(C) 2002-2014 J. Watson All rights reserved
Southern California -- Coastal Route
|WHAT TO EXPECT
Traveling along the coast of Southern California you'll visit the magnificent
Hearst Castle, see wild animals, be dwarfed by the world's tallest trees, enjoy
marvelous viewpoints, drive through endless forests, visit historic missions
and more. From shore you may see whales, seals, sea lions, and a variety of
birds. Lush farms will attract your attention as you drive inland. You'll see
some of California's most beautiful scenery as you drive north along the
Pacific Coast Highway.
As you read this you may wish to trace the route on your road map.
ADVICE. Generally, Route 1, the Pacific Coast Highway, in California follows the
Pacific coast. It is noted for its spectacular beauty, but you should be
forewarned of the many twists and turns as it hugs the sides of cliffs that drop
to the ocean from the highway. There are many unprotected sheer drops. For
this reason many RVers prefer driving from the south to the north in order to
be on the inboard side of the road. Mud slides occasionally close portions of
Route 1. Drivers of RVs when traveling north of San Francisco should consider
taking Route 101 instead of Route 1.
Just north of the Mexican border on the Pacific coast is...
San Diego This city is said to have the best climate in the
continental United States. This is a marvelous city to tour as
there is a very accessible public transit system that eases the
frustration of the heavy traffic. First on anyone’s list of “must
sees” is Balboa Park (photo) with the outstanding San Diego
Zoo. The park has over a dozen fine museums – space, science,
art, natural history, even a botanical garden and more. Take
time to go to the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park that
captures the spirit of the mid 1800s when the city was being
developed. Visit Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala in which
there are some outstanding artifacts, one dating to the 13th
century. Out at Point Loma is the Cabrillo National Monument,
which overlooks the harbor – a US submarine was departing as
we were there. Exhibits describe the history from the 1500s thru
the WW2 days when it was a coastal defense artillery location.
From here go inland to…
ADVICE Heading north from San Diego to San Francisco
you will have the opportunity to visit the missions. Do so.
They are architectural gems that provide an insight of the
history of early California. These shaped the early
development of the state. During the late 1700s and early
1800s the Roman Catholic Church sent Mexican
missionary padres to Christianize the native Indians in
California. They set up missions every 20 miles or so (a
day’s travel) along the coast. Cities often grew around
these missions, in fact that led to the names of some of the
cities: San Diego, Santa Barbara, San Jose, etc.
Learn the full story by visiting several missions. Indians
constructed them under the supervision of the padres who
often had little engineering knowledge. Learn about the
secularizing of the missions by the Mexican government
that led to their deterioration. When California separated
from Mexico some were reconstructed. Several missions
are mentioned in the following pages, but not all twenty-
one. Many are well marked along the highway.
Escondido Visit the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (formerly called
the San Diego Wild Animal Park, photo). This is the famous park
with animals in expanses that resemble their native habitats.
Animals mingle with other types, as they do in their homeland.
You ride a tram around the park to observe the animals. This is
the exhibition of wild animals that other zoos consider the gold
standard. Now you can take I-15 north for a few miles to …
Pala to visit the Mission Pala. The mission is a few miles east of
I-15. This is the only mission that still serves the Indians for
whom the mission was established. In fact, it is situated on the
Pala reservation. It was a satellite of the mission a few miles west
on SR-76 in …
From here go north on I-5, which takes you through the US
Marine base, Camp Pendleton. You are on the Pacific Coast.
We have enjoyed beautiful sunsets when staying overnight at the
state park, which is on the bluff overlooking the ocean.
Continue north on I-5 to Route 57. Take Route 57 north and exit
at Yorba Linda Boulevard. Head east (turn right) on Yorba Linda
Boulevard and proceed to the Museum at 18001 Yorba Linda
Yorba Linda. If you want to learn about the accomplishments of
President Nixon visit the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace.
He really did accomplish much, however it was eclipsed by his
ambitions gone astray. You can even listen to the famous tapes.
This is said to be the most visited presidential library. A “must
see”. Then head back to …
Anaheim & the Los Angeles Area. This is the home of that
famous couple – Mickey & Minnie Mouse – Disneyland.
