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t might be hard to believe that there are actually free things to do as you drive along the stunningly beautiful California Highway 1.

But it’s true and we’re here to tell you just what those free things are. Read on as we list California Highway 1 FREE locations spanning from San Francisco down to Santa Barbara.

Page Break Watercolor 4

Walk the Golden Gate Bridge

California Highway 1 - Golden Gate Bridge

Oh, the iconic Golden Gate Bridge! When you envision any trip to California the Golden Gate Bridge is sure to be in it. It is the gateway into the popular city of San Francisco, but it’s also a great place to start the California Highway 1 trip.

What better way to take in the Golden Gate Bridge than a walk across it?!?! It’s the ultimate way to really understand just how massive the bridge is.

The walk is about 1.7 miles one way and without stopping will take you about 45 minutes to 1 hour. If you don’t feel like walking the full length, walking to the first tower is always an option.

After you walk across the bridge and you’re interested in any of the history, stop by the Welcome Center which is open daily 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM

HOW TO GET THERE:

  • Going south on highway 101 from Marin City, drive 3.1 miles until you reach Alexander Avenue which will be on the right before you cross the bridge.
  • Take exit 442 for Alexander Avenue and turn left onto Alexander Avenue for 299 feet.
  • Turn right onto Conzelman Road for 220 feet.
  • Turn left to stay on Conzelman Road for 436 feet.
  • The North Tower Golden Gate Parking Lot will be on the right.

Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/ePvw3Tqc6hF72vKy7

PRO TIPS:

  • Be prepared for cold and dress in layers with a hat and gloves. It tends to be very windy as you walk the bridge, making it very uncomfortable if not dressed appropriately.
  • Stop at Battery Spencer Park in the Marin Headlands (Northside) before you start your trek across the bridge. Here, you can capture pictures of the bridge with the San Francisco city skyline. That’s where the picture of us above was taken. Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/AN7gSthwi4D5fTD99
  • Take a free guided tour of the bridge. Twice weekly on Thursdays and Sundays at 11:00 AM, San Francisco City Guides provides a free guided tour which includes the history of the bridge. These tours last about 1.5 – 2 hours.

Relax at Baker Beach

California Highway 1 - Baker Beach

After you’ve walked across the Golden Gate Bridge, you’ll probably be ready for a little break before continuing on the California Highway 1 adventure. Baker Beach is the perfect place to relax and also another great vantage point of the bridge. This view gets the bridge and the Marin Headlands – no city skyline here. The sandy beach spans about 1 mile and has picnic tables and restrooms available.

HOW TO GET THERE:

  • From the North Tower Golden Gate Parking Lot, turn right onto Conzelman Road for 436 feet.
  • Turn right to stay on Conzelman Road for 220 feet.
  • Turn right onto Alexander Avenue which merges onto Highway 101.
  • Stay on Highway 101 for 1.8 miles and take exit 439 for Merchant Road for 0.2 miles.
  • Turn right onto Lincoln Boulevard for 0.9 miles.
  • Turn right onto Bowley Street for 0.2 miles.
  • Turn right onto Gibson Road for 300 feet.
  • Park at either the Gibson Road parking lot or the Battery Chamberlin Road parking lot.

Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/iLXQBEppa66MKWeaA

PRO TIP:

Visiting Baker Beach is free, however, if traveling south on the Golden Gate Bridge as we suggest, you will have to pay the Golden Gate Bridge toll which is currently $8.35 (as of February 2020).

Explore Golden Gate Park

California Highway 1 - Golden Gate Park Music Concourse

Music Concourse in the middle of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park that offers free Golden Gate Park Band performances.The California Highway 1 literally drives right through Golden Gate Park, which is San Francisco’s version of New York City’s Central Park. It’s HUGE (1,017 acres) with loads of stuff to do.

There’s something to please everyone – gardens, lakes, dog runs, playgrounds, picnic areas, different courts and fields for an array of sports, and museums (Check out our in-depth San Francisco Museum Post which includes a couple of Golden Gate Park museums).

