When my friend Cathy and I decided to take a weekend trip down to California’s Central Coast, there was no question which way we would go–the long way down Highway 1 through Big Sur.
California’s Highway 1 is the state’s most famous drive, and one of the most famous road trip routes in the world. The stretch that goes through Big Sur is one of the most dramatic. It twists and turns with views of jagged rocky outcrops, the coastal Santa Lucia mountains and wide open cliffs. I did this drive with a friend from college before I moved here, and it’s one of the reasons I fell in love with California. Indeed, I think it’s one of the reasons most visitors doing this road trip fall in love with California.
Leaving from our home in San Jose, we drove through the green hills of Santa Clara and San Benito County.
We made one quick stop in Pacific Grove (south of Monterey) to check out Happy Girl Kitchen. I’ve bought their produce and famous pickles at local farmers markets, but had never been down to their cafe. My friend Jenna raved about it after her last visit to Monterey. They specialize in fermented foods and baked goods so I snacked on a variety of fresh pickles, a fruity kombucha, and homebaked bread.
We stopped in a little town just north of Big Sur to fill up the gas tank before heading into the core of the drive–it’s sparsely populated and there aren’t many service stations, so that is always recommended. Out behind the gas station, there was this quirky snack stand built in an old school bus.
And after that, it was on to Big Sur coastline, a beautiful sight, but especially on a sunny day. Last time I did this drive, the area was socked in with fog, so it was great to see it clear.
The water was so blue!
We stopped dozens of times to take pictures of the scenic cliffs and coastal bridges…
Sadly, the dogs spent those dozens of photo stops in the car looking like this…
Reminding us that this is an active and changing zone, a few stretches had wire nets hanging up to prevent damage if there is a rock slide.
About halfway in, the sun started to set, making for even more dramatic views.
(I caught Cathy taking a selfie.)
The sun sets over the ocean.
At this point we realized we made one crucial mistake–we hadn’t budgeted enough hours of daylight to do the whole drive properly. We still had one more hour to go before getting to Cambria, so we missed some more beautiful vistas. Set aside lots of time to drive Highway 1. You’ll thank yourself.