California’s Highway 1 officially starts in a place Leggett, about 200 miles north of San Francisco and takes you along the coast through Mendocino, Marin and Sonoma counties but if you are time restricted, the best part of the route starts in San Francisco. One of the most recognisable, famous and iconic cities in the world and definitely not to be missed. Stay 3 nights here to experience the main attractions such as taking a tram up the steep streets made famous in numerous movie car chases, Alcatraz, Fishermans Wharf, the Painted Ladies and of course to cross the Golden Gate Bridge.
From San Francisco the route will take you leisurely Via Santa Cruz and onto Monterey – once the capital of California and the hub of the whaling and sardine industries. Monterrey is now home to world class marine preservation and aquarium. Just 10 miles out of Monterey is the racetrack famous for the ‘corkscrew’ and the undoing of many a talented driver’s confidence, but it’s a great day out at the races if you can time it right.
Just a few miles from Monterey is Pebble Beach. Synonymous with the Pebble Beach Concours and its golf courses, this is a playground estate for the rich and famous. But take time to experience it’s very own famous 17 Mile Drive and enjoy the beautiful coastline and houses before heading to Carmel by the Sea, a classy little town with chic shops, amazing restaurants and fabulous beaches.
Once you leave Carmel you will recognise the scenery and names that have made this particular cliff top stretch of the route so famous. It really is the most beautiful coastal road with plenty of stopping places. From Big Sur, the cliffs will begin to ease down to sea level as you head south to Santa Barbara. The route passes though San Luis Obispo – an historic Spanish missionary town – but that’s not the most interesting thing about this town, so make time to visit the Madonna Inn. It’s a unique experience.
The last leg of the journey into Los Angeles will take you through Santa Monica, and Malibu. If you need a break from driving, boats leave from Ventura, just north of Santa Monica to the Channel Islands State Park for sea kayaking, snorkelling and another opportunity to see whales migrating.
Los Angeles is a stark contrast to the last few days of relative tranquillity but it is a vibrant and exciting city. You will never have enough time to do everything in LA, but there are the obvious highlights, so take your pick and enjoy ‘La La’ land.