Coastal communities such as Laguna Beach (an artists colony)
and Huntington Beach ("Surf City") gives tourists a look of the
Now, you’re on your own as you head north through the Los
Angeles Area. There is much to see. You may wish to take a
commercial tour from your hotel or RV park to get an overview of
Los Angeles, Hollywood and Beverly Hills before you head
out on your own. Maybe you’d enjoy a visit to Universal Studios,
which has a tour of movie studios as well as a popular theme
park. Possibly go to Long Beach to visit the former luxury liner
Queen Mary that dates to the pre-jet age when it was in trans-
A couple of years ago we visited the new Cathedral of Our Lady
of the Angels (photo) in downtown Los Angeles – it is built on
“shock absorbers” so it can move a couple of feet in the event of
an earthquake, you might call it “rock & roll” construction. It was
built with the thought that it would last for 500 years. It’s worth
taking time for the guided tour of this magnificent modern
cathedral and learning of its construction. Then north to…
Simi Valley (east of Santa Monica) is home of the Ronald
Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, photo. Like Nixon’s
library, this is a “must see”. From Simi Valley go west to route 1
and go north along the Pacific coast north of Santa Monica to…
Malibu. This area is noted for exclusive oceanfront homes of
Hollywood “big shots”. You can probably find a place to park
along the highway – get out for a walk on the sand.
As you go up the Pacific coastline keep looking to see if you see
the whales migrating. The favorite beach activities at Malibu are
volleyball and surfboarding. Then continue to …
Santa Barbara. The Mission Santa Barbara is one of the more
renowned missions often referred to as “Queen of the missions”.
It has the advantage of being in an area that is expansive, so it is
not crowded by other buildings. The mission had a city grow
around it – now a busy area, so anticipate traffic.
Continue north on route 1 to …
Solvang. This area is a tourist Mecca (a bit glitzy) that flaunts its
Danish heritage – especially the cuisine. There is designated
parking for RVs – just follow signs for RV parking as you enter
Across the street from the parking area is Mission Santa Ines
(photo), which is another fine example of the early missions. In
Lompoc you will see (depending on the season) large colorful
commercial flower fields. These supply much of America’s cut
flowers as well as vegetable and flower seeds for leading seed
companies. Some fields measure more than a mile square
(photo). The farmer's market in Lompoc is marvelous...enjoy.
Nearby is the La Purisima Mission State Historic Park. This is an
impressive park with a mission building and numerous out
buildings. It probably appears more as it did in the early 1800s
than other missions with “manicured” lawns and fine gardens
Then continue north on scenic route 1 to Hearst Castle (next
page) or consider an alternate on US-101 below. We
recommend route 1 because of the outstanding coastal
scenery and the Hearst Castle. However, If you wish to take the
alternate inland route consider going to the Hearst Castle and
then doubling back to US-101.
ALTERNATE If you are unable to take Route 1 (it is
sometimes impassable because of mud slides) take
an alternate on US-101, below.
San Miguel to visit the San Miguel Archangel
Mission, which has a less gentrified appearance than
many other missions. Continuing north to Bradley
you can cut west toward the...
San Antonio de Padua Mission. This is off the
beaten track...it's a barren area and is in the Hunter
Liggett Military Reservation.
The area is arid and at King City you may wish to
visit the Monterey County Park to see the Irrigation
Museum. It's part of an old time agricultural and
rural life exhibit. This is a very productive farming
area, which is only possible by irrigation.
Pinnacles National Park. This is rugged parkland
with high peaks to climb and caves to explore.
Now on to the Salinas area where you can return to the
coast and visit Carmel and Monterey.
Oceanside. Visit the Mission San Luis Rey
de Francia, which is about five miles east of
I-5 just off SR-76. This is an outstanding
mission with sparkling white exterior and
peaceful gardens (photo). Here you will see
the impressive sanctuary and learn the
reason that the missions are narrow and
long. (We think this is one of the more
interesting missions, though each is
distinctive and well worth the time to visit.)