5 Stops You Must Make on Your Next HWY 1 Road Trip
I would consider myself fairly well traveled. I just feel the need to see the world and throw myself into different cultures and places. However, of all the places I have been, I still find the California coast to be one of the most beautiful in the world!
There’s no better way to view the California coast than a road trip up Highway 1. For those of you who don’t know, HWY 1 runs along most of the Pacific coastline. It is the longest state route at about 650 miles. Let me tell you, it is 650 miles of pure BEAUTY!
My boyfriend Jesse and I have embarked on the classic coastal California road trip up HWY 1 several times, and it never gets old! Every road trip we have taken up the California coast holds such a special place in my heart. It’s so much fun cruisin’ up the coast with the top of my Jeep off, seeing the most breathtaking coastal views, and enjoying each other’s company. If you’re in need of a romantic getaway, or just want to have a fun girls trip, this road trip is a must! I promise you will not be disappointed.
So here you have it, my five favorite stops along HWY 1:
1. 17-Mile Drive in Monterey
Jesse and I actually just stumbled upon the 17-mile drive while we were trying to find a route to drive from Monterey to Carmel. I am SO thankful we did because it was my favorite part of the entire road trip! The 17-mile drive is one of the most scenic drives in the world and extends along the Monterey Peninsula. It is home to Pebble Beach, iconic golf courses, and the famous lone cypress. Give yourself plenty of time for this scenic drive because you’re going to want to get out of the car and enjoy the view at every stop! I would also bring some food for a picnic because there are a ton of picnic tables overlooking the seaside. We enjoyed the nicest picnic right at sunset! FYI there is an entrance fee of $10 per car, but it is SO worth it!
2. Hearst Castle and the Elephant Seals in San Simeon
I included Hearst Castle and the Elephant Seals together because the elephant seals are just 4 miles North of Hearst Castle!
Hearst Castle is located in San Simeon and is right off of HWY 1! My first recommendation is to make an online reservation a few days in advance. On the way up we stopped at Hearst Castle, parked, and went inside to buy our ticket. The lady at the ticket counter literally laughed at us and said they were sold out days in advance. Luckily, they had tickets available for the day we were coming home, so we just stopped by then. Hearst Castle is a little on the touristy side, but it’s so unique and I think it is worth the stop! The pools, gardens, and architecture are so grand and lavish. I can just picture all the Hollywood stars from the 1940’s partying there. Book a tour, learn all about the history of Hearst Castle, enjoy the view, and you might even see a zebra wondering the grounds!
Ooooo I loved the elephant seals!! On the way there, Jesse was telling me that the elephant seals are as big as a car… and I was like yaaaa right. Well, turns out some of them are! They were SO big- especially the males.
We went in early January, and it was actually the elephant seals’ birthing season. There were hundreds of baby elephant seals everywhere, so cute! The seals don’t do much other than bask in the sun, make noise, and ignore you. But it’s so beautiful to see these giant creatures in their natural habitat. There are volunteers to help with any questions you might have, and the signs along the walkway were very informative.
3. Big Sur
Big Sur is hands down one of my favorite places in the world. It is 90 miles of raw beauty with the coast on one side and the redwoods on the other. I love Big Sur because it’s one of the few areas untouched by modern development. I feel like I am in a remote area, and I am one with Mother Nature. My heart is just so happy here! Yes, I know I sound cheesy, but I’m serious!
While stopping for gas and snacks, we stumbled upon Ragged Point (pictured below). This location has lodging, gas, nice restrooms, gardens, hiking trails, but most of all- amazing coastal views! Ragged Point was the perfect pit stop before entering Big Sur. Hang out in one of their lawn chairs, and enjoy the view!
Some must see stops in Big Sur are Bixby Creek Bridge (pictured above) and McWay Falls (pictured below). Besides that, I would recommend just going to with the flow in Big Sur! Cruise up the winding and turning roads, and pull over into the turn out points whenever you want to enjoy the view! We spent SO much time in Big Sur because we couldn't help but stop at practically every turn out point. We would get out of the car and Jesse would start scaling down the mountain to get a good view. I would be up at the top having a heart attack thinking he was going to plummet to his death!
Before arriving in Big Sur, we purchased some supplies for a picnic at a convenience store (FYI there are very few shops or gas stations in Big Sur so come prepared). We pulled over, and had a little picnic. It was so fun and romantic!
-Don’t drive at night. First of all you won't see the views, but the roads are also narrow and scary in the dark. I bought a sticker that said. “I survived HWY 1” after driving through Big Sur in the dark a few years back.
-Big Sur doesn’t have many places to stop for food/gas/amenities so come prepared. There are a few gas stations but they’re extremely expensive.
-There is little to no cell service in Big Sur
Solvang,is the most quaint Danish town in Santa Barbara county. If you have never seen Solvang, you must stop here! Grab a Danish pastry, walk around, shop, stop at a wine tasting room (If you're not the DD), and enjoy the architecture! We only stayed for a about a hour, but it was such a fun stop on our trip! We really enjoyed the Solvang Bakery!
While you're in Solvang, you must also stop at Ostrich Land! This place is so cool! It’s basically an ostrich and emu farm where you pay $5 to feed the giant birds. Let me tell you, they are vicious!! They pecked Jesse’s hand! It is such a unique and fun spot.
5. Pismo Beach
Pismo Beach is yet another coastal California beauty. It made such a strong impression on me because on our trip, we witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen here! The entire sky was lit up.
There is actually quite a lot to do in Pismo for it being such a small town! It’s a great place to grab lunch, or you can have it be a pit stop for the night like we did! If you find yourself here during the daytime, I would recommend getting a bowl of clam chowder at Splash café, soak up some sun on the beach, walk along the pier, check out the sand dunes, or go see the Monarch Butterfly Groves!
I hope this guide was helpful in planning your next getaway! HWY 1 is honestly so beautiful, you really can't go wrong in where you stop along the way. Sometimes it's fun just to get lost and stumble upon something beautiful!
Have fun on your road trip!