Beach to bridge

The ultimate summer road trip guide from San Diego to San Francisco.

Photo Collage by Marika Adamopoulos/THE CHIMES

Photo Collage by Marika Adamopoulos/THE CHIMES

Photo Collage by Marika Adamopoulos/THE CHIMES

Elise Kelly, Writer

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Road trips and college students go hand-in-hand and summer is the perfect time to pack your car, grab your friends and enjoy the ride. Having trouble narrowing down your route for the ultimate road trip? Let this agenda guide your travels up the coast beginning in San Diego and driving north to San Francisco.


Although Highway 1 may be a bit slower, the scenic views will make the extra gas money worth it. Start your journey by spending a few days on the warm beaches in San Diego. Take some time to explore La Jolla Cove and participate in some water activities such as kayaking and snorkeling.

Afterwards, head over to Balboa Park and check out the variety of animals at the San Diego Zoo. End the day with a lively evening spent in the Gaslamp Quarter, which offers a variety of cuisines.

The next few stops along the Pacific Coast Highway include the beaches of Carlsbad, Oceanside, Huntington, and Long Beach. If you decide to take the time, spend the evening in Long Beach and take a tour of the historic Queen Mary.


As you travel north from Long Beach, take a day to experience the cultures of Venice Beach and the fun atmosphere at the Santa Monica Pier. From there, take a detour inland to Los Angeles for a bit more sightseeing. If you feel like getting your education on, stop by the Getty Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. If you want a bit more entertainment, head to Hollywood for the evening and see the Walk of Fame and Grauman’s Chinese Theater.

Wake up nice and early to enjoy a beautiful sunrise hike in Malibu. You will get to stretch your legs a bit while enjoying breathtaking views of the Pacific. Once you are ready to get back on the road, head up the Pacific Coast Highway for more sightseeing and shopping in the cities of Ventura and Santa Barbara.


The next stop along the central coast is San Luis Obispo. This leg of the journey is the perfect opportunity for you to snap some beautiful photos and experience the coastal nature. If you have time to explore San Luis Obispo’s surrounding area, make sure to check out Montana de Oro State Park and Spooner’s Cove. Both of these locations are only 20 minutes off of Highway 1 and will give you the chance to get out of the car for a bit.

After a day spent enjoying the outdoors, treat yourself to a luxurious experience at the well-known Hearst Castle. Take a tour of this “ranch” and catch a glimpse of the lifestyle of the rich and famous William Randolph Hearst, a newspaper tycoon in the early 1900’s.

Make your next stop count as you drive north along the PCH to Big Sur. This part of your road trip will wind alongside the mountains and next to the coastline, offering a day of scenic driving.


Your final stop before reaching the Golden Gate City is Monterey Bay. Enjoy a relaxing afternoon spent in the quaint town of Carmel and take a stroll along the Santa Cruz Beach boardwalk.


500 miles later from San Diego to San Francisco and you have reached your final destination. Now what? Try not to feel too overwhelmed by the seemingly endless entertainment options in the Bay Area. Start off your day by partaking in the hustle and bustle of Union Square. From there, take a trolley ride down to the bay to treat your tastebuds. At Fisherman’s Wharf, order a bread bowl full of steamy clam chowder or a basket of fish and chips. Either way, this delicious seafood will not disappoint. After lunch, walk over to Pier 39 to see some seals, street performers and souvenir shops. Once you and your friends feel ready for some dessert, take a tour of Ghirardelli Square and receive some free chocolate samples. A few other sites to see in San Francisco include Alcatraz Island, Haight-Ashbury Street and, of course, the Golden Gate Bridge.

Whether you choose to stop at each one of these locations or just a few of them along the way, you and your friends will share a memorable road trip together exploring the beautiful coastline of California.


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