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Running right along the beach, the Pacific Coast Highway (Hwy-1) heads south from Oxnard around the rocky headland of Point Mugu (ma-GOO), where the U.S. Navy operates a missile testing center and the Santa Monica Mountains rise steeply out of the Pacific Ocean. Most of these chaparral-covered granite mountains have been protected as parkland, with hiking, cycling, and riding trails offering grand views and a surprising amount of solitude. Before or after a hike in the hills (or a Harley ride along the coast, the preferred mode of arrival), the ramshackle Neptune’s Net restaurant (310/457-3095) at 42505 Pacific Coast Highway is a great place to hang out and “star”-gaze while enjoying fresh seafood, served up on paper plates for that down-home Hollywood feel.

  South from here, a series of state-owned beaches mark your progress along the coastal road, but this stretch is basically natural wilderness—apart from the highway, of course. Biggest and best of the beaches hereabouts is the lovely Leo Carrillo State Beach, which has a sandy strand, some great tidepools, and a sycamore-shaded campground (800/444-7275).

  South of Leo Carrillo, which marks the Los Angeles County line, there are many more public beach areas, including (in roughly north-to-south order) Nicholas Canyon County Beach, El Pescador, El Matador (where episodes of TV’s Baywatch have been filmed), and big, brash Zuma Beach, where the highway bends inland.

Pacific Coast: Santa Barbara to San Diego map

Pacific Coast Route Detail: Santa Barbara to San Diego

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