California’s famous Highway 1 – a cliff-hugging oceanfront drive along California’s Central Coast stretching from Monterey to Morro Bay – is touted as one of the top road trips in the United States. My husband enjoys driving, so this was our opportunity.

We were on our way from San Francisco (you can read about our SF trip here) to Los Angeles, so we loaded the three kids into the back of our car, and hit the road!

We picked up Highway 1 in Monterey and stopped first at Pebble Beach Golf Links – arguably the most famous U.S. public course. It is worth noting that you have to pay $10 to enter and drive around this exclusive private community I have to admit this caught me a bit off guard, and it bothers some people, but we didn’t mind paying it, especially because your bill is credited the $10 if you eat at one of the local establishments (keep your receipt).

There are five different restaurants  at Pebble Beach and we chose to have lunch in the Gallery Cafe, a casual restaurant overlooking the putting green and #1 tee of the course. It’s too bad it was a bit rainy and foggy, but the food was good. There are also some shops and gift stores at the resort, but the prices were quite expensive.

This was one of those bucket list items for my husband and I was glad he was able to see it in real life after years of seeing it only on TV. He is a great golfer and I know he would have loved to play a round here, and maybe he will someday with his dad and brothers. I think the going rate for a visitor is $495.

The most scenic part of the drive was through Carmel-by-the-Sea and Big Sur.


We stopped several times through here just to take it all in.  The road is narrow and windy in many parts, and not for the faint of heart. My husband loves this kind of driving, but I imagine some drivers would be white-knuckling it through here.


I wish it had been sunny, becasue I think the pictures would look even more spectacular.

With all of our stops, we ended up missing a tour of the Hearst Castle…who would have thought the last tour of the day is at 3:30? We were disappointed, but it is definitely on our list for next time. I hope others will take my advice, check the schedule and buy tour tickets in advance so the same doesn’t happen to you.

Just down the road from the Hearst Castle, in San Simeon, we stumbled upon a beach which was, literally, covered with elephant seals.


As soon as we stepped out of the car, we could smell and hear them! They were extremely fun to watch…all jammed in together, having a big group huddle.  We were absolutely amazed at the size of some of them, and how blubbery they were. The way they move seems to take such great effort, as they hurl their huge bodies out of the water and up onto the beach.


I thought those two seals in the picture above were in love; turns out they are two males battling each other in hopes of wooing a female. To learn more about the 17,000 seals that live on the beaches of California’s central coast, you can visit Friends of the Elephant Seal.

I just love finding the unexpected like this – sometimes the best parts of a trip are the things you didn’t even know existed!


By now, it was getting dark and we were glad we had seen the most scenic parts of the drive in the daylight hours. We pulled into Los Angeles around 8 pm. It was a long day – ten hours in total. If you do this road trip, budget lots of time and maybe even consider an overnight.

Pacific Coast Highway is definitely one of the prettiest drives I’ve done, and it ranks right up there with some beautiful scenery along Highway 340 in northwest Maui, the Road to Hana (which I’ve only seen from a helicopter), the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and Montana’s Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park.

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