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Photo Essay: Highway One Road Trip, California (Part 1)

Photo Essay: Highway One Road Trip, California (Part 1)

In September 2009, the two of us made the spectacular drive down the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to Santa Monica in a Ford Mustang Convertible. Cliché much? Regardless, it was a travel experience that we truly enjoyed and one that we will remember forever.

Here are the some of the amazing places we stopped on the first day of our journey.

San Francisco

San Francisco is not the easiest place for your first international driving experience! After eventually conquering the hills (which was no easy feat!), we missed a turn and somehow drove across the Golden Gate Bridge! Even though it caused us a few moments of panic and cost us a few extra dollars to get back across to the city, the photo below was our reward.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Big Sur

After finally figuring out where the hell we were and making it onto Highway 1, we made our first stop at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in Big Sur, approximately 3 hours south of San Francisco. We didn’t have nearly enough time here and would have loved to have spent more time hiking and camping at this picturesque spot. Maybe next time? For those of you who are interested in checking out Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, the parking fee was $10 but was well worth it!

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Pfeiffer Big State Beach

Further down Highway 1 was Pfeiffer Big State Beach which we discovered courtesy of TripAdvisor. It was a difficult place to find and required some skilful driving down a very narrow road but wow – this was definitely one of the prettiest beaches we’ve been to! And believe us when we say we’ve seen plenty of beautiful beaches! Be warned though – it does get very windy here and grains of sand can feel like tiny bullets!

Pfeiffer Big State Beach Pfeiffer Big State Beach
Pfeiffer Big State Beach

Cambria

Our overnight stop was on Moonstoone Beach Drive in Cambria. We arrived in Cambria mere minutes before this beautiful sunset and then turned around to see the moon above the trees!

Cambria Sunset
Cambria, California

Have you driven down Highway 1 before? What were your favorite places to stop along the way?

28 Comments

  1. Posted March 15, 2011 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

    What a beautiful trip! And I think the Mustang convertible is the perfect touch :) I’ve traveled up Highway 1, but North through San Fran and the Redwoods. Gorgeous that way too.

    • Posted March 16, 2011 at 11:10 am | Permalink

      We plan on doing more driving around that area later this year!

      The Mustang was fantastic, probably the nicest car we’ve ever driven and not as expensive as you might think!

  2. Posted March 16, 2011 at 12:03 am | Permalink

    I’ve never driven that path, but must say the view is stunning! wow!
    Katherina recently posted..Fridays Five – 5 Latin-American Expressions Ive Mastered at Work

    • Posted March 16, 2011 at 11:11 am | Permalink

      The views along the highway are truly spectacular – doing the drive in just 2 days didn’t do it justice! You really need a lot longer to really enjoy all of the beautiful scenery.

  3. Posted March 16, 2011 at 2:04 am | Permalink

    A dream trip in a dream car. I would have loved to join you, even if crouched in the backseat.
    inka recently posted..The flight of the angel- a Venice carnival highlight

    • Posted March 16, 2011 at 11:13 am | Permalink

      Haha Inka – we couldn’t even fit all of our luggage in the trunk of the car so you would have been sharing the backseat with a suitcase! :)

  4. Posted March 16, 2011 at 4:57 am | Permalink

    Awesome! I’m so excited to drive the PCH this summer!
    Amanda recently posted..Best Blogs of the Week &amp What in the World

  5. Posted March 16, 2011 at 6:08 am | Permalink

    havent done it yet, but will soon! looks pretty cool. really looking forward to checking out big sur. nice shots!
    jamie – cloud people recently posted..Accommodation – Choose Wisely!

    • Posted March 16, 2011 at 11:15 am | Permalink

      The Big Sur was amazing – really wish we could have spent a LOT more time there! There are so many great places to stop along the way as well, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to drive and really enjoy it!

  6. Posted March 16, 2011 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    I love that road! One of THE roads. Great trip!
    robin recently posted..Carnaval

    • Posted March 16, 2011 at 11:15 am | Permalink

      It definitely is one of the world’s great roads… I think we enjoyed it even more than our very own Great Ocean Road!

  7. Posted March 16, 2011 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    Highway One is definitely one gorgeous stretch of road. Looks like a fun road trip!
    Connie recently posted..TTOT Round-Up- Language In Travel

    • Posted March 17, 2011 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      To date it has been our favorite road trip – just wish we could have had more time!

  8. Posted March 17, 2011 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    We drove the PCH last year and we loved every minute of it! The scenery around Big Sur is amazing, but we also loved Santa Barbara, where we stopped for one night. It’s hard to pick a favorite spot along the way with so many amazing places you pass – Santa Monica was gorgeous and San Fran is just fabulous.

    Our little rental car can’t beat your ride though – what a nice car!!
    Globetrottergirls recently posted..Go Beyond… the Copan Maya Ruins in Honduras

    • Posted March 17, 2011 at 11:07 am | Permalink

      We would have loved to have spent a night or longer in Santa Barbara – unfortunately we only had a couple of hours and decided to visit the zoo there (pics to come in the next part). You’re right that it was difficult to pick a single favorite spot along the journey – Santa Monica was fantastic despite the fact we ended up there on a very busy Labor Day Weekend!

