7 Cool Spots for Your West Coast Road Trip
California, with its sun-kissed beaches and rich history, has all of the elements to create a trip-of-a-lifetime. It’s no wonder it’s the most populated state in America. The inviting Mediterranean climate that California is well known for, is contrasted by the snowy alpine mountains, temperate rainforests to the north and the arid desert regions in its interior – a perfect state for a road trip, especially if you’re on a 90-day esta visa. California is home to Hollywood, the hippie counterculture, and is a revolutionary trendsetter in the tech world.
With all that California has for travelers, how can you really take advantage of everything that the golden state has to offer in a short time? In this article, we will help you plan a dream road trip on famous Highway One, taking in some of the inspiring attractions that are scattered across the coastal region of California.
Venice Beach, Los Angeles
The city of Venice may be one of the coolest places to be in all of California. Starting your trip here will ensure that you get to dive head first into a life-changing destination, well known for the vibrant mix of activities and attractions.
Once you land at LAX and get your car rental, take the morning to stroll along the famous Venice Beach Boardwalk, taking in the art, performers, and people from all walks of life. Abbot Kinney Blvd is filled with hipster cafés and everywhere you look there are heaps of attractions that will satisfy you spiritually, like yoga studios and artistic hangouts.
Once you’ve built up an appetite, grab some lunch at Abbot Kinney’s First Fridays – a famous foodie destination with mouth-watering dishes.
The San Diego Zoo
Change it up from a zoo of interesting people and performers to a zoo filled with exotic animals by taking a trip to the San Diego Zoo, a mere two-hour drive south from Venice. It boasts the title of “best zoo in the U.S.”.
It is massive – over 100 acres of land which is home to not only an impressive array of animals but also a truly stunning landscape. The zoo has over 3,700 different animals, spanning around 650 different species. It’s not a place you can just walk around easily – take part in a bus tour that will shuttle you through all of the attractions that the San Diego Zoo has.
Feeling extra adventurous? Tijuana is just a stone’s throw away for those that want to visit Mexico for the day.
The old Spanish style of California is embodied in the Santa Barbara County Courthouse – a must see on your road trip. Completed in 1929, it welcomes visitors allowing them to reach the summit of the El Mirador clock tower. It’s the ideal place to snap a few photos. From Venice, a two-hour drive north along the coast will get you there and toward the rest of your road trip.
As you drive along the picturesque coastline on Highway One, Hearst Castle is your next stop. Two and a half hours further north from Santa Barbara, Hearst Castle is truly awe inspiring. It was named after William Randolph Hearst who built the castle on his ranch land and called it “La Cuesta Encantada”, or The Enchanted Hill.
There is no better time to see the castle rising out of the hill than in the early hours of the morning when the mist still lingers in the air and the sun envelops the scenery in radiant colors.
Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur
From Hearst Castle, traveling along Highway One for another three and a half hours, you’ll find Pfeiffer Beach. This hidden gem of a beach doesn’t even have a proper sign to point out its location along Highway One – maybe because locals want to keep it a secret. Make sure you program the destination in your GPS or you might miss it.
The breathtaking views created by the sun reaching through the two huge rocks as the waves crash over is out of this world. It is one of the most iconic beaches in all of California. Even the sand on the beach has streaks of purple that sparkle in the sunlight from the garnet crystals that have eroded over time. Not only should this beach be a key part of your road trip, it should be on everyone’s bucket list.
Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz
Next on the list of treasures found on the Californian coast is the Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz – an hour and 45-minute drive from Pfeiffer Beach. Located near the world-famous Silicon Valley, this strange location is home to a gravitational anomaly that can be experienced firsthand. It is a circular area that is about 46 meters in diameter nestled in the redwood forest. Discovered in 1939 and opened for all to see by 1940, thousands flock to experience this strange phenomenon every year, all of them puzzled and amazed.
Theories about the origin of the mystery range from metal cones being buried to help guide alien spacecraft to claims that it might be a spaceship itself buried beneath the sand. Whatever the truth may be, it is still a mystery to this day. Take a 45-minute guided tour that will expand what you think you know.
The final stop on your epic journey along Highway One takes you to the majestic Napa Valley. From the Mystery Spot, you will drive roughly two and a half hours before you reach the heart of a wine connoisseur’s paradise. There are endless vineyards across the slow rolling hills and valleys to explore. Napa Valley is a place of relaxation, a chance to take in the finer luxuries of California. Get dirty in a fun way with a mud bath or treat yourself in one of the many spas. It’s also home to the famous Old Faithful geyser, which got its name by always erupting on time.
Among the many attractions in the region is the Italian castle called “Castello di Amorosa”. The castle boats 107 rooms that are scattered across eight levels, both above ground and below. The castle takes on a style from the 12th and 13th century with accompanying torture and knights chambers. It was originally built in Italy and later shipped to Napa where it was meticulously rebuilt brick by brick.
At the end of your cross-state road trip in California, you can board a plane in San Francisco, just under two hours away from Napa Valley. On your epic road trip on Highway One, you will see what 900 kilometers of open road across one of the most beautiful states in America has to discover.
It may be difficult to take in just seven of the great spots that the west coast has to offer, in which case your journey can continue further north. Much is still left to be explored such as the Oak Forests, Oregon, Seattle and Vancouver to name a few. Your journey can end when you want it to.
Image Source: #1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9- Pixabay, #4 By Ron Clausen (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons, #8 By Tshrinivasan (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons, #10 By DimiTalen (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons