California State Route 1, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway or simply the Pacific Highway, is one of the most exciting and breathtaking highways in all of North America. Often regarded as one of the best road trip routes in the United States, the Pacific Highway runs all along the coast of California. Its most northern point is at Mendocino County near US 101, while its southern tip finishes at Orange County near I-5. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.

1.The Pacific Highway

The Pacific Highway
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The Pacific Highway runs for a little over 659 miles in total and offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and California coastline landscapes, passing through dozens of must-visit destinations along the way. Whether you're looking to take in a California redwood forest, a beautiful beachside destination, or a major metropolis like San Francisco or Los Angeles, there's a lot to love about the Pacific Highway and a long list of stops to make along the way. If you're planning a Pacific Highway road trip, here are just a few of the best attractions and locations to check out.

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2.Los Angeles

Los Angeles
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One of the biggest and most famous cities on the planet, Los Angeles is the number one city stop on the Pacific Highway. Home to a long list of must-see monuments and attractions, from Venice Beach to the Hollywood sign and Disney theme parks, LA has a lot to offer and is an unmissable part of your Pacific Highway road trip. No matter what kind of activity or entertainment you’re hoping to enjoy, you’ll find it in LA.

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3.San Francisco

San Francisco
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Along with Los Angeles, San Francisco is another major must-visit city location on the Pacific Highway. One of the prettiest and most socially progressive places on the planet, San Francisco is well-known for its unique cityscape, spread out across a long line of hills, and its unique monuments and landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island. A lot of great eateries, stores, museums, and more can be found and enjoyed in San Francisco.

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4.Big Sur

Big Sur
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A key point on the Pacific Highway is Bixby Creek Bridge, located on the Big Sur coastline. Huge crowds of tourists and travelers stop off at this location to enjoy incredible views of the Pacific Ocean and one of the longest stretches of untouched California coastline, and it’s a great spot to start your Big Sur adventure. This area is a nature lover's paradise, with a lot of key landmarks to enjoy like Sand Dollar Beach and McWay Falls. Nature-based activities and glamping are very popular in Big Sur.

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Famous for being one of the most exclusive and elite resort spots on the planet, Malibu also offers some of the best surfing opportunities anywhere in North America. Various celebrities have homes along this stunning stretch of beach, and there's a really friendly, laid-back atmosphere at the local bars and surf shops. Malibu is a key stopping point on the Pacific Highway for surfers and beach fans.

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6.Redwood National and State Park

Redwood National and State Park
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California is known for its redwoods, and one of the best places to see these incredible, towering trees is at Redwood National and State Parks, not far from Crescent City in the northern part of the state. With a lot of scenic hiking trails to enjoy and various other treasures to uncover around the park including tide pools and more, this is a must-visit location for nature lovers.

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7.Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz
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A great spot for thrillseekers and adrenaline addicts along the Pacific Highway, Santa Cruz is very popular in the summer months with its old-fashioned fairground. Hosting one of the oldest wooden coasters in America, this is a great spot for families to spend a day, and the nearby beaches and outdoor mall offer a lot of other opportunities for fun times too.

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8.Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara
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Well-known for its famous Santa Barbara Zoo, this city is a nice stop-off point on the Pacific Highway, especially for animal lovers. There's a lot to love about Santa Barbara and it doesn't have quite the same crowds as the bigger cities like LA and San Francisco. Some stunning views can be enjoyed from Santa Barbara's beaches, and the city has a lot of other unique attractions including the Botanical Gardens and Historical Museum.

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10 Best Pacific Highway Attractions

Attraction Spotlight: Fullerton Arboretum

Fullerton Arboretum is a beautiful garden paradise located in scenic Fullerton, Orange County, California. It is a favorite of both garden enthusiasts and random tourists alike, as guests do not need any knowledge of gardening to appreciate the beauty. The arboretum was established in the 1970s with the mission of helping to provide guests with an appreciation and increased knowledge of plant world while making use of collections that help to both preserve as well as promote stewardship of plant diversity worldwide and agricultural heritage regionally.


The arboretum was established in the 1970s with the mission of helping to provide guests with an appreciation and increased knowledge of plant world while making use of collections that help to both preserve as well as promote stewardship of plant diversity worldwide and agricultural heritage regionally. They also seek to use education to help the local scholar community teach more efficiently. The main drivers of this work in the beginning where Dr. Walkington and Dr. Jones at what is now California State University (then known as Orange State College) after the local orange crops were affected by disease. It is operated and maintained in combination with the Friends of the Arboretum as well as local government help. The Visitor Center was opened in 2004 during the 25th anniversary celebration.

Permanent Exhibits

Heritage House - This Eastlake style cottage underwent a full structural restoration (with the help of some of the construction students at Fullerton College) in the 1970s and now serves as one of the arboretum main buildings and exhibits. Even the landscaping was recreated with historical accuracy. The interior of the house was furnished to look as authentic as possible as a home as well as in home doctor’s office from 1890s California, with some memorabilia and furnishing that came from the original occupants of the home, the Clarks. Eventually other out buildings were purchased and added - a windmill (1895), an outhouse (1880s), and a tank house.

