California's Pacific Coast Highway, or California State Route 1, ranks as one of the drives of a lifetime. The most scenic part of the drive extends from San Luis Obispo to Monterey, passing the through the spectacular Big Sur area, described by novelist Robert Louis Stevenson as 'the greatest meeting of land and sea in the world'.
The twisting, cliff hugging 100-mile route of sea, mountains and rocky coves takes about five hours to complete at a leisurely pace and takes in the Big Sur Coast Highway and the San Luis Obispo North Coast Byway. Other places to visit include Santa Barbara, San Simeon and Carmel. Call our specialists for insider tips and expert advice on creating your California Pacific Coast fly-drive.
Originally the Californian state capital, Monterey’s downtown has more historical buildings than any other West Coast city. But there's much to see away from its perfectly preserved centre. On the coast, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and its kelp forests are home to seals, dolphins and whales all of which can be spotted on bay cruises.
Since the 1880s, sleepy Carmel’s Comstock cottages and sandy beaches have been something of a creative’s retreat. Today, the artistic spirit is still realised in the over 100 galleries that line Ocean Drive, the town’s upmarket main road. Heading inland will bring you to Carmel Valley’s vineyards and artisan farm restaurants – ideal for ambling sunset walks.
Big Sur is, for many, what the Pacific Coast Highway is all about. Its cambered road, carved into the rock, takes in everything from cracked cliffs to peaceful bays, lapped by the Pacific's deep blue. Although only 90 miles long, it’s well worth breaking the trip with several stops to fully appreciate the sites.
Pismo's golden sands, broken only by a rickety wooden pier, jutting 1,200 feet out to sea, provide a pleasing contrast to the routes otherwise rocky coastline. With its abundance of diners and oceanfront hotels, and nearby vineyards and surf spots, it’s a wonderful pit stop on your drive.
A coastal city, known as the jewel of the American Riviera, Santa Barbara is perfect for romantic evening walks past whitewashed walls and swaying palm trees. The dining's not bad either, especially at the wonderful Santa Barbara Shellfish Company, located at the end of the iconic pier. Stop here for tasty lobster tacos, steamed clams and black mussels with crispy pancetta, washed down with a craft beer or a glass or two of the excellent local wine.