Ten Adventures this Summer on Highway 1: Your Guide to the Best Kept Secrets

Coast the road less traveled with these Highway 1 hidden gems

There’s something magical about cruising down Highway 1 in summer: The salty breeze tousling your hair, the sparkling Pacific unfurling like a bolt of shimmering silk. But the real treasures? They’re just off the beaten path, waiting for intrepid souls to discover them. So, pull over, rebellious roadtrippers and willful wanderers: It’s time to uncover the best-kept secrets of this iconic California route. From shipwrecks frozen in time to wine-brightened afternoons, from hidden waterfalls to otherworldly dunes that beg to be explored—your ultimate Highway 1 summer road trip starts here. Here’s where to stop along the way:

Cayucos Shipwreck

10. Hike to the Shipwreck

Uncover a beached beauty in the rough! Picture this: You’re strolling along wind-swept bluffs, the endless azure of the ocean ahead, tidepools glittering below. Then, you see it—the rusty remains of a fishing vessel, stranded on one of the most uncrowded beaches you’ll ever lay eyes on. Welcome to Estero Bluffs, just north of laid-back Cayucos. Time your visit with low tide, and you can traipse right out to this haunting ghost ship, your footprints likely the only ones marking the sand. It’s a photographer’s dream and a reminder of the ocean’s fickle nature – beautiful, wild and forever revealing unexpected secrets.

Wine Tasting Chamisal Edna Valley

9. Wine Taste through Edna Valley

Summer’s sipping paradise is revealed. When the thermometer rises and other wine regions start to simmer, Edna Valley remains a cool oasis. Nestled a stone’s throw from Highway 1 and the Pacific, this verdant valley is summer’s answer to wine lovers’ prayers. While Paso Robles and Napa might be sweltering, friendly Edna Valley invites roadtrippers to linger in the shade of ancient oaks, a buttery chardonnay or chilled rose in hand. Meander from tasting room to tasting room, each with a view more stunning than the last: rolling vineyards, distant peaks—and always that refreshing ocean breeze keeping the vibe on “cool.”

Black Swift Falls Ragged Point

8. Chasing Waterfalls

Discover black sands and a secret watering hole—all to yourself! The sound of water tumbling over rock is nature’s symphony. Luckily, Highway 1 offers front-row seats to some spectacular performances (if you’re willing to work for it). At Ragged Point, a heart-pumping hike down a seaside cliff rewards you with a waterfall that seems to plummet straight into the sea, its final resting place a beach of obsidian-black sand. For those willing to venture a little further afield (and perhaps test their vehicle’s moxie), the falls near Lopez Lake beckon with wild beauty. Here, Little Falls and Big Falls put on a spectacular show, with the latter boasting a swimming hole that’s perfect for a mid-hike plunge. Just remember, recent rains might mean you’ll need something more rugged than your average sedan to access this hidden gem.

Lopez Lake Superbloom

7. Pontoon Boat at Lopez Lake

Float your worries away. Along Highway 1, adventure is found in the quiet moments — like gently bobbing on sun-dappled waters, without a care in the world. Lopez Lake in Arroyo Grande is that laid-back hangout you’ve been dreaming of. Slather on some SPF, rent a pontoon and become captain for a day on this mellow reservoir. Whether you’re a first-timer or an old salt, these calm, uncrowded waters welcome all walks of life. Hop in a kayak or simply while away the hours on an inflatable tube (you do you). Bring a cooler, your favorite people, and don’t forget to take a dip when the sun climbs high. Out here, time seems to slow down, measured only by the lapping of waves against the hull.

Tidepool Family Exploring

6. Tidepooling at Montana de Oro

Sealife springs to action here. Imagine a world in miniature, where violet sea urchins nestle in rocky nooks and bright anemones wave lazy tentacles in shallow pools. At Montana de Oro State Park, low tide reveals these vibrant ecosystems, teeming with life. An awesome low-impact outdoor activity for roadtrippers of all ages, be sure to bring sturdy footwear, especially for frolicking kiddos. Rocks can become slippery, but it’s worth the trek, to be sure! Spooner’s Cove offers easy access to this watery wonderland, but for those who crave solitude (and don’t mind a bit of a trek), Hazard Canyon holds the locals’ hearts. Just be sure to time your visit with the tides—these undersea marvels only magically appear when the ocean retreats.

5. Kayak the Estuary

Serene paddling + abundant life =  the perfect calming nature cruise. In Los Osos, where Morro Bay’s estuary reaches gentle fingers inland, find a paddler’s paradise unlike any other in California. Glide across glassy ocean waters without contending with a single wave (stand-up paddle boarders, this is also your time to shine). Slip into tranquil shallows and enter a world where great blue herons stalk the shallows and harbor seals bask on sandbars. Speaking of sandbars—they make for the perfect picnic spots. Pull up, stretch your legs and savor lunch with a view that’s pure, unspoiled joy.

4. Off-road Tour of the Dunes

Motor meets ocean? We’ll explain. There’s something ethereal about the Oceano Dunes: massive swells of sand, sculpted by wind and time, colliding with the crashing surf of the Pacific. For Highway 1’s off road enthusiasts, it’s an oasis without equal. If you’ve got a vehicle that can handle the soft stuff, carve your own path through this seaside Sahara. No 4×4? No problem. Rent an ATV or climb aboard a Hummer tour and let an expert guide introduce you to the dunes’ sand-covered secrets.

Biplane Oceano

3. Biplane Over the Beach

Say hello to Highway 1 from above. You’ve driven this iconic scenic route—now it’s time to see it from a seagull’s POV. Strap into a biplane and take to the skies for a dose of high-flying adrenaline fun. Feel the wind whip past your goggles as you soar above a coastline that has inspired countless road trips, its twists and turns even more dramatic from this lofty vantage point. Spot landmarks you’ve visited far below, now tiny as toys. You’re sure to gain a new appreciation for the raw beauty of where land meets sea. And trust us: you’ll never want to come down.

Hearst Castle Neptune Pool

2. Tour the Castle

Discover opulence on the hill: “Enchanted Hill,” as the locals call it. Rising from San Simeon’s coastal peaks like a storybook dream, Hearst Castle has been luring visitors since the days when Hollywood royalty clinked champagne glasses by its famous Neptune Pool. Summer is prime time to tour this architectural fantasyland, and for good reason: Impeccably manicured gardens are in full bloom, and the estate simply glows under the golden Central Coast sun. Whether you choose the Grand Rooms Tour or dive deep into the art and architecture, you’ll leave with a glimpse into a world of unimaginable riches and one man’s obsession with creating paradise on earth. Naturally, the late Hearst chose Highway 1 as a prime locale!

Cayucos Pier Surfing

1. Surf the Coast

Catch a wave—and wave goodbye to your cares. Is there anything more classic California cool than surfing? Highway 1 is blessed with breaks for every level of surfer, but if you’re just starting out, make a beeline for Avila Beach. Here, gentle waves and a forgiving beach break make it the ideal spot to pop up on a board for the first time. Rent gear right at the pier, or book a lesson and learn from the pros. For those who already know their way around a swell, the coast is your oyster: Hit the punchy waves at Pismo to the legendary left at Morro Rock. Wherever you paddle out, you’re part of a timeless tradition, dancing on the edge of the continent.

Coast the Road Less Traveled

So there you have it, roadtrippers  – ten adventures to fill your Highway 1 summer with untold wonder. Some will get your heart racing, others will soothe your soul, but all will leave you with stories to tell. Highway 1 is calling. Answer with a full tank of gas, an open mind, and hunger for the road less traveled. After all, the best books aren’t about the ending—they’re about the side quests discovered along the way.