Driving from Los Angeles to Marin County along the historic Pacific Coast Highway in California
It is considered to be one of the most scenic drives in the world. Part urban freeway, part two-lane road hugging the ragged coastline of the Pacific Ocean, the Pacific Coast Highway or California Highway 1 is not just a window to some of the most spectacular views to be found in America – it is also the gateway to some of the most important cities of the West Coast, from Los Angeles to San Francisco.
We spent a few days driving in a Chevy along this stunning route, making several detours into towns big and small. A few picture memories to help relive an unforgettable journey.
Santa Barbara Wine Country: In the land of Sideways
Our reward for battling the non-rush hour traffic of Los Angeles was torrential rains, which accompanied us for most of Day 1. Deciding to give the beaches of Santa Barbara a miss, we head straight towards the Danish town of Solvang in Santa Ynez Valley. The drive beyond Santa Barbara – from Los Olivos all the way to San Luis Obispo – gave us a glimpse into the agricultural heartland of the west coast and numerous Spanish styled mansions.
The Big Sur
The most thrilling section of the PCH, this is a 140 km, two laned road that winds along the jagged coastline of the Pacific, passing several coastal parks and crossing several historic bridges, most notable of which is the Bixby Creek Bridge. Despite the grey weather, we couldn’t help our Oohs and Aahs everytime we caught sight of the surf breaking over the cliffs – which was virtually at every turn of the road.
East of Eden
We’re in the terrain of our favourite American author and the weather Gods can sense our delight – it’s a gloriously sunny morning in Monterey. The perfect day for a meet-and-greet with the renowned hump-back whales, and a visit to the Steinbeck Museum and his childhood home in Salinas.
Napa & Sonoma
Stunning blue skies speckled with thick tufts of white, an equally stunning coast, and miles and miles of velvet green, it seems we’re in Wonderland. While the cliff hugging Big Sur is a thrilling drive, it’s the Napa, Sonoma & Marin County on the northern part of the the coast that takes your breath away. We spend a couple of pleasurable days driving around the renowned wine county, stopping for a cup of coffee in chic Mill Valley (Tom Cruise’ home town) and dining on wine & cheese in fashionable Healdsburg.
Top of the World
And finally, we reach the Muir Woods to gaze at the tallest trees on earth, trees born thousands of year ago, quietly inspecting the voyages of generations of humankind.
And so, another journey comes to an end. But as Tolkien famously warned us:
It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.