Many of us harbour a secret American dream – to take a road trip along the exhilarating Pacific Coast Highway in California, making the most of the breath-taking ocean scenery. Why not stop dreaming and start planning a real fly-drive trip this year? With a little foresight, your dream can become a real adventure and provide amazing memories for the rest of your life.
Getting there couldn’t be easier. If you want to drive the route by beginning at the north end in Monterey, Mendocino County, California, you could fly into one of several international airports. These include Norman Y. Mineta San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland which are all around 100 miles away. For travellers who wish to start at the south end in Dana Point in Orange County, California, there is a choice of nearby international airports including John Wayne, Los Angeles and San Diego.
Upon landing, once you’ve stretched your legs and collected your luggage, hop straight into your rental car – car hire in America is very straightforward and rental pick-ups and drop-offs are available from all major airports. Before selecting your hire car, please do bear in mind that the Pacific Coast Highway is a very steep and twisting road as it works its way along the Californian cliff tops. This means it might be harder to drive very large vehicles such as RVs and the bigger SUVs and vans.
Once you’ve chosen your hire car, you can get on with planning your itinerary and choosing where to stop off. The road is around 123 miles from end to end so it’s fairly easy to do the drive in one day, leaving plenty of time to pause along the way and enjoy the stunning coastal scenery. It’s important to leave yourself plenty of time so that you can pace your driving. Some of the driving will require plenty of concentration so you don’t want to rush. If you’re at all nervous about driving along this twisting cliff-top road, you may wish to choose to start in the south and drive north. This route will put you on the inside lane and away from the cliff edge. Because the Californian coast is brimming over with spectacular scenery, you can’t go wrong whichever direction you choose to start from. If you do want to organise your visit in advance, then here are five of the most interesting sights to see on your travels.
Starting from the south, as you start your road trip, watch out for the ancient volcanic Morro Rock. At around twenty-three million years old, you’ll be pleased to hear that it’s a long-extinct volcano. Be sure to have your binoculars ready as the area is a favourite with birds such as great blue herons and peregrine falcons.
Next up, the mammoth arched rocks and glorious white sands of Pfeiffer Beach should be on your list as it will let you experience nature in the raw. (Do watch out though as you may also experience some visitors in the raw since the remote area is popular with naturists.)
Bixby Bridge, or Bixby Creek Bridge to give it its full name, is a must-see piece of the built environment. This bridge stretches for over seven-hundred feet and is almost three-hundred feet high at its highest point and it’s made entirely of concrete. Clint Eastwood fans will recall this memorable bridge from his 1971 film, Play Misty For Me.
If you’re a confident driver and you’re feeling adventurous, you can leave the highway and head higher into the hills on the Old Coast Road. This will take you deep into the forest and will reward you with enchanting views of canyons and distant ocean views. Please note that this road is very rough which can make for very difficult driving, and it is best avoided during wet weather.
Finally, Big Sur is a major attraction for tourists and locals because of its vast cliffs and expanses of open sea and sky. Added to this is the splendour of giant Redwoods against the backdrop of coastal mountains which will make a spectacular ending to your journey.