A film trip along the Pacific coast
A convertible car or a van with hippy airs, an endless highway through the desert and views of Hollywood mansions or sunny California beaches… These stamps appear in many movies and California is the perfect scenario to let yourself be carried away by a great dream road trip.
The trail begins in the southern part of the state, where the white sandy beaches of Silver Strand connect the beautiful Coronado with San Diego.
Anyone who has seen Marilyn Monroe in Some prefer blondes will recognize the Coronado Hotel, which has hosted U.S. presidents, celebrities and royalty; there you can stroll through the labyrinthine corridors of this turreted palace and have a tropical cocktail at Babcock & Story Bar overlooking the ocean.
After crossing the San Diego-Coronado bridge, just over 3 km long, turn into Balboa Park, then head west and then south to Cabrillo National Monument de Point Loma for fantastic views from a lighthouse in the south.
XIX, monument to the first Spanish explorers of the western coast. Following the road north towards Mision Beach and the old Pacific Beach amusement park is the snob town of La Jolla.
Life in conservative Orange is very different from most more liberal coastal localities in California. Here we can still discover the “old-fashioned” beach culture in places rarely visited by tourists such as San Clemente.
It is the last corner of the California coast where you live the spirit of surf culture and here are home to major surfboard manufacturers and Surfer magazine. You can surf or swim at the town’s main beach next to the pier.
Inland, the Surfing Heritage & Culture Center features boards used by great legends, from Duke Kahanamoku to Kelly Slater.
And it goes north. In Long Beach, the big stars are the ‘Queen Mary’, an elegant (and supposedly enchanted) British transatlantic moored here, and the huge Aquarium of the Pacific, an avant-garde aquarium with sharks and jellyfish.
Inside a 20th-century mansion by the ocean, the Long Beach Museum of Art emphasizes California modernism and contemporary art, while the urban Museum of Latin American Art focuses on contemporary art south of the border.
From here, you can continue north slowly along the rugged, picturesque Palos Verdes Peninsula, past the beaches of South Bay and north to Venice, Santa Monica and Malibu, nearly 96 km from Long Beach.
Leaving LA traffic jams behind, Hwy 1 leads northwest of Santa Monica to Malibu. Walking along the beaches with their fenced enclosures owned by Hollywood celebrities, one can feel like a movie star. One of the mansions you can visit is the Getty Villa, on top of a hill, with Greek, Roman and Etruscan antiques and well-kept gardens.
Next to Malibu Lagoon State Beach, west of the Malibu Pier surfers’ area, the Adamson House is a Spanish- and Arabic-style villa luxuriously decorated with hand-painted tiles. If you continue west along the coast, where the Santa Monica Mountains descend to the sea, you’ll have to stop for a while to dive into Malibu’s sandy beaches such as Point Dume, Zuma or Leo Carrillo.
Santa Barbara, where surfers, kite lovers and dog walkers live together, enjoys almost perfect weather and a series of idyllic beaches.
From State St, downtown, or from the county courthouse, with a tower towering over red tile roofs, you can take a close-up look at Spain’s iconic neocolonial architectural style. Looking south you can see the busy harbor and Stearns Pier, and to the north, the historic Mission Church.
After about 45 minutes to the northwest, the traveller can take a detour to visit the Santa Barbara vineyard area, approaching, for example, the tasting rooms at Los Olivos, and then follow Foxen Canyon Rd north through more vineyards to take Hwy 101 again.
This California coastal town is perfect for stopping and swimming, surfing or strolling the pier at sunset.
After a bowl of clam chowder and a basket of fried seafood in one of its cafes, visit the retro bowling alley, billiard halls and bars uphill from the beach, or take the Hwy 101 to travel 16 km to San Luis Obispo’s Sunset Drive-In, where you can see the latest Hollywood hits from the car in one of those open-air movie theaters.
Atop a mountain, the Hearst Castle is California’s most famous monument to wealth and ambition. William Randolph Hearst, a newspaper magnate from the early 20th century, welcomed Hollywood stars and royalty on this fantasy estate with European antiques, gleaming swimming pools and multiple gardens.
About 7km further north on Hwy 1, park at the signposted lookout and walk along the walkway to see the huge elephant seal colony on the beach. There are seals all year round, but the winter season of birth and mating comes to a head on Valentine’s Day.
Nearby, the Piedras Blancas lighthouse is an incredibly picturesque place and the photo is always spectacular to share on social networks.
After a zigzag road, Hwy 1 descends the hill towards Monterrey Bay. For American writer John Steinbeck, Monterrey’s fishing community is the true heart of the country, and today, even though Cannery Row is a very touristy place, it’s worth visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which takes the place of an old sardine cannery on the shores of a national marine sanctuary.
All kinds of aquatic animals such as starfish, seahorses and sea otters swim here.
Continuing north to Santa Cruz, you’ll travel the crescent-shaped coastline of Monterrey Bay, past the Elkhorn Slough animal shelter near the commercial port of Moss Landing, the strawberry and artichoke plantations of Watsonville and a number of small beach towns in Santa Cruz County.
Here the flower power of the 1960s still lingers and stickers on car bumpers say “Keep Santa Cruz weird”. Next to the ocean, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk has a 1911 Looff merry-go-round.
Its fun atmosphere blends with the nervous screams of the public on the dizzying Giant Dipper, a wooden roller coaster from the 1920s.
The Mystery Spot is a trap for retro and kitsch tourists that makes compasses go crazy, while mysterious forces push visitors and buildings bend at impossible angles.
The Hwy 1 leads directly to the city’s largest green space: Golden Gate Park. It’s easy to spend an entire day here in the flower greenhouse, arboretum and botanical gardens, or visiting the California Academy of Sciences and the Young Museum.
Follow Hwy 1 north on the Golden Gate Bridge, which leads into San Francisco Bay.