1. Travel
Send to a Friend via Email

Driving California's Malibu Coast

Santa Monica to Oxnard on California Highway One

clr gif

 


©2009 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

Distance: 49 miles
Driving Time:1 to 1.5 hours, depending on traffic and how often you stop

From our nominal starting point of I-405 and I-10 in Santa Monica, you'll be going north. Take I-10 west to its end, then turn north onto Hwy 1.

If you're going south, you'll be on the ocean side of the highway, with better views. It's also easier to make a beach or photo stop because you won't have to cross traffic. Just reverse the directions below, exiting US Hwy 101 at Harbor Blvd. in Ventura or taking CA Hwy 1 south through Oxnard.

Traffic is busiest on weekends, but it never hurts to check. Local radio station KNX (1070 AM) gives frequent traffic reports.

Between Santa Monica and Oxnard, California Highway One follows the sliver of land that separates the Santa Monica Mountains from the Pacific Ocean, along the edge of the continent. For more than half of the distance, it runs through the town of Malibu.

Except for its extraordinary views and multi-million-dollar mansions, Malibu is a small town with little to interest tourists. The nicest part of the drive is between Malibu Canyon Road and Mugu Rock, with plenty of opportunity for gawking, whether it's at the scenery or the hillside homes. In other spots, and especially in the more commercial parts of Malibu just north of Santa Monica, oceanfront residences obscure the seaward view.

You'll find plenty of nice beaches along the way, good spots for a picnic or a walk. State Parks charge an entrance fee that may seem a bit steep for a quick stop, but areas marked Beach Access are free (albeit without amenities).

A little north of Mugu Rock, Hwy 1 turns inland, running about 10 miles through Oxnard to connect with US Hwy 101. Instead of slavishly following Hwy 1 to reach US Hwy 101, try this: Turn left off Hwy 1 onto W. Channel Islands Blvd. Near the Channel Islands Harbor, the road curves and merges into Harbor Blvd. Follow it north and you'll connect with US Hwy 101.

Points of Interest

  • Getty Villa: The original Getty Museum now focuses on their antiquities collection, which is quite impressive, but the detailed recreation of a Roman-era villa they're housed in is a work of art by itself. No admission fee, but reservations required and parking fee.

Side Trips

Take any of these roads away from the ocean for a scenic trip across the Santa Monica Mountains to US Hwy 101. They're listed in order from south to north.

  • Sunset Boulevard: It winds past Will Rogers State Park (which includes the home of the famous comedian), through Brentwood, Westwood and Beverly Hills, ending in Hollywood.

  • Topanga Canyon Boulevard: A busy 12 miles across to US Hwy 101, but pretty and scenic on the western end.

  • Malibu Canyon Road: Fans of the television program M*A*S*H. may also want to stop at Malibu Creek State Park, where the show's opening and many of its outdoor scenes were filmed. Further along, you can stop to see the beautiful Hindu Venkateswara Temple at 1600 Las Virgenes (the road's name changes as it crests the Santa Monica Mountains). It's open to everyone as long as you're respectful, dress modestly (no shorts or tank tops) and take off your shoes and hat.
  • Kanan Dume Road: It's only 12 miles across to US Hwy 101 (the closest place from the Hwy 1 intersection to get gasoline) and compared to other roads in the area, it's pretty straight.
To make this trip into a day's loop drive, turn off Hwy 1 onto Mulholland Hwy (which is not the same as road as Mullholland Drive), following it east through the Santa Monica Mountains to Topanga Canyon Blvd., where you can go back to CA Hwy 1 (right turn) or connect with US Hwy 101 (left). Along the way, you'll pass Paramount Ranch, an old "movie ranch" filming location once owned by... Paramount Studios.

Primary Needs

Food is easy to find along this stretch of highway. Although they don't serve the best cuisine on the planet, we like the ambiance at Paradise Cove. Further north, Neptune's Net is a classic seafood shack with nice outdoor tables.

You'll find gasoline in the main part of Malibu, but there are no stations between there and Oxnard.

Driving the Coast on Highway One

If you're going north, Continue driving on US 101 to Santa Barbara.

If you're going south, Highway One continues as a city street, going south through the Los Angeles beach cities, then through Orange County before merging with I-5 near Dana Point.

Driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco

On US 101 On Highway One On I-5 Other Ways to Travel from SF to LA

 
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.
Related Video
Redondo Beach's King's Harbor and Pier

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.