5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 vc_highway1experiences_supplied_ventanabigsur_breakfastsurhouse_1280x640
Courtesy of Ventana Big Sur

5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1

5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1
Discover your favourite way to take in this iconic drive through Big Sur and beyond

Now that repairs are complete, you can once again drive the legendarily scenic Highway 1 through Big Sur. With its redwood forests, towering cliffs and incomparable coastal views, Highway 1 ranks among the world’s most spectacular stretches of road. Better yet, the broad range of it points of interest offers the perfect mix: rugged, posh and historic. So, fill up on gas—or treat yourself to a sporty rental so you can better handle Highway 1’s serpentine course—and follow this guide to the experiences that await along the stretch from Cambria through to Big Sur.

Go hiking and camping

Just off the highway, you’ll find your pick of trails—ones that wind through redwoods and those that lead to hidden coves along the coastline. While most people stop at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park to grab a picture of McWay Falls, which plunges 80 feet from the cliffs above to the beach below, consider taking the one-mile round-trip Partington Cove Trail down the cliffs and through a historic tunnel. You’ll emerge in a secluded spot once used to ship tan oak and moonshine. At Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Buzzard’s Roost Trail comes out from the redwoods onto a high ridge that overlooks the Pacific. Or go camping: Kirk Creek Campground in the Los Padres National Forest is renowned for its bluff-top, coastal-view campsites and nothing beats a night under a canopy of stars. Or sleep among 40 acres of redwoods in Ventana Campground. If you decide to skip cooking one night, the campground’s new SurStream, a snack bar in an Airstream trailer, serves up wraps and barbecue.

Taste Big Sur’s big eats

At Ventana Big Sur resort, The Sur House pairs panoramic coastal views with chef Paul Corsentino’s fine-dining menu, which emphasizes locally sourced ingredients. Then, for yet another stunning vantage point, don’t miss the Sierra Mar restaurant at Post Ranch Inn. Atop the cliffs, with floor-to-ceiling windows, the restaurant seems to float over the Pacific. The menu ranges from such lunch favourites as the Sierra Mar burger, topped with smoked sun-dried tomato and Monterey Jack cheese, to a four-course prix fixe dinner menu that includes a succulent seared king salmon. Set among the redwoods, the intimate Big Sur Bakery is as much loved for its ginger scones and cinnamon bloom pastry as its inventive wood-fired pizzas. For many Big Sur visitors, no trip to the region is complete without an Ambrosia Burger at Nepenthe restaurant, where a seat along the patio rail delivers an unforgettable view from 800 feet over the ocean.

Explore creative Big Sur

Big Sur’s blend of beauty and solitude has long drawn writers, painters and other artists looking for inspiration. Honouring the legacy of its namesake writer and artist, the Henry Miller Memorial Library is a cultural hub for Big Sur thanks to an eclectic summer music program and the Big Sur International Short Film Screening Series. Built from reclaimed redwood water tanks, the architecturally distinctive Big Sur Coast Gallery showcases the works of leading sculptors, painters and photographers. Find exquisite jewellery and gaze at the contemporary Big Sur–themed art of Erin Lee Gafill (a member of the family that founded Nepenthe) at The Phoenix, the shop located below Nepenthe Restaurant. And south of Big Sur, the coastal village of Cambria’s Main Street is lined with galleries, including Ephraim Pottery and The Vault Gallery, a prime spot to discover California plein air painters.

Bring the whole family

With hundreds of massive elephant seals barking at Piedras Blancas near San Simeon, as well as sea otters riding the surf, kids will love looking for wildlife along Highway 1. Starting from Andrew Molera State Park, the Ventana Wildlife Society conducts two-hour tours that scan the skies for California condors—the largest flying land bird in North America. Treat your crew with a stay in a two-family yurt at Treebones Resort, a glamping destination with a swimming pool and a sushi bar. For a family-friendly hike, try Limekiln Trail in Limekiln State Park; you’ll cross three bridges before your reach the remnants of four enormous furnaces once used to process lime for mortar.

Discover amazing architecture

While Highway 1 celebrates natural beauty, be sure to check out its landmark structures as you go. No Highway 1 trip is complete without a stop at Hearst Castle, where, in addition to its regularly scheduled tours, you can arrange intimate, private tours that can last as long as four hours. The Big Sur coast has always been a treacherous stretch for ships, and two historic lighthouses that have helped guide mariners are open for tours. Just minutes from Hearst Castle, Piedras Blancas Light Station dates to 1875. Farther north, Point Sur Lighthouse commands a volcanic outcrop that offers one of the most amazing panoramas along this stretch of coast. And don’t forget the showstopper: 15 miles from Carmel, you simply must pull over at one of the turnouts to grab a selfie at Bixby Bridge, the epic arched span, opened in 1932, that crosses over a 260-foot-deep chasm.

