Highway 1 Road Trip

5 Days on the Central California Coast

My boyfriend and I don’t do relaxation when we go on vacation. Somehow we can’t seem to sit still for more than a few hours and even that is stretching it. So for our last vacation, we wanted to do something adventurous with plenty of room for last minute decisions, tons of things to do and lots of things to see, which is why we took a road trip down the Central Coast in mid-March.

In 5 days, we covered Palo Alto, Santa Clara, Campbell, Los Gatos, Capitola, Santa Cruz, Monterey, Pebble Beach, Carmel, Big Sur, Ragged Point, Morro Bay, and San Luis Obispo before taking Pacific Coast Highway all the way back down to San Diego. There were obviously so many things to see and places to go and I’m happy to say that we covered just about everything we possibly could during the time we had.

Day 1 – Explore Santa Cruz and Capitola

IMGP5024The best part about road trips is that you have the ability to get off the main path and find the cool nooks and crannies of a town. This photo was taken on a random windy road in Santa Cruz.

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IMGP5044We called this the “Spongebob house” for obvious reasons.

IMGP5051Our Airbnb hosts in Capitola gave us a map with a cool route along Riverview Ave. that takes you on a walkway next to Soquel Creek to downtown Capitola and Capitola Wharf.

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IMGP5100View from the other side of Soquel Creek on Wharf Road. We went to Shadowbrook, a cool restaurant known for it’s trolley that takes you from the top of the hill down the the restaurant. It’s pricey, so we took the trolley down and sat at the bar for some apps and drinks while a band played folk covers.

Day 2 – Check Out Moss Landing, Monterey, and the 17-Mile Drive

IMGP5107Gayle’s Bakery was the most interesting bakery I’ve ever been to. It’s HUGE and there are many moving parts and TONS of food choices. Just make sure you yell loud enough when they call your number!

IMGP5113Capitola Bluffs

IMGP5134Taken at Moss Landing. This is a great place to stop between Santa Cruz and Monterey. You’ll find the most delicious strawberries you’ve ever had and cheap avocados, along with tons of dried fruit and nuts.

IMGP5152Silos in Monterey

IMGP5159You can park and walk through the Monterey Grove Sanctuary on your way to the Point Pinos Light House.

IMGP5163On the way to the Point Pinos Light House

IMGP5174The 17-Mile Drive is an absolute must-see if you’re in the area. There are a ton of stops along the way to see the main features and also plenty of less-popular stops that are just as amazing, if not better. If you enjoy sight-seeing and taking in the views and maybe even stopping at a golf course bar along the way, I’d give yourself 4-5 hours to drive through the entire area. You’ll have to stop and pay before entering but it’s well worth it!

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IMGP5251After making the 17-mile loop, we stopped at the Inn at Spanish Bay to see the bagpiper play at sunset. Beer in hand, relaxing by the fire and cuddled up under a blanket while listening to Scottish music…what’s better than that?

Day 3 – Drive through Big Sur 

IMGP5264Last view of Carmel before heading down to Big Sur

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IMGP5336Don’t forget to pull off the road WHENEVER you see anything of interest. The road less traveled is usually even more spectacular.

IMGP5340Classic stop to see Bixby Bridge

IMGP5365Lunch out of the truck bed…so fun!

IMGP5486Tan Bark Trail

IMGP5531After a closer look, we realized these were sharks! I’ve never seen anything like it before! At first we thought they were dolphins but they were swimming way too slowly and they had double fins.

IMGP5539One of my favorite spots in Big Sur was a ranch off the side of the road. With the fog rolling in and the recent rain turning everything extremely green, it was breathtaking.

IMGP5558Found this cool spot off the side of the road on the South end of Big Sur.

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IMGP5609View from outside of our room at Ragged Point Inn. Even if you don’t stay here, definitely stop by. The grounds, views and everything there is so incredible. We even saw a whale from right here!

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Day 4 – Stop by Hearst Castle before heading to SLO

IMGP5668Elephant Seals in San Simeon were a trip! We barely missed the males, which are HUGE, because they already migrated, but the females were quite impressive too.

IMGP5675And of course…Hearst Castle. It was $35 for a tour but we realized quickly that we aren’t very good with tours because we like to tour ourselves instead. However, the grounds are absolutely amazing and it’s definitely worth it to check it out.

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IMGP5702I never thought we’d see zebras off the side of the highway, but thanks to William Hearst’s old zoo, they are located near Hearst Castle, grazing alongside the cows.

IMGP5714Morro Rock in Morro Bay…cute little beach town just outside of San Luis Obispo

IMG_9222Bubblegum Alley in San Luis Obispo. Gross…but cool…but gross.

IMG_9243To be honest, once we got to SLO, we weren’t really sure what to do. It’s really small and we definitely didn’t need an entire day there. This turned out to be a good thing, because we were a little tired after so much traveling. We ended up stumbling on Sycamore Mineral Springs Report & Spa, where you pay $13.50 Mon-Thurs and $17.50 Fri-Sun to spend an hour in hillside hot springs…and bring a bottle of wine! Overall, an awesome find.

We had so much fun on our Coastal California trip that we’re now thinking about taking the 1 up north from the Bay area. Then after that? Possibly cross-country!

Cheers,
Claudette

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