  9. Posted March 17, 2011 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    *sigh* Seeing these pictures makes me wish that my trip down the PCH was as nice. We starting driving from San Francisco way too late, and were in foggy darkness for most of the trip. I was pretty sure we were going to send the car flying off one of the cliffs :(. Coupled with random cows in the middle of the road and car sickness, I vowed to never take the PCH ever again.

    Your pictures are GORGEOUS though, and makes me want to maybe give the PCH another try. I’m sad I didn’t get to see all of it in the daytime.
    Sheryll recently posted..A Spirtual Awakening in Patmos

    • Posted March 17, 2011 at 11:09 am | Permalink

      Yeah we didn’t spend any time on the road at night but I couldn’t imagine it would be too fun! Definitely something that you need to do during the day and make your stops at night. Random cows on the road, what’s with that?! Haha.

  10. Posted March 17, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    We drove Highway 1 in June 2010! It was such an awesome experience! We didn’t get to see all of it but we really enjoyed Big Sur and the Hearst Castle! We also loved just stopping every now and then on the side of the road to snap a few shots. We couldn’t get enough of the breathtaking scenery! We’ve heard of people taking bike trips on Hwy 1 and they say it’s an amazing experience! Maybe one day we’ll have the athleticism enough to try it :)
    Claire recently posted..Ironic

    • Posted March 17, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

      We really wanted to see Hearst Castle and stayed just down the road from it in Cambria, but unfortunately time didn’t allow us to get there! Know what you mean about stopping regularly to take photos, we did it plenty of times!

      Not too sure about a bike trip on Highway 1! That would be a little too intense for us we think but never say never! :)

  11. Posted March 18, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    wow wow wow!

    We’re going to touch down in LA in 2 weeks and we are planning on heading to San Fran. I’m SO excited…can i ask who you hired your car from? any tips on car hire in the US? best prices…most reliable etc… thank you!
    Kat – three six five recently posted..365 days til 365 come home!

    • Posted March 18, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

      Hey Kat, thanks for the comment. Had to dig deep into our email archives to find out – we organized our car hire before we left with an Australian company called Driveaway who ran through the Hertz office in San Francisco. It just simplified everything for us since it was only a short trip.

      We didn’t have any problems though it was quite expensive as I was under 25 at the time and it was a one-way rental.

      If we had our time again, we’d be sure to shop around and find a better deal. Dollar and Enterprise are the cheapest from what I’ve heard but there are always some good deals from the bigger companies – like anything, be sure to do your research… Google is your best friend! Good luck and enjoy your time in the US! :)

  12. Posted March 18, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    aww thank you so much, after 10 months of winging it on this rtw trip i’ve decided now is the time to get planning – can’t WAIT for the US-leg, your post has made me even more up for it :)
    Kat – three six five recently posted..365 days til 365 come home!

  13. Posted March 19, 2011 at 1:24 am | Permalink

    My partner and I did the drive a few years ago. Same cliche car too!

    We were thrilled to be driving along the coast with the the top down on the Mustang because the scenery was amazing…as was the intensity of the sun! It was Spring and we were used to the grey, rainy days back home in Chicago. We weren’t even thinking about sunblock. We were FRIED after that first day!

    I loved Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park too.
    david recently posted..Who’s the big travel dork…bzzzzzzzzzz!

    • Posted March 19, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

      It was such a great experience! Very cool you went to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park – how many days did you guys spend doing the drive?

      We only had the top down for a little bit, it was quite windy and we didn’t want our maps and any other loose items flying out of the car! From what happened to you, it looks like we made the right decision haha – we did the drive at the end of summer and boy was it hot!

  14. Posted March 21, 2011 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    I commented on Part 2, had to come back and read/comment on Part 1.

    Awesome pictures, as amazing as Big Sur is, I LOVE the Cambria/Morro Bay area. Morro Bay is a quaint little seaside town, with some great food and a relaxed atmosphere. Cambria, up to and including Hearst Castle are just breathtaking.

    Glad to see you guys loved your trip. As I said before, I have done that drive in 1 day, and I have done that drive in 5 days. Its one of the best parts of CA.
    Justin Hamlin recently posted..Foto Friday

    • Posted March 21, 2011 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Justin – we didn’t know about Morro Bay and didn’t have enough time to enjoy Cambria so will be sure to stop there next time! And believe us when we say there’s definitely gonna be a next time! :)

  15. Posted March 24, 2011 at 3:02 am | Permalink

    These are fabulous photos! A lot of this stuff that you guys mentioned (in both posts) I had no idea about, in my home country!

    I’ll log this away for future reference! Great tips!
    Annie recently posted..Blog4NZ–A Leap of Faith in Queenstown

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