About 50 percent of the park offerings are free; however, some of the gardens and all the museums require a fee. But there’s no fee to walk around and you may even be lucky and find on-street free parking!

HOW TO GET THERE:

  • If you made a stop at Baker Beach, take Gibson Road to Bowley Street for 300 feet.
  • Turn right onto Bowley Street and continue for 0.1 miles.
  • Turn right onto El Camino Del Mar and continue for 0.2 miles.
  • Turn left onto 26th Avenue and continue for 1 mile.
  • Turn left onto Fulton Street and continue for 285 feet.
  • Turn right onto Crossover Drive, you’ve now entered Golden Gate Park and can explore to your heart’s content!

Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/p6r13uDqmf7ZwNoJA

Climb the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps

California Highway 1 - 16th Ave Steps

Still in the city of San Francisco, but just 3 blocks off of the California Highway 1 is the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps which include 163 steps each detailed with beautiful mosaics to make up the sea, stars, moon, and sun. The creation of the tiled steps was a community effort and took over 2 years to complete. It’s truly an amazing work of art.

After enjoying the tiled steps that bring you to 15th Avenue, continue walking further past 15th Avenue there are even more steps (not tiled) that take you to Grand View Park, which as the name implies it has a spectacular view of the city (Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/Jyzn14GLBh34pNys5).

HOW TO GET THERE:

  • From Golden Gate Park, get back on Crossover Drive and continue for 1.3 miles (Crossover Drive turns into 19th Avenue after you exit the park).
  • Turn left onto Lawton and continue for 0.1 miles where it will “T” at 16th
  • Turn right onto 16th Avenue and continue for 472 feet.
  • Turn right to stay on 16th Avenue and continue for 243 feet.
  • The Tiled Steps are to the left at the intersection of Moraga Street and 16th
  • Parking is on-street only, so park wherever you can find a spot.

Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/EiZsGaUqxDyggNg47

PRO TIP:

The 16th Avenue Tile Steps is a popular tourist destination. Due to this, it will be hard to capture a picture of the steps without anyone walking on the steps. The best way to capture the real beauty is to get there early – around sunrise.

Visit the Monarch Butterfly Grove Sanctuary

California Highway 1 - Monarch Butterfly Grove

A nice 15-minute drive from California Highway 1 is a stop at the Monarch Butterfly Grove Sanctuary in Monterey where you can witness thousands of Monarch butterflies peacefully fluttering around during the warmest point of the day.

But only stop here if your trip falls between the months of late October through late February because this is when the butterflies are “overwintering” and they cluster in the trees of Monterey in Pacific Grove.  It’s such a unique experience to observe.

HOW TO GET THERE:

  • From Highway 1 South, take exit 399 C to merge onto Soledad Drive and continue for 0.5 miles.
  • Turn right onto Pacific Street and continue for 1.5 miles.
  • Turn right to merge onto Lighthouse Avenue and continue for 1.1 miles.
  • Lighthouse Avenue turns into Central Avenue at David Avenue, continue on Central Avenue for 1 mile.
  • Turn left onto Caledonia Avenue and continue for 174 feet.
  • Turn right onto Lighthouse Avenue and continue for 0.6 miles.
  • Turn left onto Ridge Road and continue for 0.2 miles.
  • The Monarch Butterfly Grove Sanctuary will be on the right.

Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/thBFdLPRxJrd3H8L9

From San Francisco, this drive will take approximately 3 hours without any stops if you stay strictly on Highway 1 and the coastal views are stunning for the entire drive.

PRO TIPS:

  • The butterflies are most active at the warmest time of the day, usually from noon to 3 PM. Otherwise, if the temperature drops below 55 degrees they can’t fly so they stay high up in the trees in clusters that look like dead leaves – making it really hard to see them.
  • Museum docents are present daily 12 PM to 3 PM from November through February to make your experience better by providing viewing scopes and offering interesting information about the butterflies.
  • Don’t touch any of the butterflies – it’s against the law and you could be fined $1,000.

