Take the ‘All-American Road’ and be sure to stop at these 5 gems along the way.
The cliff-hugging coastal stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway is made up of winding ribbons of road that showcase some of the most incredible West Coast scenes. The 147 miles from Carmel to Morro Bay is dubbed the “All-American Road” and it’s undoubtedly the best way to get a taste of California’s breathtaking natural landscapes. From the towering, old redwood trees to the rocky mountains that plunge into the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean, the beauty seems limitless. So, gather your travel buddies, pack your bags. The open road is calling!
1. Glass Beach
While this may seem pretty to look at it is actually the remains of decades of dumping anything from cars to discarded glass and appliances. Despite the grim act of Fort Bragg residents chucking unwanted junk over a cliff to the beach below—also known as “The Dumps”—nature has still managed to transform it into this beautiful sight that attracts thousands of tourists every year. In 1967, the North Coast Water Quality Board initiated a major cleanup program and in 2002 the 38-acre Glass Beach property become a part of MacKerricher State Park.
2. Redwood National and State Parks
There’s 133,000 acres of serene beauty to discover here, which includes 40 miles of coastline and the world’s tallest trees. Wander under the lush canopy with Roosevelt elk and soak up the coast in one of the many tide pools filled incredible marine life (so tread carefully). You might even be lucky enough to spot gray whales if you decide to travel during the December and March migration.
John Steinbeck’s novels brought this town to life with vivid portraits of cannery workers and roughnecks he had known personally. Beyond the novels, though, you’ll discover an abundance of ocean wildlife both in the world-renowned aquarium and swimming freely in the Pacific Ocean. If you decide to take the 17-Mile Drive you’ll see seals soaking up California sun on the beach and pelicans hanging out on the cliffs and there’ll be plenty of quaint shops and cafes to stop at along the way. Whale watching, sailing, kayaking, golfing and biking are also worth looking into if you have the time.
4. Big Sur
If entrances are telling, then driving into Big Sur along the Bixby Creek Bridge soaring at 260 feet above the Pacific should give you an idea of the unique sandy beaches, waterfalls, pine forests and floral diversity that lies ahead. This part of California is where the poets, artists, and writers retreat to and it’s easy to see why. Being enveloped in this impressive natural landscape is immediately inspiring and invigorating. You won’t want to miss the purple sand at Pfeiffer Beach—it gets its color from the manganese garnet deposits that are found in the surrounding rocks—or the stunning McWay Falls (a rare tidefall).
5. San Simeon
At this stop, you’ll take a break from nature and driving and head up to Hearst Castle on The Enchanted Hill. This historical monument built as the private residence for publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, boasts 250,000 acres of lavish rooms, suites, cottages, and grounds to wander through. When you’ve seen enough of the 20th-century mansion, then you can head over to Hearst Ranch Winery or head to the popular Moonstone Beach.