Along Highway 1
Welcome to a new kind of to-do list. Welcome to Highway 1.
Here on Highway 1, the locals know that the best spots, experiences and moments are worth searching for. Soak up the view from a beachfront tree swing, or witness the beginning of a baby elephant seal’s life. Discover a hidden waterfall, a Sphinx, a shipwreck, a wine tasting room in a eucalyptus grove. Gasp at the sight of a whale tail or a herd of zebras. Take your time hunting down these hidden delights and be dazzled.
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The Million-Dollar View
The round outdoor sculpture near Ragged Point Inn provides a perfect window to the Big Sur coastline. One of the most Instagram-able shots around, this view explains why Ragged Point really is the Gateway to Big Sur.
At Ragged Point, follow the Black Swift Trail down, down, down to a tiny black sand beach with its own waterfall. Just be sure to bring your grippy shoes and a sense of adventure.
Birthing Season at the Elephant Seal Rookery
Between December and February, mother elephant seals give birth to their young right on the beach at the Elephant Seal Rookery in San Simeon. Stand on the cliffs and watch the circle of life unfold. Locals’ tip: Head north from the Rookery on the Boucher Trail to avoid the crowds and find five more elephant seal overlooks.
Kayak in Peace
The magic of San Simeon Bay lies in its position, protected from the wind — and from crowds. Paddle along the shore and you may just see an elephant seal happily sunning itself on the beach.
A Wine Experience Like No Other
Set amongst the eucalyptus trees in old San Simeon, Hearst Ranch Winery pours wine with a view of the ocean and the San Simeon Pier. You may even spy the ghost of William Randolph Hearst, who kept his world class art collection in the barns here.
Earn Your Stripes
A herd of zebras in San Simeon? Believe it or not, descendents from William Randolph Hearst’s zoo roam Hearst Ranch in full view of Highway 1.
Preserve Your Inner Peace
A network of 17 hiking trails spreads across the remarkable seaside Fiscalini Ranch Preserve. Walk through the forest, over the hills, and along the shore, or just relax on a driftwood bench and soak in your surroundings.
One of the largest free range herd of Clydesdale horses roams the Covell Ranch in Cambria’s countryside. Take a trail ride on one of these majestic animals over the hills and through the ranch’s large stand of Monterey Pines.
The House That Olallieberries Built
Savor a slice of Cambria’s fresh-baked finest at Linn’s Easy As Pie Cafe. Around here the olallieberries — an unusual cross between Loganberries and Youngberries — are legendary.
Travel Highway 46 between Cambria and Paso Robles in spring, and don’t be surprised when your jaw drops. The rippling, rolling hills cascade down in vibrant emerald to the sparkling ocean with distant views of Morro Rock — a view just begging to be Instagrammed.
Hit The Hills, Soak Up The Ocean Views
Between Cayucos and Cambria, Old Creek Road delights cyclists from around the world with its challenging hills and ocean views. Go single file with a cycling buddy or take the climbs solo.
Walk the winding Estero Bluffs Trail near Cayucos, and you’ll see an old fishing boat that ran aground, left in a little cove. Scramble down and you can even get to the ship at low tide, if you’re careful.
Tidepools in Cayucos
Delicate anemones, spiny urchins, dancing hermit crabs and more inhabit a miniature world of wonders at the Cayucos tide pools. Bring the family for an hour or spend the day exploring every nook and cranny.
Looking for a unique place to watch the sunset? The whale tail bench at Cayucos’s 1st Street beach access affords the perfect position for wishing the sun goodnight.
Picnic for Two
Take your special moments to the next level with a picnic on the beach care of Cayucos Picnic Company. White sands on a hidden beach and a gourmet spread with comfortable blankets and pillows turn any occasion into a luxurious, secluded treat.
Spot Otters Up Close
If you want to see fuzzy, plucky California Sea Otters, you usually have to stake out your spot among everyone else. Not so at this little-known sea otter preserve overlooking Morro Rock in Morro Bay, where there’s plenty of room to watch their adorable antics.
You may have been on a wine tasting tour, but what about a seaweed foraging tour? The Marley family in Los Osos teaches all ages to forage edible seaweed, then prepares seaweed ramen on the beach.
Edge of the World
Hike out to the end of the Montaña de Oro Bluff Trail in Los Osos for one of the most expansive vistas around. Come in fall to get the clearest view of the bay between Point Concepcion and the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse.
See Whales From Shore
Whale watching is awe-inspiring along Highway 1, but the area around Avila Beach sees more than its fair share of these gentle giants. Perch on the Harford Pier, take a whale watching tour, or paddle into San Luis Bay on your kayak.
Swing With A View
The Point San Luis Lighthouse is a hidden gem in and of itself, tucked back behind the hills of Avila Beach. A tree swing on the property faces the ocean for what is the most relaxing, romantic spot around.
A Rare Bridge Back in Time
The historic Swinging Bridge in Arroyo Grande is one of the only in California. At 40 feet above the Arroyo Grande Creek, and 171 feet across, it provides plenty of wobbly, wiggly fun.
Walk in Solitude
True solitude is rare, but the expansive ecosystem of the Oceano Dunes offers the real deal. Enjoy 22,000 acres of protected dunes between Pismo Beach and Point Sal, one of the largest dune systems in North America.
Above The Clouds
A biplane ride over Oceano gives a view of the Central Coast not usually seen. Take in the wide, sparkling Pacific Ocean, the beach towns of Oceano, Pismo Beach, and the rippling dunes.
Art for All
At Nipomo’s Monarch Club at Trilogy, a sculpture garden featuring work by independent local artists welcomes guests in. Made from steel, marble, stone and glass, the collection is free and open to the public.
After Cecil B. DeMille directed The Ten Commandments on the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes in 1923, many set pieces were buried under the sand. Decades later, excavators unearthed a large Sphinx head, a bit of Hollywood history now on display at the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center.
Find your very own hideaway
Want to see all the under-the-radar spots? Book your stay at one of hundreds of lodging properties to return to after adventuring. There’s something for everybody and every budget. Set up a cozy home base, and you’ll be ready to experience it all.