Take Time to See Purple Irises on Shoreline Highway, California


California’s country roads are a delight for us freeway drivers. Once you get out of the Bay Area and head north on Highway 1 (which is called Shoreline Highway in that location,) the scenery takes on rich green tones, and the road begins to curve back & forth, somewhat parallel to the Pacific Ocean. While many recommend driving on the faster, inland Route 101, the scenery doesn’t compare to the oceanside drive. For sight-seeing, you owe it to yourself to take the slower path.

Views of the ocean and scenic bays along Highway 1 offer many great places to stop and take a look. Little towns along the route such as Pt. Reyes Station and Bodega Bay include convenience stores, restaurants, small gas stations, post offices, hotels and some houses.

If you’re in a hurry to get to a particular destination, be sure to read the driving time estimates which often under-report how long it can take. You may only be traveling 100 miles but on the Shoreline Highway, it can take a really long time to get there, thanks to the nature of the trip–2 lane roads, narrow turns, slower speed limits, and stop signs. Often there’s fog, mist or rain, providing extra challenges for those of us who don’t know what lies ahead as newcomers to this unique terrain.

Sometimes you’ll see cars pulled over with people stopping to take pictures, or you may see a bicyclist in your lane as you veer around a turn. The cows roam free next to the highway, too, and there are warning signs to look out for cattle passing over the highway. With all this to think about, maybe you wish you were back on the 101 or even faster Interstate 5 where traffic speeds along at a faster clip–around 75 mph.


Relax, drive slow, breathe deep, and enjoy this scenic part of the California coast. There’s no place like it anywhere–it’s very special and unforgettable. One of my favorite vistas on Shoreline Highway is between Schooner Gulch Road and Moat Creek shown in the photo. You’re often the only driver on the road, so you can pull over to listen to the sounds of the country–birds mostly. Be sure to explore Point Arena just north of this location, where some buildings are 100 years or older. Point Arena is a quirky beach town with nature-loving residents who host hog & lamb BQQs and hemp festivals.

With the rocky coast and Point Arena Lighthouse always visible, purple irises dot green meadows along the drive to the light station, a real trip unto itself! The road narrows and posted signs warn about feeding the raccoons that come right up to you. On the sides of the road, deer munch on the tall, wild grasses. Allow yourself a full day of driving to enjoy this wild & woolly trip.


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