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The Pacific Coast Highway- Road Trip North America


By Krissy Vann
Presenter, Beat the Traffic
@KrissyVann_BTT
Thursday, March 20, 2014, 9:26

The Pacific Coast Highway is an incredibly popular road trip destination. The stretch of PCH that runs along California State Route 1 will not disappoint when it comes to things to do and see. The central coast of California is home to unique wildlife, breathtaking underwater habitats and impressive coastal scenery.

The Route:

Traveling from North to South along California State Route 1 is recommended since you’ll be hugging along the ocean throughout the drive. As this is a very popular road trip destination, traffic can sometimes be an issue. The summer months in particular can be quite busy. Planning your road trip mid-week can greatly reduce the number of cars that you’ll sharing the road with. The route from Monterey to Morro Bay can easily be completed in a couple of hours, but with all the sights along the way it’s best to take at least the weekend to really explore what each stop has to offer.

Monterey- The city is loaded with rich history having been the home to California’s first theatre, public library and newspaper among other historical buildings. Some of the main tourist attractions are Fisherman’s Wharf and Cannery Row, which is where you can tour the Monterey Bay aquarium. 

Carmel-By-The-Sea- In just a few kilometers you can reach this stunning village that will enchant you with art galleries to explore, delicious dining options and beautiful cottages to rest your head. While in Carmel you’ll want to take a visit to Carmel River State Beach. This beach is only a mile long, but has many sights to enjoy including a bird sanctuary at the lagoon. Just be cautioned that the ocean itself can be quite dangerous at this beach and is not ideal for swimming or wading.

Point Lobos State Reserve- Nature lover? Then this is the place for you. It’s a $10.00 entrance fee for a car to enter the reserve and from there you can take all the time you need to explore. This area attracts a variety of wildlife. Depending on the season you may spot seals, sea lions, sea otters and even gray whales. For those that enjoy the sights below the waterline, Point Lobos is home to some excellent diving with incredible underwater life. If you prefer to take in the sights with a little narration guided walks are available and you can also check out the Whalers Cabin Museum.

Big Sur- You’ll continue through the Carmel Highlands and travel through the Big Sur. This is an area where you’ll take in a stunning ragged coastline as the Santa Lucia Mountains rises from the Pacific Ocean. The wave’s crash wildly against the rocks and you’ll be able to marvel the power of Mother Nature. 

Garrapata State Park- Feeling energetic? You can choose to explore and lounge on the two miles of beach front or take the 50 foot climb with a coastal hike where you’ll be rewarded with magnificent views of the Pacific. 

Bixby Bridge- This Bridge is a popular stop for photos. This stunning piece of architecture was built in 1932. It spans about 714 feet and rises around 260 feet above the ocean. 

Pfieffer Big Sur State Park- Take a visit to Pfieffer beach where the waves come crashing in against jagged rocks. This state park is also known for its dense redwood groves. 

Cambria- This charming village is home to Moonstone Beach. This beach is where you can go searching for moonstone and California jade. 

Morro Bay- Your journey will end in the city of Morro Bay. One of the most famous landmarks in Morro Bay is Morro Rock, which stands 576 feet high. You can visit the base of the rock, but are not allowed to climb to the top as that real estate is reserved for endangered Peregrine Falcons. Morro Bay is home to a variety of wildlife and if you wish to learn more about what lives there, then a visit to the Morro Bay State Park Museum of Natural History is not to be missed. 

When to Travel: 

Spring- After all the winter rain spring bursts in and brings all the beautiful blossoms. This is when you can enjoy some of the clearest skies throughout the year. This is a great time of year for whale watching as gray whales start their return journey from Mexico to Alaska. The major down fall of planning spring travel along California route 1 is its susceptibility to winter mudslides. As a result some stretches of road may still be closed.

Summer- A beautiful and popular time to travel along the California coast. The daytime temperatures are usually nice and warm, but the evenings along the Coast can cool down quite a bit. Packing items ideal for layering is recommended. One of the dangers on the road that occurs quite frequently on this stretch is fog. This fog occurs with the cooler temperatures in the Pacific mixed with the warmer temperatures in the air, as a result the fog can be quite thick at times.

Fall- An excellent time to travel in the central coast of California. Temperatures are often still quite comfortable, but the summer fog has cleared away. This is typically a time of year that sees less tourists and as a result you’ll have more of the open road to enjoy on your route. 

Winter- The rainiest months occur from about November through March. This rain can pose a serious risk when traveling along California Route 1. This stretch of road is prone to winter mudslides, which can close sections for weeks or even months. This can obviously be a major deterrent for travelers, but there are many advantages to winter travel in the Central Coast. For the butterfly lover, Monarch Butterflies are in abundance during the winter months as they flock to the many Eucalyptus trees along the coast. This is also a great time of year to do a whale watching tour as gray whales make their travels from Alaska toward the south of Mexico. 

Have you ever traveled along the Pacific Coast Highway, California Route 1? What was your favourite part?


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