California Coastline Highway 1 Road Trip Santa Cruz to Morro Bay

I have done sections of this at various times, met with thick clouds, sometimes rain. This day was clear as I drove down a 200 mile stretch from my home to to Morro Bay. Morro was not the destination, I had always wanted to experience Highway 1 and I was on my way to LA a longer way to get there; that was what I wanted to do- get on this section of the road trip a twisting, turning, cliff hugging beach hopping experience. Highway 17 gives you an indication of things to come, there was not a stitch of fog on Highway 17 and Highway 1 was clear and good to go. As I drove past Santa Cruz I took a breather at Moss Landing- the gateway to Big Sur or the land of the giant waves and many a surfer’s paradise,120 miles of scattered surfing beaches.

Moss Landing

Moss Landing

Monterey,with its Fisherman’s Wharf, Cannery Row and Aquarium were a distraction but for this trip avoidable. However, the 17 mile drive leading to Carmel could not be missed. That was a much desired detour off Highway 1.

Seal Point

Seal Point 17 Mile Drive. More Pictures of this at surendra.smugmug.com Album Highway 1 Santa Cruz to Morro Bay

Home to the Pebble Beach Golf Course,the 17 mile drive offers picturesque rest stops, flora and fauna. Seal point is where an army of seals have their siesta. The lone Cypress is another hallmark of the 17 mile drive:

The Lone Cypress Tree

The Lone Cypress Tree

One day I would love to get this picture at sunset! Carmel is a quaint little town with galleries and artists. But I had miles ahead of me and I was heading for Point Lobos State Reserve 4 miles south of Carmel on Highway 1. Point Lobos is a 500 acre reserve and one could spend a day and I could not help spending more time than what I had in my plan. Which meant that other parks such as the Garrapata State Park would have to be missed. Point Lobos has coves, headlands, meadows, tide pools, bird island, cypress trees and numerous trails.

Point Lobos State Reserve

Point Lobos State Reserve.
Tide pools and giant waves

Rocks can be alluring but the waves have their way and it is best to keep that safe distance.

Bird Island

Bird Island Point Lobos

Bird Island and Point Lobos State Reserve is home to a wide variety of birds. Spring and summer are the best times to see a huge flock of birds. Hundreds and hundreds of Brandt’s cormorants inhabit Bird Island, Black Crown Night Herons, Pelicans can be spotted at many a place in the park. Along the trail you pass China Cove (pictures at http://surendra.smugmug.com/Highway-1-Santa-Cruz-to-Morro/) and Gibson Beach.

With time running out and an early sunset predicted I had to skip the Big Sur, Garrapata State Park and a quaint Old Coast Road as I made my way ont a cliff hugging road to the Bixby Bridge. A single span concrete arch this is an iconic much photographed bridge, home to many a car commercial.

Bixby Bridge

Bixby Bridge

By now I was hungry and went past Hurricane point and the point Sur Lighthouse and Andrew Molera State Park. Big views but for another day! However I could not miss Pfeiffer Beach. This is easily missed as the Sycamore Canyon Road is not properly marked. If you reach the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park going South then you would miss this fascinating landmark. Best times is sunset between mid December and mid January as the sun set rays travel through the arch. I have yet to get that lucky shot:

Pfeiffer Beach

Pfeiffer Beach

By now hunger took over and I made a well deserved break at Nepenthe a restaurant, on Highway 1, with a view :

Nepenthe Restaurant

Nepenthe Restaurant

Refreshed I made my way back South on Highway 1 to the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State park for the iconic McWay Falls:

McWay Falls

McWay Falls

For a while there is a stretch of one way traffic only and by then the sun was setting:

Sun set on Highway 1

Sun set on Highway 1

And the sun dipped further down:

Sunset on Highway 1

Sunset on Highway 1

Even the golden yellow foliage on the mountain changed its hue:

Sunset on Highway 1

Sunset on Highway 1

As the sun set gave way  to the golden hour the scene transformed to a surreal painting:

Golden Hour Highway 1

Golden Hour Highway 1

By now it was pitch dark and I made a pit stop at the Cavalier Ocean Front resort in San Simeon. Up early I was hoping for some early sunrise moments:

San Simeon Beach

San Simeon Beach

San Simeon is home to the Hearst castle so I took a tour of this 115 room guest house and playground for Randolph Hearst.

Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle

(Many many more pictures of the Hearst castle at http://surendra.smugmug.com/Hearst-Castle )

Hearst Castle indoor swimming pool

Hearst Castle indoor swimming pool

Well kept the castle also has a huge variety of cactus, flowers and plants

Plants at the Hearst Castle

Plants at the Hearst Castle (many more fascinating plants in the album HEARST CASTLE in surendra.smugmug.com)

Morro Bay was the last stop on this trip along Highway 1:

Morro Bay

Morro Bay

For me though there was another 200 miles to go to LA, more beaches on that stretch but not for this trip. Some other time….

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About sursaxeng

I love travel and photography. Send me to places awe inspiring and beautiful.
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2 Responses to California Coastline Highway 1 Road Trip Santa Cruz to Morro Bay

  1. Vivek Saxena says:

    I really enjoyed your blog. I’d curious to learn more about how the photographs were taken (camera type, exposure time, etc.).

    • sursaxeng says:

      Hi I use a Nikon D7000 with a Singh-Ray warm polarizer. I also use 3 stop graduated neutral density filters. If you go to my website and check the pictures you can click on the ‘I’ link that pulls up the exposure information of the picture of interest.

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