Pacific Coast Highway, California, USA

This Great Road was initially published in issue 61 of Total 911.

We didn’t like Los Angeles – a huge, characterless urban sprawl – and were desperate to get away from it. And what better way than to head north to San Francisco, home of the Grateful Dead? We had two choices – inland on the fast (by US standards) Interstate, or follow the old coast road. It was a no-brainer.

Officially known as State Route 1 but more commonly called the Pacific Coast Highway, this stunning road hugs the California coast and is refreshingly free of traffic now that the 101 Interstate takes the bulk of trucks and cars from one metropolis to the other.

Not only does State Route 1 take in some of the most impressive coastal scenery imaginable, it also offers a glimpse of a hidden America that we thought only existed in the movies – some of the towns are really, well, American.

Take Malibu Beach, for instance, where you really do see singlet-wearing bodybuilders performing in public. Such posing isn’t our sort of thing, but up the coast is the far more laid-back Santa Cruz, which we loved.

With fantastic surfing, VW Beetles on every corner and a wonderful old boardwalk complete with wooden rollercoaster, this was a place after our own heart.

Location: California, USA

Latitude: 33:59:45N 118:27:20E

Length of drive: 450 miles (725km)

Points of interest:
Bixby Creek Bridge
Hearst Castle
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Food and accommodation:
Glen Oaks, Big Sur

Dream Inn, Santa Cruz

These two towns are pretty much at each end of our route, which extends around 450 miles. In between is another haven for old hippies – Big Sur.

Inhabited over the years by such bohemian characters as Jack Kerouac, Hunter S Thompson and Brian Wilson, today this once remote wilderness is a popular tourist trap that milks its recent super-cool history.

Big Sur is also where you find Route 1’s most stunning scenery. Imagine Cornwall on steroids, with the surf breaking over rocky outcrops, and headland after headland appearing into the distance. The road swoops and sweeps through the landscape, and just as you think it can’t get any better it does – time after time.

And then there’s the Bixby Creek Bridge, which was completed in 1932 to span a previously impassable canyon. You’ll recognise it from countless films and television commercials, its elegant arch working with, rather than clashing with, the landscape.

Before the bridge was built, the road had to detour inland to bypass the canyon, and that old route is still, just about, passable and offers a stunning view of the bridge, although you’ll need to be in a Cayenne, not a 911!

Finally, the road brings you to San Francisco, which turned out to be all we’d hoped – and a lot better than LA.

Driving Pacific Coast Highway is something everyone should experience at least once in their life – and surely in a Porsche 911. It’s a good drivers’ road, granted, with its countless sweeping bends and useful stretches of dual carriageways but it’s not the best.

No, what makes Route 1 memorable is its scenery and its culture, which is more American than, well, anywhere else in America. Don’t drive the road in a single day, take your time to experience all that it has to offer. You won’t be disappointed.

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