Unexpected Stays Along the California Coast (Highway 101) Drive

The classic drive along the California Coast offers a few stunning stops you may not have thought about to stay and visit. From Los Angeles to San Francisco, here are a few stops along the Highway 101.

By redtag.caApril 25, 2019 Posted in:Travel Inspiration

Winding roads, beautiful coastlines, tremendous trees and desert sands. All of this and more you’ll discover on one of the world’s most scenic roads. The Pacific Coast Highway (or Highway One) in California shows off the unique personalities of different California towns while providing endless views and adventure.

From San Diego to San Francisco, you can technically rent a car and drive the highway in one day. However, we think it’s much better to spread out your journey to see as much as possible. From the glitz and glam of Hollywood to the gorgeous views in Pismo Beach, we’ve compiled a list of a few stops you probably didn't think of along this epic coastal route.

Stop 1: Los Angeles

Venice Beach
Hollywood Hills

The place where dreams come true. Take in the culture and creativity every spot you go. From Hollywood to Venice or Downtown Los Angeles to Beverly Hills, there is so much to explore.

Be Sure to Check Out:

Griffith Observatory: Offering gorgeous views of Los Angeles, the observatory has exhibits, telescopes and more to learn about the sky and space.

Venice Beach: This eccentric beachside neighbourhood is filled with art, poets, shopping and activities.

Rodeo Drive: Embrace the glitz and glam of Hollywood’s elite on this famous shopping strip. High-end brands and celebrity spottings can be found here.

Stay in Los Angeles: 

Stop 2: Ventura

This coastal city just north of Los Angeles is a vibrant place that will take your worries away. With beautiful beaches and a charming culture, visitors will get a breath of fresh air in Ventura.

Be Sure to Check Out:

Surfer’s Point: Take in this ultimate beach town vibes here. If you’ve ever wanted to try out surfing, this is the spot to do it.

Main Street: Here, you’ll find a idyllic boardwalk and historic buildings including the Mission San Buenaventura, one of the oldest Spanish missions in California.

Stay in Ventura: 

Stop 3: Santa Barbara

Beautiful beaches, exquisite mansions and great restaurants are all found in Santa Barbara. Known as a must-see in Southern California, this is a great stop for every traveller.

Be Sure to Check Out:

Refugio State Beach: This palm tree-lined beach offers fishing, outdoor activity and even a camping area.

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden: This 78-acre living museum has walking trails, views of the San Ynez Mountains and beautiful gardens containing over 1000 different plants.

The Mill: A restored historic building, The Mill is now an artisan marketplace with local wines, beer, crafts and more found onsite.

Stay in Santa Barbara: 

Stop 4: Pismo Beach


If you are looking for the ultimate sand and surf, Pismo Beach is the place for you. This old-school, sandy beach town is the perfect place to relax and take in the views.

Be Sure to Check Out:

Oceano Pismo Dunes Preserve: An expansive coastal sand dune, this is the only California State Park that allows you to drive right onto the beach.

Pismo Pier: Walk along the beautiful boardwalk and take in the epic coastal views. Nearby are restaurants and shops to explore.

Stay in Pismo Beach: 

Stop 5: San Luis Obispo

This low-key town has high-quality activities to enjoy on your ride. Wine enthusiasts will thrive with over 30 local wineries to sample from. If you’re into out of the ordinary attractions, you will enjoy your time here.

Be Sure to Check Out:

Bubblegum Alley: An attraction like no other, this famous alley is covered in chewed bubblegum from its visitors.

Bishop Peak:  This volcanic plug is the tallest peak in the “Nine Sisters” chain. Resembling a bishop’s miter, there are tons of trails to explore.

Stay in San Luis Obispo: 

Stop 6: Morro Bay

A hidden gem along the drive that is a great spot to stop and stretch your legs. Take in the coastal views at Morro Bay State Park and if you’re lucky – you might see some wild animals including blue herons and sea otters.

Be Sure to Check Out:

Morro Bay State Park: Featuring a lagoon, a natural bay, exhibits and a golf course, this park lets you enjoy the California outdoors. 

Moro Rock: A prominent landmark within the State Park. Witness its beautiful formation and makes for a great photo.

Hearst Castle: This National Historic Landmark is one unforgettable experience. Tour the grounds, explore the castle and learn the history behind this gorgeous home.

Stay in Morro Bay: 

Stop 7: Monterey

Step into the world of Big Little Lies. This beachside town is filled with incredible history.  Wander through the historic quarter of Downtown, Fisherman’s Wharf and Cannery Row.

Be Sure to Check Out:

Old Fisherman’s Wharf: What used to be a wholesale fish market is now a popular tourist attraction. Head to the Old Fisherman’s Wharf for great restaurants, whale watching and sailing.

Cannery Row: Be charmed by this colourful area. Exquisite restaurants, hotels and shopping are all found here.

Carmel-by-the-sea: On the Monterey Peninsula, this small beach town has museums, cute cottages and a beautiful beachfront.

Stay in Monterey: 

Stop 8: San Francisco


Once you reach the end of the road (or the start for some), you’ll have made it to San Francisco. From the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Museum to Waverly Place and Haight Street, there are so many things to discover for every personality.

Be Sure to Check Out:

The Golden Gate Bridge: Perhaps San Francisco’s most iconic landmark, the Golden Gate Bridge connects Presidio to the Marin headlands. You can walk, bike or drive across the bridge.

Union Square Park: A park with something always to do. Between the entertainment, shopping, restaurants and events, you’ll never get bored here.

Painted Ladies: A set of Victorian homes that have since been repainted to enhance their details. Fans of Full House will certainly recognize the Painted Ladies.

Stay in San Francisco: 

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