A Family Friendly Roadtrip up the Famous Pacific Coast Highway

June 6, 2013 will mark my seventeenth year of being a Southern Californian. Having lived in Southern California for over half of my life now, I am proud to say that I have explored it in every single direction. I have visited its lakes, swam in its rivers, traversed its mountains, napped under its giant trees and I have roasted in its deserts, but there’s nothing quite as breathtaking as our California Coast.
In my first years here, you could find me on its beaches pretty much every day; running, rollerblading, biking, swimming or just basking in the sun. There nothing like the roar of the ocean waves and the vastness of its beauty to truly give you peace and perspective in the world.
Almost from the beginning of our (now) 17 year relationship, my husband and I have driven the California Coast via the famous Pacific Coast Highway, never allowing each other to take its grandeur for granted. From the Mexico Border, to Big Sur and all the way up past San Francisco, we have ridden its twists and turns and it is with deep pleasure that I’m sharing with you a few of our favorite stops along the way!

Paradise Cove – Malibu, California

My husband and I became weekly regulars at Paradise Cove when we were just dating, cira 1997! Back then, it was the most unassuming dive restaurant you’ve ever seen, in a (then) secret little cove in Malibu with the best weekday champagne brunch anywhere. 

Paradise Cove, Malibu
Two Young Kids on The Paradise Cove Beach – Circa 2007
We’ve spent birthdays there, anniversaries, long lazy days lounging on its quiet shores and it is the perfect spot to spend Mother’s Day. 

Paradise Cove, Malibu
Paradise Cove Beach – Mother’s Day 2011

Although you won’t find it very divey anymore, it’s still laid back and a must-stop for us on The Pacific Coast Highway! If you want to hike before you dine, check out The Solstice Canyon Trail to the Waterfall about 4 miles south on PCH!

Neptune’s Net on The Ventura County Line

Whether you’re a biker or not, if you’re driving The Pacific Coast Highway, Neptune’s Net is a must-stop! We took our little peanut here when she was just about 6 weeks old and she slept right through each and every unmuffled Harley vigorously starting its engine!
Photo by Kerem Hanci
Neptune’s Net

Neptune’s Net is known for its fresh seafood, cooked anyway you want! They have it all, from oysters and lobster to dungeness crab and calamari; raw, grilled or fried everything and beer for days! The perfect spot to stop after hiking The Grotto Trail @ Circle X Ranch a stone’s throw away!

Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery – San Simeon, California

This spot can get a little crowded, but it’s just too cool to pass up! The Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery is fun viewing for the kiddos (and the adults!), to watch these beautiful animals playing and relaxing in their natural habitat. They even have a webcam!

Elephant Seal Rookery, San Simeon, California
Photo by “Mike” Michael L. Baird

If you want to lunch nearby, WR Hearst State Beach is 4 miles south on PCH and the quaint town of Cambria is only 10 miles south of that with tons of restaurants and antique shopping!

Nepenthe Restaurant – Big Sur, California

One year we arrived to our Big Sur campground to learn that a red flag warning had been given and no fires were allowed. In all of the years we had been camping this had never happened to us. We were totally ill-prepared. All of the food we had brought with us required fire, so we did what clever campers do, we drove up the Pacific Coast Highway in search of a restaurant! 
Photo by Kerem Hanci
Nepenthe Restaurant
We never would have guessed what a treat we were in for when we came across Nepenthe. A family owned and operated gem nestled on a cliff 800 feet above the wild Pacific Ocean, they have been serving fresh, locally caught seafood to visitors for almost 65 years!

This restaurant plops you directly in the middle of Big Sur adventureland, (Julia Pfeiffer State Park is just 7 miles south, Andrew Molera State Park is 6 miles south) so go and explore in any direction!

3 thoughts on “A Family Friendly Roadtrip up the Famous Pacific Coast Highway

  1. Aw, this made me long for my days in Cali. I was raised in San Diego but have had many adventures in North Cal (Big Sur is amazing!) If you ever find yourself up there, the Fisherman's Warf in Monterey has the best clam chowder known to man.


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