California Adventure: Highway 1 Pescadero to Big Sur

The drive: This drive follows California Highway 1 and twists along the spectacular Big Sur Coast between Carmel and Morro Bay along central California’s Pacific shoreline. The road is simply one of the world’s most breathtaking drives, a must-do adventure for any California traveler. Here, the steep ridges of the remote Santa Lucia Range plunge down to a rocky, wave-battered coast, making an abrupt transition from wild peak to wild ocean. The roadway follows this transition zone, snaking along precipitous headlands, crossing grassy meadows above ragged coves, and traversing thirty-three bridges that span deep canyons and gorges. It’s a superb landscape that serves as a fitting boundary between North America and the Pacific Ocean.

While 97.9 miles in texas translates into a little over an hours drive, on Highway one it turns into a day long joy ride. That’s the distance we  cover today as we make our way south along highway 1 from Pigeon Point lighthouse to Big Sur. Only 20 miles passed before we pulled in at the Swanson Berry Farm. As soon as we entered  through the brightly painted red screen door we knew we were in for a treat. Our mouths watered as we caught site of the beautiful strawberries, fresh baked scones and other treats. Opting to wait for some fresh baked blackberry pies coming out of the oven gave us time to explore. Most interesting was their unmanned cash register with coins and bills laying out for customers to make their own change! After enjoying the blackberry pie we took a scone for the road to enjoy later.

 So as to reach our destination of Big Sur at a reasonable hour we chose to bypass Monterrey and go directly to Carmel By The Sea. Carmel is know for its houses with architecture that look to be from the pages of a storybook. We strolled the streets noting the numerous Art galleries and interesting shops. Our favorite was the West Gallery where we enjoyed the Ansel Adams room the most. After a delicious lunch at La Bicycletto we continued on towards Big Sur.

Carmel By The Sea.. you can walk down main street and right onto the beach

Celebrese Pizza

Heirloom Apple Salad

For the car enthusiasts! 
The stretch of road from Camel to big Sur is a car enthusiast dream. With it’s never ending curves and undulating roads it’s not for the faint of heart. Fortunately Carissa shares my passion for enthusiastic driving so while she manned the iPod with the skill of a DJ I put the Camaro’s 305hp V6 through its paces utilizing the paddles shifters and HUD (heads up display) to there best advantage. To put it plainly, we had a blast!

The drive’s next thirty miles clings to the seaward face of the Santa Lucias above the crash of the Pacific surf. The road is narrow with numerous pullouts. The first stop is 2,800-acre Garrapata State Park along the coast just north of Soberanes Point. This day-use park land, named by the Spanish for the lowly wood tick, boasts gleaming white beaches flanked by granite buttresses, arches, and grottos. Some good trails lace the bluffs above the water and the coves offer fishing for greenling and surf perch. A good trail climbs east from the highway 1.5 miles up Soberanes Creek to a verdant grove of redwoods nestled in the chaparral-covered hills.

Carissa feigning to resist the constant paparazzi as she attempts a stroll on the beach…. 😀

The highway twists south from Garrapata past Kaiser and Rocky points to the Bixby Creek Bridge, a dramatic concrete span that arches over Bixby Creek’s deep gorge. The famed bridge measures 718 feet long and 260 feet high and consumed some 6,600 cubic yards of concrete poured into forms supported by 300,000 board feet of Douglas fir. The bridge, also called Rainbow Bridge, was completed in 1932. The highway itself was finished in 1937, hacked out of the remote coast by convict labor who battled violent weather and tough engineering problems for nine years. The road cost more than $10 million or $71,000 per mile.
 Within minutes of our destination in Big Sur, I will end this post but I am anxious  to share about Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn and the waterfall at julia pfeiffer burns state park in my next post.

221 thoughts on “California Adventure: Highway 1 Pescadero to Big Sur

  1. What awesome pictures! What memories with your beautiful daughter! You are really stirring up our CA yearnings!

  2. I was there when I was thirteen, which means . . . um, let’s see, can I count that high? A long time ago. I loved it then, and this makes me want to go back. Beautiful!

