From stunning natural wonders to quirky roadside attractions and a bucolic backcountry where dramatic topography makes for inspiring, Instagramable moments, San Diego’s diverse landscapes and neighborhoods make it the ultimate summer road trip destination.
The following are four epic roadways in San Diego, along with the best places to stop for visitors to live out their SoCal road trip dreams.
No highway better captures the laidback, beachside vibe of San Diego and its surf heritage than Historic Highway 101. Hugging 70 miles of sun-soaked coastline from Oceanside to La Jolla, Pacific Coast Highway links some of SoCal’s coolest beach towns like La Jolla, Del Mar, Encinitas and Carlsbad. Views of sandy beaches and beautiful cliffs make this iconic highway a bucket list adventure.
Oceanside: A classic beach community, Oceanside marks the beginning of the 101 in the north and is home to some of California’s widest beaches, historical landmarks and a distinct SoCal surf culture.
Carlsbad: The charming “Village by the Sea," Carlsbad was named after a famous spa in Karlsbad, Bohemia and boasts family-friendly attractions and outstanding shopping.
Encinitas: Known as “Surftown USA” and home to one of the best surf spots in the world, Encinitas is also a sanctuary of relaxation and botanic wonders.
Solana Beach: This quaint coastal town lures surfers and beachgoers, as well as art and music lovers and savvy shoppers.
Del Mar: Since the legendary days of Hollywood’s golden years, Del Mar has been the destination of choice for movie stars, as well as fairgoers and those who enjoy betting on the ponies.
La Jolla: Spanish for “The Jewel,” La Jolla is a scenic seaside enclave with a wonderful array of world-class arts and culture, attractions and stunning natural wonders.
Highway 79, which begins in the East County town of Descanso and continues 45 miles north to Warner Springs, is the perfect way to explore San Diego’s charming mountain communities.
Traversing 150 miles between San Diego and Yuma, Arizona, Historic Highway 80 winds through the scenic, chaparral-covered rolling hills of San Diego’s East County. Along this nostalgic route there are several charming towns and roadside wonders worth exploring:
Located on the easternmost portion of the highway, the 70-foot high Desert View Tower, built in 1922 as a tribute to early pioneers, offers breathtaking views of the desert floor below and features a quirky Americana museum and boulder garden filled with whimsical painted animal rock carvings.
Visitors in town for only a day or two who want to see as many sites as possible can take San Diego’s official driving tour, the 59-Mile Scenic Drive – the ultimate overview of San Diego. This beautiful iconic drive, marked every quarter mile by blue and yellow signs depicting a white seagull, encompass a good portion of the city’s most outstanding attractions and neighborhoods and can be covered in about three hours.
For step-by-step driving directions of the entire route, visit the San Diego Tourism Authority’s 59-Mile Scenic Drive webpage. A great starting off point, visitors can get their bearings and pick up a complimentary 59-Mile Scenic Drive brochure/map of the route at the San Diego Information Center (996 N. Harbor Drive).
Major points of interest along this milestone route include:
The open road awaits in San Diego. To shift your summer vacation into high gear and for more information on San Diego’s offerings, including exciting vacation packages and valuable coupons for attractions, restaurants and more, visit the San Diego Tourism Authority’s website at www.sandiego.org.
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