5 Coastal Road Trips

From California's cliff-hanging Highway 1 to the uncrowded Gulf shores of the Great Texas Birding Trail, here are five can't-miss coastal road trips. Plus, the playlists to match.

Road Trips: California Highway 1
Photo: David Zaitz

California Highway 1

Vertigo-inducing Big Sur is just one portion of California's iconic Highway 1, a cliff-hugging, beach-hopping route that snakes up the coast.

Music: Our editors picked the best songs for the trip. See the Highway 1 Playlist – free on Spotify.

Route: San Luis Obispo to San Francisco
Distance: 270 miles

Start: San Luis Obispo

Drive 47 miles to Hearst Castle in time for one of the many guided tours of the day. Afterward, elephant seals await at the nearby state beach, where you can take one last deep breath before the Big Sur stretch. The undulating road was created to link isolated communities and to expedite the rescue of shipwreck victims.

Pitstop at Nepenthe (65 miles from Hearst Castle) a primo spot for lunch perched 800 feet above the Pacific and renownded for its filet mignon and triple-berry pie. Just down the road is the Henry Miller Memorial Library.

Check in to a cabin at Glen Oaks Big Sur (4.3 miles from Nepenthe; rates start at $225) and stroll past the coastal redwoods at dusk.

Continue on day two to Monterey Bay Aquarium (31 miles from last stop) and the Giant Dipper roller coaster on the Santa Cruz Beach Board walk (45 miles).

Finish your drive in San Francisco at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge (78 miles).

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