Highway 1 through Big Sur is known as the 'Most Beautiful Drive in the World'. This 90 mile stretch from San Simeon to Carmel is 'The Greatest Meeting of Land and Sea' on Earth. The Santa Lucia Mountains drop majestically to the ocean creating a dramatic rocky coast. Vista points at each bend provide stunning overlooks to get out and enjoy the view. Drive slow and spend the day admiring one of California's great wild places.
The Guadalupe Nipomo Dunes are the largest coastal dune ecosystem in California at 18 miles long. Several opportunities are available from relaxing at Rancho Guadalupe Dunes County Park, off-roading at Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area and camping at Pismo State Beach. Native American Chumash used the site as a fishing village and hunted alongside wild grizzly bears.
Cecil B. DeMille filmed his famous epic 'The Ten Commandments' in 1923 and buried the gigantic sets after filming. Excavated pieces of 'Egypt' have been discovered in the shifting sands. This National Natural Landmark also preserves many endangered plants and animals. Enjoy exploring these wild, uncrowded dunes.
Bishop Peak is the highest of the 'Nine Sisters' volcanic plugs at 1,559 feet. The rocky peak resembling a Bishop's miter was named during the Mission days. Run as a natural reserve, ecosystems include chaparral, grassland and oak woodland making it important for conservation. A moderate 4.4 mile out and back hike will bring you to the top with sweeping views of San Luis Obispo and its valleys.
Hearst Castle is the former estate of famous newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. Julia Morgan designed it between 1919-47 and is known for designing more than 700 landmark California buildings. She was the first woman admitted to the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, France. Mediterranean Revival is the main architectural style with influences of Spanish Colonial, Beaux-Arts, Italian Renaissance and Gothic.
Hearst called his ranch 'La Cuesta Encantada' (The Enchanted Hill) with its dramatic mountain to ocean vistas. He entertained Hollywood & Political elite including Charlie Chaplin, Bob Hope and Franklin D. Roosevelt. The castle has been open to the public for tours since 1958 where visitors can tour a small selection of the 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms and 127 acres of landscaped gardens and pools making it one of the busiest destinations in the state.
Estero Bluffs State Park preserves a coastline with a dramatic meeting of land and sea. Bluffs covered in grassland lead to rocky coves with endless ocean vistas. Cottontail rabbits, mule deer, seven butterfly species, brown pelicans, harbor seals and the endangered sea otter can all be spotted enjoying the coast. Enjoy a hike through miles of secluded ocean-front trails.
San Luis Obispo North Coast Byway is a National Scenic Byway that extends 57 miles from San Luis Obispo to Big Sur. It follows the California Coast along one of the most dramatic stretches of the Pacific. From charming Morro Bay, the small towns of Cayucos, Harmony and Cambria to the enchanting Hearst Castle, take your time and enjoy the many vistas along the way. In Winter, the golden hills turn unbelievable shades of green.
Moonstone Beach is a stunning beach in Cambria. A boardwalk meanders on the bluffs while a walk along the beach takes you through tiny stones that glisten like moonstones. This uncrowded beach is the perfect retreat on the Central Coast.
Carrizo Plain National Monument is a true wilderness experience in California's Great Central Valley. More than 200,000 acres of untouched beauty reveal what the entire valley looked like long before development. Beautiful grassland plains hug rolling hills blanketed by a rainbow of wildflowers in the Spring. The San Andreas Fault cuts right through the plain giving it a rich geological history. Native Chumash considered the plain sacred and inhabited the area for at least 4,000 years.
Today, this is the only original California grassland strand remaining. The highest concentration of endangered species in the state reside here including the tule elk, pronghorn, San Joaquin kit fox & antelope squirrel, blunt-nosed leopard lizard, giant kangaroo rat as well as the California condor. Managed by the Bureau of Land Management as opposed to the National Park Service, the plain is continuously in a controversial debate over grazing, solar power and oil drilling rights. One visit will have you one the side for preservation.
*Access is dirt road only, 4 wheel drive strongly recommended
Morro Rock in an ancient volcano and main landmark of Morro Bay at 581 feet. This monolith is protected as Morro Rock State Preserve which includes the surrounding stretch of coast as a beach. It is the first of San Luis Obispo's 'Nine Sisters' or volcano plugs created 20 million years ago. Native Chumash and Salinan consider it sacred and archeological evidence has found settlements near the site dating 6500-2000 B.C. Morro Rock is the perfect place to relax on the Central Coast.
The Sand Spit is a ancient coastal dune field in Montaña de Oro State Park. For several miles, massive sand dunes cover bluffs that descend into crashing waters below. A trail leads to the ocean while climbing the many peaks offer dramatic vistas of Los Osos and Morro Bay. Enjoy a peaceful day wandering the dunes and finding hidden spots to relax.