Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea, California audio tour: California Coast Driving Tour: From Carmel by the Sea to Santa Cruz

California Coast Driving Tour: From Carmel by the Sea to Santa Cruz

Driving Tour

120 mins

About the Tour

Take in the picturesque splendor of the coast, its forested interior and patchwork of agricultural fields on a driving tour along Highway 1.

Starting in charming Carmel-by-the-Sea, our route heads north toward Monterey Drive, mostly hugging the coast, all the way to Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. You’ll exit the freeway periodically to drive through picturesque towns that you’d otherwise miss like Fort Ord, Castroville, Moss Landing, Aptos, and Capitola.

Along the way, you’ll hear about:

• California’s early Native American history

• Carmel and Santa Cruz Mission
• The early pioneers of Monterey and Santa Cruz, and these counties’ agriculture
• The history of Fort Ord
• Aptos and Capitola, and other early Californian beachside communities
• Santa Cruz’s Victorian architecture

There’ll be an opportunity to visit three state parks, with all fees for entrance, parking and beaches charged separately. If you’re unable to visit one or more of the state parks for any reason, you can always listen to the relevant section after the tour by choosing the Virtual option. For more detailed information about these stops please see “Places to stop along the way” in the tour description, where we’ve listed current prices, optional park hikes, as well as extra places to visit that are nearby but not included in this driving tour.

This roughly 55-mile long driving tour can be completed in under two hours if you drive at the speed limit, without making any stops. On the other hand, this is your adventure. Stop wherever, whenever, and for as long as you want. It’s up to you.

Tour Producer


Lynn Momboisse

Hi! My name is Lynn and I am a native of California and have resided in Northern California for most of my life. For many years I lived in beautiful Carmel-by-the-Sea where I co-authored the book Historic Homes and Inns of Carmel-by-the-Sea. My love of history and passion for discovering the beauty of the Golden State has led me to create a fun little blog titled "Adventures of a Home Town Tourist" where I recount many of my walking tours and hiking adventures throughout the world. I currently live in the majestic Sierra Foothills and will be exploring and writing about my adventures throughout this gorgeous country. And now I'll be able to further share my travels with you through the power of the new VoiceMap tour app. I can't wait for you to join me. Happy Adventures!

How VoiceMap Works

Focus on your surroundings, not the screen

VoiceMap’s audio tour app uses GPS to play audio automatically, at the right time and place. Just install it, then download your tour and go to the starting point to begin your walk, drive, cycle, train trip or even boat ride.

Follow a route with turn-by-turn-directions

Tours follow a route from a fixed starting point. This is how we provide turn-by-turn directions. It also helps publishers tell a story greater than the sum of its parts. But you can use Resume to pick up a tour from the closest location whenever you like.

Listen as many times as you like

You can listen to your tours as often as you like using both the VoiceMap app and the VoiceMap website. Your access to tours doesn’t expire.

Take virtual tours anywhere

Just select Virtual mode in the VoiceMap app to listen to tours at home – or anywhere else. You’ll see the option after you download the tour. You can also listen to the whole tour here on the website.

Buy for less on and sync

Once you’ve purchased a tour, it’s added to your VoiceMap library. If you sign into the app using the same method you used on the website, you’ll have access to your full library of tours in both places.

Use VoiceMap offline

The VoiceMap app works entirely offline if there’s no data connection, so you don’t have to pay roaming fees. Just download the tour over WiFi before you get started.

Major Landmarks

  • Carmel Mission Ranch Hotel

  • Carmel Mission Basilica

  • Carmel-by-the-Sea

  • Fort Ord Dunes State Park

  • Pazzini Farms

  • Forest of Nisene Marks State Park

  • Seacliff State Beach

  • Aptos

  • Venetian Court Capitola

  • Santa Cruz Mission State Park

  • Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

  • Santa Cruz Municipal Pier

Directions to Starting Point

Mission Ranch located at 26270 Dolores St, Carmel-By-The-Sea

From Downtown Carmel-by-the-Sea

Turn left off of Ocean Avenue onto Dolores. Dolores ends in the parking lot for Mission Ranch Hotel at 26270 Dolores St, Carmel-By-The-Sea.

From Carmel Highlands

Travel north on Highway 1. Turn left onto Rio Road, pass the Carmel Mission Basilica and turn left at the next intersection, Lasuen Drive. Follow Lausen around it will turn into Dolores. Stay on Dolores just a short distance to Mission Ranch at 26270 Dolores St, Carmel-By-The-Sea.

From Monterey

Travel south on Highway 1. Turn right onto Rio Road, pass the Carmel Mission Basilica and turn left at the next intersection, Lasuen Drive. Follow Lausen around it will turn into Dolores. Stay on Dolores just a short distance to Mission Ranch at 26270 Dolores St, Carmel-By-The-Sea.

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Places to stop along the way

All opening and closing times and costs are subject to change. All stops are optional. All parking fees for state parks or towns are not included in the price of this driving tour.

View maps of all the hikes on this tour

CARMEL MISSION BASILICA (3080 Rio Road, Carmel-by-the-Sea) Store museum and Basilica open daily 9:30 am to 4:45 pm (Cost to tour Mission Basilica and Grounds $10 per person) Park along Lasuen Drive to visit the Carmel Mission Basilica.

