Driving PCH with a Kayak on Car

Hey paddlers,

I’m about to move south, and I’m considering driving down with my kayak on my car instead of sending it with the movers-- I’m seeking advice from those experienced with long drives with a kayak on the roof, especially if you’ve driven parts of PCH between Monterey and Santa Barbara.

I’ve got a 10’ touring kayak and a Thule saddle rack. My honda accord didn’t have bars on top, so I’ve got the Thule bars on top as well. I tie down the kayak with two thule straps that have toothed metal clamps, and I tie down the nose with a strap that hooks to the underside of my front left bumper, about a foot in front of the car.

I maintain it well, no loose straps hanging, and I check the roof bar every time I use it, tightening the screws as necessary.

How concerned should I be about the trip? How are the winds on PCH between Monterey and Santa Barbara? What are some warning signs that your kayak isn’t secure-- indicators that cause you to pull over and check your kayak? Any tips you might have are greatly appreciated!

should be fine
Assuming you are comfortable taking the kayak on a freeway, it will be fine on the PCH. The PCH isn’t really any different (and in many ways, better for car-topping, as it is less windy than stretches of I-5 and you are generally going a little slower).

Done this many times
With 2 17 foot boats atop a Civic. Keep the ties maintained and a bow line for security and you will have no problems.


you should be fine
Check your tie-downs and the part where the saddles connect to the rack periodically.

if you hear
catastrophic noises or see a kayak that looks just like yours tumbling off behind you, stop and tighten your straps.

Watch the
bow tie-down line as you are driving. If it shows any slack or changes angle (left or right) stop and check the kayak.

I would suggest a stern tie-down also if you can manage it. Having both bow and stern line prevents twisting motion which can be caused by strong side-gusts from passing trucks. Of course with a 10ft boat this is much less of a problem than with a 17ft kayak so two lines is not so much a big deal.


Enjoy the trip …
Take some breaks and stop at the overlooks.

I think the Bixby Bridge overlook is one of the best.

Also my favorite spots to visit:

Pfeiffer Beach and San Dollar Beach, Little Pico Creek a way further south is great for surfing. Jalama County park is also worth a visit, beautiful remote beach. Watch for really serious surf and great whites, if you go in the water.

pussy run !
drive down from Garbervile thru Westport, Petrolia, Shelter Cove. Try the backroad into Garbervile or Manchester…

Exercise care passing thru Santa Cruz.

Road south of Half Moon could be windy.

The natives are capable but I dunno about tourists of which you are one ?

Check the tires and gas.

STOP and enjoy the scenery, air, ambience.


and camp overnight, walk.

I stop at Plaskett. very nice. Cash only.


Yeah I’m hoping the slower speed will be helpful… I’ve driven at 75, 80 without a problem

I’ll definitely check out Bixby Bridge, looks like a great place to stop! Jalama Beach would be pretty convenient, too… thanks for the tips!

Good suggestions!

– Last Updated: Oct-07-14 4:02 AM EST –

I'm planning on spending a night or two in Big Sur, I'm looking forward to enjoying some paddling near Plaskett.

I’ve driven
the entire PCH along the California coast and I have to agree. There are countless places where the views are so spectacular, it takes the breath away. You won’t hit the really challenging stretches of road north of Point Reyes, but some of the most beautiful shoreline is found there.

Yeah, large stretches are pretty much inaccessible, and the weather is dicey and foggy for much of the year, but on those gorgeous clear days that occur about this time of year, more beautiful coastal views cannot be found.

South of Monterey (Carmel, really), it’s just gorgeous coastline :).