For The Coast: California’s Pacific Coast Highway
Sites: Monterey – Carmel-by-the-Sea – Point Lobos State Natural Reserve – Big Sur – Garrapata State Park – Old Coast Road – Bixby Bridge – Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park – Nepenthe – Cambria – Morro Bay
Designated an official “All-American Road” by the Federal Highway Association, this trip is for the James Dean lingering in all of us. Take the coast-skirting California Route 1 as it serpentines the 123 miles from Monterey to Morro Bay. If you have a motorcycle, you may prefer to hop on that because according to the Matador Network and a slew of other travel publications, the Pacific Coast Highway is one of the best motorcycle roads in the country.
In addition to beaches, wine tastings, the number one aquarium in the country, and the famed Fisherman’s Wharf and Cannery Row, Monterey has an interesting history that makes for great tours. The city was California’s capital while the area transferred between the hand of Spain, Mexico, and America. Aspects of these cultural transitions can be spotted throughout Monterey. After taking in Monterey, roll down the windows and point the car south to nearby Carmel-by-the-Sea, a quaint, upscale, coastal town once overseen by Mayor Clint Eastwood.
Just 3.5 miles south is Point Lobos State Reserve, a park stretching over highlands, meadows, coastal land, and into the nation’s first undersea ecological reserve. Totaling 1,300 acres of preserved nature, Point Lobos is rich in animal and plant diversity with miles of trails. Next, head towards Big Sur, 90 miles of coastline, redwood groves and the awesome Santa Lucia Range. Continuing into Garrapata State Park, you’ll soon pass over the Bixby Bridge. Made of concrete and built in 1932, the bridge is one of the highest single-span arch bridges in the world.
After taking some obligatory photos, meander into Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park to admire the 964 acres of redwoods, sycamores, and ferns. Turn onto Sycamore Canyon Road to find Pfeiffer Beach and check out the monstrous rocks worn in with holes by the ocean waves. If your get hungry, hop back in the car for two miles to visit Nepenthe, a restaurant famous for its seaside views.
Closing in on the final stop, pause in Cambria at Moonstone Beach to look for moonstones and California jade, or visit the artist colony of Harmony. The route then ends in Morro Bay, home of the Morro Rock, a massive volcanic plug about 23 million years old.