Posted on: Sunday, September 30, 2007
Cruise Southern California's scenic Highway 1
By Wanda Adams
WHERE: Scenic drive, Dana Point to Laguna Beach on California Highway 1 (aka Pacific Coast Highway, South Coast Highway)
WHAT TO SEE AND DO: This short, 7-mile stretch embraces two resort towns packed with shops and restaurants, two state and two county beach parks, two wilderness areas, a coast lined with dramatic cliffs and sandy beaches, surf spots and historic sites, a marine wildlife refuge, public pathways, museums and an ocean education center, hiking and biking trails.
Two public pathways in exclusive surroundings offer stunning views: Bluff Park on Ritz-Carlton Drive off Pacific Coast Highway overlooks Salt Creek Beach park, a popular surfing, picnicking and walking spot; cliff walk, gardens, scenic overlooks and beach access on the grounds of Montage Laguna Beach hotel, 30801 South Coast Highway (parking and restrooms are below hotel).
Doheny State Park, California's first state beach (1931), home to the only full-scale aquarium in a California state park and a noteworthy collection of vintage surfing photos (just south of the I-5 link to Highway 1).
Dana Point is a marine center, with virtually every form of ocean attraction from marinas and yacht clubs to fishing charters and kayak rentals.
Aliso & Wood Canyons Regional Park, east of Highway 1 in Laguna Niguel, between Dana Point and Laguna Beach, offers hiking, equestrian and biking trails, scenic overlooks, hiking, picnicking. The Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, some of the last remaining wilderness on the South Coast, is reached off Laguna Canyon Road (hiking, mountain bicycling, trail running, horseback riding, art excursions).
Laguna Beach is a tres chic hangout with lots of contemporary restaurants, upscale hotels, luxury homes, specialty food shops, art galleries and boutiques.
Laguna is known for its art festivals and events: the summer Art-A-Fair on the city's festival grounds off Laguna Canyon Road; first Thursdays art walk in the village; summer Festival of Arts/Pageant of the Masters (actors re-create famous works of art); bi-monthly Sunday Laguna Craft Guild fairs; the annual Sawdust Art Festival each July and August in a quaint village venue.
Laguna's "Window to the Sea" beachfront park offers a boardwalk, beach volleyball and basketball, children's playground, picnic area and restrooms.
WHERE TO STAY: Dana Point/Laguna has the full range of hotels from ultra-luxury to modest motel.
INFORMATION AND HOTEL CHOICES: www.danapoint.org and www.lagunabeachinfo.org. Request a Laguna Beach map and guide, and an Orange County arts guide.
BE AWARE: This area is extremely popular. Traffic crawls, especially on weekends and holidays. Campsites are reserved months — or even as much as a year — in advance. Fees are charged just to drive through park gates in most cases. Parking can cost as much as $10 a vehicle.
GETTING THERE: Dana Point is 60 miles from Los Angeles via I-405 South and I-5 South. Take Dana Point exit to Highway 1.