Enjoy the Beauty of the Carmel Scenic Drive

California Getaways - Monterey/Carmel

You may have heard about the 17th Mile Drive in Monterey/Carmel, well skip that one and take the completely free Carmel Scenic Drive that we believe has better views. It’s another small detour from the California Highway 1 – but well worth it!

The Carmel Scenic Drive takes you by cottages that make you feel like you’ve stepped into a fairytale and then greets you with amazing coastal views.

Without stops, this scenic drive will take about 20 minutes.

HOW TO GET THERE:

  • From Highway 1 South, turn right onto Ocean Avenue and continue for 1 mile until it ends at Scenic Road.
  • Turn left onto Scenic Road and continue for 1.6 miles. Scenic Road hugs the coast all the way to Carmel River State Beach where it turns right to head east away from the coast.

Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/UwEPBT1V7xZ4tarV6

California Highway 1 - Map of Carmel Scenic Drive

PRO TIPS:

  • To add to the drive, there’s a nice bluff walking path located near Carmel Beach that runs parallel to Scenic Road.
  • Another nice stop is Carmel Beach, in the spring, bonfires are allowed from 4-10 PM.

Roam Through the Calla Lily Valley

California Highway 1 - Calla Lily Valley

If you happen to do the California Highway 1 trip in the spring, you MUST check out Calla Lily Valley at Garrapata Beach. If you time it right you’ll be treated with a phenomenal display of calla lilies!

It’s possible the calla lilies will be in bloom from February through April, but no guarantees for sure when they are in bloom.

So, if you’re in the area it’s worth a stop to check since it’s located right off the highway and just a quick half-mile hike to where the lilies are.

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t immediately see the calla lilies on the trail as you start the hike, it’s not until you reach the creek that you will see them.

After you’ve explored the calla lilies you can venture down to the beach and relax a bit.

HOW TO GET THERE:

  • Going South on Highway 1, located 7.4 miles past Point Lobos State Reserve in Carmel and 3.7 miles before the Bixby Creek Bridge which signifies the start of Big Sur.
  • Park at one of the pull-outs for either the Garrapata Trail or Garrapata State Beach
  • If you park at the Garrapata Trail, at the first trail fork continue toward the left. Once you come to a creek crossing (Doud Creek), look to the left toward the highway and you should see the abundance of calla lilies that line the creek on both sides all the way back to the highway.
  • If you park at the Garrapata State Beach Parking, at the first trail fork continue to the right – don’t take the trail that goes left, this will take you down to the beach. If you continue right, the trail goes along the coastal bluff. You’ll eventually come to a creek crossing for Doud Creek. When you reach the creek, look to the right and this is where the Calla Lily Valley is and it goes all the way back toward the highway.

Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/GEGzLZXzq1J3mEsX6

California Highway 1 - Map of Calla Lily Valley

PRO TIP:

Since there is limited parking at either of the pull-outs, start your morning here around sunrise.

Drive Big Sur’s Dramatic Coastline

California Highway 1 - Big Sur

A California Highway 1 trip is not complete without driving through Big Sur. Big Sur area has the most dramatic coastline on Highway 1 with beautiful vistas at every turn.

All you have to do to enjoy all of its grandeur is give yourself 2 hours to drive this magnificent and rugged coastline.

HOW TO GET THERE:

  • After leaving Point Lobos State Reserve in Carmel and continuing south on Highway 1, drive 11 miles to the Bixby Creek Bridge.
  • The Big Sur coastline begins at the Bixby Creek Bridge and continues for 71 miles, ending at the Elephant Seal Vista Point in San Simeon.

If you have more time, you can also stop multiple times along the way and enjoy a nice hike or relax on one of the gorgeous beaches.

Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/YDgwRGKwZqf62gfFA

PRO TIPS:

  • Be sure to fill up on gas in Monterey or Carmel before you begin your Big Sur drive. The gas stations in Big Sur are very limited and when you find one you will pay top dollar.
  • If you’re prone to being car sick, this is probably one of the curviest portions of Highway 1. Don’t let this stop you from experiencing it, just be prepared and take all precautions necessary so you can enjoy the drive.