  3. I just made that drive too with my son in tow. Unfortunately he was not quite the sport as he just wanted to get to the SF area. It was so beautiful..especially this time of year with the flowers in full bloom. Thanks for all the lovely pictures of the scenic route I didn’t have enough time to enjoy.

  4. I too love this drive. I once went from San Francisco to Oregon all along the coast. Although most would think it’s a long drive, the breathtaking views made me want more. It’s incredible and these photos do it justice! Awesome shots and music choice 🙂

  5. Beautiful car, beautiful scenery,… oh and beautiful girl 😉

    Great shots here my friend. In fact, you’ve inspired me. I’m taking this trip. Lol, I really am. 🙂

  6. Love! your photography I’m a beginning photographer myself (emphasis on beginner!) and soon I am taking a road trip to MO from NC your photos inspired me! Thank you i’ve been looking for inspiration for my photos its just so hard to start sometimes.

      • Our new plan would be to take a small road west to Lopez Point then go north (before we would have driven to Santa Cruz and then gone north). We have driven San Fran to Neah Bay, WA as well as LA to Santa Barbara. I was very surprised at how empty the northern CA coast is and how built up it is in Oregon (I thought it would be opposite). Would be honored if you checked out our site.

  7. Hi breathtaking stretch and beautiful pictures. Did you miss the McWay falls and the Julia Pfeiffer Beach en route. I did those last week Big Sur to Pigeon Point. (

  8. Fist of all, your car is sexy! haha. Camaro’s are one of my top favorite cars. And second, this must have been such an awesome adventure. I’ve always wanted to see the pacific coast highway in california, and this post makes me want to drive it even more. Very cool!

  9. I spent 11 years living in California and returned to Texas only when my mom was diagnosed with cancer. I am unable to return to the Golden State, but it was my favorite place to live. I have so many warm, nostalgic memories, including the several times I made the drive from LA to SF on PCH. I have many photos here taken on my trips, as well. I enjoyed this post. I envy you. I wish I could again drive Highway One. Maybe someday.

  10. First thing i have to say, your car is the most awesome machine i have ever laid my eyes on!!! wooww!! and your pictures are really amazing!!! 😀 thanks for sharing with us..

  11. If you love cars you need to do this trip during car week in Monterey. Usually you will see exotics (Ferrari, Bugatti, etc.) and really nice classics. Also, a great place to grab a bite to eat in Big Sur is at Nepenthe. Not only is the food amazing but the view is spectacular.

  12. Generally I don’t read article on blogs, however I would like to say that this write-up very forced me to check out and do it! Your writing taste has been surprised me. Thanks, very nice post.

  13. Many of my memories of CA are not great–I lived in Los Angeles–but this piece of the earth’s crust, this coastline, must have sprung straight from God’s imagination. Just so beautiful and so embracing–it makes you feel as if you never want to leave. I made the trip from LA to Monterey many times, and my favorite place is Big Sur. Thanks immensely for the photos. Nice car–and lovely daughter!

  14. I have been on this beautiful drive many many years ago. What a coastline! What a trip. Thank you for your beautiful photographs and great writing! Love your Camaro too!!

  15. I’m making this drive this summer…I grew up in California but my memories are all fuzzy. I’m sending the link to my husband, so he can begin to imagine what it will be like. Thanks for the photos!

  16. Wow, not sure which I like better – the scene or the car…. I enjoyed your post very much. It makes even more desperate for my summer vacation. I have a whole 5 weeks off and I have been saving just to have an adventure. I what to do so much, not sure if I can afford everything I want to do?

  17. What beautiful, touching, but curious photos! Wow — what a feast for a photographer’s eye. I loved, especially, the pics in the car with your partner’s hair blowing all over the place. So carefree and joyous. Really made my day!

      • Yes, I really loved that post. And when I finally realized that you had replied to my comment so long ago (don’t know how it happened, but I had no idea that you had replied; slipped my radar), it was time to press that “Follow” button!

