Top 20 Road Trips Stops Along Highway 101

The drive along Highway 101 is a necessary trip for any adventurer. The highway lines the West Coast and cruises through every beach town that lines the Pacific Ocean.

The views are incredible and the diversity within coastal towns is simply fun. Speeds range from 75 to 20, so take your time and plan to stop at these key locations.

Our list moves from South to North, but feel free to reverse the order and travel the other direction. So, here we go:


1. Malibu
The quintessential Southern California beach town is home to some to some of the coolest beach houses around. Check out Pepperdine’s stunning campus while you’re at it.

2. Santa Barbara
Another awesome SoCal surf town that’s worth the stop. Spend some time on the beach, rent a paddleboard, or go surfing before you continue on your way.

3. San Luis Obispo
This city is home to the Hearst Mansion and Cal Poly. Stop here for lunch before you continue on the road.

4. Big Sur
Get your camera ready. This may be the most scenic portion of the drive along Highway 101. Its winding roads and highland viewpoints are worth the journey.

5. Carmel Highlands
With its luxurious-yet-quaint rental homes and insane views, Carmel could serve as a stopping point for the evening as you approach San Francisco.

6. San Francisco
Highway 101 runs through the Bay Area. Take some time to stop and explore one of the United States’ coolest cities. Ride a trolley, eat some sourdough, tour Ghirardelli's chocolate, and - whatever you do - eat as much seafood as you can.

7. Golden Gate Bridge
You’ll drive across one of America’s most famous and photographed landmarks. Stop along the way to view it from a distance, or photograph it while driving under its famous golden arches (not McDonald’s). Don’t forget to check out Alcatraz to your East.

8. Redwoods National Forest
Drive through the largest trees in the country. Even stop and photograph your car as it drives through a tunnel that’s hollowed out of a tree trunk.


9. Gold Beach
This cool little surf town is worth the stop. Grab a wetsuit, though, because the water is much colder than it was in Santa Barbara.

10. Bandon
Home to one of the world’s nicest golf courses, Bandon Dunes, this town is a great stopping point as you move through Southern Oregon.

11. Coos Bay
Spend some time in the fishing town of Coos Bay, home to legendary Oregon runner, Steve Prefontaine.

12. Yachats
Pronounced yah-ha-tz, this small coastal village has some cool inns and cottages that overlook the rocky oceanside cliffs that line this coastal area.

13. Arch Cape
Take some time and walk along the beach in this secluded area of the Oregon Coast. Set up tents and camp in the summer and you’ll find some of the best stargazing on the West Coast.

14. Tillamook
Stop and take a tour of the Tillamook Cheese Factory, where you’ll get free samples of their cheeses and access to the West Coast’s best ice cream.

15. Cannon Beach
Bring your camera to the beach and photograph Haystack Rock. Then, tour the boardwalk and grab a loaf of Haystack Bread. Then, eat at Mo’s on the waterfront and order clam chowder in a bread bowl.

16. Seaside
Visit the site where Lewis and Clark first saw the Pacific Ocean. Then, take a tour of the tacky-yet-awesome town. Play at the arcade and get some quality saltwater taffy.

17. Astoria
The town was founded as the epicenter for John Jacob Astor’s worldwide fur-trading empire. Though the empire failed, the town built itself up as a fishing village. Visit the house from The Goonies and Kindergarten Cop. Then, cross one of the longest bridges in the country as you pass over the intersection between the mighty Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean.


18. Willapa National Wildlife Refuge
As the coastline becomes rockier, visit the wildlife refuge just inland from the ocean and photograph some of the Pacific Northwest’s coolest animals.

19. Quinault
Nestled near a lake, Olympic National Park stands just East of the town. Use this as your basecamp as you explore the vast territory.

20. Port Angeles
The final stop on your journey will put you on the border between the U.S. and Canada as you stare at the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Take a ferry to the San Juan Islands and relax at the end of your journey.

The Highway 101 drive is incredible and every town is worth a stop. If we missed something, let us know - or create your own list and send it to to see it published.

*By: Tom Malone
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