The California coast is what road trip dreams are made of. Sepia-toned visions of slipping past sun-soaked beaches and picturesque seaside towns as you zip up Highway 1 are almost irresistible—even for those who happen to call the Golden State home. And with the complete reopening of the Pacific Coast Highway earlier this summer (a portion of which was closed for 18 months after a particularly wet winter triggered landslides that covered large stretches of the road), there is no better time to get behind the wheel.
Read on to discover our guide to the ultimate Highway 1 road trip, detailing where to stay, can’t-miss sights, and, of course, a few stellar restaurants. We suggest kicking things off just south of where the actual highway starts and squeezing in as much beach time as possible as you make your way up from San Diego to San Francisco—stopping everywhere from Malibu to San Luis Obispo in between. Now all you need is a road-trip-worthy ride (you can’t go wrong swapping the family station wagon for a Jag crossover or souped-up convertible), plenty of snacks, and a top-down-ready playlist.