We’re Grateful for These Highway 1 Wonders and You Will Be Too

Join Highway 1 in celebrating ‘30 Days of Thanks’ this November

There’s endless reasons to be thankful along Highway 1 on California’s scenic Central Coast. From awe-inspiring views and hidden waterfalls to delicious seafood and incredible wildlife sightings, counting our blessings is a sinch. This November, join local residents and visitors in giving 30 Days of Thanks—it might just inspire you to seek out memory-making Highway 1 experiences with friends and family. It feels good to slow down and appreciate the world around us, but did you know that making a gratitude list can boost overall wellbeing? This month, we’re taking a moment to appreciate the diversity and beauty of this celebrated coastal destination with fresh eyes. We hope you’ll come along for the ride.

Avila Beach Golf Resort Aerial

1. Breathtaking Ocean Views

When’s the last time you took the scenic route? From fiery sunsets to Pacific panoramas, Highway 1 is flush with breathtaking ocean views. Witness dramatic cliffs, hidden black sand beaches and some of the most astonishing viewing areas in the world. From the popular lookout point at Ragged Point Inn to Cambria’s Moonstone Beach, be sure to take ample time to enjoy the view. There’s no rush!

Ragged Point Bixby Bridge

2. The Historic Bixby Creek Bridge

One of the most iconic landmarks along Highway 1, this architectural marvel provides a rite of passage for coastal roadtrippers. Now, it’s your turn to motor across this Art Deco arch! Perched on a dramatic cliff towering high above the Pacific, access the historic Bixby Creek Bridge just north of Ragged Point on scenic Highway 1. This example of classic American ingenuity is well worth the drive.

Cambria Downtown

3. Quaint Towns with Chill Vibes

On Highway 1, hustle takes a backseat to simple joys. Appreciate every moment in Cambria, where pines meet the sea. Without traffic, crowds or long lines, you’re free to enjoy the historic architecture, friendly shops and warm hospitality of this charming coastal community. With plenty of quiet beach towns dotting Highway 1 from Ragged Point to Nipomo, everyday stops become memorable pleasures.

4. Majestic Redwood Trees of Ragged Point

Famous for crashing waves and rugged coast, “the Gateway to Big Sur” boasts one of the best views of Big Sur on Highway 1. From the Ragged Point Inn lookout point, see wildflower-strewn hills and towering redwoods beckoning to the north. Stroll several walking paths accessible from the inn and appreciate just how lucky you are.

San Simeon elephant seals

5. Elephant Seal Friends in San Simeon

Whether nursing, bickering or sunbathing, Highway 1’s elephant seal population is a joy to observe. At the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery in San Simeon, enjoy an up-close view of these curious animals in all of their uninhibited glory. With an ADA-accessible viewing area and a helpful visitor center nearby, you’ll deepen your connection to the elephant seals and their habitat.

Fishing in Spooners Cove Montana De Oro By Danna Dykstra-Coy

6. The Wonder of Montaña De Oro State Park

Montaña de Oro is a true expression of Highway 1’s natural abundance. Tucked along the southern end of the Estero Bay, this 8,000-acre state park is one of California’s largest, with pebbly beaches, coastal trails and vibrant tide pools galore. Explore the popular Bluff Trail, the more challenging Valencia Peak Trail, paddle to the Sandspit or enjoy a picnic at Spooner’s Cove.

Cayucos Pier Surfing

7. Surfing Hotspots like Cayucos and Morro Bay

Chase the barrel to Cayucos, a prime locale for beginner and intermediate paddlers. Hit the Cayucos Pier for moderate waves and an uncrowded coastline. In nearby Morro Bay, Morro Strand State Beach invites paddlers of all abilities to frolic in the shadow of Morro Rock, a 500-foot tall volcanic plug.

Eats Highway 1 Moonstone Grill

8. Fresh Seafood Dining Experiences

It’s not just fishermen who are grateful to reel in the catch of the day. On Highway 1, hungry visitors delight in vibrant coastal cuisine paired with expansive ocean views. From Morro Bay oysters to locally-caught fish, give thanks for the ocean’s bounty, one delicious bite at a time. From crowd-pleasing fish and chips served hot along the Morro Bay Embarcadero to dozens of upscale oceanfront dining restaurants in Avila Beach, Cayucos, Cambria and San Simeon, take time to savor the seafood.

9. Soothing Hot Springs in Avila Beach

Coastal hot springs offer a soothing pause after a day of Highway 1 adventuring. Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort in San Luis Obispo is located just a stone’s throw from Avila Beach’s white sand allure. Nestled under lush branches, find peaceful hillside hot tubs perfect for couples, groups and families. Afterward, walk from forest to sea along the Bob Jones Trail, accessible from the resort.