        Looking forward to learning more about you and getting lost in your amazing photos!

        Keep up the great work!


  18. Love your pics, and coming from California they evoke lots of beautiful memories and sceneries. If you love the CA coast, I would recommend driving also to the Oregon Coast. It is quite pretty and has its own character. You can either start South, at Crescent City up to Astoria on the North or vice versa. It is also an awesome drive. Great photography.

  19. Congratulations, my friend, on the Freshly Pressed highlight of your blog…well-deserved. Beautiful photography!

  20. I have enjoyed reading your blog and I also enjoyed the the pictures you posted, they are very beautiful! I hope that I can take a road trip like this in the near future. Very enjoyable story.

  21. Oh the guilt you have induced. Living in the Central Valley I have of course spent countless days wandering the Central California Coast. But the guilt…comes from not ever driving over that bridge on the way to Big Sur. The worst? My family purchased a vacation home in Pebble Beach about four years ago…and I still haven’t made that drive. Thanks for the beautiful reminder, I need to get drivin’.

  22. Great photos, I’ve taken this drive a few times and it always amazes me with it’s beauty. It builds great memories and I remember these trips as a little kid with my parents. Thank you for bringing the memories back with your post.

  23. Breathtaking photos, I love driving and just enjoying what it is found along the way. I’ve driven a portion of that coastal highway and it is heavenly. There’s an amazing place to eat called Nepenthe in Big Sur CA… man alive, I feel a trip coming on… Thank You!

  24. Wow… Great post and pictures! My wife and I want to do that on the motorcycle. We have been talking about doing it for sometime now. This has inspired us even more… Thanks again…

  25. My husband and I recently returned from a quick trip to the California coast. We went from the Bodega Bay area down into San Francisco. Looking at your pictures has me wanting to plan another trip, this time from San Francisco on down to the Monterey area. Thanks for sharing your pictures.

  26. I visited Big Sur in 1985–it’s wonderful to see it again through your lens!

    On a side note: There is an obscure, yet excellent film that was made there. It is entitled, “Incubus”, and it stars William Shatner. It is the only film “shot entirely in the artificial language of Esperanto,” though it employs English subtitles of course. I highly recommend it.

  27. If luck pans out I’ll be cruising the Highway 1 on a bunch of assorted motorcycles next year. Can’t wait!

  28. Lovely photos. That stretch of road is incredible. We towed our 1966 Serro Scotty trailer up the coast last summer- unfortunately, it was cloudy that day! My pics of the Bixby Bridge are shrouded. Lunch in Carmel was amazing though! Thanks for writing- congrats on being freshly pressed!

  29. Brilliant pictures. Waiting for the proper summer to do a tour like this. Could even be better if I win the any of the lotteries this week.

  30. I hitch-hiked up the 1 a few months ago. My buddy Matt and I actually walked from Santa Cruz to that Jam tasting place where we met some guy who gave us a ride to San Francisco. It was probably the best Jam I’ve ever had. I wish I had a good camera at the time though, because your pictures are really great.

  31. The 1 is a beautiful drive, if you get a chance keep going north up the 101 past San Francisco into the Redwood forest. It’s a whole nother kind of amazing.

  32. Pingback: Road trip! « Broadside

  33. this is one of my destinations that is a must for us. each year i say i am going to plan the trip and we always fall a state short of making it there. soon though. fantastic photos!

  34. Great Post and I really enjoyed the photos . This is something I always wanted to do. Thanks for inviting us along your ride.

    Also really awesome car! I am wondering if drives as good as it looks.

    • The looks are a tough act to follow but yes, it drives great. It’s strong points are the v6 engine and paddle shifters. Thanks for tagging along on the trip, always welcome 🙂

  35. I used to travel down the PCH often when I lived in California. Once, I was in the middle of that long curvaceous stretch after Monterey and I was fighting against time, trying to get to San Luis Obispo. The PCH closes at 8pm, there are no lights, so once it gets dark, there is a slight probability you might mistakenly drive over the edge. 🙂

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