The Go List

Take a Break: 5 Surf Road Trips

The best part of a summer surf road trip? The real riding begins after you park the car.

Take a Break: 5 Surf Road Trips

Road trips are fun. Summer surf road trips are even better, especially when you've got options up and down both coasts. Photo: Onfokus/iStock

Grab your camper, a longboard for the small days, and some SPF 50 as you bask in every glorious moment of these summer surf road trips. Most can be done in a few days, but by all means, hang in each spot for as long as you want.

Northern California

  Photo: herby_fr/Flickr

Santa Cruz to Bolinas
Distance: 101 miles, one way
Time Needed: 1 to 2 days
Bring: 4/3 wetsuit, booties

Start with the south swell magnets in Santa Cruz County, like Pleasure Point and Steamer Lane, which pull in some mighty fine summer surf. Before heading north on the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1), check out the extensive board-building culture in Santa Cruz, which includes Stretch, Haut, Noë, and Pearson Arrow. Highway 1 heads north and becomes 101 as it crosses the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Exit the freeway in Mill Valley to rejoin Highway 1, which rounds Mount Tamalpais and passes the giant redwoods of Muir Woods. Continue on to Bolinas, which has stellar longboard waves in the summer and sits on the southern end of Point Reyes National Seashore. A bit more bonus driving up the PCH won‘t yield more surf, but 18 miles north of Bolinas, you can snag fresh oysters at one of the many restaurants lining the shores of Tomales Bay

Southern California

  Photo: AMaleki/Flickr

Ventura to San Diego
Distance: 188 miles, one way
Time Needed: 2 to 3 days
Bring: 3/2 wetsuit

As the storms spin above Antarctica, they send groundswell to the exposed breaks of Southern California. C Street is the main point break in Ventura and pulls in waves throughout the summer months. After some fish tacos at Spencer Makenzie’s, take the Pacific Coast Highway south, flanked by the Santa Monica Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, to the iconic right point break of Malibu. The highway crawls through Los Angeles into Newport Beach, home of the formidable Wedge. In Dana Point, hop onto I-5, which continues to San Diego. Be sure to exit at San Onofre State Beach for a session at Lower Trestles, one of the best waves on the West Coast and an annual stop on surfing’s World Championship Tour


  Photo: Kevin N. Murphy/Flickr

Seattle to Oysterville
Distance: 185 miles, one way
Time Needed: 2 to 3 days
Bring: 5/4 wetsuit, booties, gloves, hood, 4x4

Dank winters give way to long summer days on Washington’s coastline. Westport has the closest surf to Seattle, but its proximity to the city draws major crowds throughout the summer months. To dodge the hordes, head to the Long Beach Peninsula and its 20 miles of uncrowded sandy beach breaks. From the center of Washington’s metropolis, drive south on I-5 to Highway 107, which connects to Highway 101 and skirts the southern end of Olympic National Forest. Highway 101 hits Seaview on the southern end of the Long Beach Peninsula. Beach driving is permitted on the 13.5 miles from Long Beach to Surfside Estates, so a four-wheel drive will allow you to cruise along the coast and find a personal wave. After a surf, refuel with fresh local seafood at Nanci and Jimella’s Cafe, just south of Oysterville. 

New England

  Photo: Liliana/Flickr

Hampton, NH, to Portland, ME 
Distance: 72 miles, one way
Time Needed: 1 to 2 days
Bring: 3/2 wetsuit, longboard

Though New England’s best season for waves runs from late summer through spring, the coastal towns in New Hampshire and Maine come alive during the summer, with average daytime air and water temperatures reaching into the 70s. The Wall is the most consistent surf spot in Hampton, New Hampshire, and its close proximity to Boston makes it one of the most popular breaks along New Hampshire’s 13-mile coastline. Cinnamon Rainbows Surf Co. sits at the north end of the break and offers surfboard rentals and lessons. Drive north on U.S. Route 1 to Maine’s Ogunquit Beach, which consistently pulls in small waves even during July and August. On the way to Portland, the beaches in Scarborough and Kennebunk also provide mellow waves in the heart of the New England summer.


  Photo: Kevin N. Murphy/Flickr

Juno to New Smyrna
Distance: 173 miles, one way
Time Needed: 1 to 2 days
Bring: Board shorts, longboard

South Florida has some of the best waves on the East Coast, and though summer can leave surfers gnawing their leashes waiting for waves, there are still occasional swells. Start at Juno Pier (90 minutes north of Miami), which offers some of the most consistent surf along the coast. Follow Highway A1A north along Florida’s barrier islands, and stop in Sebastian Inlet, which has one of the highest-performance waves on the Atlantic Coast. Tent camping is available at Sebastian Inlet State Park. Farther north, A1A hits Cocoa Beach, hometown of 11-time surfing world champ Kelly Slater. From the lineup, you might see a rocket shoot into orbit from the Kennedy Space Center in neighboring Cape Canaveral. Keep going north and hit New Smyrna Beach, home to the Ponce de León Inlet, where jetties on the south end produce many sandbars that break on a wide swell window.

Filed To: Travel, Surfing, The Go List

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