The best of California’s Highway 1

Driving Highway 1 along Big Sur’s coastline gives breathtaking views. 

California’s Highway 1 may begin in Orange County and end several hundred miles north of San Francisco in Leggett, but its most famous and photographed section is surely its heart, from Santa Barbara to the Golden Gate. The ribbon of road sandwiched between seaside cliffs and the Pacific Ocean will be familiar from countless car commercials, but Highway 1 is also lined with some of California’s most famous attractions. Let others also know about these resting spots and draw more attention to your content. Buy youtube views to get started. Here are 13 of our favourite pit stops: 


A favourite of the late Julia Child, a Santa Barbara resident, Super Rica is the place to fuel up before you start your drive north. This humble taco stand serves carnitas, chile rellenos, sopes and other authentic Mexican home cooking, all on tortillas made on site. You may have to wait both to order and then to find a seat at one of the picnic tables, but you are unlikely to find Mexican food this good at this price – everything’s less than $7 – anywhere else in the state. 622 N. Milpas St., Santa Barbara; 805-963-4940


From 1919 to 1947, newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst and architect Julia Morgan created this uniquely American “castle” in a variety of architectural styles, from classical to Spanish Mission. Hearst purchased entire rooms in Europe – painted ceilings, mosaic floors and all – and had them shipped to California. It’s impossible to get more than a taste of Hearst’s fantastic home, with 165 rooms and 127 acres of landscaped grounds, but Tour One (there are four other guided tours, $24-$30, plus a self-guided one) is the recommended introduction; at less than two hours, it covers most of the highlights. 750 Hearst Castle Rd., San Simeon; 800-444-4445,



The central coast section of Highway 1 is wild and windswept, yet also home to luxurious inns and cozy B&Bs;, as well as Buddhist retreats and Esalen, that center of New Age consciousness. If you are looking to spend a night in Big Sur in luxury, the two leading choices are Ventana Inn and nearby Post Ranch Inn. Of the two, Ventana is our pick, not just because it’s slightly more affordable, but also because it lacks the decidedly non-California airs of Post Ranch Inn. Ventana has all the amenities you’d expect of a five-star hotel but also appropriate Big Sur touches, such as Japanese soaking tubs, yoga classes and afternoon wine receptions. Doubles from $600 ($350 off- season). 48123 Hwy. 1, Big Sur; 831-667-2331,


If you are simply looking for a lunch spot and not to spend the night, Nepenthe is a popular choice. Briefly owned by Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth, it has been a landmark of the Big Sur coast for more than 60 years. Its sprawling patios offer panoramic views, while its kitchen serves up specialty “ambrosia burgers” ($14), French dip ($15) and other simple fare. 48510 Hwy. 1, Big Sur, 831-667-2345,


Three miles south of Carmel, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is one of the smaller and yet most scenic of the parks in the California state system. Jutting out into the Pacific, every turn provides postcard-perfect images of the surf crashing into the rocky coastline. Populations of monarch butterflies winter here, though if you are hoping to spot sea lions or elephant seals, continue on to Año Nuevo State Park, north of Santa Cruz. Admission is $10 a car. 831-624-4909,


If any town on Highway 1 deserves the label precious, it’s Carmel, with its antiques shops, tea parlors and diminutive Mission-style buildings. There is some irony, then, that the town is also home to the ultimate Hollywood tough guy, Clint Eastwood, former mayor and current owner of the Mission Ranch Inn. Eastwood purchased the 19th century ranch to protect it from a planned condo development and has turned it into a luxury property with just 31 rooms in 10 buildings. Doubles from $120. 26270 Dolores St., Carmel; 800-538-8221,


Between Carmel and Monterey, Pebble Beach’s golf courses are legendary. Pebble Beach itself has hosted five U.S. Open championships (including this year’s), while Spyglass Hill is often described as one of the toughest courses in America and Del Monte is the oldest golf course in continuous operation west of the Mississippi. Even if you aren’t looking to play a round, a detour off Highway 1 along 17-Mile Drive will help you understand why so many golfers put these scenic courses at the top of their lists. 800-654-9300,


Monterey’s Cannery Row, made famous by novelist John Steinbeck, had slid into decline by the 1970s and ’80s, with the closure of the area’s sardine canneries. In 1984, the Monterey Bay Aquarium opened and breathed new life into the city’s waterfront with a fresh approach to aquariums focused on local marine life and conservation efforts. More than 25 years later, its 28-foot-tall kelp forest continues to amaze the nearly 2 million visitors each year. The admission may seem steep, but with more than 100 exhibits, this is not your typical aquarium. Admission is $29.95 for adults, $17.95 for 12 and younger. 886 Cannery Row, Monterey; 831-648-4800,


After the natural beauty of Big Sur and the Zen atmosphere of its lodges and restaurants, a visit to Santa Cruz’s boardwalk (the West Coast’s largest oceanfront amusement park) may bring some culture shock. This is the land of roller coasters, ring tosses and fried Twinkies. The Giant Dipper is an old-fashioned, bone-rattling wooden roller coaster in operation since 1924, while the gentler Looff Carousel, which dates from 1911, is one of the few carousels that still lets riders reach for the brass ring. Rides are $3-$5. 400 Beach St., Santa Cruz; 831-423-5590,


Before “glamping” (glamorous camping, that is) became a boutique trend, Costanoa, a mile from the coast, was a pioneer. The premise is simple: tent bungalows are set up, awaiting your arrival, so there’s no need to lug along your own equipment – and no need to worry about reconstituting your freeze-dried food over a small camp stove when you can head to the lodge’s restaurant or pick up gourmet jams at the “general store.” If even that sounds too rough, there are lodge rooms available. Tents from $89 ($79 off-season), doubles from $169 ($149 off-season). 2001 Rossi Rd., Pescadero, 877-262-7848,


As it passes through San Francisco, Highway 1 follows the route of 19th Street through Golden Gate Park. When 19th century San Franciscans looked enviously at New York and its Central Park, they began construction of their own urban oasis, which is 20 percent larger than its East Coast counterpart. The acres of eucalyptus and pine forest are a good place to get out of the car and stretch your legs, but the park also has a number of cultural institutions worth a visit, including the de Young Museum, which reopened in 2005 in a dramatic new structure encased in copper and designed by the Swiss firm of Herzog & de Meuron. Tickets $10 (adults), $6 (students), $7 (seniors).; de Young Museum: 415-750-3600,


Continue up 19th Street / Highway 1 to Geary and head west to the ocean to visit a San Francisco landmark, the Cliff House. Various incarnations of this restaurant have existed since 1863, though they have succumbed to explosions, fires and military requisition (it is strategically located near the entrance to San Francisco Bay). Cliff House has hosted everyone from U.S. presidents to locals in search of a meal where the city meets the sea with views of the Golden Gate. A 2004 addition, the Sutro Wing, has brought some contemporary flair to an institution that, while beloved, needed some new energy. Dinner offerings include a bacon-crusted salmon ($28), bouillabaisse ($32) and rack of lamb ($39). 1090 Point Lobos, San Francisco; 415-386-3330,


Does this bridge require any introduction? Second only to the Brooklyn Bridge as an icon of American civil engineering (but don’t tell the locals), the Golden Gate Bridge is as much a symbol of the entire state of California as of San Francisco. When it opened in 1937, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world, and today it’s the second-longest in the country, after the Verrazano Narrows. Of course, if you like what you’ve seen so far, this isn’t the end of Highway 1; cross the bridge and continue on through Marin and the even- wilder stretch toward the Oregon border. 415-921-5858,

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