No one does a scenic drive better than James Bond. His famous Aston Martin has seen many noteworthy coastlines and mountain roads, becoming a sort of motif for his grandiose life as an international spy. Thanks to James Bond and other images in film, scenic drives are what encourage us to “go for a drive.”
You don’t have to be James Bond to appreciate the value of a great scenic drive. We often forget that cars aren’t just a utility to get us from point A to point B, but a way to enjoy long winding roads with a spectacular view. Whether you drive a supercar or a pickup truck, here are a few scenic routes along the West Coast that are surely worth the drive.
1. Drive through the Mojave
We’re starting with a route you might have ignored in the past. California has some desert roads that are simply breathtaking, featuring all the cacti and tumbleweed you can imagine. The Mojave Desert spans Southern California, so you can squeeze into a few different drives that take you east from San Diego (home to some incredible views of its own).
We recommend a trip to Joshua Tree or Palm Springs to take in the desert views and enjoy some serene sunsets during your days off. You’ll see a few windmill farms on the way, and if you plan your route correctly, you should consider stopping at some of the shops and roadside diners that so famously sit alongside these roads.
A great way to experience this drive is on historic Route 66. Start your drive in Santa Monica and take the Old Route 66 Loop over to Palm Springs!
2. CA-1 to Big Sur
The great thing about Highway 1 is that it spans up most of the coast of California. Whether you’re looking for a short drive to take your mind off things or you’re headed to a destination, a stint on Highway 1 will remind you why we all love the California coastline.
The twists and turns through Malibu might actually make this scenic drive worth the traffic. If you don’t plan on driving all the way north, hitting CA-1 through Malibu is a great way to enjoy your car with the windows down. Hop on the highway in Santa Monica and pass by some of LA’s greatest hotspots like the Getty Villa and Malibu Country Mart. Plus, this route is home to some of California’s most beautiful beaches.
San Luis Obispo
If you plan to take on the adventure, San Luis Obispo is where the landscape really starts to change. Rolling hills, grazing cattle, and pine trees replace the dry beaches in Malibu, making this a great place to stop for the night or start your drive up to Northern California.
Big Sur is home to the most picturesque views of the Central California coastline. You’ll find some spectacular lookout points at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and won’t be disappointed by a drive over the Bixby Creek Bridge.
3. Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe is a vacation destination for many West Coast residents, and it’s also home to some beautiful roads.
If you’re planning to do some driving in this area, be sure to check out Inspiration Point. The route will take you up above the lake on your way around the mountain to a truly incredible lookout point. Driving around the lake will take some time, so roll down your windows to take in the crisp mountain air and enjoy!
4. San Francisco to Sonoma
San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area are home to some famously spectacular views. If you live in the area or want to check out California’s central wine country, it’s worth driving or renting a car to make your way out to Sonoma.
5. Avenue of the Giants
Up in Northern California is a 32 mile stretch of road covered with an ancient redwood forest. If you’re looking to change things up on your next scenic drive, Avenue of the Giants is an amazing alternative that is sure to wow you.
6. Gold Beach to Brookings
As we continue north, the cliffside ocean views don’t stop. Up in Oregon, you’ll find an excellent route between Gold Beach and Brookings filled with scenic lookouts along the coastline. If you have the time, be sure to check out Thunder Rock Cove and the Natural Bridges for the best photo opportunities.
7. Otter Crest Loop
Our list’s first scenic loop has everything: beaches, cliffs, rock formations, and dense forest. If you’re driving up Highway 101 and have the time, veer off onto the Otter Crest Loop, taking a few stops along the way.
8. Pacific Coast Scenic Byway
The Scenic Byway is a 350-mile route that circles the entire Pacific coastline of Washington State. Similar to the CA-1, there are plenty of areas to hop on and off, and while it’s worth a drive around the entire state, you can always use this route for a short, leisurely drive. Depending on what areas you drive through
9. Whidbey Scenic Isle Way
Finally, the Whidbey Scenic Isle Way runs along Whidbey Island and contains a handful of lookouts, gardens, harbors, and towns to stop in. You’ll reach the island via ferry and enjoy a leisurely ride through the island that’s known for its galleries, boutiques, shops, and wineries. It’s a great drive for a summer day with the windows rolled down!
If you’re looking for a way to relax your mind and hit the road, the West Coast is home to plenty of scenic routes and leisurely drives to enjoy!