5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 vc_ca101_videothumbnail_fiveamazingthings_bigsur_1280x7202_2
Big Sur: 5 Amazing Things
With cliffs plunging hundreds of feet down to rocky coves churning with foamy surf, Big Sur is one of the most dramatic stretches of coastline anywhere in the world.
5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 Hero_CentralCoast_Hero_BixbyBridge_1280x642_Farnum_sized
Alex Farnum

SAN LUIS OBISPO

Your next stop, San Luis Obispo, may just be the perfect embodiment of the Central Coast. With its nuanced food and wine scene, rich history, and a decidedly mellow vibe, SLO (as the locals call it) is a must-see. This college town also features a slice of ranch culture—thanks to the area’s Santa Maria-style barbecue—and has ranked in past surveys as one of the happiest cities in America.

The spirit of downtown SLO is captured in Mission Plaza and Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, which dates back to 1772 and overlooks the plaza. Explore the mission and its museum or show up on summer Friday nights for live music on the plaza. Year-round the first Friday of the month offers Art After Dark, with downtown SLO galleries opening their doors for wine tastings, snacks, and chats with local artists. A few blocks away, every Thursday evenings, you can find the city’s farmers market, a showcase for San Luis Obispo’s culinary landscape, including local tri-tip, tamales, craft beer (sample those at The Libertine Brewing Company), and the acclaimed clam chowder from Splash Café. Enjoy the locally sourced scene more intimately at Novo Restaurant & Lounge, which pairs a globally inspired menu with an idyllic creek-side setting.

Be sure to pay a visit to the 110-room Madonna Inn when you are in town. You can finish the day with a slice of the famed pink champagne cake and then retire in one of its quirky themed rooms, such as the Caveman, the Love Birds, and the Fox & Hound.

SLO delivers the goods on the wine-tasting front. Bottles bearing the world-renowned Paso Robles appellation can be found only about 30 miles away. But don’t miss the nearby Edna Valley region, in particular the Chardonnays of Edna Valley Vineyard and the Pinot Noirs of Tolosa. Then, check out the under-the-radar wineries of Arroyo Grande Valley, including the sparkling wines at Laetitia Vineyard & Winery.

San Luis Obispo County—a.k.a. SLO CAL—is home to an array of cool small towns, too. On your way into SLO, try the epic tri-tip at Jocko’s steak house in Nipomo, explore the dunes at Pismo Beach, and then say hi to the lounging sea lions off the coast of Avila Beach. Other essential stops as you then head north toward Hearst Castle include the harbour village Morro Bay, beachy Cayucos, and picturesque Cambria, set on beautiful seaside bluffs.

Bixby Bridge
Chris Axe/Getty Images

Highway 1 Reopens

There’s never been a better time to visit the iconic roadway that snakes along the Big Sur coastline

California’s Highway 1 has officially reopened and motorists can now drive from Monterey...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Highway One's Most Scenic Stops

California’s coast-hugging Highway 1 is what dream drives are made of. The iconic roadway—which extends for more than 650 miles from ...

5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 vc_highway1scenicstops_st_rm_655913189_686x885
Doug Steakley/Getty Images
5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 VCW_D_SLO_Rachel_6984778856_a03252fd95_o_1280x642
San Luis Obispo’s Bubble Gum Alley is filled with more than 1.7 million pieces of bubble gum.
5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 vc_spotlight_santabarbara_hero_st_rm_529573764_1280x640_0
Harriot Manley/Sunset Publishing

Spotlight: Santa Barbara

5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 vca_maps_centralcoast
Mediterranean style magic and a perfect ocean breeze

Bougainvillea twining across red-tiled rooftops, birdsong mingling with the ocean breeze, islands and whale spouts on the horizon—...

SPECIAL FEATURE
See a few amazing wonders of the sea first-hand

Each year, about 20,000 gray whales make an epic 6,000-mile/9,656-km journey between Alaska and Mexico—and then back again. These whales travel from feeding grounds in the Bering Sea to mating and...

5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 Whale_MicheleW_preview_686x885
Michele W/Flickr
5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 VCW_D_CC_T2__BigSur_VCLCC_BigSur_PfeifferBeach_.jpg_KG-dark-1280x642
Kodiak Greenwood

Spotlight: Big Sur

5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 vca_maps_centralcoast
Art and nature merge on this rugged coast, one of California’s most spectacular settings

Welcome to one of the world’s most unforgettable stretches of coastline. This roughly 90-mile-long stretch of redwood- and fog-trimmed waterfront...