FORT ORD DUNES STATE PARK (8th Street Crossing at Highway 1 in Marina) Park Hours 8 am to sunset – currently there is no fee for this park (optional ½ mile hike of former Fort Ord artillery range – easy hike)

FOREST OF NISENE MARKS STATE PARK (Aptos Creek Road, Aptos) Open daily sunrise to sunset. Day use fees $8 per vehicle – this fee allows for re-entry to all State Parks and Beaches such as Seacliff, Natural Bridges, and Wilder Ranch for that day only unless there is a park closure. (optional Old Growth Loop Trail - 1 ½ mile loop views of old growth coast redwood – moderate hike)

SEACLIFF STATE BEACH (State Park Drive, Aptos) Open daily 8 am to sunset. Day use fees $10 per vehicle – this fee allow for re-entry to all State Parks and Beaches such as Forest of Nisene Marks, Natural Bridges, and Wilder for that day only unless there is a park closure. (optional ½ mile hike to view Seacliff Beach and S. S. Palo Alto – hike includes stairs)

PARKING FOR CAPITOLA AT BEACH AND VILLAGE PARKING LOT (426 Capitola Avenue, Capitola) $.50 per hour. (optional 1 ¼ walk of downtown Capitola to view shops, restaurants, wharf, historic Venetian Court hotel and Capitola Museum – easy walk) Capitola Historical Museum (410 Capitola Avenue, Capitola) Open Thursday to Sunday 12 pm to 4 pm – free admission

GAYLE'S BAKERY & ROSTICCERIA (504 Bay Avenue, Capitola CA) 831.462.1200

SANTA CRUZ BEACH BOARDWALK PARKING (400 Beach Street, Santa Cruz) $5 (from here visit the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center – level easy walk) MONTEREY BAY NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY EXPLORATION CENTER (35 Pacific Avenue, Santa Cruz) open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 am to 5pm, free - SANTA CRUZ BEACH BOARDWALK (400 Beach Street, Santa Cruz) admission free but fee for rides.

To return to Highway 1 from Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Parking Lot: Exit the parking area by turning right onto Cliff Street then left onto Second, right onto Center Street and left onto Laurel Street to Highway 1.

To return to Highway 1 from Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk: If you do not enter the parking area continue straight on Beach Street, turn left on Third Street, right on Riverside Avenue, left on San Lorenzo Blvd., and left on Laurel Street to Highway 1.


SANTA CRUZ MISSION STATE PARK (144 School Street) Mission and museum open Monday, Thursday – Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm. Free parking but donations accepted. Find more information here

SANTA CRUZ SURFING MUSEUM (701 W Cliff Drive) open Thursday through Monday Noon to 4 pm, free. For more information visit here

NATURAL BRIDGES STATE PARK (end of W Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz) open 8 am to sunset daily, Day use fees $10 per vehicle – this fee allow for re-entry to all State Parks and Beaches such as Forest of Nisene Marks, and Seacliff for that day only unless there is a park closure. For more information and a map visit this site

Best time of day

This area along the California coast is beautiful just about any time of year. However if you have an option of when to plan your trip, the best months to visit are spring months for wildflowers in April and May or the fall months of September and October. The summer months of June through August are the most crowded and the winter months can bring an abundance of rain which at times closes down parts of the coastal highway.

Best time of day to travel is to start early in the morning as parking in some areas can fill up at the day goes on, especially during the busy summer months or on holidays.


Obey the speed limit and any California Transportation workers instructions.

If you park and leave your car for any reason, cover all your valuables, securely lock your car doors and take your keys with you. Cars ARE broken into often so it is best to take ALL valuables with you.

If you take any of the optional hikes along the way, stay on the paths and be careful as you walk as the paths are uneven. Avoid touching poison oak which is prevalent near most paths.

IMPORTANT: Whenever you visit a beach along this driving tour, we STRONGLY recommend that you stay out of the water and never turn your back on the waves. Enjoy the beauty of our beaches from the sand. Remember, if you venture to the water’s edge do what locals do and never turn your back to the sea!


Search for VoiceMap Audio Tour on the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. Download the free App. Sign Up for a new account with your email and a password of your choice, go to the Explore option/Monterey Peninsula and purchase the tour you are interested in. Download the tour while you have good WiFi coverage. Click on the gear icon on the lower right corner and put the tour into yd/mi mode and turn off Tour Player Autolock and Audio Lost Alert. Then, select the Account option, select the tour you are going to take and read the information in the About option in the upper right. If you need directions to the starting point select Directions. It will open up another window in Apple Maps. You will need to close that window or use your phones interface to go back to the VoiceMap app to start the tour.

Go to your starting point, press start and follow the instructions of the narrator. Place your phone in a hands free holder on your car dashboard as there is a map on your screen that will show our travel route.

We also suggest that you have your phone plugged into an external charging port so that your tour isn’t interrupted by a dead battery.

You may pause this tour at any time using the pause button and resume it at any of the locations along the tour. If you decide stop along the way and take a meal break, or take one of the optional hikes, you should exit your tour by pressing the End Tour downward facing arrow on the top right, then just restart it from the closest location by restarting the tour using the Resume button. It will start at the closest stop.


This tour is a photographer paradise. Using the Video setting on your phone will shut down the VoiceMap app (and every other open app) and you will need to reload your tour. So, if you are using your phone for photos, try to use the Photo setting.


Loved this tour! So informative and historical, and the directions were extremely helpful! Thanks so much!

Posted by Anonymous Explorer , 6 months ago

Excelent tour!

Posted by Anonymous Explorer , 8 months ago
Preview mode limited to first 3 locations.
California Coast Driving Tour: From Carmel by the Sea to Santa Cruz