From Fodor’s Travel
Highlights from the highway.
Pack the cell phone charger, sunscreen, and extra snacks, and get ready to hit the road for the ultimate road trip on California’s Highway 1. The treasured highway, spanning 656 total miles, jogs along the coast through diverse micro-environments, including undulating hills, jagged cliffs, bucolic vineyards, and untouched sea caves. From Carlsbad to Crescent City, here are 13 don’t-miss spots with everything to do, see, and eat along the way.
This quiet coastal locale is home to mineral hot springs, wine-tasting rooms, and hiking and biking trails. At Sinor La Vallee Tasting Room, sip a variety of wines grown just 1.2 miles from the ocean by husband-and-wife vintners Mike Sinor and Cheri LaVallee. Listen to the waves crash on the beach at Avila Lighthouse Suites with 54 two-room options replete with private patios and kitchens; complimentary daily breakfast; and Tesla electric car charging stations. Go for a bike ride or leisurely walk on the Bob Jones Trail, also referred to as the City to the Sea Trail, that winds for three miles along the San Luis Obispo Creek and ends at the Avila Pier.
As history goes, New England Captain James Cass settled in the area in 1867 and later built his home, a pier, and wharf referred to as Cass’s Landing, now a haven for skin diving, fishing, surfing, and kayaking. For an off-the-beaten-path excursion, immerse in a seaweed 101-like field trip and learn identification and ethical harvesting methods of seaweed foraging with Melissa Hanson, founder of Kelpful, or book a tour to learn about the five species of edible marine algae at Marley Family Seaweeds. At Hidden Kitchen, grab a hearty breakfast (think blue corn waffles or a superfood Baywood Berry smoothie with strawberry, banana, peanut butter, beet powder, almond milk, maple syrup, and chia seeds), or sample a chocolate chunk classic cookie or take home a dozen brown butter sea salt cookies at Brown Butter Cookie Company, founded by sisters Traci and Christa Hozie. At Cass House Cayucos, Cass’s former home, reserve one of five rooms appointed with four-poster beds and pedestal sinks, and indulge in a slice of handmade coffee cake or an almond croissant at on-site bakery Bijou. Another option is the Pacific Motel comprised of standalone bungalows and guest rooms lined with shiplap walls. The property is replete with modern artwork by local company 3114 Designs; organic linens and robes by Parachute; and amenities spanning outdoor firepits and blankets, an outdoor shower, and ping pong.
Serving as the ideal halfway point between Los Angeles and San Francisco, Cambria is regarded for its historic architecture, antique stores, seafood restaurants, wine-tasting rooms, and wildlife. It’s also well-known for a single fruit: olallieberry. At Linn’s Restaurant, sample the infamous olallieberry pie, or visit Linn’s Family Fruit Farm for everything from olallieberry truffles and syrup to grilling glaze. After, take a leisurely stroll along the water at Moonstone Beach and build a sandcastle or comb for sea glass and shells, or take a ranch tour or a guided horseback ride atop a Clydesdale at Covell’s California Clydesdales ($120 per person; ages seven and up). Eat like a local at Sea Chest Oyster Bar with seafood selections consisting of fresh clam chowder, cioppino, seasonal fresh fish, oysters, and shrimp scampi. The casual, cash-only eatery doesn’t take reservations, so be sure to grab a glass of wine and mingle with other diners while you wait. At White Water, a 27-room hotel that takes cues from Scandinavian design and adjacent Moonstone Beach, relax in the lobby with a vintage board game or check out a Linus cruiser bike available for guest use. Designed by Los Angeles–based interior designer Nina Freudenberger (whose other projects include San Luis Creek Lodge in San Luis Obispo), the property features guest rooms outfitted with cozy gas fireplaces, Aesop apothecary items, and minibars stocked with local gourmet snacks and provisions.
Fifteen minutes north, make a stop in San Simeon for a tour of Hearst Castle owned by publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst (who inherited the land in 1919) and masterminded by renowned architect Julia Morgan. In San Simeon, grab the binoculars for an up-close look at Elephant seals at the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery (optimal viewing times include late January, April, and October.)