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The Best Places to Stop on Your California Coast Road Trip

Things to See and Do on your California Coastal Road Trip

If you enjoy temperate weather, sand between your toes, and the salty ocean breeze, now is the time to plan your California coast highway road trip! Don’t know where to start?  Find Eureka, California on the map and start heading south down the gorgeous Pacific coastline.  If you need more than the fantastic weather and the gorgeous beaches to convince you to take the trip of a lifetime, then you’re in luck. Read on to find numerous other reasons to take a California coast highway road trip!

California Coast Road Trip Stop #1: Eureka and the Gentle Giants

Highway 1 lives up to its reputation as one of the most spectacular drives in the world.  This major north-south highway runs along the Pacific coastline of California. It spans over 655 miles and travels past shining beaches, dense forests, and countless attractions along the way.With its sharp curves, jagged cliffs, and the vast blue Pacific Ocean, you won’t want to miss this experience.

One of the top scenic drives in the world, the Avenue of the Giants is a 31-mile stretch of historic Highway 101 that winds right through the heart of Humboldt Redwoods State Park, home to the largest remaining stand of old-growth coast redwoods on Earth.  These gentle giants can live to be up to 2000 years old and some are more than 5 stories taller than the Statue of Liberty!  Whether you choose to explore the 200 miles of trails by bicycle, horseback or on foot, spending time with the giant redwoods will leave you feeling awed and humbled. 

Instagrammable Moment: Without doubt, you’re going to want to get a shot of yourself near the Dyerville Giant!


Places to Stay near Eureka, CA

Carter House Inn guest room

Carter House Inns and Restaurant 301

Eureka, CA

gingerbread mansion inn guest room

Gingerbread Mansion Inn

Ferndale, CA

Stop #2: Fort Bragg and Glass Beach

Next, head south towards Fort Bragg.  As  you wind your way down the coast, make sure to stop at Glass Beach.  Instead of sand or pebbles, this beach is covered with bits of tumbled sea glass.  Surrounded by the coves and cliffs of MacKerricher State Park, the area is dotted with tide pools containing crabs, mollusks and anemones.

Fort Bragg beach with sea glass

Featured Fort Bragg Vacation Package

UTV Tour at the Inn at Newport Ranch

A UTV Tour at the Inn at Newport Ranch will provide an experience that you’ll remember for years.  A seasoned guide will take you through the 2000 acre ranch.  From Ridgeline to Coastal Meadow to Redwood forest, the trip passes through three unique microclimates.  You’ll hear the story of the many handcrafterd benches that the owner commissioned from various artists.  Sit and watch the waves come in, and drive through herds of cattle grazing peacefully in the meadows.

Inn at Newport Ranch exterior at night

California Coast Road Trip Stop #3: Mendocino and Wine Tasting

The next day, continue south to Mendocino, where you can sample some of the fabulous wines from Husch Vineyard, Navarro Vineyard, or Toulouse Winery.  Stop at the Boonville General Store to create a picnic from local cheeses and other artisanal fare, which you can snack on while visiting the vines.  Known as one of California’s prettiest and least crowded places to taste wine, Mendocino wine country is home to boutique winemakers who have perfected sustainable winemaking techniques.  Don’t miss the Pinot Noir at Husch or the Gerwurztraminer at Navarro!

Places to Stay near Mendocino

Sea Rock Inn, along the rocky coasts of Mendocino, is the perfect place to stay during a California road trip

Sea Rock Inn

Mendocino, CA

Stop #4: Half Moon Bay and Kayaking

Continue on down the road and just south of San Francisco, Half Moon Bay will appear.  While the town is known for surfing and golf, there are a large variety of activities to enjoy in this quaint coastal town.  Rent a bike and explore the 5 mile California Coastal Trail or try a guided sunset paddle with the Half Moon Bay Kayak Co. Visit the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve to wander through tide pools and see some harbor seals.

Half Moon Bay, CA

Continue your trip by following the 17-Mile Drive along the coast to Monterey. The 17-Mile Drive is widely recognized as one of the most picturesque drives in the world. The route takes drivers by the region’s golf courses, magnificent beaches and past the famous Lone Cypress. The Lone Cypress is one of the most photographed trees in North America; you won’t want to miss this stunning view!  Spend the late afternoon exploring the quaint villages of Monterey and Carmel-by-the Sea. 

Instagrammable Moment: The Bixby Bridge is a must-see road trip spot for many and probably the most Instagrammed feature along the Highway 1 coastline. Always an iconic feature of Highway 1, the bridge was made even more famous when featured in the opening credits of the popular HBO series “Big Little Lies”.  There are numerous turnouts where you can stop to get amazing views, particularly from the bridge’s south end at sunset. 