Apr 20 - Apr 23
April

Get ready for the Central Coast’s ultimate gathering of the culinary world. Now in its ninth year, this luxurious event is one of those star- and spectacle-studded experiences you simply have to...

5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 VC_PebbleBeachFoodWine_Supplied_SpringBreakCookingWithoutRules_GinaSinotte_22_686x885
Courtesy of Coastal Luxury Management
5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 vca_maps_centralcoast
February

See an all-star line-up of top golfers and A-list celebrities take to the manicured, ocean-hugging greens at this premier golf event. This ultra-prestigious tournament, held annually at Spyglass...

5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 PebbleBeach_JakeOwen_preview_686x885
Courtesy of Monterey Peninsula Foundation
5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 vca_maps_centralcoast
5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 FF_Central_Coast
Castroville produces 95 percent of the nation's artichokes. In 1948, Marilyn Monroe was crowned the town's first "Artichoke Queen."
5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 VCW_D_SantaBarbara_T7_FLIPPEN_VG_SantaBarbara-9890_1280x642_0
Laura Flippen

Central Coast Wine Country

Miles of coastline, sunny hills, relaxing wineries

Historic ranch lands, a romantic coast, country roads, stay-a-while towns and grapes—lots and lots of grapes—make the Central Coast an outstanding...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Get the inside scoop on California's most celebrated commodity

With more than 3,000 wineries statewide, California lets you sample award-winning wines almost anywhere you go. These classic and up-and-coming wine roads—some too packed with wineries to tackle...

5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 Grapes_WineRoads_SpecialFeature_preview_686x885
Temecula Valley by Kodiak Greenwood
SPECIAL FEATURE
Kid-friendly fun zones, special kids' menus & amazing wine for the grownups

Sure wine country is romantic, but now it’s a surprisingly great destination for families too, with a growing number of vineyards trading in elegant tasting rooms for child-friendly fun zones that...

5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 VCW_SI_T5_John_preview_686x885
John/ Flickr
5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 VCW_D_SLO_Hero_Linda Tanner_7608268982_baf51ed440_o_1280x642
Linda Tanner/ Flickr

Spotlight: San Luis Obispo County

5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 vca_maps_centralcoast
Central California

This fertile stretch of the California coast, roughly halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, has undeniable appeal, with buzz-worthy farm-...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Farm-fresh produce, culinary adventures

Juicy heirloom tomatoes and just-picked strawberries. Super-sweet peaches shaped like mini UFOs. Artisan cheeses, emerald-green olive oils, local wildflower honey—California’s farmers’ markets are...

5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 VCW_SI_FarmersMarket_T4_CV_DavisFrmMkt1_Flippen_preview_686x885
Laura Flippen
5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 vcw_ti_6_hero_cc_bigsur_coast_ts_1280x642_0

Trip 5-7 days 10 stops

Highway One Classic

Take the trip that captures the heart and soul of the Golden State
SPECIAL FEATURE
Discover the awesome sports scene in the Golden State

With nearly twice as many professional teams as any other state, California is big league all the way. But the state’s sports scene goes far beyond football and baseball, with a diverse line-up of...

5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 PebbleBeachProAm_ChristinaLauren_preview_686x885
Christina Lauren/Flickr
July

Vampires beware: this is one garlic-infused weekend that you’ll want to miss. Everyone else—go, at least once, to this unforgettably odiferous and one-of-a-kind event. See how creative chefs can...

5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 Preview_GGF_2014_Garlic_Braid_Couple_BillStrangePhotography_686x885
Bill Strange Photography
5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 vca_maps_centralcoast
5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 VenturaWineTrail_KenLund_Flickr_1280x642
Ken Lund/Flickr

Ventura County Wine Trail

5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 dummy-map_event_2
Visit vineyards in coastal hills and communities

Sip your way along the Ventura County Wine Trail, where you will find nearly 20 wineries and tasting rooms in settings ranging from urban...

5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 VC_Ventura_Oxnard_Stock_RM_552082503_1280x640_1
David McGlynn/Getty Images

Oxnard

5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 dummy-map_event_2
Discover California’s “Strawberry Coast”

Oxnard is where strawberries meet the sea. In this city 40 minutes south of Santa Barbara, you will find 7 miles of unspoiled beaches, plus farm...

