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Classic California Road Trip on Historic Highway One

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Highway 1

Highway 1 is California’s most iconic highway, with small coastal towns, beautiful scenery, and terrifying cliffs, it is one of the best ways to sightsee California.

This past spring, we took a road trip from San Francisco to Big Sur spending a few days in Carmel by the Sea.

Check out this blog post by if you are looking for a 4-day itinerary to San Francisco. 

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Spending the Night in San Francisco

Arriving at almost midnight, we decided we needed to spend the night super close to the airport so we could make the most of our morning and road trip.

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express San Francisco Airport South and woke up early the next day to start our road trip. Our first stop outside of San Francisco was going a bit North to Pacifica.

Beautiful wild flowers by highway 1

City of Pacifica

Many of the reviews I’ve read suggested skipping the extra couple of miles and minutes and skip Pacifica. I would stop by Pacifica because it is a small town and beach.

Our first stop at Pacifica was visiting the shopping area of the coastal beach. We noticed that there were some hotels around this area, but the beach wasn’t that pretty, in fact, the sand was so brown it was almost black!

We saw a family running around the beach, and the children looked like they had just gotten out of the dirt instead of the sand. Continuing to highway 1 made us appreciate this beach and the unique Vistas and beauty along Highway 1.

Coastline at Pacifica

Even though the shoreline is beautiful, I was shocked to see such dark sand!

Half Moon Cay

Our next stop was Half Moon Cay. We got excited when we saw the shoreline and Half Moon Brewery. Pulling over into the Half Moon Parking lot, we ended up stopping to soak in the sights and taste some beers.

If this is your first time reading Plaid Shirt Yoga Pants, you will soon find out that we love breweries and beer flights. Grabbing a seat inside, we ordered the fried prawns with fries and a beer flight.

After tasting all of the beers, we decided that we liked the Calf-eine Coffee Milk Stout the best that we even got a growler to go to enjoy for the rest of our vacation.

Beer Flight at Half Moon Cay

Nothing is better than a beer flight! Look at all those gorgeous colors.

The beach and Marina at Half Moon Cay was beautiful. Half Moon Cay was one of the first beaches that we saw that was pet-friendly, and there were dogs running leash free.

It was at this beach that we realized we had only gone about 9 miles and took 2 hours to do that, so we needed to put the pedal to the metal and continue on Highway 1.

Pigeon Point Light Station SHP

After driving for a while, we saw a lighthouse in the distance and decided it was time to jump out and stretch our legs a bit.

Walking around the grounds of the Lighthouse, we found out that these grounds was also a hostel. The lighthouse itself, however, is falling apart and is no longer in use due to decay.

A couple of organizations are working to restore the lighthouse including the National Park Service.

Light House on highway 1

The lighthouse, even though it is inaccessible, is beautiful!

Walking over to the bookstore, we heard a man excitingly shout that he could see whales from the viewing ledge.

Racing over to the edge, we saw a couple of whales and their blow and three seals sunbathing. It was amazing to see wildlife just hanging out so close to the shoreline.

Sea Lion getting some sun.

Just hanging out and getting sun while on Highway 1.

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Historic highway 1 in California

Carmel by the Sea

We were spending the next three nights at The Hofsas House in Carmel by the Sea, so we ended our Highway 1 trip for some shut up.

Carmel by the Sea is a beautiful beach town where the Sea meets the Land.

There aren’t any big box stores or hotels in this area. The beach of Carmel is straight off of Ocean Drive and stretches for a mile wide.

carmel by the sea 27 of 104

Fishermans Wharf Monterey Bay

All the sailboats at Fisherman’s Wharf by Monterey Bay.

Garrapata State Park Bluff Trail

Two days later, we continued our Highway 1 journal further south. Jumping back on at Monterey after a Whale Watching Tour, we headed south until we found a beautiful hiking trail that was at Garrapata State Park.

The Bluff trail had a lot of steps and wasn’t very handicapped friendly, but we managed to get to a ledge and sat there for a bit taking photos and soaking I the sights.

One thing that we noticed while in this part was how far down and inaccessible the bleacher is, which genuinely makes Carmel by the Sea a great beach.

Highway 1 scenery.

One of the scenes that we saw while on our hike. What a beautiful scenery.

Bixby Bridge

Continuing on highway one, we stopped and took photos at many different vistas and turnouts. One of the most famous and photographed bridges is Bixby Bridge.

This bridge is famous because it connected the Big Sur Community to the rest of the world.

You can tell that you are getting close to the bridge and photo stop because you will immediately run into bumper to bumper traffic and people darting across highway 1.

We couldn’t immediately find a parking spot, so we crossed the bridge and saw that there were two bongo players playing on the bridge!

Spreading joy to everyone who crossed the bridge, the bongo players mysteriously disappeared once we turned around to get our famous photo.

Bixby Bridge, Highway one

It was hard to get a shot of the Bixby Bridge, but it was well worth it!

Big Sur

The Big Sur area and state parks are beautiful. This area is by far some of the most beautiful regions of the drive.

Starting off in San Francisco, you think you see a beautiful coastline, but the undisturbed beauty of Big Sur is something that you need to see.

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

After driving all day, we stopped by one of the first gas stations and got information that Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park had redwoods.

We love giant trees, and just got back from a trip seeing the Sequoia National Park, so we had to view the redwoods.

Needing a quick nap after our all-day road trips, we paid our $10 for the state park access and took a 30-minute nap to refresh ourselves.

After our nap, we end up taking a short stroll throughout the park admiring the redwoods. (Also, I’ve realized I talk about napping during vacations on this blog a lot).

redwoods in Big Sur area

Beautiful Redwoods in the State Park

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

The sun was quickly setting when we made our way back to Point Lobos – we even had the park ranger remind us that we needed to be out of the park at 7 pm because they were going to lock the gates.

We quickly zoomed through the park, but the sunset and haze were causing the scenery to look off color. Luckily, when driving around, we were able to see a few deer eating grass in the park.

The Rest of Highway One

Highway one is closed right after Big Sur due to road construction from some of the fires and flooding over the past few years. If you want to go further south, you will need to make a complete detour by driving back north and take 101 from Salinas.

If you are in the San Francisco or Monterey Bay Area, you must add this road trip to your bucket list. Just make sure to pack snacks for a picnic lunch, a full tank of gas, and a camera, because you are going to want to take plenty of stops.

Ensure you have a full day to completely drive from San Francisco to Big Sur – it took us two hours to just got a few miles since we stopped so much for photographs.

Highway one with beautiful vistas.

Viewing highway One there are stunning vistas around every corner

I am hoping that I can continue the rest of the road trip driving up from Los Angeles so I can visit Heart Castle and see the rest of Highway One, in the meantime make sure to check out this Big Sur Road Trip Itinerary.

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