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Overview of the Area
Driving south on Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) in Santa Barbara county, there’s a point just below the exit to Lompoc where you transition from mountains to the shore at Gaviota State Park. Here you’ll actually be traveling east on PCH, so look to the south (out to the ocean) for the northern Channel Islands.

It’s all beautiful beach driving until you reach the city of Goleta and the University of California Santa Barbara. Then inland through the garden spot known as Santa Barbara and back on the coast traveling through Carpinteria into Ventura County. Keep your eye on the Pacific; you’ll have a stunning view of sandy beaches and possibly a group of surfers waiting on waves. The cliffs to your left are the result of many disastrous mudslides.

Once you’re south of Ventura, you’re off the coast again and driving in the city streets of Oxnard and Port Hueneme. You land on the beach at Point Mugu. For the next 40 minutes or so you’ll see the northern beaches Los Angelenos visit for surfing, swimming, fishing and hiking. You enter Los Angeles county. No mistaking it, you’ll begin seeing the beach houses and mansions on both sides of PCH miles before you arrive in the legendary city of Malibu.

Here is where the infamous Southern California traffic begins. You’ll start coming upon traffic lights on busy city streets. You’re still on Pacific Coast Highway, but now with the bonus of commute traffic! Although this stretch of PCH is not always oceanside, there’s plenty to look at—mostly in human form.

This is the Santa Monica bay. You’ll pass the entrance to the Santa Monica Pier and edge into Venice. South of Marina del Rey and Playa del Rey is Los Angeles International Airport, just before you arrive at the South Bay cities of Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach. You’ll drive inland again over the Palos Verdes peninsula and into Long Beach, the busiest harbor in the United States.

Accommodations


Food
One of the best breakfasts on the California coast is at the East Beach Grill in Santa Barbara -- right on the boardwalk.

Terra in Malibu, Saturday and Sunday Brunch starting at 10:30 AM with dinner Tuesday through Sunday starting at 5:30 PM, bar at 5:00 PM, produce from Chef/Owner Chris Bocchino’s personal garden and wild seafood.

The Lobster in Santa Monica on the pier -- reservations required. Walk-ins can wait up to several hours. But the exquisite food and yacht-like atmosphere make it worth the crowds.

Activities
Shopping
There’s nearly unlimited wine tasting, touring and buying inland from Carpenteria in the Santa Ynez Valley. Walk State Street in Santa Barbara for fashion and art galleries, not to mention the excellent Cheese Shop featuring delicacies from across the world.

For bargain hunters, there’s the Camarillo Outlet Mall in Ventura. Inland from Santa Monica there’s Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills (cha-ching!), Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles (hip and happening) and Sunset Plaza (très chic) and Robertson Boulevard (interior designers’ favorite) in West Hollywood.

Venice Boardwalk is an experience in humanity and souvenirs. Be sure to make it to the Muscle Beach area where workouts are a performance! If this gets to be too much, hike a few blocks inland to Abbot Kinney Boulevard for boutiques, galleries and fine dining.

Adventure
For the active who want a great view of the ocean, hike the fire roads and bike trails in Point Mugu State Park. Fire roads abound between Leo Carrillo State Beach and Malibu for additional hiking and biking. Be aware of the fire season and show caution when in the coastal mountains of Southern California!

There are awesome coastal bicycle trails that are also shared with rollerskaters and rollerbladers, and just about anything else on one wheel or more. Bring your own or rent some wheels in Santa Barbara where the trail stretches the coast of the city. In Los Angeles county, the South Bay Bicycle Trail runs from Santa Monica to Redondo Beach with rentals available it either end and in between.

There are beautiful beaches stretching from Gaviota State Beach to the rocky shores of Palos Verdes. The beaches of Ventura and Oxnard are wide, sandy and not crowded. Leo Carillo State beach combines a rocky shoreline, caves and two beautiful beaches good for tidepooling, sunbathing, swimming and surfing. Water tends to be a bit cooler in this section of the coast. Heading south look for the wide, white sand beach of Zuma beach. Further down the coast is the famed Surfriders point in Malibu. From Malibu until you reach the Palos Verdes penninsula you will find wide sandy beaches seperated by beach cities and beach city piers. This area is called the South Bay and is close to everything that happens in Los Angeles..

For a touch of romance, there are Gondola rentals in the small community of Naples just south of Long Beach. Complete with gondolier! The Queen Mary in Long Beach offers tours of her majestic decks and staterooms.

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