Get Some Fun PCH Gifts Here
California Coast Guide
The California Coastal Access Guide
One of the best California coast guides is the California Coastal Access Guide, describing the coast’s beaches, National Parks, State Parks, with many maps.
California Coastal Access Guide Cover
We were curious about this California coast guide. Many of our website visitors told us they had bought it and found it really useful, so why didn’t we review it? So we bought a copy and took a look. And we were impressed.
The California Coastal Access Guide is an unusual book in that it is produced by the California Coastal Commission for the State of California, and published by the University of California Press. It’s been updated several times over the years, but the most recent one we could get our hands on was the 6th edition, which came out in 2003.
This review is of the 2003 edition of the guide. There is now an updated edition which we thoroughly recommend.
Not a Guidebook
Let’s start by saying this California coast guide is not a guidebook. You won’t find hotels and restaurants listed here, although they do list all the hostels you’ll find along the coast.
But apart from that, it won’t tell you where to stay or where to eat. There are also only brief entries for museums and other attractions, and not every attraction in every place along the coast is listed.
Why Buy this California Coast Guide?
If it isn’t a very thorough guidebook, why on earth would you want to buy the California Coastal Access Guide? The answer is because it’s the most thorough guide to all the natural wonders of the California coast that you’ll find. By the time this edition had come out in 2003 it had sold over 100,000 copies, which is a good sign.
The various sections of the Introduction give you some idea who the book is aimed at. There are pages on Children and the Coast, Boating and Boating Safety, Access for Persons with Disabilities, Environmental Camping, Coastal Hostels, and several sections about the California coast’s precious wildlife: Protecting Marine Wildlife, and Marine Sanctuaries, for example
The Heceta Head Lighthouse on the California Coast
California Coast Wildlife
The guide will definitely appeal to those who - like us - love the wildlife we see on our journeys up and down the Pacific Coast Highway. Dotted throughout the book are numerous full-page features which cover subjects like the Northern Elephant Seal, Monarch Butterflies, the Southern Sea Otter, Tidepools, Clams, Shellfish, Sharks, Seabirds, Shorebirds and Waterfowl, and the California Gray Whale. All of these are in-depth looks at the creatures that live on or just off the coast, and will add a great deal to your journey through California.
Young Northern Elephant Seal
National Parks, State Parks, State Beaches
As this is an official publication, you’d expect it to be good on state facilities - and it is. It includes full details (including maps, facilities, phone numbers) for all the California coast’s National Parks, Recreation Areas, State Parks, State Beaches, Marine Sanctuaries, Natural Reserves, Natural Preserves, and Natural Refuges. For anyone who likes visiting any of these places, the book is invaluable.
Russian Gulch State Park
Some Dated Details
Inevitably in a book this old, some of the information is dated. I certainly wouldn’t reply on the opening hours, for example! Very few websites are listed, of course. Places like the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Scripps Institute in La Jolla have changed a lot in ten years.
One notable omission is the place we always stop at when driving the Pacific Coast Highway: the Piedras Blancas Beach, just north of Hearst Castle. This is where the elephant seals gather, to mate and give birth, and it’s one of the most thrilling sights anywhere along the west coast of the USA. But the seals only started arriving here in 1990, and the first edition of this book was published way back in 1981. It looks like it hasn’t been updated properly, as you can’t ignore this rookery of up to 17,000 elephant seals if you’re describing the California coast.
Elephant Seals at Piedras Blancas Beach
Photo (c) Donna Dailey
There’s no entry for Piedras Blancas in the index. There isn’t even an entry for elephant seals - you have to look under Northern elephant seals to find the page devoted to these amazing creatures, and not every reader might know they’re called Northern elephant seals.
Piedras Blancas might be excluded because it isn’t a State Beach, but the California Coastal Access Guide is so much about wildlife that this very special place ought to be in there. Next edition, anyone?