Arboretum - The actual arboretum is the largest draw at the grounds. The website has a complete map so that guests do not miss any of the must-see attractions. There are multiple collections to peruse.

Mediterranean collection

Cultivated collection

Desert collection

Woodlands collection

Children’s garden

Tours - There are a variety of tour options of the arboretum.

1. Private tours are available for groups with 5 or more people and must be booked at least two months in advance.

2. Guided private nature tours are available as well and can accommodate groups of up to 15 people, 5 years old and older (adult must be present for the entire tour). The tour lasts approximately an hour and half and are only available during the weekdays until 2:45pm.

3. There are guided tours of the Heritage House for groups of up to 10 people, 8 years old and older (adult must be present for the entire tour). They are run every 5 minutes on Saturday and Sunday from 2pm to 4pm and are led by tour guides dressed in Victorian clothing. Be aware that the Heritage House is closed for the months of January and August.

4. Guided public nature tours can also be requested, which are led by one of the many knowledgeable tour guides and show guests some of the hidden and secret features of the gardens. Learn about the folklore and stories of the grounds. These tours are held on both the second and the fourth Saturday of every month at 10am and meet at the Nature Center.

Special Events

There are many different and diverse special events held at Fullerton. Below is just a small selection of the most popular events.

Green Scene - The plant and garden exposition has been around for over 40 years and is still going strong. Every spring, thousands of enthusiastic garden lovers head to Fullerton to purchase bulbs, plants, art, and home goods. There is also a food court and a beer tent! This is one of the premier events for the gardening community in Southern California.

Victorian Tea - Around Mother’s Day, the arboretum puts on a Victorian tea and fashion show moderated by the Fullerton College fashion department. Tickets must be purchased in advance and guests are strongly encouraged to dress in their Victorian finest!

Brews and Blues - With August comes a festival focused not on gardening, but on beer and blues music! It is one of the most popular fundraisers hosted at Fullerton and many local breweries participate.


There are no dining options at the arboretum, but picnics are welcome and encouraged! However, guests should be aware that all picnics do require reservation and a permit ahead of time. Contact the main office for additional information. All guests are also required to pick up and dispose of any trash.

Fullerton Arboretum, 1900 Associated Road, Fullerton, CA, 92831, Phone: 657-278-3407

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Attraction Spotlight: Orange County Museum of Art

The Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA) is a rich and diverse center for modern and contemporary art, based in Newport Beach, California. Its mission is to enrich the lives of the community through contemporary and modern art; a mission it delivers to tens of thousands of visitors annually.

The collections and exhibitions presented at the Museum highlight California artists, while also celebrating national and international artists as well. With more than 3,000 works of art in the permanent collection showcasing a variety of mediums, there is a plethora of work to see and experience. Located between freeway 73 and historic highway 1, the Orange County Museum of Art is a short drive from the beach, the Newport Center and other Orange County attractions.

The Orange County of Museum of Art was born from the work of 13 women with a vision and passion for art. Opening in 1962, the gallery emphasized modern and contemporary work, particularly of the early twentieth century. The organization grew through the years, and was moved to a larger location in 1972, having been renamed the Newport Harbor Museum.

As community support increased along with the size of the collection, the Museum was moved again, reaching its current home on San Clemente Drive in 1977. A significant remodel twenty years later resulted in a refreshed space and a new name: The Orange County Museum of Art. The Museum has become a significant institution in the Orange County art space, drawing recognition for its exhibitions, collections and educational programs. With more than half a century bringing art to its community, the Museum has celebrated, showcased and shaped California Art in the twentieth century.


The permanent collection at the Museum has evolved and changed as much as the space in which it is housed. Comprised of anassortment of mediums including film, paint, drawing, digital, sculpture, printmaking, photography and installation pieces, the collection represents the varied nature of art and artists. The most significant holdings of the collection represent California artists of the early and mid-century modernist movements.

Such artists include Robert Irwin, Catherine Opie, Vija Celmins and many more. International artists featured in the permanent collection include Lorna Simpson, Lee Bul, Katy Grannan and Inigo Manglano-Ovalle, among others. In order to promote greater appreciation and interest in the works in the collection, a Collection Blog is featured on the Museum's website. The Chief Curator searches the collection for a specific work or artist to examine. These interesting and informational insights provide greater understanding of art and the museum's collection as a whole. Art enthusiasts can also see the Pick of the Month, on the website, highlighting a specific artist or piece.

The changing exhibitions at the Orange County Museum of Art are a highlight of a trip and one of the strengths of the organization. Critically acclaimed exhibits such as Richard Diebenkorn: The Ocean Park Series, attract more than 40,000 visitors to the Museum each year.

