Road Trip! 10 Unbelievably Cool Spots Along Highway 1

As much as we love perusing the colorific streets of S.F., our real-deal happy place is a picturesque drive down the Northern California coast — tunes blasting, top down, friends in tow. So, now that we’re officially in the thick of road-trip season, we thought to take a quick jaunt down Highway 1 and deliver our top must-see spots. After all, it's the journey that counts!
Need some pointers? Here, 10 seriously quirky havens that were just vying to be unearthed — from S.F. to Santa Cruz — with deets on everything from an adorable strawberry farm (Airstream included) to a haunted restaurant, all for your traveling pleasure. Now rev up that engine and let’s hit the road!
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Photographed by Maria del Rio
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Point Montara Lighthouse
While this idyllic stop may not stray too far from S.F., we definitely recommend pulling over to ogle the Point Montara Lighthouse. This blink-or-you'll-miss-it destination houses an adorable, functional (you can’t explore inside, though) lighthouse, a private beach, and overnight accommodations. It reminds us of a teensy fisherman’s retreat, with buoys and a blanket of fog acting as the ultimate marine accessories. While we can’t vouch for the overnight stay, we do know that the sweeping views and steamed cappuccinos are enough to keep us coming back.
Point Montara Lighthouse, at 16th Street and Highway 1, Montara; 650-728-7177.
2 of 10
Moss Beach Distillery
We dig a good ghost story. So, for us, stumbling upon Moss Beach Distillery was like hitting a paranormal jackpot. The eerie restaurant is tucked a bit off Highway 1, but be sure to stop in for a drink and let the staff woo you with haunting tale of the “blue lady.”

Apparently, she was the wife to the former restaurant owner way back when and had an extramarital affair with the in-house piano player. Scandal. Subsequently, they both disappeared mysteriously and haunt the premises (seriously, this place has been on everything from Unsolved Mysteries to A&E's They See Dead People). If that’s not spooky enough, it’s perched within a stone’s throw of an Indian burial ground. One thing that’s hardly frightening? The amazing sunset views from the patio (the restaurant provides blankets if it’s chilly!) with a stiff drink in hand.
Moss Beach Distillery, 140 Beach Way (near Los Banos Avenue), Moss Beach; 650-728-5595.
3 of 10
J V Fitzgerald Marine Reserve
After savoring the stunning views at Moss Beach Distillery, we recommend high-tailing it up the road, parking, and scoping out one of Northern California’s coolest wonders — the tide pools at J V Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. Go when the tide is low and you will spot a plethora of inspiring wildlife — we’re talking starfish, neon-hued anemone, octopus, seals, and crabs. A road trip wouldn’t be complete with out a little one-on-one nature time, right? The pools are sprinkled with all sorts of ecological gems. This is one stop you don’t want to pass.
J V Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, 200 Nevada Avenue (near Lake Street), Moss Beach; 650-728-3584.
4 of 10
Barbara's Fishtrap
It’s pretty easy to understand why Half Moon Bay’s popular seafood shack Barbara’s Fishtrap has lines winding out the door 24/7 (we went on a random weekday and it was packed). The old-school charm, no-frills bites, and aqua-themed interior make it a quirky waterfront escape that delivers road-trip appropriate grub (calories don't count when on the road!). Fish and chips, chowder, calamari — how could we not indulge here?!
Barbara's Fishtrap, 281 Capistrano Road, Half Moon Bay; 650-728-7049.
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5 of 10
Swanton Berry Farm
If you’re looking for a little pick-me-up (literally) while en route, look no further than Swanton Berry Farm, right off Highway 1 in Davenport. This may be one of the cutest stops along the way, so definitely make time to pop in, pick some berries, and bask in its country-like adorableness. Not only does the farm have an Airstream packed with everything from homemade jam to scented candles, but it also houses a store with a lounge area that touts a mean collection of old-school board games. (We seriously lost ourselves in a game of Jenga while noshing on a strawberry cheesecake.) The best part? It all operates on the honor system — stepping into Swanton Berry Farm is like taking a trip in a (berry delicious) time machine. We could spend hours on end here.
Swanton Berry Farm, 25 Swanton Road (at Highway 1), Davenport; 831-469-8804.
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Bonny Doon Beach
It’s hard not to swerve out of control when passing the majestic Northern California coast — the breathtaking views are enough to cause a crash. Luckily, a quick steering-wheel maneuver and you can pull aside and ogle the views outside the car window for an instant spark of inspiration. Boony Doon Beach is the place to do this. The crystal-clear secluded beach offers serene ocean views, swooping birds, rock bluffs, and not mention if you’re feeling slightly…free, you can rock your birthday suit up and down the North Cove section of the beach — no judgment!
Bonny Doon Beach, Highway 1 (near Bonny Doon Road), Santa Cruz; No phone.
7 of 10
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Okay, we’ll admit that this stop isn’t exactly along Highway 1. In fact, once you reach Santa Cruz you have to drive in a smidge, but if you’re tired of coasting and in need of random thrills, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is your place. Littered with tons of top-notch carnival rides (the Giant Dipper scared the bejesus out of us!), fried Oreo stands, and humongous "Texas donuts," we understand why this spot is jam-packed on any given day. We’ll let you in on a secret: If you go on Mondays, all rides are just one ticket a go — cha-ching!
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, 400 Beach Street (between Riverside Avenue and Cliff Street); 831-423-5590.
8 of 10
Año Nuevo
While we weren’t able to get up close and personal with the elephant seals (hey, better to look from afar, right?) Año Nuevo is a storied S.F. beach just north of Santa Cruz, known as a major elephant seal migration and mating spot — seriously a sight to see. Set along a cove-laden beach, with a steady foggy mist at all times, you can view one of Northern California’s coolest attractions — that is, if you carve out time for a two-hour hike.
Año Nuevo, 1 New Years Creek Road (near Highway 1), Pescadero; 650-879-2025.
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Costanoa Lodge
Sure, there’s no denying that most of stops along Highway 1 aren’t exactly luxe (that’s what we love about them, though!), so for the more frou-frou traveler, Costanoa Lodge is definitely a must-hit. A large, eco-conscious resort in the middle of Pescadero, this lovely lodge offers everything from a spa, a cutesy general store, cool cabins to stay in overnight, and a dimly-lit, romantic resto — you may never have to leave the grounds. Whether you stop in for the night, or just mosey by for a game of giant chess and a glass of red wine, Castonoa Lodge is a nice respite along the picturesque stretch.
Costanoa Lodge, 2001 Rossi Road (near Highway 1), Pescadero; 650-879-1100.
10 of 10
Sea Bowl
If you’re heading back to S.F. but want one last hurrah before you wrap up your trip, you've got to roll through this joint. Stop in and bowl a few strikes, chow down on a mess of nachos, or just throw a cold one back while jamming out to the jukebox.
Sea Bowl, 4625 Coast Highway (at Highway 1), Pacifica; 650-738-8190.
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