Hearst Castle Neptune Pool

10. A Personal Invitation to Hearst Castle

It isn’t often that everyday folks get invited into a famed mansion in the San Simeon hills. At Hearst Castle, this wish is granted with several mesmerizing tours to choose from. Designed by architect Julia Morgan, “the castle” showcases a blend of architectural styles. Plus, you’ll get a first-person look at William Randolph Hearst’s museum-worthy art collection, shimmering pools and manicured gardens.

Point San Luis Lighthouse

11. Hidden Secrets like the SLO Light Station

There’s countless secrets to discover along Highway 1. Go find your treasure! Hit the scenic Cayucos Bluff Trail for an easygoing hike with a surprise shipwreck in store. Another hidden gem: Paddle off the beaten path from Avila Beach to the SLO Light Station. Along the way, look for wildlife like otters, seals and seabirds. Don’t miss the secret rope swing located nearby the Light Station!

Swinging Bridge, Arroyo Grande

12. Blasts from the Past like the Swinging Footbridge

Prepare to enter your very own time machine along Highway 1. Make your way to Arroyo Grande, where families are encouraged to cross a shaky suspension footbridge over a babbling creek. Once across, you’ll find an antique one-room schoolhouse equipped with a chalkboard and desks. Trust us: Nothing will inspire gratitude in kids like experiencing the school days of yore.

13. Enchanting Waterfalls

There are several waterfalls to discover on the Central Coast, but we’re especially thankful for Black Swift Falls, a Ragged Point area hike offering dramatic cliffs and secluded romance. Expect a short trail measuring under one mile in length—just be aware of the 400-foot elevation descent and ascent (wear good shoes). The path features switchbacks leading to a secluded black sand beach where a seasonal waterfall cascades down coastal rocks.

Cambria Christmas Market

14. The Warmth of Community Spirit

Join the fun! Along Highway 1, find local color unfolding everywhere you go. From Cayucos’ Fourth of July parade to Cambria’s illuminated Christmas Market, find dozens of free, friendly events kicking off all across the region. Whether you’re just traveling for the first time or a longtime visitor, you’ll be treated to warm hospitality and a unique seasonal experience.

Sea Otter in water

15. Adorable Sea Otters

Their expressive eyes, furry appearance and playful personalities give them celebrity status around here. Spy Sea Otters along Highway 1 wildlife hotspots like Morro Bay and San Simeon. The charismatic animals concentrate in floating kelp beds, where napping, snacking and socializing commence. Sea Otter habitats remain under threat, so we’re incredibly thankful that Highway 1 visitors continue to Travel for Good, taking on conservation efforts while enjoying the coast.

Estuary Los Osos

16. The Magic of the Morro Bay Estuary

Kayaking through the Morro Bay Estuary is sure to conjure feelings of gratitude—for the plants and animals, the lush landscape and the unique mix of sea and salt water that allow this important environment to thrive. Experience the breadth of biodiversity, including birds, fish, invertebrates and marine mammals. Nothing hits the “reset” button quite like bird watching while drifting peacefully along the estuary.

San Simeon Pier

17. Historic Piers for Fishing and Strolling

Highway 1 is home to dynamic piers with plenty to offer. Whether you’re looking to fish, whale watch or simply go for a breezy stroll with kids in tow, you’re in luck. Keep an eye out for whales and dolphins at the San Simeon Pier at the W.R. Hearst State Beach, cast a line off the time-honored Cayucos Pier or watch surfers hang ten from the remodeled Pismo Beach Pier and Promenade.

Old truck in front of a sign for the town of Harmony, California

18. The Tiny Joys of Harmony CA

The hamlet of Harmony, CA (population 18 if you count the cows) is the kind of place you’d find in a storybook. For this reason, we’re grateful it exists in real life! Nestled between Cambria and Cayucos, find a quirky respite from the burdens of daily life. Explore this village’s fun offerings, including glass blowing demonstrations and wares, a miniature chapel, whimsical selfie spots and nearby wine tasting. Small wonders can mean big fun!

The Fiscalini Ranch Preserve

19. The Grandeur of Protected Sanctuaries

Protected sanctuaries preserve Highway 1’s coastal wonders for the next generation. From the elevated trails of the Pismo Preserve to the ancient dwarf oak trees of the Los Osos Oaks State Natural Reserve, take time to appreciate these sacred spaces. One such oasis, Cambria’s Fiscalini Ranch Preserve, is a fantastic stop for nature lovers of all ages. It features a system of 17 hiking trails, explore diverse pathways winding through coastal prairies, pine and oak forests and wetlands.

Covell's Clydesdales in Cambria, CA

20. Views Via Horseback

Exploring Highway 1 from the saddle has its perks. Equine lovers, rejoice: Our coastline is chock full of ways to enjoy the journey from horseback. Whether you hop on a Clydesdale in Cambria or gallop along the sands of Montaña de Oro State Park in Los Osos, you’ll find that horses and hikers often share the same trails on Highway 1 (and the gorgeous views that come with them).