Organizing exhibitions that are not only locally relevant but internationally significant, as well, the Museum has been a leader in the art space. This includes regional surveys that began with art only in California, but that has grown and expanded to include art of the Pacific Rim. The impact of the Museum expands beyond the borders of California, with more than 30 of its exhibitions going on tour throughout the U.S. and Europe.


Cultivating art in the community is about more than just collections and exhibitions. The Museum strives to draw people in through an array of events and programs designed to engage the public with the art in a variety of different ways.Cinema Orange, for example, is a partnership with the Newport Beach Film Festival, which showcases monthly movie screenings, often featuring independent films.

OCMA also creates and presents interesting evenings that incorporate art and food with conversations from artists and curators, creating a complete evening of culture. The Museum periodically offers free days, creating opportunities for everyone to participate in art and enjoy the exhibitions at the Museum. Other events have included trivia evenings, live performances, the annual fundraising gala, and more.


Education is a significant part of the work of the Orange County Museum of Art. The Museum's school tours draw more than 15,000 students of all ages each year to view the Museum's collections and exhibitions. Of these, nearly 6,500 are students from the Orange County School District. In order to make the art of the institution available to all, the Museum provides free admission and transportation to schools that would not otherwise be able to afford to visit, demonstrating the Museum's commitment to art education for all.

Offering tours and visits specifically targeted to different age groups, from elementary school children through to adults, the tours often include video screenings, art activities, in addition to guided tours and art conversations. Tours can be docent led, self-guided or custom created in order to maximize a visit to the museum.

The Orange County Museum of Art is easily accessible by bus, train or freeways, with parking available onsite. For those visitors eager to be inspired by their visit and bring a sketch pad with them, the Museum permits only pencils for sketching in the galleries. The Museum is nearby to restaurants, cafés, and local shopping centers.

The shop at the Museum features gifts, books and prints to bring a bit of the art home. Offerings from the shop are also available online, for those looking to make additional purchases after they have returned home. As Museum hours vary, guests are recommended to check the OCMA website prior to arrival. The events calendar listed on the site will enable visitors to make the most of their visit by incorporating one of the interesting and intriguing events. With so much to offer and entertain, the Orange County Museum of Art is an engaging and entertaining experience.

Back to: 25 Best Things to Do in Newport Beach, California

850 San Clemente Dr, Newport Beach, CA 92660, Phone: 949 759-1122

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Attraction Spotlight: Harbor Breeze Cruises

For more than eighteen years, Harbor Breeze Cruises has offered charter, world port, and whale watching cruises in the Orange County area and Los Angeles. Dan Salas has loved the ocean from a young age and founded Harbor Breeze Cruises in 1990. The company now offers the greatest number of whale watching tours out of all the companies in the area. Several other different cruises are available in addition to whale watching cruises, including harbor cruises, private dinner cruises, eco-tours, company events, wedding receptions, and more.

Harbor Breeze Cruises is a leading tour company for whale watching in Los Angeles and Long Beach and features exciting journeys to watch some of the planet's largest mammals in their natural habitat. An experienced crew and knowledgeable educators from the Aquarium of the Pacific lead visitors on every cruise in the search for several different types of amazing marine wildlife.

The company's Long Beach Cruise is offered twice during the afternoon on both weekdays and the weekends. Their whale watching cruises are enjoyable, unique, and exciting, while these fun and informative voyages appeal to guests of all ages, providing an experience that visitors won't soon forget. There are still plenty of awe-inspiring creatures in the ocean to see even after the California blue whales and the Pacific gray whales have finished their migration. Harbor Breeze Cruises provides ecotourism and dolphin cruises all year round from Long Beach Harbor. Guests have the chance to possibly catch a glimpse of sea lions, dolphins, and other marine life as they swim near the large and comfortable tour boats. The Long Beach Cruise is a great way for visitors and locals alike to view marine wildlife in its natural habitat.

The harbor cruises provided by Harbor Breeze Cruises are 45 minutes long and cruise throughout Long Beach Harbor. This cruise is available daily, five times on weekdays and ten times on Saturdays and Sundays. During the cruise, guests will be able to view Long Beach's beautiful skyline and learn about the harbor's history. Those aboard the comfortable cruiser can also watch as California sea lions play in the harbor, and see container and cargo ships from around the world, including the famous Queen Mary.

Whale watching cruises are of course a favorite with Harbor Breeze Cruises, and this cruise is offered twice a day, at noon and at 3:00pm. These cruises are informative, fun, and exciting as guests are able to watch whales in their natural habitat as they appear from beneath the ocean surface. The Gray Whale Watching Cruise usually occurs from November until April to provide guests with a chance to see the Pacific gray whales' annual migration along the coast. This cruise lasts about 2 to 2.5 hours. From May to October, a 3 to 3.5-hour Blue Whale Watching Cruise is also available. However, even outside these migration periods, there is plenty of amazing wildlife to see!

100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, California 90802, Phone: 562-432-4900

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