Not all of California’s State Route 1 is actually designated a scenic highway. It may have taken me 18 years to finally complete this particular stretch of Highway 1, but I believe, it’s the most scenic part of the highway. For many years, this stretch of Highway 1 was my missing link. Alas, no more- mission complete!
Perhaps my love for iconic American roads such as Highway 1 and Route 66 stem from the fact that I grew up in a “car family.” My father has had several classic cars including a 1955 candy apple Chevy, 1956 Nomad and 1957 Chevy that packs a powerful punch. I learned how to drive in my mother’s 1966 mustang coupe at the age of 13. My 1965 Fastback is direct from the line off Dearborn, Michigan. I grew up thinking I was going to be the next Cha-Cha Muldowney that taught dance, on-the-side, of course. Cars and racing is just something in my DNA. (Maybe it’s something in yours too and that’s why you’re reading this post!)
Nestled between San Francisco and L.A. is where you’ll find Pismo Beach, California. We hit the road Thursday and made it to SeaCrest Oceanfront Hotel in Pismo Beach that evening. There were roughly 100 steps from the hotel down to the beach below. Below is a picture taken closer to the Pismo Beach Boardwalk, looking back in the direction of our hotel. We woke up early to watch the sunrise.
The beach offered lots of opportunities to explore tide pools. During low tide our family spent time not only collecting sea shells but saving sea creatures stuck in tide pools off to the right of the stairs on the beach.
After exploring and playing on the beach, it was nice to return to the hotel and relax poolside. The complimentary continental breakfast is also served up in the main area of the hotel with seating outdoors, oceanfront. While the breakfast offerings are pretty typical (waffles, danish, fruit, coffee, cereal, etc.), you can’t beat the view!
While in town, we took a short drive to the Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove. If you drive south on Highway 1 leaving Pismo towards Garden Grove, on your right side just past Pismo Coast Village and the campground is where you will find the Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove. It’s truly a magical experience that lasts from October to late February.
The next stop on our tour of Highway 1 included a trip to a genuine salt water taffy store called Crill’s in Morro Bay. Just down the street from Crill’s offered the perfect spot to view the historic Morro Bay rock.
Just over thirty minutes away was our next destination, Hearst Castle. This was the first time my husband and children were visiting “Casa del Mar” (Spanish for House of the Sea). Being that we had two children with us, it was recommended that we take the “Grand Room Tour.” This was a 45-minute tour with 173 stairs on the tour. This worked out well, as by the last room our youngest was pretty tired. Many of the tours were already sold out by the time we arrived at 11a.m. – we were lucky enough to get the last four tickets for the 11:40a.m. tour as the next available Grand Room Tour being sold was at 4p.m. that day. So, if you have your heart set on a certain tour or time, it may be best to purchase your tickets in advance online.
One of the highlights of the tour is taking the shuttle bus to the castle. The bus climbs up a curvy, scenic road in which was designed so the castle appears and disappears before your eyes. It’s hard to not imagine would it would have been like to have traveled this path as an honored guest of Mr. Hearst. If you do plan a visit, be prepared to see an empty Neptune Pool. It was shared that it was being repaired and due to the California draught, the California State Park decided not to refill the pool. While there are mixed reviews on this, it does reveal an impressive marble floor of the pool.
Traveling along Highway 1, you can make stops to see the elephant sea lions and you may spot a zebra (a descendant of Hearst’s original flock). One neat place to grab a bite to eat is Ragged Point Inn. This was the plan, however, this joint was really jumping on this day! A classic Corvette car show on site combined with Valentine weekend made for a long wait to be seated. So, we shared a snack and continued on.
We ate unch at The Whale Watchers Cafe in Gorda Springs Resort, directly on Highway 1. This also happened to be where we would spending the night on Valentine’s Day. This place was all about the view! There were no TV’s in our cabin or cell phone coverage here. The ocean truly ticked us in at night as we fell asleep under a bed of stars. The most stars we have ever seen at night!
The next morning we woke up early so we could catch the sunrise over Big Sur.