5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 CentralCoast_CWC_1280x642_logo
Bixby Bridge

California Welcome Centers in the Central Coast

5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 vca_maps_centralcoast
Find the perfect balance between urban and rural on California’s Central Coast.

Stop in at one of two California Welcome Centres along Highway 101 each fully staffed seven days a week; loaded with maps, brochures and...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Big-city-worthy events liven the sleepy Central Coast

Bookended by the big cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco, the Central Coast may be known for its mellow pace, but the closeness of those major gateways bring big names to relatively small...

5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 VCW_D_CC_T11-Mont Jazz Fest_trombone_shorty_garden Stage_MJF53_2010_141_cole_thompson_0_vertical_sized_0
Photo courtesy of Monterey Jazz Festival
5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 VCW_D_HearstCastle_Hero_CC_HearstCastle_KG_1280x642_1
Kodiak Greenwood

Spotlight: Hearst Castle

5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 vca_maps_centralcoast
Wraparound views, lavish designs

Mansions are abundant in California, with film stars and tech power brokers building palaces and adding wings, pools and yoga pavilions with...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Check these amazing experiences off your bucket list

Kiss a beluga, see cool movie props, and learn about Walt’s secret hideaway on exclusive and behind the scenes tours at California’s theme parks and attractions. Here’s a roundup of actvities...

5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 VCW_SI_VIP_T1_MichaelSaechang_preview_686x885
Photo by Michael Saechang/Flickr
SPECIAL FEATURE
Beautiful locations, luxurious comforts

Get the starry nights, the campfire stories, the cosy sleeping bag and all the best parts of camping in some of California’s most beautiful settings—but without the hassle of...

5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 VCW_SI_T6_Glamping_ElCapitanCanyon_CabinExt1_preview_686x885
El Capitan Canyon
5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 Pinnacles_MG_7362_Pawassar_hero_1280x642_1
Erik Pawassar

Spotlight: Pinnacles National Park

5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 vca_maps_centralcoast
Winding caves, uncountable stars

California’s newest national park is home to cliffs, crags and cave formations that were formed by an ancient volcano. Shaking and quaking along...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Old-fashioned fun in the Golden State

Historic oceanfront playgrounds, classic city park charmers and boisterous adventures - smaller theme parks and attractions offer an array of ways to play. These smaller parks offer...

Safari West
Tai Power Seeff
5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 VCW_D_CC_T8_Solvang_Manley_Sunset_sized
Harriot Manley/ Sunset Publishing

Solvang

A Danish stronghold makes a charming outpost surrounded by ranch lands and vineyards

Imagine a villagewhere fresh-cut flowers and warm-from-the-oven pastries scent the air. Add gingerbread architecture, twirling windmills and...

5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 Mission_Carmel_sized
Tai Power Seeff

Central Coast Missions

Visit some of California’s most beautiful missions to discover the state’s Spanish roots

Strung like Spanish pearls along an 824-mile trail from San Diego to Sonoma, California’s 21 historic missions offer a wealth of treasures, from...

5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 FunFact_SBMission_sized
Santa Barbara ranks in the nation’s top 20 counties for bicycle commuters, with nearly 5,000 residents commuting to work by bicycle.
5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 VC_Ventura_Ventura_Stock_RF_585358083_1280x640
Zachary Miller/Getty Images

Spotlight: Ventura County

5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 dummy-map_event_2
Absorb the relaxed vibe of this classic California destination on the coast

When it comes to places in California that feel like one big outdoor playground, Ventura County, on the south end of the Central Coast, stands out...

Ragged Point

Trip 3-4 days 8 stops

San Luis Obispo to Ragged Point

Venture from San Luis Obispo up Highway 1 to discover pristine coastline, small beach towns and a fabled landmark
5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 vc_sanluisobispo_st_rm_edxnry_1280x640_1

Your next stop, San Luis Obispo, may just be the perfect embodiment of the Central Coast. With its nuanced food and wine scene, rich history and a decidedly mellow vibe, SLO (as the locals call it) is a must-see. This college town also...

Ragged Point

On the way to Ragged Point from Piedras Blancas, take in the stunning, untouched coastline views to your left as Highway 1 twists and climbs up the southernmost cliffs of Big Sur. Stroll through the...

5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1 vc_casadefruta_supplied_cdffruitstand01_1280x640
Casa de Fruta Courtesy of Casa De Fruta

Casa de Fruta Orchard Resort

Part fruit stand, part theme park, this Central Coast stop is the perfect place to fill your belly

What started as a humble cherry stand in 1908 is now a massive roadside attraction, welcoming more than 3 million visitors each year. Located 40...