We spent one weekend driving from Pismo Beach to Monterey, California, along Highway 1. I recommend two full days minimum to cover this area. And that’s because it was not suitable for swimming in February, although some people still were in the water, many in wetsuits. If the water was warm, we could have easily spent a week exploring and swimming.
Morro Rock & Bayside Beach
Morro Rock was located in Morro Bay, and we were fascinated to discover that this gigantic rock protruding from the beach is actually a volcanic plug. Trying to picture a volcano so large that this was simply a tiny plug was truly a challenge. There were seals, and a rock wall with fabulous waves crashing over it, into the bay.
Cambria, Lefenwell Landing
This was a really gorgeous, rough ocean front area where water crashed and spilled over the rocks and sea birds and seals lounged casually on the rocks.
We spent a little time exploring this beach, hunting for jade. We picked up several rocks that we thought were jade, until my husband picked up a really unique rock that we knew for sure was the real thing. Now we have a jar full of green rocks, and one of true jade!
San Simeon, Elephant Seal Rookery
We had seen sea lions at LaJolla Beach in San Diego, and then we saw a few seals lying near the rocky beach in Cambria, so we really thought that stopping at the Elephant Seal Rookery a little further north in San Simeon really wouldn’t be necessary. However, as we approached, we saw crowds of people lined up against fences and a full parking lot of cars. So we thought we’d jump out of the car for a minute. I am so glad that we did, because it is not a sight to be missed!
What a sound, and a smell! The beach was covered with literally hundreds of elephant seals, lying around, throwing sand on their backs to stay warm. Many were lumbering back and forth into the water, and some aggressive males marking their territory. Amid the females were their cute little pups, only a few months old, barking and playing. Those seals were loud, and ugly, but they were great fun to watch!
I would suggest making a reservation ahead of time to view Hearst Castle in San Simeon. We ultimately decided to pass on this attraction, because I was put off by the price for two boys who would not likely be as mesmerized by this place as us adults. So we passed on it. For now.
Julia Pfeiffer State Park, McWay Falls
We paid the $10 fee to enter this state park, and took the short path down through a tunnel underneath Highway 1, for a nice viewpoint of McWay Falls, a tall, skinny string of water tumbling down from the cliff-side onto the beach. The falls themselves were nice, but more impressive was the gorgeous blue tint of the water.
This stretch of driving along Highway 1 was breathtaking, with its 25 mile an hour twists and turns, and once again we marveled at some of the brave (or is crazy more fitting?) RVer’s who took this route.
I imagine the views were even more stunning driving south, but we were snug against the cliff-sides as we drove. We stopped often to just gaze at the seemingly endless blue of the ocean. We even stopped and picnicked along this stretch.
Overlooking the Bixby Bridge in Big Sur:
After five or so hours of scenic driving and stopping, the boys earned this visit to the Dennis the Menace playground in Monterey. At this point, we couldn’t get a hotel room, and although there was more to see and do, we were just exhausted. We decided to turn back for the 3.5 hour drive to Pismo Beach, so we shot down Highway 101 this time and made a vow that we will return.