California Road Trip Trough Big Sur

Adele Fadier, France

Does the idea of a California road trip makes you dream? From Santa Barbara to Monterey you will discover all the best spots of the Pacific Coast, driving on Highway 1.

The California Coast is one of the most scenic coastal drives in the world. By this way you can discover all the California’s amazing natural life. Obviously, when you drive alongside the ocean you are going to see incredible places and views. That’s the upside of a road trip-you can stop everywhere you want. So, now I will show you the most famous spots of this Highway 1.

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After leaving Santa Barbara, your first official stop will be in San Simeon. In fact, this city located on California’s Central Coast offers drivers many reasons to stop and stay a while. San Simeon is home to 17,000 different animals, offering many opportunities to commune with wildlife and especially the elephant seals. Thousands of these sea mammals can be viewed sun bathing on a sandy beach or having a jolly good time in the water. The second famous place to visit in San Simeon is the Hearst Castle. It’s a National Historic Landmark which was a residence for newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst between 1919 and 1947. Actually many people come to visit this castle because of its amazing Roman architecture.

Then, you can continue on the road until you reach Sand Dollar Beach, which is the largest unbroken stretch of sand in Big Sur and is considered to be one of the best surfing spots in Big Sur. Visitors said Sand Dollar Beach is a beautiful and relaxing spot to lay out or have a picnic. The beach is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and it costs $10 to park your car, but another thing that is important to know is that swimming at Sand Dollar Beach is considered dangerous – so be careful.

sand dollar beach

22.1 miles later you will arrive to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. A main feature of the park is McWay Falls, which drops over a cliff of 80 feet (24 meters) into the Pacific Ocean. In the same area you will find the Henry Miller Memorial Library, a nonprofit arts center, bookstore, and performance venue, championing the late writer, artist, and Big Sur resident Henry Miller and other creative individuals living in or near Big Sur. But that’s not all, in this place you can also find the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and the Pfeiffer Beach. This state park is massive with several hiking trails, picnic grounds and watering holes where you can see picnickers swimming with joy. About the Pfeiffer Beach, I strongly recommend coming in just before sunrise so that you can have the beach all to yourself. Moreover, it’s an amazing place to take pictures of the sunset or sunrise thanks to the impressive rocks situated in front of the beach.

In the same area, there is Partington Cove which is a beautiful hike to take in Big Sur. As you make your way through a tunnel, you will start to see the beginning of one of the most beautiful coves you will ever see – the water is so clear you can see the kelp and what seems to be the ocean floor below.

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A few kilometers further you can find Point Sur Lighthouse. That’s the only complete light station open to the public in California and it offers you an amazing view of the Pacific Ocean.

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Then, you can continue your road until one of the most famous spot of the Big Sur, the Bixby Creek Bridge. It’s also one of the most photographed bridges in California due to its aesthetic design. It’s like a gate away to Big Sur.

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Now we arrive at the last area of this road trip, Monterey County, but don’t worry there are still many beautiful places to discover.

First, Garrapata State Park, an unknown Big Sur jewel – it’s a treasure to those who have discovered it. Garrapata State Park’s unpopulated hiking trails provide access to both the beautiful Big Sur coastline and the breathtaking Santa Lucia Mountains. So, you can’t miss it!

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After this, you can go to Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. This place is outstanding for sightseeing, photography, painting, nature study, picnicking, scuba diving, and jogging. The offshore area forms one of the richest underwater habitats in the world popular with divers. Wildlife includes seals, sea lions, sea otters and migrating gray whales. In this reserve you ought to go to China Cove and Gibson Beach, two amazing places to enjoy the view and the wildlife.

Point Lobos State Reserve at Highway 1 in California

Then, we will arrive at the penultimate city of this road trip called Carmel-by-the-Sea. Carmel is known for its natural scenery and rich artistic history. Here you can visit all the pretty streets of the city and the famous Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo.

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Finally, we will arrive at Monterey, the last place of this road trip. This is one of the most beautiful coastal cities of California. It was originally the state capital of California but today it is best known for its beautiful coastline, its world-class aquarium and from the many John Steinbeck novels set there.

As a conclusion, Big Sur will offer you an amazing road trip to discover the California central coast trough the Highway 1. Do not hesitate to stop whenever you want to enjoy the view or the atmosphere of a place. Let appreciate the nature and the wildlife without human intervention. So enjoy it, but be respectful of all the places you will visit. Another important thing to know is that you have to work on your itinerary before you go. Sometimes, some parts of the Highway can be closed for any reasons, so it’s better to be informed in time.

You can find below a video of a road trip in Big Sur with some places to sleep and to eat.

Enjoy your trip!

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