Highway One, California

A Guide to Everything RV Renters Need to Know

Running nearly 600 miles down the California coast, historic Highway One offers one of the most scenic and unforgettable drives anywhere in America. Whether you start up north in San Francisco and work your way down to San Diego, vice-versa, or pick your own perfect portion of this classic highway, all you need is a set of wheels and a tank of gas to build an incredible family vacation. Even better when those wheels are connected to an RV rental and your home base is with you every step of the way. Here’s the ultimate guide to tackling Highway One in California in your rented recreational vehicle.

Why Visit Highway One in Your Rented RV?

If you scan a list of the major stops along the way on Highway One, you’ll find quaint wine country communities, bustling cities, and chilled-out beach towns. But you’ll also find massive stretches of untouched coastline. You’ll find beautiful state parks, wildlife reserves, fishing piers, lighthouses—and so much more. If your idea of a great getaway means getting in touch with nature, Highway One offers everything you’d expect in a tour of California’s coastal cities, plus close access to the kind of camping and nature experiences an RV was built for. Here are just five of the top reasons to see Highway One by RV.

Great RVs in California

State Parks

Along the whole stretch of Highway One, there are dozens of state parks just off the main drag, each of which is worth a stop or even an overnight stay in your RV. Take, for example, Limekiln State Park outside Lucia on the Big Sur stretch of the drive. Its namesake comes from lime kilns: massive cauldrons designed to extract pure lime from the area’s limestone, which stands like ancient ruins over a park filled with waterfalls, beautiful hikes, and marine life viewing opportunities.

Prefer to keep on the beach? Check out Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, where a waterfall spills right onto the beach from the stony cliffs above. If you’d like to narrow down your search, start with a look at the Highway One Discovery Route in San Luis Obispo County. It’s a shorter, 57-mile stretch that has 13 state parks all in close proximity. Visit the Discovery Route website for more info on the state parks there.

Wine Country

California’s famous wine country covers a long portion of Highway One, meaning you’re never far from the picturesque villas, luxurious wine tastings, and relaxing vineyard tours you’ve dreamt of in California. And while you’ll find wine all along your road trip no matter where you go on Highway One, if you’re hoping to make local wine a central part of your vacation, you’ll want to focus on the Santa Ynez Valley, which was made famous by the cult classic film Sideways.

You can take a self-guided tour of the film’s shooting locations, or if you really want to let get off the beaten path, reserve your spot on a Cloud Climbers Jeep Tour. They’ll take you up and down beautiful mountain paths for a picnic lunch and several wine tours—all by four-wheeler. The Santa Ynez Valley Wine Country Association also offers a wine country pass that will get you discounts on wine tastings throughout the region.

Historic Architecture

Between the earthquakes and the history of the California coastline, it’s hard to find buildings that have been around for too long. If, however, you have interest in gorgeous architecture in a historical setting, Highway One might be your best chance in California to indulge your curiosity. Many of the towns and villages along the way have historic mission districts, like the Old Mission in Santa Barbara, a classic example of the Spanish mission architectural style that dominated the area centuries ago.

A destination in its own right, one of the best architectural stops on Highway One is the famous Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California. Though it was only built in 1947, this state historical site puts the mansions of Hollywood to shame with its massive heated pools, indoor Roman baths, and gorgeous exterior. Come out for a tour of the grounds and the castle’s sprawling gardens, and stay for a wine tasting at the nearby Hearst Ranch Winery.

Beach Towns

When you think of classic SoCal surfer culture, you’re probably picturing one of the laid-back beach towns along Highway One—famous beach towns like Santa Monica, Venice Beach, and Ventura. No two are exactly alike but expect to find long stretches of paved trails where cyclists and roller skaters enjoy the sunshine in style, seaside restaurants serving amazing fish tacos and other seafood delights, and, of course, the beach itself.

Perhaps the best representation of the California beach town vibe on Highway One is Huntington Beach, the second stop on California’s recommended road trip down the entirety of the coastal byway. There, in the heart of surfer culture, you can rent a board and catch some waves yourself or grab a spot on the beach to watch the surfers play. Shop in one of the town’s famous surf shops or at Pacific City, an outdoor mall.

