A coastal California road trip is one of the ultimate U.S. boomer travel destinations, especially if you’re zipping around in a sports car. Are you interested in driving north through Big Sur, Monterey, San Francisco and Mendocino before turning east to Sonoma wine country?
Perhaps a Southern California coastal road trip is calling your name. No worries, we have ideas for both!
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Coastal California Road Trip itineraries
Discover bed and breakfasts, fine dining and wildlife watching on fun boomer road trips on the California coast that will get your motor started. We’re sharing articles from our own experiences as well as those of guest writers who are experts in California travel.
Northern California coastal trip
We like to start our northern California itinerary in Paso Robles. After tasting the wine and exploring western heritage, we head over to the coast to visit seals, admire Big Sur views and enjoy lovely Monterey before zipping through San Francisco. After admiring more coastal views, we’ll stop in quaint Mendocino before turning east for more wine tasting in Sonoma.
Start in Paso Robles
Paso Robles, California combines wine country with a mix of mission history and western heritage. Visit Paso Robles soon before this up and coming wine region becomes another Napa Valley.
Visit Paso Robles
Come along with us as we begin our California road trip adventure in Paso Robles, with its vibrant mix of wine country, mission history and western heritage. Click on Visit Paso Robles to see how we kicked off our road trip with a little wine tasting!
Crash Course at Steinbeck Vineyards
When Alan and I visited Paso Robles, we experienced an incredible Steinbeck Vineyards crash course first-hand. Read about our experience by clicking on Crash Course at Steinbeck Vineyards.
Stagecoach Driving Lessons
The vehicle creaked and swayed as I grabbed a leather handle to keep my balance. Believe it or not, driving a stage coach is quite difficult. Read about our experience by clicking on Stagecoach Driving Lessons.
Explore Big Sur
Of course, traveling up the gorgeous Highway 1 means that there are a lot of opportunities for scenic views and interesting stops, especially near Big Sur. We chose to stop and see the sleepy Elephant Seals while staying nearby in a most charming sea-side inn. But the Big Sur has much more to offer, especially when it comes to luxury lodging. We’ll be back!
Elephant Seals at Piedras Blancas
We began our drive up scenic Highway 1 with a stop to take a look at the elephant seals at Piedras Blancas. I’m glad we didn’t miss this must-do wildlife watching experience.
Spend the Night at Ragged Point Inn
Our first overnight on our road trip adventure was the charming Ragged Point Inn, where we were met with simple rooms, but incredible views. Read all about our experience by clicking on Night at Ragged Point Inn.
Looking for a place to stay? Start your search for hotels in California with us.
Experience charming Half Moon Bay
After cruising the scenic Big Sur coast on Highway 1, we decided that Half Moon Bay would be our next stop. After a day on the beach, soaking in the garden jazcuzzi at the Mill Rose Inn is delightful relaxation.
Rest up at Mill Rose Inn
After cruising the scenic Big Sur coast on Highway 1, we decided that Half Moon Bay would be our next stop. Our stay at Mill Rose Inn did not disappoint. After walking to town for dinner, we strolled the gardens before soaking in the garden’s jacuzzi gazebo. Check out our opinion of Mill Rose Inn.
Horseback Riding in Half Moon Bay
On our next trip to Half Moon Bay, we’ll explore on horseback. Click on Nancy D. Brown’s tips for horseback riding on the beach .
Stop in San Francisco
I’ll be honest. Alan and I are not fans of big cities. Plus we had both visited San Francisco before. Although we drove on by, the city is worth a stop. Here’s what to do.
Explore San Francisco like a local
If your Coastal California road trip itinerary includes time in San Francisco, local resident Steve Juba offers his tips. He says that adding in a day or two to properly explore San Francisco like a local is a must.
Don’t miss Mendocino
Our road trip philosophy includes two-night stays (at least) at every stop along the way. Mendocino was so lovely that 3 nights would have been much better than two!
Relax at Seal Rock Inn.
After San Francisco, we rejoined Highway 1 at Jenner for a drive along the Pacific Coast Highway that rivals the one at Big Sur, in our opinion. By the time we reached Mendocino, we were really ready to relax at Seal Rock Inn.
Stay in Sonoma
After driving from Mendocino through Armstrong Woods, we headed to Sonoma’s Russian River Valley for a luxury stay that we’ll never forget. Our accommodations in a barn room at the Farmhouse Inn rivals any luxury lodging that we’ve experienced. After reading our experiences, you’ll appreciate Sonoma, too.
Luxury in Sonoma at Farmhouse Inn
After driving from Mendocino through Armstrong Woods, we headed to Sonoma’s Russian River Valley for a luxury stay that we’ll never forget. Read more about our experience by clicking on Staying at the Farmhouse Inn.
Southern California Roadtripping
Although more congested, Highway 1 on the Souther California coast is still worth exploring. Check out our roadtripping ideas from San Diego to Santa Barbara and beyond.
Spring Road Trip in Southern California
Nothing says spring like a road trip in Southern California. Travel from LA to Santa Barbara stopping for ocean views, delicious food and funky places to stay. Read more about our experience by clicking on Southern California spring road trip.
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