Breaching whale photo courtesy of Vincent Shay Photography, photo credit required

21. The Excitement of Whale Watching

There’s nothing like observing a massive fluke emerge from the depths. Gray whales can usually be seen in October and again mid-February through May, while Blue whales (including humpbacks) are known to visit the Central Coast each summer in search of krill. If you don’t spy a whale on your first try, no worries: dolphins, California sea lions and sea otters are often spotted year-round.

Oceano Hummer Ride

22. Motoring Across the Oceano Dunes

Feel the wind, the speed and the sand! Driving across the Oceano Dunes is a thrilling experience that adrenaline junkies will certainly be thankful for. In fact, The Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA) is one of the few beaches in California where you can drive off-road vehicles, such as dune buggies, ATVs and 4×4 vehicles. For those who prefer to take the passenger’s seat, book a Humvee Tour!

Jockos Nipomo

23. Local Delicacies

From Jocko’s oak-grilled steaks in Nipomo to Linn’s classic Olallieberry pie in Cambria, you’ll find local delicacies galore across Highway 1. Don’t even think about leaving the area without sampling a glass of coastal wine, Madonna Inn’s famous Champagne Cake, locally-loved tri-tip sandwiches or brown butter cookies in Cayucos. It’s hard not to feel grateful when you have something delicious in your mouth, right?

Cambria Historical Museum and downtown

24. Quaint, Walkable Downtowns

While Highway 1 was built for epic road trips, its downtowns are uniquely walkable. Experience quaint downtowns with walkways made for strolling, window shopping and rubbing elbows with local folks. Whether you hit the antique shops in Cayucos, stretch your legs in the tiny town of Harmony or enjoy a historic walking tour of Cambria, you’ll find that your own two feet can get you far along Highway 1.

Kayak Morro Bay

25. Ocean Adventures

Splash into kayaking and paddle boarding or hop on a SUP (Stand Up Paddle Board) for a whole new way to glide across the water. Float across the glassy back bay or explore the Dinosaur Caves of Pismo Beach. Wherever you roam, you’ll find that there’s always more adventure over the next wave.

Oceano train station

26. History Everywhere

We’re grateful for those who came before. From the early Chumash tribes to the Spanish missionaries, there’s much to learn about Highway 1’s rich history. Discover historic missions and adobes, vintage lighthouses and centuries-old architecture along this storied stretch of California coast. Explore the Old Edna Townsite in Edna Valley, Nipomo’s Dana Adobe, the Oceano Train Depot, museums and more.

Hearst Ranch Winery wine tasting

27. Coastal Vineyards and Wineries

Toast the coast’s award winning chardonnay and pinot noir offerings. Explore verdant vineyards in Edna Valley, Avila Beach, and Cambria, all with close proximity to the ocean. Experience the balanced flavor, bright acidity and distinctive character that these SLO Coast Wines are known for. For wines and ocean views, check out the Hearst Ranch Winery Tasting Room in San Simeon, where visitors can sip alongside an unparalleled view of the Pacific!

Cayucos sunset

28. Colorful Sunsets and Romance

Romance blossoms on Highway 1 thanks to multi-colored sunsets that burn from pink to orange. Immerse yourself in this ever-changing palette as the sun sinks behind the blue ocean horizon. If you’re looking for an ultra-romantic moment to pop the question, celebrate an anniversary or impress a new flame, a shared sunset viewing is the way to go. Plus, this nightly delight doesn’t cost a dime.

Sinor LaVallee wine tasting

29. Local Community Spirit

Howdy, neighbor! When you’re traveling along Highway 1, making friends is non-negotiable. Encounters with museum docents, shopkeepers and tasting room attendants can easily transform into something more. Home to family-owned shops and boutiques, you’re likely to meet the owner during your visit, so make some time to chew the fat whenever the opportunity arises!

Dream Drive San Simeon

30. The Journey Itself on America's Most Scenic Highway

It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey! Traveling Highway 1 is one of life’s most glorious experiences (we might be biased, but plenty of others agree). When you add up the magic of the landscape, the discovery of new adventures and the thrill of the open road, you end up with incredible memories sure to last a lifetime.

See you on the road

Now that we’ve taken some time to meditate on the multifaceted wonders of Highway 1, let’s plan your trip! Whatever your lifestyle, it’s never a bad idea to slow down and enjoy the road less traveled—especially when the road is this magical. Whether you seek outdoor thrills or quiet solitude amid vineyards and birdsong, you’ll find your happy place along Highway 1. Create your own 30 Days of Thanks project and be sure to share any fun moments from your next Highway 1 Road trip with us on social media. Tag Highway 1 on Instagram and Facebook! See you along the route.