San Francisco to San Diego Road Trip - Highway #1

San FranciscoThe journey down Highway 1 begins in the eclectic city of San Francisco. This curvy coastal route can be slow and relaxing but at the same time hectic. The whole trip may take 12 hours or longer, but there is an abundance of opportunities along the way. San Francisco and San Diego make great ends for the road trip. San Francisco is full of shops, restaurants, nightclubs, art galleries and coffeehouses. It is easy for a tourist to spend several days in the city. Pier 39 is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. It is also worthwhile to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge, see the Palace of Fine Arts and ride on a world-famous cable car before taking off.

Monterey is a historic city with walking trails, high-end hotels and shops. The city was California’s first state capital. Sites to visit in Monterey include the Presidio and Cannery Row. Sea lions and otters float in their natural habitats in plain sight of the shore. Monterey Bay Aquarium offers a relaxing break from the trip. Carmel is next on the route, before the highway maneuvers through Big Sur. Known for its artistic community and upscale restaurants and boutiques, Carmel is also home to sandy beaches and one of California’s historical missions. Big Sur combines forest and ocean for spectacular views of each. Though the 90 mile stretch is lacking in population, Big Sur features miles of redwood trees meeting the dramatic California coastlines.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is the most popular attraction in the city. The attraction includes an arcade, indoor miniature golfing, laser tag, a roller coaster and several other rides. Visitors can also play old-fashioned carnival games.

San Simeon is located about 60 miles south of Big Sur. The city boasts one of California’s most famous mansions, Hearst Castle. Built in 1919 by William Randolph Hearst, the home features more than 100 rooms and extravagant features. San Simeon is also home to an elephant seal rookery. Just 30 miles down the road is Morrow Bay, which features a volcanic plug towering higher than 550 feet.

San Luis Obispo merges Highway 1 and US-101, also called Cabrillo Highway. San Luis Obispo features one of the state’s most famous accommodations, the Madonna Inn. Each room of the inn features a different theme, of which there are hundreds. This all-embracing city welcomes visitors to spent time in the great outdoors hiking, to visit the campus of California Polytechnic State University or to visit the Bubblegum Alley downtown.

Lompoc, home to another historical mission, is situated down the highway with a brief break from US-101. Santa Barbara does not take long to pass through and it makes a perfect stop for shopping, eating, visiting another California mission or enjoying the spacious pier. Visitors may spend several hours shopping and dining on State Street. Those who are able can rent scuba gear and go for a dive or rent a kayak. Carpinteria hosts a harbor seal rookery and several orchid farms. Highway 1 passes through Ventura, where there is yet another mission, and then takes a jog inland to Oxnard, where road trippers can stop for delicious Mexican food and fresh strawberries before jetting off to the coast of Malibu.

In Santa Monica, Highway 1 enters city streets into Los Angeles and Long Beach to become Lincoln Boulevard. Along the way, the highway passes by eclectic neighborhoods including Venice and Marina Del Rey. Santa Monica’s pier, which holds a small amusement park, makes for great family fun, and the city’s 3rd Street Promenade is home to cafes, shops and street performers. Long Beach invites visitors to its large aquarium or for a visit onboard the Queen Mary at the city’s harbor.

Orange County is the next stop along the Highway. Disneyland, located in Anaheim, is one of California’s most popular travel destinations. For those not inclined to stop at the popular destination, Laguna Beach, Newport Beach and Huntington Beach are relaxing areas to stop for a bite or to spend an afternoon relaxing along the ocean.

The trip along spectacular Highway 1 ends in San Diego, which features Sea World, Lego Land, a zoo and a wild animal park. Travelers should be wary of running low on gas, especially because there are several stretches of highway where gas stations might be few and far between. It is also a good idea to pay attention to highway information when you are traveling during bad weather; landslides may result in road closures.

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