Driving California’s Highway 1 From Monterey to Morro Bay

Photo by Xania Woodman

Photo by Xania Woodman

We get our first tantalizing views of the ocean leaving Monterey on Friday morning. With three days and two nights to spend, we skip breakfast and head for Big Sur and brunch with the view at Nepenthe’s cliffside Café Kevah.

Here, California’s historic Highway 1 is a two-lane strip notched into curvy cliffs that weave in and out above a deep, swollen ocean. Every once in a while there’s a spit of beach, a dense stand of coastal pines, whispy fog or frothy sea spray—a whole world of tan, green and blue. The temptation to pull over at every scenic view turnout is almost too great.

After Ragged Point, the forested terrain flattens into a wide shoreline with rolling seaside hills and the Santa Lucia Range in the background. This is also the start of the Highway 1 Discovery Route, a 101-mile swath of coastline encompassing 10 charismatic cities. Just past Piedras Blancas, we stretch our legs at the Vista Point elephant seal rookery and watch the velvety, iridescent males angle for dominance. From here, it’s just moments to Sebastian’s General Store in Old Town San Simeon for a quick flight at Hearst Ranch Winery. The rest of the afternoon is given over to touring Hearst Castle, five miles up into the golden-grassed coastal hills.

Setting Day 2 aside for more wine tasting, we begin with Stolo Family Vineyards & Winery, Cambria’s only estate winery. Hillside and valley fruit make for quaffable whites and surprisingly complex single-varietal red wines. Just 30 minutes away, in Morro Bay, we visit the tasting room of Chateau Margene for a comprehensive sampling of Paso Robles wines. A beach cruiser ride caps the day perfectly a drowsy sun sets over the breakwater.

From Morro Bay, the Discovery Route follows the coast for six more towns, but our departure route takes us inland on Day 3, through the Santa Lucia Range to Paso Robles for stops at Firestone Walker Brewing Co. and Daou Vineyards & Winery. It’s difficult to bid the coast goodbye, but I’ll be back soon—if not for the delicious wines, then for the delicious scenery.

Handy App: Steller

The last thing I wanted was another reason to look away from the breathtaking vistas. Steller turns my road trip photos and videos into a virtual flipbook that I can caption and share. The best part is that all that work can be done after the fact, keeping my eyes on the ocean.