Road.Travel Road.Travel

    Day Itinerary

    11 Activities
    Map preview

    Day 1

    105 mi

    Los Angeles to San Diego County, via the PCH Through Orange County

    Freeway traffic in Southern California is not anyone's idea a fun vacay, which is why today's route heads due south to the beach — Long Beach, that is. From here, the route continues south hugging the curves of the coastline, connecting with the Pacific Coast Highway through Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, and Dana Point. You will have to hop on the freeway again to cross from Southern Orange County to San Diego County (between which there's a large coastal military base) — but then it's back to the Pacific Coast Highway, which will take you straight into Carlsbad, in time for one of those epic Pacific Ocean sunsets.
    08:45

    Los Angeles

    Today's the day! Make sure your car is fully charged before you start the journey.
    25.6 mi
    40 min
    The Queen Mary
    09:301 hr

    The Queen Mary

    Landmark
    Open Details
    Since first sailing from Southampton, England, in 1936, the Queen Mary's reputation for opulence preceded her arrival in ports around the world. The historic ocean liner is now permanently moored in Long Beach, and it's a wonderful experience to step aboard — even if just for a coffee and small bite at the Midship Marketplace, plus have a bit of a look about. Read more about the Queen Mary's history here.
    7.7 mi
    30 min
    Ballast Point Brewing Long Beach
    11:001 hr

    Ballast Point Brewing Long Beach

    Restaurant
    Open Details
    Southern California has some serious cred when it comes to the craft brew scene in the US and globally — to the point that the "West Coast-style IPA" is a recognized, hops-forward style of beer now made around the world.
    And while not as famous as some other SoCal breweries (we'll drop into another tasting room later in the day) Ballast Point Brewing not only makes a fantastic range of beers but also scores huge points for this prime restaurant/brewery location on a narrow spit of land where the open ocean flows into local waterways.
    The food menu is designed for sharing (or not). Think pretzel bites with beer cheese, steak nachos, birria "quesatacos", Roman-style pizzas, a classic Ballast Point burger, patty melt, or Filipino-inspired BBQ pork ribs. This is the main mid-day meal, so feel free to go a little extra on the ordering.
    9.4 mi
    20 min
    Huntington Beach Pier
    12:2045 min

    Huntington Beach Pier

    Open Details
    Departing Ballast Point Brewing, the route soon connects with California's iconic Highway 1, perhaps better known as the Pacific Coast Highway (or the PCH, for short). Driving the PCH as it toodles along the California coastline is pure delight — so enjoy every moment, and pull over to take in the scenery whenever you're so inspired.
    One such mandatory stop is the pier at the heart of Huntington Beach, aka Surf City, U.S.A. Stretching 1,850 feet into the Pacific Ocean, the pedestrian pier is one of the longest on the West Coast and absolutely worth a stroll. Also recommended: get those toes actually in the sand, on the fringes of the ocean.
    5.3 mi
    15 min
    Blue Bottle Coffee
    13:2030 min

    Blue Bottle Coffee

    Café
    Open Details
    In contrast to the laid-back surf vibe of Huntington Beach, Newport Beach draws a more well-heeled, coastal-chic sort of crowd (think designer homes and posh resorts, beautiful yachts, and yes, the Real Housewives of Orange County). So it only makes sense that one of San Francisco's most celebrated third-wave coffee darlings, Blue Bottle Coffee, chose Newport Beach for its OC location — a striking, modern design cafe that sits on the water.
    Sleek design details aside, Blue Bottle lives up to its reputation of excellent coffee and espresso beverages — drip or pour over coffee, iced, blended, whichever way you prefer. (There's also hot and iced tea and non-caffeinated beverages, too, if that sounds more refreshing.)
    11 mi
    25 min
    Wyland Galleries LLC
    14:1530 min

    Wyland Galleries LLC

    Art Gallery
    Open Details
    The stretch of PCH connecting Newport Beach to Laguna Beach is one of the prettiest in all of Southern California, thanks to the wildness of Crystal Cove State Park, which won't ever be developed.
    In contrast with its neighbors to the north, Laguna Beach has long been known as an artist's enclave, and the pedestrian-friendly downtown area is full of galleries and artisan boutiques. One can't miss stop is Wyland Galleries, the artist Robert Wyland's flagship gallery location and site of his working studio, as well as his first Whaling Wall mural. (Over his career, the conservationist has painted more than 100 such large-scale murals around the world — if you've ever seen his work before, you'll recognize his style instantly). The gallery's ocean-front deck has some amazing views, too.
    7.3 mi
    20 min
    Dana Point Lookout
    15:1010 min