Take a Stroll Along Moonstone Beach

California Highway 1 - Moonstone Beach Boardwalk

Obviously, California Highway 1 is along the California coast so there are TONS of beaches to stop and enjoy, but one AMAZING beach that we highly recommend is Moonstone Beach in Cambria.

This beach is known for the shiny stones that wash ashore making it a cool beach to walk along and comb for the different looking stones.

It also has a really nice boardwalk on the bluff that spans 1.5 miles with several points that allow you to get down to the beach.

However you decide to enjoy this beach, it’s a relaxing stroll in such a charming small town.

HOW TO GET THERE:

  • Heading south on Highway 1 from Elephant Seal Vista Point in San Simeon, drive 10 miles and turn right onto Moonstone Beach Drive.
  • Once on Moonstone Beach Drive, which parallels Highway 1, you have multiple options for parking: you can park in the day-use area at Leffingwell Landing State Park (northern end of Moonstone Beach), or parallel park on the side of Moonstone Stone Beach Drive, or park in the day-use area at Santa Rosa Creek (southern end of Moonstone Beach).
  • Wherever you decide to park, it’s just a short walk down to either the beach or the boardwalk.

Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/SRpC3Af33WEWCMN6A

PRO TIP:

It probably goes without saying, but this beach is great to enjoy at sunset.

Leisurely Meander the Morro Rock Beach

California Highway 1 - Morro Rock Beach

No way, another beach on the wonderful California Highway 1?!?! Well, of course, there is! It’s hard to narrow down all the free beaches, but Morro Rock Beach is another unique one with the fact that it has a HUGE rock that towers 576 feet into the sky.

In addition to the large rock, it has a long sandy beach with the type of sand that is oh so soft – making it a perfect beach to leisurely walk or find a nice spot to plop down and enjoy the view of the crashing waves with the magnificent Morro Rock on the horizon.

HOW TO GET THERE:

  • Morro Rock Beach is a slight detour off of Highway 1 and to get to it you have to drive through the city of Morro Bay.
  • Heading south on Highway 1 from Moonstone Beach in Cambria, drive 21 miles and take exit 279A for Main Street
  • Turn right onto Main Street and continue on Main Street for 0.3 miles.
  • Turn right onto Beach Street and continue on Beach Street for 0.2 miles until it ends.
  • Turn right onto Embarcadero and continue for 0.7 miles.
  • Embarcadero turns into Colman Drive, which you continue on until it dead-ends at Morro Rock where the large parking lot is.
  • Morro Rock Beach is located on the north side of Morro Rock and it’s just a short walk from the parking lot to the beach.

Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/9jYbZAf1b6iBmvbQA

PRO TIP:

If you are into birdwatching, Morro Rock Beach is a great place to stop since Morro Rock is a nesting site for the Peregrine Falcon. And, there’s even an annual Winter Bird Festival every Martin Luther King weekend (the 3rd weekend in January).

Walk Through Bubble Gum Alley

California Highway 1 - Bubblegum Alley

Probably the strangest (and grossest) free thing to do on the California Highway 1 is to walk through the 70-foot-long Bubble Gum Alley that has 15-foot-tall walls filled with chewed up wads of bubble gum.

California Highway 1 - Bubblegum Alley WallIn our honest opinion, only stop here if you plan to explore San Luis Obispo’s shops or restaurants. Downtown San Luis Obispo is a cute town with lots of shops and restaurants which should be more of a draw than the Bubble Gum Alley.  However, if you google things to do in San Luis Obispo, the Bubble Gum Alley is a favorite – not sure why, but it is and it’s free.

HOW TO GET THERE:

  • From Morro Rock Beach, get back on Highway 1 South and continue on Highway 1 for 13 miles.
  • Highway 1 turns into Santa Rosa Street (near Highway 101), continue for 0.3 miles.
  • Turn right onto Higuera Street and continue for 0.3 miles.
  • Bubble Gum Alley is located on the left on the 700 block of Higuera Street between 733 and 734 in Downtown San Luis Obispo.
  • Parking is on-street, so park wherever you can find a spot.

Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/RmqMT6NN41N5fYR6A

PRO TIPS:

  • Be careful and don’t get too close to the walls – be sure to walk down the center of the alley so you don’t touch the nasty walls.
  • Watch your step, there may be some fresh bubble gum on the ground that didn’t make it to the wall. We all know how frustrating and disgusting sticky gum on the bottom of our shoe is…YUCK!

Admire the Colorful Lompoc Flower Fields

California Highway 1 - Lompoc Flower Fields

A somewhat small detour from the California Highway 1 but worth a stop if you’re in the area in late spring or summer (between April through September) is the Lompoc Flower Fields.

The colorful flower fields in the Lompoc Valley spread across 6 long blocks.

Our trip was in early April and was too early for any of the blooms, so we weren’t able to experience the flower fields. But if you hit it right, it seems like such a unique experience and the best part – it’s free!

HOW TO GET THERE:

  • From Pismo Beach, continue on Highway 1 South for about 42 miles (Highway 1 at this point goes inland and is no longer right on the coast).
  • Turn right onto West Central Avenue and continue for 2 miles.
  • Turn left onto Floradale Avenue. Once you reach Floradale Avenue, you have arrived at the Lompoc Flower Fields.

There’s a suggested method for viewing the flower fields – first, the fields are outlined by two main roads that run parallel: Central Avenue to the north and Ocean Avenue to the south.

Then, there are 6 blocks that you will zig-zag through between Central Avenue and Ocean Avenue. From Central Avenue, first, start at Floradale Avenue by turning left from Central Avenue, continue on Floradale Avenue until you reach Ocean Avenue. Turn right onto Ocean Avenue and then right onto Legge Avenue. Continue going back and forth between Ocean Avenue and Central Avenue until you reach Union Sugar Avenue, which is the last street that has the flower fields.

Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/Htywz1qDcrsRvCqP8

California Highway 1 - Map of Lompoc Flower Fields

PRO TIPS:

  • The roads for the flower fields are farm roads, so expect a bumpy ride and take it slow.
  • Be sure to stay on designated paths as to not harm any of the flowers.
  • Last, but not least, don’t pick any of the flowers.

Wander the Streets of Solvang

California Highway 1 - Solvang

Not too far off California Highway 1 is Solvangknown as the Danish Capitol of America.

It’s quite the touristy town and it spans six blocks, but it’s pretty cool to walk the streets and take in all the Danish architecture.

You’ll feel like you’ve stepped foot into a European village with the half-timbered structures, thatched roofs, and windmills.

HOW TO GET THERE:

  • From Lompoc Flower Fields, begin at the intersection of West Ocean Avenue and Floradale Avenue.
  • Continue on West Ocean Avenue for about 23 miles (West Ocean Avenue turns into Highway 246 which you will take all the way into Solvang).
  • Highway 246 brings you into the heart of Solvang on Mission Drive beginning at 5th Street and continuing until Alisal Road.
  • Park anywhere you can find a spot and begin exploring.

In addition to Mission Drive, Copenhagen Drive runs parallel to Mission Drive and also has more Danish fun.

Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/HN6kvAfpGyiT56HaA

PRO TIP:

You don’t need to spend all day here, 1-2 hours to explore is plenty enough.

Hike to Gaviota Hot Springs

California Highway 1 - Gaviota Hotsprings

If you’re like us and have a HUGE love for hot springs then you can’t miss this California Highway 1 gem! Just a half-mile hike and you can enjoy the Gaviota Hot Springs.

There are two hot springs – One is large enough for 6 people and is also the warmer of the two. The second one is quite small, probably can only accommodate two people and it’s also quite cold since it’s further from the source.

HOW TO GET THERE:

  • Located right where Highway 1 turns into Highway 101 as you approach Santa Barbara.
  • From Highway 1, take exit 132
  • At the ramp, turn right and then another immediate right onto Gaviota Park Boundary Road.
  • Continue on Gaviota Park Boundary Road until it ends and find a parking spot.
  • Gaviota Park Boundary Road dead ends to the trailhead.
  • You reach the hot springs by following the Gaviota Peak Trail.
  • At the first fork in the trail, continue left
  • You’ll come to another fork in the trail that parallels a creek, turn right and follow the creek for a tenth of a mile and then you’ll get to the hot springs.

