Mar 24, 2015

Quick Tips for Driving Highway 1

Tips for Driving Highway 1 along the California Coastline

During our trip to Mendocino County we got to drive along a section of Highway 1 that we haven’t driven before, which leaves few parts of it that we haven’t seen. There are many factors that go into a drive down Highway 1, especially if you plan to make a decent trip out of it. As a partnership with Lexus and the 2015 RX450 Hybrid that we drove during our trip to Mendocino County, I’ve highlighted a few of my best tips for driving Highway 1 below:

Time of Year
The best time of year to drive Highway 1 is during the off season. Anytime between October and February should be less busy, though the weather may not be as favorable. There are whales and other marine life visible year-round, but Whales are more easily spotted in the spring. The key to spotting them is to watch for their spout first, then the rest will follow.

Tips for Driving Highway 1 along the California Coastline Tips for Driving Highway 1 along the California Coastline

Know Your Route
There are a lot of parts of Highway 1 worth the drive, there are others that are not so much. We ended up driving after dark on Highway 1 over Mt. Tamalpais and it was not fun. Know which route you plan to use and what you’d like to see along the way. The most popular section of Highway 1 runs between Carmel, California and Cambria, California. This section is known as the Central Coast, or Big Sur. You won’t always have cell coverage, so if you’re looking for off-the-path gems, a GPS unit is very helpful. Driving North to South is more favorable because you’ll be on the Pacific ocean side of the highway and it is easier to make quick stops along the way.

Estimate Timing
Some parts of the highway take longer to drive because there are more curves and elevation changes in the road. For quick reference, it took me 8 hours to drive from Santa Cruz to Santa Barbara with quite a few quick stops along the way. From Mendocino County to San Francisco it took almost 10 hours with only a few stops. I usually map out my route, then multiply it by time and a half, or even twice the amount of time it takes so I can include significant stops along the way. And please, if you are driving slow or enjoying the view, pull over when you can for faster moving vehicles.

Lexus 2015 RX450 Hybrid Point Arena Light House and Stornetta National Monument

Check the Weather
Though the weather may vary in different parts of the highway, you don’t want to drive it in a major storm. I caught the tail end of one on my way to Field Trip and between the wind, rain and landslides, it made for a scary experience. There are parts of Highway 1 that only have fog in the morning and evening, while other parts usually remain foggy all day.

Be Prepared
When you get a chance to stop to get gas, use the restroom, grab a snack, do it. Sometimes the distance between two places seems closer than it really is and you don’t want to be stuck along the highway or uncomfortable on the road. If you know you get motion sickness, I’d suggest taking a non-drowsy medicine to help you with the ride.

Tips for Driving Highway 1 along the California Coastline Tips for Driving Highway 1 along the California Coastline

I hope these tips help you plan your journey along Highway 1. Feel free to share yours in the comments below!

This post, and the RX450 Hybrid featured here, are a result of a partnership with Lexus. To learn more about the 2015 RX450 Hybrid, please visit their website, All opinions, photos, and text are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make life here at Team Wiking a little sweeter.


Expand Comments

[…] that area on your last day. If you’re still a little lost about driving Highway 1, here is a post I wrote with some quick tips. Another helpful tool to get you on your way and seeing interesting sights during road trips is the […]

love these tips! and gorgeous pictures!!! thats the one thing I miss about being in NYC — no car and no roadtrips 🙁

xoxo, Elena Michelle

How cool! Def adding this to the to-do list. Pinning!


Beautiful photos and I just love the California coast line! I’ll enjoy seeing more of your travel posts!

Your photos are stunning!! My hubby and I might have to take your advice and take a road trip!! <3

Amanda |

We have been thinking of doing a coast drive recently. Thank you for all of the great tips! Can’t wait!


OMG I have always wanted to do this!! Thank you so much I am definitely going to Pin this so that I can come back to it! It looks so beautiful.
xoxo Amanda

Oh my goodness yes!!! We had the same experience driving from SF to Mendocino– it took SO long. Highway 1 is gorgeous but a huge time stealer when traveling. It was long after dark when we got to our destination!

I just found your blog from the Instastyle Facebook and I am in love… Have been clicking around for a half hour! Beautiful blog and love all the pictures.. You are amazing!

Driving Hwy 1 is a bucket list item for me, so these tips were really helpful. Thanks for sharing your journey!

My husband and I made this trip a year ago. It was such an incredible experience. Although, he is very afraid of heights, so he drove very slowly with sweat dripping down his face pretty much the entire time. haha! I would love to ago again, but I don’t know if I can convince him.

I just did this 2 weeks ago, but spread it out over the course of a week!

Awesome! I think if I did the full extent of it I’d like to spread it out as well.

Add a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.