This is probably one of the most common (and highly recommended) trips one can take in California driving on PCH or Hwy 1 up or down the coast. It is also probably one of the most beautiful stretches of the coastline in the world. I did this trip over 20 years ago and couldn't believe I didn't repeat it sooner! I guess in your 20's you are less impressed by natural beauty than in your 40's
At least my 6 yo was hugely impressed by the elephant seals on the beach and by the sea otters so he wants to go back already.
Since there are most definitely dozens of colorful descriptions of this trip out there already, I will just mention a couple of things.
First, if you would like to camp right next to the waves, I mean I could literally cast a line from my camping spot or throw a shoe into the waves, check out a series of little known Ventura
County beaches just north of Ventura
city, which is roughly 70 miles north of LA. We stayed at Hobson Beach, and sheer proximity to the waves was amazing.
If you like to camp ON the beach, you can do that at Pismo Beach, where people literally drive on the sand in their vehicles and RVs. We did not attempt that as I was slightly concerned about our Toyota Sienna's ability to navigate sand dunes with Casita
in the tow. But we saw a bunch of Winnebagos who didn't seem perturbed. I also saw a BMW SUV being pulled out by a Jeep Wrangler, so. I put a mental mark to return there when my son is ATV riding age, as it is apparently an ATV Mecca of CA. For the time being we were very content staying at Pismo Beach Oceano campground. For those not familiar with CA day-night temperature fluctuations, bring a sweater! Nights at Pismo beach are very cool even in the midst of summer.
Finally, our destination camp at Pfeiffer Big Sur was an amazing, text-book perfect campground in the Redwoods grove, complete with a stream running through the camp, deer at our site, very mild temperatures and plenty of shade. You will need to reserve 6 mos ahead, like we did, but it is worth it. Carmel and Monterey less than an hour away but awesome day-trip destinations, and you get to drive over Bixby Bridge every time. Frankly, I could've just stayed at the campground for the whole week, though.
Now we are back to 95 F in LA and Big Sur seems like a dream, which I won't wait for another 20 year to repeat. In fact, we are already discussing camps near Santa Cruz for next summer