Beach camping, great hiking, delicious food, and beautiful views–this road trip has it all! We’ll start our Los Angeles to Big Sur itinerary in sunny Southern California at our Los Angeles Escape Depot and drive north.
Gear up in one of our three sizes of campervans and see the beautiful west coast scenery.
Distance: 300 (482 km)
Time: 2-4 days
Possibly the closest camping near LAX and the Los Angeles Escape Depot. It may not be our favorite beach camping spot in California but it’ll do in a pinch and the ocean is right there.
Directions: Where the Imperial Highway (State Route 90) and Playa Del Rey meet Leo Carillo State Beach: We like this campground. With 135 shaded campsites, this is a great place to stop of on Day 1 or 2 as you head north on Highway 1. Book in advance, especially on weekends, as this is a favorite vacation spot for the locals. *Make sure you stop by Neptune’s Net just up the street when you stay there and grab some fried seafood and a cold one.
Book online: reserveamerica.com
Address: 12001 Vista del Mar, Playa del Rey, CA 90293
Phone: (800) 950-7275 or (310) 322-4951
This well-known campground/hangout is a favorite of the Southern California crowd because it’s the only beach you can actually DRIVE ON in California. Don’t attempt this in an Escape Campervan but, we gotta admit, it’s pretty cool.
Address: 555 Pier Avenue, Oceano, CA 93445
Phone: (805) 473-7220
This is a favorite of the Escape Campervans. It’s what you have in mind when you think of camping on the beach in California.
Address: 10 Refugio Beach Road, Goleta, CA
Phone: (805) 968-1033
From the moment Highway 10 dead ends into the Pacific Ocean until Highway 1 banks sharply away from the coast a couple of hundred miles later, you’re given a literal buffet of beaches and attractions to choose from. We’ll leave it to Surfer magazine and Condé Nast to parse the finer points of what to do along this otherworldly route and stick with the nuts and bolts of this leg of the trip.
Outlet shopping — If you’re looking for discount Levis, Guess Jeans or cheap Uggs, this is the place.
College town and the gateway to Big Sur. Known as “Slo” to locals, this aptly-named community is something everyone should drive through at least once. It’s a great place to walk around, check out the River Walk, grab a slice of pizza, then get some petrol and head out of town.
Morro Bay is a beachside artist’s community–formerly a small fishing town that now boasts high-end restaurants, nice boats, and a cool vibe. Check out the artist shops, wander the waterfront, and grab a bite to eat before you head north and enter Big Sur.
Giovanni’s Fish Market. Expensive but worth it. Get the chowder.
Big Sur is both a place and a state of mind. The famous Highway 1 takes a turn for the spectacular once you head south from Monterey Bay. Make sure you carve out several days to spend here or you’ll miss a lot of what Big Sur has to offer. Bordered to the east by the Santa Lucia Mountains and to the west by the Pacific Ocean, California’s central coast provides numerous state parks for hiking, camping, and beachcombing.
Due to the fact that Big Sur is part of the Los Padres National Forest, it is legal to car camp along Highway 1 in any of the pullouts that don’t have “No Overnight Camping” signs posted in the pullout. No fires are allowed. Be conscious of leaving trash along the road.
A few miles north of Plaskett Creek are a couple of first-come-first-serve campsites that are tailor made for Escape Campervans. Kirk Creek is the ONLY campground along this stretch situated on the western side of the highway. Bring your own water as there are no amenities, but it’s a fantastic place to watch the sunset over a roaring, legal campfire and fall asleep listening to the waves crash below you for $20. If you’d prefer not to pay the $20, cross Highway 1 and head directly up Nacimiento Fergusson Drive. It’s paved, liberally dotted with car pull outs and free. Even if you’re just driving through, head up this road anyway – the views are spectacular. Alternatively, Lime Kiln is located in a steep ravine just south of there and, if you’re lucky, you can snag one of the few campsites located right by the ocean.
This campground has some of the friendliest campers you’ll encounter on your entire trip. It’s right across the road from the often-missed Sand Dollar Beach, perfect for an afternoon walk. Access to the parking area at Sand Dollar will run you $5 but you can park on the road and walk in for free. (There’s free camping up along Plaskett Ridge Road, but remember, there’s no insurance coverage once you’re on a dirt road!).
Nestled among the redwoods with the Big Sur river running through the middle, this is an idyllic place to take a breather from the road for a couple of days. There is a great little hike just behind the stage that takes you into a large stand of redwood trees to the north. It’ll be tourist-free and a nice breather from driving the crowded roads of Highway 1. Directions: West side of the road 1 mile (2 km) north of Pfeiffer Big Sur Campground. It’s just south the Fernwood General Store and Cabins. Tell Diana we said to take care of you.
> Read our blog on the best places to see wildlife in Big Sur.
Bonus tip submissions from Morgan:
Bonus tip submissions from Will:
Looking for the best surf spots on Highway 1? Check out this Highway 1 Road Trip itinerary in an Escape Campervan from our friends at LushPalm!