Image: Visit California

Image: Visit California

Just One Way to do Highway One


Highway One is one of the most celebrated routes in the US, connecting the dots between Los Angeles to San Francisco and everything else in between. Regardless of which end you start at, the coast-hugging, awe-inspiring and picturesque drive will have you captivated every mile along the way. Our top tip – travel south to north so you are on the left hand side of the road giving you easy access to stop easily any time for uninterrupted views and insta-worthy photo ops!

With so much to do and see, we’ve put together a list of our top spots to stop, and even stay.


Starting in the south, this road trip starts in Los Angeles and then travels north through stunning beach towns of the greater Los Angeles area, through Santa Barbara and surrounding wine country, and further onto Carmel, Monterey and Santa Cruz before we finish up in the ‘City of the Bay’, San Francisco.


A surfer’s paradise, Huntington’s Beach is a classic beach town where the main street heads straight to the beach. With temperatures ranging from 18 to 26 degrees, there’s plenty of things to do day or night. In the main street you’ll find countless shops, restaurant, bars and hotels, and possibly the best sunset you’ll ever see. Ride along the boardwalk on a rental bike, take a surfing lesson or visit the international surfing museum, play disc golf (frisbee golf), ride a gondola through the canals, or relax and visit the day spa. You can walk through Huntington Beach Central Park, roast some marshmallows on a bonfire at the Fire Pits and definitely take a walk along the Huntington Beach boardwalk at night. There’s also free transport with the surf city shuttle which runs from June to September between 10am and 10pm.

Next stop: Los Angeles


California’s largest city has non-stop action and so many things to do and see. Santa Monica, with its signature pier atop with carnival rides, restaurants and fancy shopping centre precinct. To the northeast is Beverly Hills, where luxury cars and celebrities can be seen along the famous Rodeo Drive. Further east you’ll find Hollywood to stroll the Walk of Fame. Downtown Los Angeles is buzzing with new residents and is home to Grand Park, Broadway. Flock with the crowds to the Staples Centre and LA LIVE, where you can also see music artefacts at the Grammy Museum and catch concerts at the Nokia Theatre. Be sure you don’t leave without a visit to Universal Studios, with movie-themes rides and back-lot tours. Before you head out of Los Angeles, take a hike up Runyon Canyon where you’ll be rewarded with amazing views over the City of Angels.

Next stop: Santa Barbara


With its Mediterranean climate, and Spanish colonial-style architecture, the coast-hugging, sea-side city of Santa Barbara is as elegant as it is beautiful. Plenty of sunny days and mild winters makes it excellent for producing award-winning vintages, as well as strolling State Street – full of restaurant and shops.

Outdoor adventures are a must – launch a kayak from East Beach, visit the classic Old Mission Santa Barbara and tour the 1782 presido for a look at original adobes like El Cuartel, the second oldest surviving building in the state.

Next stop: A short drive north to Santa Ynez Wine Country


Only 30 miles north of Santa Barbara, you’ll find one of the most diverse grape-growing regions in the county and is a place where you can slow down, relax and really soak up the beautiful surroundings – and the amazing wine that is produced here. More than 50 varieties thrive here, and you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to wineries. One standout: S.Y. Kitchen, with modern rustic Italian dishes made from ingredients that are sourced from local farms, taking advantage of the Santa Ynez Valley’s bounty and the fact that they can get an exceptional burrata (cheese) from Italy in 24 hours. We recommend the gnocchi and the lamb ragù. If you’re looking for somewhere to stay, the Sunstone Winery has a spectacular limestone chateau available for overnight stays.

Next stop: the remarkable structure known as Hearst Castle.


As you drive Highway One, it’s hard to miss this incredible complex of ornately embellished towers and buildings perched high on a coastal hilltop. The castles, with 360 degree views, are hugely popular with tourists, so if you do intend to visit we suggest that you book online well in advance. This lavish temple of opulence and excess was originally designed as the private residence for publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, and is now a must see. It features a whopping 165 rooms, on 127 acres of terraced gardens, fountains and pools which are surrounded by eight marble sculptures on Greek and Roman gods, goddesses and heroes.

Next stop: 81 miles north to the Big Sur

  1. BIG SUR

This 145km long stretch of coastline between Carmel by the Sea and Hearst Castle is easily one of the world’s most unforgettable places. And you’ll certainly find lots of places to stop along the way to capture those all-important photos. Our faves include: Bixby Bridge and McWay Falls, and you must try the famous Ambrosia burger on the deck of the Nepenthe as you watch the sun go down. There’s also plenty of places to stay – ranging from campsites to spurge-worthy hotels.

Next stop: Romantic Carmel and historic Monterey.


Back on everyone’s radar after being under the spotlight as the filming location for the recent TV hit series, Big Little Lies, is Monterey. Located on the Monterey Peninsula, surrounded by the Pacific Ocean on three sides, this quaint town offers beaches, quiet coves, fine dining and casual eats, early history and postmodern art. Visit Carmel’s main village with gallery-lined streets and cozy gastropubs before taking a stroll along the white sands of Carmel Beach, or the meadows at nearby Point Labos State Reserve. Visit the bat-ray petting tanks at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where more than 35,000 animals and plants are showcased. Rent bikes to follow the coast around the peninsula to see multi-million dollar homes and immaculate golf courses. Take 17-mile drive that runs through Pebble Beach to Pacific Grove along the dramatic Pacific coastline. Have your camera ready!

Next stop: Continue north to the funky beachfront town of Santa Cruz.


Ah Santa Cruz – where the surf is always up and there is a lot of fun to be had. Whether its family fun you’re looking for – think rollercoasters, arcade games, corn dogs and carousels, or downtown Santa Cruz, with vintage and boho chic, relaxed restaurants with organic and local produce.

Known as the original surf town, the place to be is Steamer Lane, where surfing legend Jack O’Neill lives. If surfing isn’t your thing, head to Pacific Avenue for many local shops, unique novelties and art boutiques, clothing and home décor.

Next stop: Your last stop, the beautiful San Francisco.


Your drive of Highway One comes to an end in ‘Sparkling Bay’, otherwise known as San Francisco. But we suggest you ditch the car and explore this beautiful place on foot, bike or by cable car. An absolute must is riding a bike across the Golden Gate Bridge, then explore the lush Presido – the former military base that’s now a park. Visit Fisherman’s Wharf and the Exploratorium science and learning museum. Hop on the cable car over to the high-end shops and Macy’s, NikeTown, and Saks Fifth Avenue before you stop for Italian pastries at any of the cafés. Catch a show in the theatre district, and stroll Valencia Street in the Mission for more nightlife and dining. Don’t get caught out, pre-book your trip to Alcatraz, once home to some of America’s most notorious criminals.

Our top tip – it can get cold on the Bay so make sure you take a jacket no matter what time of year.


We could go on and on about the incredibly fun, interesting and adventurous activities you can get up to whilst driving Highway One. The list is absolutely endless, but we know that what we’ve provided you with above is a great starting point to kick start your way to an amazingly fun time in California.


With some incredible offers to the US at the moment, our experienced travel experts will be able to tailor a package to ensure you can experience the best of California – San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, and San Francisco.

Find an agent or contact us today to start booking your US holiday.

Safe travels from Travel Partners Australia  ✈️