From Santa Barbara I had less than 2 days to reach San Francisco via the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1).
154 – San Marcos Pass Rd
I had hopes of doing a hike around Santa Barbara but I ended up running out of time, so I decided to take the 154 North and at least see the picturesque mountains from the road. I made a quick stop by the Cachuma Lake Recreation Area and snapped a few pictures of the gorgeous scenery. From here, I turned on the 246 – Mission Drive that brought me back to the PCH.
My next stop was Pismo Beach. The weather wasn’t very friendly as the cold wind seemed to had followed me from LA so, spending too much time on the beach wasn’t in the cards. When I was planning my itinerary I had to choose between Santa Barbara and Pismo Beach, both famous for their sunsets, amazing beach, and wine tours. It was a hard decision.
Next on my stop list was Morro Bay where I had to deal with an intensified wind that made me think twice before exiting the car. Even so, I managed to get a few pictures of the famous Morro Rock that stands at the entrance of the harbour. As a backup option for not being outdoors, I visited the Museum of Natural History, which has some good area specific information. And quite a few stuffed birds that, to be honest, gave me the creeps.
Although a small estuary, Morro Bay is home to hundreds of animals, plants, and birds. If I ever become a bird watcher, this will be my first stop as there are over 200 bird species living happily here.
Elephant Seal Vista Point
After my break in Morro Bay I returned to the Pacific Coast Highway and continued north. I made a stop to see the iconic elephant seals, which couldn’t be bothered by the large number of tourists photographing them.
Big Sur Drive
Up to the Ragged Point, the drive on the Pacific Coast Highway was quite peaceful and almost straight but that was about to change. From here onwards, the road cuts through the rock cliffs making sharp turns and offering amazing scenery. Paired with the sunset on my left, this drive made all my senses happy.
By the time I reached Big Sur it was nightfall. And as my hotel was in Marina, I didn’t stop by Carmel by the Sea either. Both are good enough reasons to return to the area for at least a few days.
After spending the night in Marina, next morning I headed to Santa Cruz, a surfing city with an amusement park on the waterfront and a lighthouse turned surf museum. One place in the area added to the “didn’t see” list is the Natural Bridges State Beach. Still can’t explain how I missed it…
After Santa Cruz, I drove straight to the Muir Woods, north of San Francisco. But that’s a story for another day.
Looking back, I wish I had a few weeks to fully experience what the California coast has to offer. But even so short, this amazing road-trip with its dramatic landscape was exactly what I was looking for. For those like me who use driving as a way to clear their head and quiet “the voices”, the Pacific Coast Highway is the perfect place to go.