A Trip up the Coast: The Best Places to Stop on Your California Road Trip

posted by Chris Valentine

The best thing about California is that the weather makes it an ideal travel destination all year round. In the winter, Southern California is mild and sunny, and in the summer, NorCal is a welcome respite from the hotter-than-hell temps in other parts of the country.

If you’re able to get the time off, the ideal way to experience the Golden State is with a road trip along the coast, with lots of stops along the way. We’ve found the best places to visit, regardless of the time of year.

Starting in Southern California

Begin your trip in San Diego and visit Sunset Cliffs National Park. If you’re traveling during the winter months, this is a great way to get in touch with the outdoor side of California without having to take a dip in the frigid Pacific ocean. You can hike and see the coast and everything it has to offer (including whale sightings) while staying dry, and you’ll be in the perfect spot for amazing panoramic pictures.

In the summer, take a dip at one of the parks beaches and stretch out in preparation of a long ride. Before getting to the main highway you’ll use for much of your trip, make a stop at local favorite Taco Surf with its famous surfboard collection.

Next, you’ll head to Orange County to hop onto California State Route 1, which has reopened since being shut down due to mudslides. If you’re in a position to make this trip solo or with one other special person, now is the time to try a motorcycle. Just make sure everything on your safety list is checked off, including helmets and motorcycle tires made by Bridgestone.

For a summer trip, take a break at Huntington Beach, or make a detour in Los Angeles and find your way to one of the many swanky eateries. If on the move during the holidays, take in the extravagant Christmas lights displays on the mansions lining the highway.

Halfway there

The heart of California is your halfway point in your roadtrip. In Pismo Beach, you can see the Monarch Butterfly Grove during the winter months. The butterflies hibernate and show off their gorgeous colors before flying out again in the spring.

Take a slight detour off the coast to see Hearst Castle in San Simeon. Not only will you marvel at the architecture of the home (and the pool), you’ll be supporting California’s State Park Service. And during the fall and spring, you can tour the estate at night, making it extra romantic and just a bit moody with all of its history.

End on a high note

The end of your road trip could lead you to several different places. Go off the beaten path and see Yosemite National Park, where you can hike until your heart’s content. Don’t go here without doing some research, though. You’ll need to be aware of not just weather conditions, but animal habits in whatever region of the park you explore.

You could stop in Oakland, which is up and coming and full of artists and musicians. The same could be said for Berkeley, which has one of the best music schools in the country. Both have stunning views of the bay and enjoy fall-and-spring-like weather all year round.

Lastly, take in a show in San Francisco at one of the cities many theaters. Visit Alcatraz and Fisherman’s Wharf during the warmer months. And during cold spells, spend a day at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Regardless of the time of year, if you have a day in which you feel it’s a comfortable temp for you outside, visit Angel Island for it’s heartbreaking history, or Golden Gate Park.

Then, head home for some rest, knowing you’ve seen a bit of the best California has to offer.

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