There are several different trails in this area, so the parking area may be crowded and you may need to park further up Gaviota Park Boundary Road – closer to Highway 1.

The creek that you follow up to the hot spring is water flowing from the hot spring, so as long as you follow it, you will easily find the hot spring.

Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/d3sF5MZQ7igzn5CJ6

California Highway 1 - Map of Gaviota Hotsprings

PRO TIP:

Arrive here as early as possible. As noted above, the hot springs are small so the earlier you arrive the higher chance you may have the hot springs to yourself and not have to wait for others.

Take a Jaunt on the Santa Barbara Beach Path

California Highway 1 - Santa Barbara Beach Path

A great end to your California Highway 1 trip is a stop in Santa Barbara. And what better way than a leisurely walk along the path that connects all the beaches that makeup Santa Barbara. It’s also known as the Cabrillo Boulevard Bike Path and starts at the Leadbetter Beach and continues for 4.5 miles to Butterfly Beach.

HOW TO GET THERE:

  • Assuming you made a stop at the Gaviota Hot Springs, start your drive to Santa Barbara from there.
  • Get back onto Highway 1/Highway 101 and continue for about 34 miles.
  • Exit Highway 1/Highway 101 at Castillo Street and continue for 0.4 miles.
  • Turn right onto Shoreline Drive and continue for 0.6 miles.
  • Leadbetter Beach will be on the left. Park wherever you can. If you are staying in Santa Barbara, it’s best to park at your accommodations and then walk to the beach.

Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/DDnMdW4ZMiGz8ACT6

PRO TIPS:

  • Even though it’s stated that the path is 4.5 miles long, the main area directly on the beach is about 1 mile long and spans from Stearns Wharf through East Beach. This is because the other areas that make up the path meander away from the beach.
  • Don’t forget a beach towel just in case you want to stop along the way and plop yourself down on the beach or dip your feet into the ocean.

Marvel at the Stunning Santa Barbara Courthouse

California Highway 1 - Santa Barbara Courthouse

You may be wondering why Santa Barbara’s Courthouse even makes the list for a stop on the California Highway 1 – how boring right?!?! Absolutely not!

In fact, if you only have time to do one thing in Santa Barbara you have to make it to the courthouse. It is incredibly beautiful and our words and pictures don’t do it justice – you must experience it for yourself.

California Highway 1 - Santa Barbara Courthouse Inside

Still not convinced? Well, let us tell you more.  The building architecture has several Spanish influences which include a red tile roof, white stucco walls, decorative tile steps, spiral staircases, and hand-painted murals on walls and ceilings throughout.

There are so many stunning details everywhere you look whether it be on the floor, ceiling, or walls.

Additionally, if you climb to the top of the clock tower you are greeted with a stunning panoramic view of Santa Barbara.

There’s even a tranquil sunken garden that is a perfect spot to enjoy a picnic.

All of this to say, it’s truly remarkable and hard to believe it is a working courthouse.

HOW TO GET THERE:

  • From Stearns Wharf at Cabrillo Blvd., turn left onto State Street.
  • Continue on State Street for 1.2 miles.
  • Turn right onto East Anapamu Street for 0.1 miles (1 block)
  • Turn right onto Anacapa Street.
  • The courthouse entrance is 200 feet after turning onto Anacapa Street.

Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/vMQBijNNVbhB3nZg6

PRO TIPS:

  • Revel in the courthouse splendor Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM and Weekends 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM.
  • Free guided tours of the premises are offered daily at 2:00 PM and Monday thru Friday at 10:30 AM. Tours meet in the Mural Room on the 2nd floor and last approximately 1 hour. You don’t have to be on a tour to explore the grounds.
  • Instead of driving to the courthouse, it’s an enjoyable walk beginning at Stearns Wharf all the way up the lively State Street. Along the way there are shops, galleries, and restaurants. It’s a 3-mile round trip walk.