Urban Destinations

San Diego. Los Angeles. San Francisco. Each one of these cities is an incredible vacation destination in its own right, and each is right along Highway One. Even if you’re planning to go down the highway by RV to enjoy a mix of natural attractions like state parks alongside the beautiful beaches and wineries of the region, this kind of trip is the perfect opportunity to pick a few family-favorite landmarks and attractions in the major cities along Highway One and add them into the mix.

For example, why not add in a day trip to Disneyland, which is just a short trip off the highway in Anaheim? Visit Hollywood and see the Walk of Fame. Tour Alcatraz in San Francisco and get your photo under the Golden Gate Bridge. Set aside a day in San Diego to visit the San Diego Zoo or SeaWorld. The point is this: when you travel by RV, you don’t have to try and see it all at each city on Highway One. You’re free to jump in and out of urban areas and customize your family’s dream vacation along the way.

Campgrounds and RV Parks for Highway One

Wherever you are on Highway One, you’re not far from a great place to call home for a night in your rented RV. There are countless RV parks, resorts, and RV-friendly campgrounds along the route, so you’ll never be short on options. For the purposes of this guide, here’s a quick look at five parks from San Diego in the south to San Francisco on the north that, all together, would provide an example of a week’s trip up Highway One.

Mission Bay RV Resort

Starting your road trip in San Diego at the very southern tip of the California coastline, you can’t do much better than Mission Bay RV Resort in San Diego, California. Located a short distance from major attractions like SeaWorld and the San Diego Zoo, Mission Bay offers managed, supervised activities for children giving both adults and kids a great, comfortable stay right on the water.

Orangeland RV Park

Heading up for a day at Disneyland in the Los Angeles area? Orangeland RV Park in Orange, California is a beautiful resort with turquoise pools under swaying palm trees just minutes from Disney. Where else can you step out of your RV and pick a fresh orange right off the tree at your own campsite? Don’t miss this seriously unique and luxurious spot.

Pismo Sands RV Park

In San Luis Obispo, Pismo Sands RV Park is your gateway to the beautiful wine country of central California as well as the area’s excellent beaches. This resort has all the amenities, plus beach access, and has excellent Good Sam Club ratings of 10 for Facility, 9.5 for Restrooms, and 8.5 for overall appeal.

Yanks RV Resort

In Greenfield, California just outside Monterey is the brand-new Yanks RV Resort, a true luxury destination perfect for anybody looking to explore the wine country in the surrounding area. Each RV site has full hookups and a massive concrete pad. Enjoy Wi-Fi and cable throughout the park, an excellent fitness center with a pool and spa, and coupons for discounted wine tastings at nearby wineries.

Marin RV Park

The closest RV park to San Francisco at the north end of your road trip, Marin RV Park in Greenbrae, California, is the best place to cap off your Highway One trip. Just 10 miles from the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin provides easy access to buses and ferries that can take you right into San Fran to enjoy everything the city has to offer.

Places to Eat Near Highway One, California

With hundreds of miles of coastline, it’s tough to explore the culinary options of the classic Highway One road trip as a whole. Every one of the towns and cities mentioned above has a great tourism website you can look up for tips on where to eat during your journey. If, however, you want a closer look at some of the top restaurants that capture coastal California’s foodie culture, you’ll want to focus on the amazing seafood, world-class wineries, and tasty taquerias lining the highway.

Top Seafood Restaurants

Whether you’re craving some no-frills seafood from a beachside shack or an upscale dining experience overlooking the ocean, you’ll find a new favorite on Highway One. Here are some of the top seafood restaurants to check out on the way:

Top Wineries

There’s no shortage of wineries on or near Highway One. Here are just a few of the most popular:

Top Taco Spots

Tacos, especially fish tacos, are a hallmark of southern Californian cuisine. As you make your way through the bottom stretch of your road trip, don’t miss these favorite taco spots: