Road Trip Down California's Route 1

The Golden State's waterfront highway, Route 1, hugs the Pacific Coast, winding through San Francisco and Los Angeles and offering unforgettable vistas along the way. It is the road to many of California's iconic sites: the great Redwood trees, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, Mugu Rock, Laguna Beach, and more.


Starting at its northernmost point, here's what a weekend on this coastal road might look like:

Route 1 Road Trip Stop #1: Mendocino County to San Francisco

The famous highway begins in Mendocino County; this section of the drive is approximately 170 miles long. Navarro River Redwoods State Park, although not technically on Route 1, is just a 3.5 mile detour on CA-128 and offers an exciting look at the world's tallest trees. Back on Route 1 (called Shoreline Highway here), continue towards San Fran, passing Bodega Bay and Point Reyes National Seashore along the way.

Route 1 Road Trip Stop #2: The Golden Gate Bridge

Adopt a leisurely pace as you approach the charming waterfront town of Sausalito, north of San Francisco. Get your camera ready — photo ops ahead. Route 1 goes straight across the Golden Gate Bridge into the Sunset District of the City by the Bay. Look to the left (northeast) as you move along the most famous suspension bridge in America. You'll see Alcatraz Island, once home to some of the country's most notorious criminals.

Route 1 Road Trip Stop #3: San Francisco to Santa Barbara

Highway 1 becomes Park Presidio Boulevard, briefly separating from the coast before merging with the freeway and becoming Cabrillo Highway. Continue past Half Moon Bay; from here the drive to Santa Barbara is approximately 350 miles. You'll pass Santa Cruz, Monterey Bay, Big Sur State Park, and San Luis Obispo along the way.

Parts of the highway, particularly near Big Sur, are rural and somewhat isolated. You may go a while without seeing a gas station. Thankfully, Buick's eAssist technology, available in 2014 models like the LaCrosse and Regal, saves gas by switching the engine off and then back on again whenever the driver's foot leaves the brake pedal.

Route 1 Road Trip Stop #4: Santa Barbara to Los Angeles

The historic city of Santa Barbara, nicknamed the American Riviera, has many charms: old Spanish missions, Stearns Wharf, and numerous vineyards and wineries.

As you make your way toward L.A., the stretch between Ventura and Malibu is smooth, open road. You'll want a window seat to take in the beautiful beaches. Keep your eyes peeled after the town of Oxnard; Route 1 passes by Mugu Rock, a famous landmark formed by the cut the road made through the mountain.

Route 1 Road Trip Stop #5: Beach Cities

From there the journey continues through Santa Monica (or head east on I-10 for L.A.) and the beach cities: Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, and Long Beach. This area is notorious for pedestrians jaywalking to get to buildings on the other side of the Pacific Coast Highway; keep your eyes on the road and practice defensive driving. Thankfully, one of Buick's newest available car safety features is forward collision alert, which uses cameras mounted on the front of the vehicle to alert the driver of a possible frontal crash.

After Long Beach, Route 1 tapers off at Capistrano Beach in Orange County, although many road trippers following the highway like to extend their adventure even farther south, to San Diego.