Planning a US Pacific Coast road trip

Sometimes the road most travelled is most travelled for a reason.

And in no place is that truer than in the United States of America, where going on a road trip is surely the best way to explore the country’s vast landscape and rich, fascinating history.

It’s no wonder that America is the spiritual home of the classic road trip, given how geographically large the country is and how much time it would take to see and do everything there is to see and do in the Land of the Free.

Unfortunately for me, time will not be on my side when I head to America for my honeymoon later this year. So my fiancé and I are in the very early stages of planning an abbreviated road trip along America’s famed Pacific Coast Highway – a drive that we hope will take in some of these amazing US attractions…

San Francisco's iconic Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco

I left my heart in San Francisco when I visited in 2011 – one of only two times that I’ve ever visited the United States (I was in New York for Thanksgiving a few years prior).

There are so many fun things to see and do in San Francisco but highlights include the infamous Alcatraz, the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and the popular Pier 39. By planning San Francisco city excursions now, before my honeymoon, I’ll be able to make the most of my trip by saving time and money.

Yosemite National Park

Best-known for its stunning landscape, including spectacular granite cliffs, waterfalls and forests, Yosemite National Park is roughly three hours from San Francisco but a veritable world away in terms of natural wonder.

Located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, most of Yosemite National Park is designated wilderness and is home to countless species of critters – including bears. Oh my!

The iconic Hollywood sign in Los Angeles

Los Angeles

The irrepressible City of Angels might be the US city that this traveller is most looking forward to visiting next.

The Santa Monica Pier, Venice Beach, Beverly Hills, Hollywood; these places are as famous as it gets thanks to the mass marketing of American culture through film and television. I don’t care if it’s cliché, I want to gaze up at the Hollywood sign, walk the Walk of Fame and do a sightseeing tour of movie stars’ homes.

Most of all, I want to drive along Rodeo Drive and Sunset Boulevard – preferably in a convertible with the top down.

Las Vegas

I got engaged in Bali and I will get married in Auckland – but I seriously can’t wait to honeymoon in Vegas! Sure, it’s off the Pacific Coast highway a little bit, but you can’t miss partying in Vegas.

I’m not much of a gambler (I once won $50 on a slot machine and immediately quit while I was ahead) but still I can’t wait to try my luck at the Bellagio, the MGM Grand and at Caesar’s.

Of course, there are other things to do in Vegas – including going on a drive to the next thing on our US road trip hit-list…

The amazing Grand Canyon in the USA

The Grand Canyon

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of America’s great tourist attractions, boasting amazing views over the famous Grand Canyon National Park and others.

Sure, it’s just a big hole in the ground – but you can’t very well go on a road trip to Vegas and not drive the extra four hours or so to see it.

Hoover Dam

Much closer to Vegas is the Hoover Dam, dubbed one of the greatest achievements of the 20th Century.

Whether or not the Hoover Dam compares to another remarkable man-made structure I visited – Angkor Wat in Cambodia – remains to be seen, but still I look forward to visiting this colossal concrete structure in Southern Nevada.

What are your recommendations for must-see tourist attractions along or near America’s Pacific Coast highway?

About Simon Petersen 506 Articles
Travel blogger, journalist, sports and movie fiend. Chronicling the life and times of a Kiwi at home and abroad.


  1. I drove from LA to Vegas. It was so cool to be driving in the desert, then all of a sudden in the distance you begin to see these huge buildings of the Las Vegas strip in the middle of nowhere.

  2. Hi Simon,

    Sounds like a great trip! I got married in Las Vegas back in 2005, and recently returned from our second Vegas trip, to celebrate our 8th anniversary. We went to all of the casinos you mentioned and plenty more. Didn’t gamble huge amounts of money, but you can have a lot of fun on the 1c slots – your dollars will take quite a while to use up. Have a great time 🙂

  3. I’m planning on doing a similar trip later on in the year too. A good friend of mine recommended visiting Zion National Park in Utah (just across the way from Vegas and the Grand Canyon). It’s got beautiful red canyon rock and a very doable 5-hour hike called “the narrows”. She said it was one of the most spectacular places she’s been to and the photos are incredible! I definitely want to try and incorporate that into my trip 🙂

  4. Loved the Highway One drive from San Francisco to LA I did a few years ago and have a road trip from Vegas around the Southwest (and hopefully fitting in Yosemite) coming up in April. Love a US good road trip so if you need any suggestions on places to stay give me a shout. I’m planning my honeymoon for later this year too (Belize currently top of the list) – so much more fun than the table plans and flowers bits of wedding planning!

    • That’s great! You’ll be able to give me some tips! Haha, I know what you mean about planning a honeymoon being more fun than planning a wedding. Although, to be fair, the future Mrs Man vs World is doing most of the work. Poor girl. She says she can’t trust me to pick flowers or table plans!

  5. Let me know if you need any help planning your trip. We did two cross country road trips and went through LA, San Fran, las Vegas (twice) the Grand Canyon, and the Hoover Dam! The only thing on this list we DID’T do is Yosemite.

  6. You’re going to have a great road trip! We did the drive up the 101 highway from SF to Seattle in 2011 and were blown away by the Oregon coast. If you’re going north at all, definitely check out that part of the drive. Ridiculous beach scenery…

    • Cheers, Tony! I’d love to extend our little road trip up the Oregon coast but I’ll have to talk to the future Mrs Man vs World about it – she was thinking of flying down to Mexico when it was all over, the thinking being we might as well while we’re in the area!

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