Frolic through Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone

California Highway 1 - Santa Barbara View from Courthouse

If you can’t tell, Santa Barbara is a wonderful city to walk. In addition to the two walkable places above (Santa Barbara Beach Walk and Santa Barbara Court House), it’s also fun to walk the Funk Zone which is right off the California Highway 1.

The Funk Zone spans 10 blocks and is the hippest neighborhood in Santa Barbara with a bohemian vibe in the many studios, galleries, shops, hip restaurants, and several wineries on the Urban Trail.

This area used to be full of industrial warehouses, but in recent years those warehouses have been converted and it’s quite fun to walk the area.

HOW TO GET THERE:

  • Exit Highway 1/Highway 101 South at Garden Street and turn right onto Garden Street
  • Continue until Garden Street ends at Cabrillo Boulevard and turn right onto Cabrillo Boulevard
  • Continue on Cabrillo Boulevard until Stearns Wharf, which will be on your left.
  • Park wherever you can find parking, which may be away from Stearns Wharf on a nearby street. Better yet, if you have accommodations, park there and walk to Stearns Wharf.
  • A great starting point for the Funk Zone is at Stearns Wharf on State Street and then walk south on Cabrillo Boulevard, snaking through the streets to Garden Street all the way up to Montecito Street.

The streets outlined in red in the map below identify the area and streets that make up the Funk Zone.

Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/3SnzwCJu7TorAXQZ9

California Highway 1 - Map of Funk Zone

Peruse Santa Barbara’s Presidio Neighborhood

California Highway 1 - Santa Barbara Presidio

Yes – yet another walkable gem in Santa Barbara! The Presidio neighborhood is a few blocks east of California Highway 1 but is still extremely walkable and parts of it take you back in time when Santa Barbara got its start.

Presidio has historical significance since it is the birthplace of Santa Barbara and there are some original buildings that date back to 1782.

Within the neighborhood, you’ll see a lot of beautiful Spanish-style architecture and influence with so many fun places to eat, drink, and shop as you peruse the area.

HOW TO GET THERE:

  • Exit Highway 1/Highway 101 South at West Carrillo Street and turn left onto West Carrillo Street.
  • Continue on West Carrillo Street for 0.5 miles until Anacapa Street.
  • Turn right onto Anacapa Street and continue for 1 block (0.1 miles) to East Canon Perdido Street.
  • Turn left onto East Canon Perdido Street and continue for 387 feet where you will arrive at the El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park on the left.
  • Park wherever you can find parking, which may be away from El Presidio on a nearby street. Better yet, if you have accommodations, park there and walk to the Presidio.
  • The Presidio makes up 5 blocks from State Street to Santa Barbara and Canon Predido to De La Guerra Street.

The streets outlined in red in the map below identify the area and streets that make up the Presidio.

Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/P9Chr3eoFwGLAeW66

California Highway 1 - Map of Presidio

PRO TIP:

You could easily wander through the Presidio after you have explored the Courthouse since they are both very close to each other – separated by just 2 blocks.

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That’s a wrap, identified above are the highlights of the free things you can experience on the California Highway 1.

This list by no means includes the abundance of all the free parks, beaches, and lighthouses along the way, but more so stops we thought were quite impressive and definitely worth doing.

If you are planning a California Highway 1 trip and are on a frugal budget, you could easily use these free listings in this post to help create your itinerary.

Stay tuned because in the coming weeks we’ll also be providing an in-depth California Highway 1 itinerary including these items as well as other not so free items.

We’re sure we’ve missed some amazing places, so feel free to let us know some additional free stops along the California Highway 1 in the comments below or send us an email!

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Further Reading

The One Tool for Planning the Best Travel Itinerary

Travel Itinerary Spreadsheet - Facebook

15 Reasons to be Obsessed with Travel Planning

15 Reasons to be Obsessed with Travel Planning picture for Facebook

12 Stunning California Getaways You Need to See

California Getaways - San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge

13 Unique Museums You Must See in San Francisco

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We are RJ and Megan Barrett- A husband and wife team who are passionate for all things travel!
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