way to the Mexico border. I suggest you start filling your Road Trip with the Northern California things to do now because soon we’ll be cruisin’ through some of the most popular spots in Southern California.