Bixby Bridge on the California Coast
California Coast Guide Verdict
Despite some of the information being slightly dated, we still thoroughly recommend this guide for your Pacific Coast Highway drive if you are at all interested in wildlife, walking, scenery, or any other natural aspect of this fabulous stretch of coast.
This review is of the 2003 edition of the guide. There is now an updated and improved edition.
Other books pages
Pacific Coast Highway Travel's guide to the most scenic spots on the Pacific Coast Highway in California with Big Sur, Bixby Bridge and Pfeiffer Beach.
Monterey in California is off the Pacific Coast Highway and home to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Cannery Row, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Monterey State Historic Park.
The Best Coast is a west coast travel guide, sub-titled A Road Trip Atlas it doesn't use photos but instead has hundreds of beautiful illustrations.
California Living and Eating by Eleanor Maidment is a handsome coffee table book celebrating the food and lifestyle of the Golden State with 80 tasty recipes.
Dana Point in California is the official start or end of the Pacific Coast Highway, and its attractions include whale watching, and Doheny State Beach.
Greetings from California is a beautiful coffee-table book which describes the legends, landmarks and lore of California, including the Pacific Coast Highway.
Books About the Pacific Coast Highway in California, Oregon and Washington including travel guidebooks, route guides, restaurant guides, and many more.
Santa Monica in California is famous for its pier, and beaches, and is one of the best west coast vacation spots, with hotels, restaurants, surfing, museums.
The Napa and Sonoma Guidebook to California Wine Country is from the Moon Handbooks’ travel guide series with reviews of wineries,vineyards, and wine tastings.
The Pacific Coast Highway in California book shows in historic photos the building of the Pacific Coast Highway from its earliest beginnings in 1911.
This John Steinbeck California Guide, A Journey into Steinbeck's California, shows readers how towns like Monterey, Carmel and Salinas influenced the author.
Pacific Coast Highway Travel reviews the Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip guide from Moon covering California, Oregon and Washington
Northwest Wine Country is a food and wine lover's guide to vineyards, fine dining, accommodation, restaurants in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, British Columbia.
101 free San Francisco attractions and things to do are in the Kindle guide, 101 Free Things to Do in San Francisco, in the Travel Free eGuidebooks series.
This Visiting Hearst Castle page gives all the practicalities including location, types of tour, length of tours, how long to allow, and much more information.
West Coast Road Eats is a road food guide covering the Pacific Coast from California through Oregon to Washington, giving the best road trip food stops.
Brewpubs and good beer are at the heart of the Good Beer Guide to the West Coast USA which lists the best bars and breweries from Seattle to San Diego.
Encinitas is a beach city in Southern California, famous for surfing, and regularly chosen as one of the best places to live in both California and the USA.
The Santa Barbara Guidebook from Moon Handbooks also covers California’s Central Coast with Ventura, San Luis Obispo, wine country, and Hearst Castle.
Pacific Coast Highway Travel reviews an Olympic Peninsula Travel Guide published by the Beautiful Pacific Northwest website.
There are lots of free things to do on the Pacific Coast Highway and here's our list of ten of them including wildlife, the best free views, and free museums.
Epic Drives of the World from Lonely Planet describes 50 of the world's most exciting road trips, including, of course, the Pacific Coast Highway.
Lonely Planet's Coastal California guidebook is the ideal travel guide for driving or cycling the Pacific Coast Highway from the Oregon border to Mexico.
Whale watching in California is one of the most popular things to do along the Pacific Coast Highway, in places like San Diego, San Francisco and many more.
Bodega Bay is a small California coastal town on the borders of Marin County and Sonoma County, and the filming location for Alfred Hitchcock's the Birds.
May 10, 23 09:47 AM
A food and drink expert charts the perfect course from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
Apr 26, 23 10:07 AM
California is home to some of the most diverse and beautiful natural landscapes in the world, making it a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. The state of California offers a wide range of outdoor activiti…
Apr 25, 23 11:08 AM
The latest study by Upgraded Points sets gas cars against electric vehicles to see which vehicle is truly the most economical on five American road trips. Examining the time and fuel costs along iconi…