Ninety miles of winding two lane coastal highway extends from Carmel to San Simeon, passing through the tiny town of Big Sur. It’s wild; it’s spectacular; and it has its challenges. Narrow lanes, falling rock and soil, and plunging cliffs make for an interesting ride. It’s a drive for second and third gear and your total attention. 



CA Route 1 twists and turns through sometimes treacherous passages, amidst relentless seaside beauty.


The twists and turns of Highway1, San Simeon to Big Sur

The northern start of the drive, in Carmel, is highly civilized, with art galleries, restaurants and the famed 17 Mile Drive. But as one heads south, the terrain becomes more rugged and wild.

Rocky, crashing coasts.

Fingers of fog.

Brilliant sun on blue water.


Big Sur, San Simeon

A small A-frame house sits atop a hillside that plunges down to the Pacific alongside Highway 1 in CA

Coastal plants, Big Sur



Should you decide to drive this, check on the road conditions. There is work being done and just last year mud slides closed the highway. Also be sure to fill up your car ahead of time. Gas along the route is $7+ per gallon.



The CA coast, Big Sur

Big Sur has some of the most spectacular coastal views anywhere.



San Simeon

The southern point of the trip is San Simeon, home to Hearst Castle. Built by William Randolph Hurst over a 30 year period, with architect Julia Morgan turned his 250,000 acre ranch into a massive country home with indoor and outdoor pools; tennis courts; and lavish art and furnishings.



Hearst Castle, San Simeon, Big Sur

Photo Credit: iStock

Hearst Castle Indoor Pool

The indoor pool at Hearst Castle holds 250,000 gallons of water

 Hearst Castle

One of the smaller library rooms at Hearst Castle

Cayucos, Central Coast CA, Hearst Castle, San Simeon, Big Sur

Zebras roam the pastures at Hearst Castle in San Simeon

Cayucos, Central Coast CA, Hearst Castle, San Simeon, Big Sur

San Simeon beach residents

Cayucos, Central Coast CA, Hearst Castle, San Simeon, Big Sur

San Simeon is a small town on the coast at the entry to Hearst Castle. The restaurant here is excellent! Beef from the Hearst Ranch. Fish from the sea. Plus a winery.



While this is a well traveled tourist route, there is a reason to visit. The coast line is beyond spectacular and the touch of history a la William Randolph Hearst makes for a fascinating day’s outing. And then, just south, is the less traveled path through Edna Valley, home to the Pinots and Chardonnays that thrive in this cool coastal climate.

But absolutely no wine on CA Route 1! This route requires your total attention.

Happy driving.

More Reading On The Central California Coast

Central Coast Pinot

Photography of The California Central Coast: From The Beach To the Vineyard


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