    Dana Point Lookout

    Landmark
    Open Details
    The coastal community of Dana Point has a unique position along the Southern California coastline, jutting out into the ocean as it does. A brief stop at the Dana Point Lookout — a few steps lead down to a large wooden platform — offer truly spectacular views of the Dana Point boat basins and arc of the coastline. During the migratory season for Humpbacks and other whales, May through November, the Dana Point lookout is one of the best place to spot the whale activity from shore, even with the naked eye.
    6.4 mi
    20 min
    Mission San Juan Capistrano, Landmark, Chapel, Museum and Gardens
    15:401 hr

    Mission San Juan Capistrano, Landmark, Chapel, Museum and Gardens

    Museum
    Open Details
    From Dana Point the PCH merges into the I-5 freeway, as it's the only way to cross through the rugged military training base that links Orange County with San Diego County (and sits on some pretty beautiful oceanfront real estate).
    But before driving south, it's worth a couple minutes' detour to stop in at Mission San Juan Capistrano, the 7th of 21 missions that Spanish priests founded in the state during the 18th Century, when Alta California was still a Spanish territory. Mission San Juan Capistrano is notable for its architecture and gardens, as well as for the thousands of migratory swallows that return every spring.
    Tuesday – Thursday 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
    28.9 mi
    30 min
    Stone Brewing Tap Room - Oceanside
    17:1045 min

    Stone Brewing Tap Room - Oceanside

    Restaurants
    Open Details
    Arriving in San Diego County, it's time to cut back to the PCH — there's even an off-ramp for Pacific Coast Highway directly from the freeway. The northernmost coastal city in San Diego County, the PCH thoroughfare in Oceanside has a distinctly retro, laid back beach vibe that succinctly captures the SoCal coastal lifestyle.
    So it makes perfect sense that Stone Brewing — one of Southern California's top craft breweries — opened a tap room here, its only location on the coast. Pop in to share a tasting flight of a few of Stone's flagship and seasonal brews in a cozy patio setting, to see what all the fuss is about.
    3.6 mi
    15 min
    Carlsbad State Beach
    18:1030 min

    Carlsbad State Beach

    Open Details
    Depending on what time of year you're making this drive, sunset can be as early as 4:30-5 pm in the winter months and as late as 7:30-7:50 pm during June and July, so check in advance what time sunset's slated to happen today, as you don't want to miss the popular local tradition of watching that glowing orange ball slowly (and then suddenly, quite quickly) slip below the horizon of endless sea and sky. In downtown Carlsbad, there are few better local vantage points to catch the sunset than the bluff top pedestrian walkway that overlooks Carlsbad State Beach. (The views from the lower seawall walkway and the beach itself are also quite lovely.)
    There is a small parking lot for the beach next to Offshore Surf Shop and Harbor Fish Cafe, but your best bet is to parallel park along Carlsbad Boulevard (free) or on a local side street. (Or, park the car, check in at the hotel, and walk over).
    0.6 mi
    5 min
    Fresco Cocina
    18:451 hr 30 min

    Fresco Cocina

    Bar
    Open Details
    If you can't be on the beach for sunset, the next best option for taking in the sunset views is reservations at one of only a few rooftop venues in downtown Carlsbad, which is also known locally as "The Village."
    Fresco Cocina is known for its sharable small plates, street tacos, as well as its full menu of more modern Latin cuisine — think whole roasted snapper Veracruz, Peruvian lomo saltado (beef tenderloin tips), and beer battered Pacifico sea bass fish tacos.
    One tip: Tonight's hotel is just a block away, so if you'd rather walk to dinner (& back), that works, too.
    0.2 mi
    5 min
    Beach Terrace Inn
    22:0010 hrsHotels

    Beach Terrace Inn

    8.6
    Tucked away on a quiet side street within walking distance of everything downtown Carlsbad has to offer, Beach Terrace Inn is one of the only hotels to be located directly on the beach in all of San Diego County — just follow the steps down from the ocean front pool patio and you're out on the sand in mere moments.
    A majority of the 48 rooms at this boutique property have a type of ocean view, although the Ocean Front King and Queen rooms have full oceanfront panoramas with private balconies that are certainly worth the one-time splurge. Leave the sliding door ajar overnight and let the sound of the waves lull you to sleep.
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