Stretching 650 curve-hugging, jaw-dropping miles along the ruggedly beautiful central coast of California, Highway 1 is one of the most scenic roads in the country.
This is the road driving was invented for-the road where car commercials are filmed. On the Pacific Coast Highway, you don’t crack your window for a bit of air, you roll it down all the way to feel the wind blast through your hair like a lighthearted tornado.
You can get a taste of what makes the road so famous on a short trip from San Francisco.
From the City by the Bay, it’s a 30-mile drive through redwood groves and past sandy beaches to your first stop, Half Moon Bay. The small town is home to some of the best surfing in the world and the international Mavericks competition, held when winter waves get big enough.
An exhilarating driving experience, this twisting, cliff-hugging route along the central California coast takes about five hours to complete at a leisurely pace. Designated an All-American Road—among the nation’s most scenic—the drive encompasses both the Big Sur Coast Highway and the San Luis Obispo North Coast Byway.
Also known as California State Route 1, the PCH was built in 1934 and took 15 years to complete.
For the most dramatic scenery packed into less than half the mileage, set your sights on the Central Coast and a journey of about 240 miles from Monterey south to Santa Barbara.
Driving the route from north to south is ideal, as you’ll be on the ocean side of the road the entire way, allowing unobstructed views of the jagged coastline below.
The road winds high on the cliffs, with the crashing surf below. Many of the beaches you’ll see are inaccessible or require serious hikes in, making them all the more enchanting.
South of Carmel is where the route really reels you into its splendor. And while you never know when that ubiquitous coastal fog is going to lower a curtain over the views, when it lifts it’s as if Oz is being revealed.
One of the most famous photo-ops along the way is the Bixby Creek Bridge, one of the tallest and longest single-span concrete bridges in the world.
If I’m in Malibu driving up and down Pacific Coast Highway, my ‘2000 Heritage Softail Harley Davidson is what I usually like to ride.
“Sixty three sunsets I saw revolve on that perpendicular hill – mad raging sunsets pouring in sea foams of cloud through unimaginable crags like the crags you grayly drew in pencil as a child, with every rose-tint of hope beyond, making you feel just like them, brilliant and bleak beyond words.”
― Jack Kerouac,