Stop #6: Pinnacles National Park and Paso Robles Wine Country

After you’ve gotten your fill of the Monterey area, take a detour inland to view Pinnacles National Park.  This unique natural area was formed some 23 million years ago when multiple volcanoes erupted and flowed to form towering rock structures.  Rock climbers will enjoy the variety of climbing routes.  Birding enthusiasts can look forward to seeing falcons, eagles and condor.  Hikers will enjoy the miles of trail systems -- From short trails for the whole family to strenuous hikes for the serious adventurer, Pinnacles has something for everyone!

Once you’ve finished your adventures in Pinnacles, continue south towards Paso Robles to taste some amazing wines.  With close to 300 wineries, around 80 of which feature tasting rooms, a visit to Paso Robles is a must for serious wine lovers - especially if you favor a big, bold, complex red!

Stop #7: San Luis Obispo and Farmer's Market

After gorging yourselves on the amazing food and wine of the Paso Robles wine region, continue your gastronomic adventures and head to San Luis Obispo to visit their world-famous farmer’s market!  Every Thursday evening, Downtown San Luis Obispo transforms into a foodie arena, shutting down Higuera Street and allowing visitors to leisurely stroll from merchant to merchant. With more than 120 vendors, the bustling San Luis Obispo Farmers’ Market offers fresh, locally grown produce, blooming flowers, handmade craft goods and jewelry, live entertainment and much more!

Stop #8: Santa Barbara Wine Country

After you fill your shopping tote with local goodies, hop back in the car and head south to spend some time in California exploring the Santa Barbara Wine Country.   

After your day exploring the Santa Barbara wine region, head back towards the coast to Santa Barbara.  This charming town features beautiful Spanish-style architecture and a spectacular palm-lined waterfront, all backed by mountains that glow pink in the late afternoon light. Make sure you visit the Old Mission Santa Barbara, known as the "Queen of the Missions", the graceful beauty and picturesque setting.  This mission’s complex is also home to a museum and the stunning La Huerta Historic Gardens, which feature mission era plants such as pomegranates, prickly pear and citrus.

California Coast Road Trip Stop #9: Catalina Island Adventures

Once you’ve finished with Santa Barbara, continue south along the coast to Long Beach, where you’ll take a one hour ferry ride out to Catalina Island.  The picturesque town of Avalon will be the home base for your island explorations.  No matter your interests, Catalina can provide you with something to do. From golf to ziplines and aerial adventures to sealife safaris, Catalina Island has you covered!

Instagrammable moment: The rooftop deck at the Avalon Hotel yields panoramic views of Avalon and the harbor and is the perfect spot to get beautiful photos to feed your 'gram!

Places to Stay on Catalina Island

Avalon Hotel road trip stop

The Avalon Hotel on Catalina Island

Avalon, CA

Best Places to Stay in Avalon

The Best Lodging on Catalina Island in California
avalon sign
downtown avalon
avalon exterior
guest room with a view
view of cruise ship
Avalon outdoor patio
the avalon hotel gallery room porch view
boats on water
outdoor dining

The Avalon Hotel on Catalina Island

Avalon, CA

Best Places to Stay in Ballard

Best Places to Stay in Eureka

Carter House
7-carter house entree
Carter House
carter house inn view from the porch
carter house
Carter House
Carter House
Carter House
Carter House
Carter House room
Carter House

Carter House Inns

Eureka, CA

Best Places to Stay in Ferndale

Gingerbread Mansion Exterior
Gingerbread Mansion Bedroom
Gingerbread Mansion Parlor
Gingerbread Mansion guest room
Gingerbread Mansion- wedding couple

Gingerbread Mansion Inn

Ferndale, CA

Best Places to Stay in Fort Bragg

exterior view of inn and mountains
a bedroom at the inn at newport ranch
a rustic bedroom
inn at newport exterior
a couple sitting on rocks by the ocean
a couple in a hot tub by the ocean
a dinner plate and a glass of wine
dining room at inn at newport ranch
couple by fire pit
jetted tub over water
dusk shot
aerial view
bedroom with view of water

The Inn at Newport Ranch

Fort Bragg, CA

boat in harbor
Breakfast at HarborView Bistro and Bar
Stunning Arts & Crafts Style Interiors
Views of the Working Noyo Harbor and the Pacific Ocean
Indoor and Outdoor Seatings
boat in harbor
Noyo Harbor Inn Overlooking the Noyo River
Organic Garden on Site

Noyo Harbor Inn

Fort Bragg, CA

Best Places to Stay in Mendocino

view of ocean from inn
porch and wine
room with a sitting place
breakfast on a tray
chairs by the sea
room with a view
room with a fireplace
fireplace and breakfast
room with a view
back of cottage
front of sea rock inn
room with wooden panels
bath tub with a view
wine and strawberries
outdoor lawn chairs overlooking coastline
pink flowers and green vines over white archway
Sea Rock Inn sign set against green grass and landscaping
Two-story building with front facing porches and four lawn chairs set behind colorful flowers and landscaping
Green landscaping with white lawn chairs and road winding down coastline

Sea Rock Inn

Mendocino, CA

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