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Road Trip Ready? California Highway 1 Guide

My favorite Spot

Many people probably have seen the iconic California Highway 1 pictures: A concrete arch bridge lies across the deep canyon like a rainbow next to the coast line. That's the Bixby Creek Bridge, the place I have been longing to see since I first saw it. When I saw the news about the partial closing down of Highway 1 near the Big Sur area, I was afraid that I might miss this spot. Luckily, the bridge was still open and welcomed us with its most beautiful view. 

The Bixby Bridge is facing the Pacific Ocean. The steep slope was covered with trees. The verdant color gave a nice contrast with the rich blue of the ocean. Next to the bridge, there is a platform that gives all the travelers a great view of the canyon and the mountains. The highway was like a white ribbon tied on the hillside. Standing near the edge of the cliff, I could see the waves lashing the seashore. These white curved lines left elegant traces on the beach. I dared not getting any closer to the edge because the cliff was so high and steep. So I found myself a rock and sat there to enjoy this relaxing moment. Next to me, clusters of little yellow flowers were blooming. They swung with the wind rhythmically. This section collected many gorgeous colors of this season together. 

17 Miles Drive

17 Miles Drive is very different from many other natural parks in California. It is more like a road with many vista points on the side. There are also many golf courses and residential buildings in this area. In the beginning, the landscape wasn't very unusual. But when we hit the ocean side, the view was fantastic.  Under the sunny sky, the ocean was a deep, vibrant blue color. White waves lapped the shore gently. Seagulls were taking a walk on the beach and keenly staring at the people who were enjoying their picnic. Some people were playing golf right next to the ocean. What a relaxing life! 

My favorite spot is probably the Bird Rock. Countless birds were standing on a giant rock and twittering. I almost couldn't see any of them moving. They were so still as if it was an art piece. Next to the big rock, there was a smaller rock. That was where the seals rest and have a sun bath. Here I also made a friend: a curious squirrel.  This little guy was trying to hide in my shadow. He even flattened a tiny area of the ground to make himself comfortable. 

Many wild flowers were blooming, pink, yellow. What a lovely palette with the ocean blue. I would love to have a picnic here, or even just walk along the shore.  

Hearst Castle

We scheduled a full day at San Simeon to visit Hearst Castle and enjoy the ocean view. Visiting Hearst Castle requires travelers to book tours on the website. It seems to be the only way to get into the castle because private cars are not allowed to drive all the way up to the gate, only to the parking lot. Different buses based on the tour routes will take travelers to the gate. There are many different tours on the official website. We booked the "Upstairs Suites Tour." The tour was very well-organized, and we had an excellent guide who walked us through the history of Hearst Castle. I learned a lot about Mr. Hearst's family and the golden age of Hollywood. 

I heard a lot about how luxurious and extravagant Hearst Castle was, but this mansion was still way beyond my expectations. No mansion can be called mansion in front of Hearst Castle, and yet Mr. Hearst usually called this place "the ranch," or its formal name "The Enchanted Hill." William Randolph Hearst used to run the nation's largest newspaper and media company. Hearst Castle reveals his wealth. The bus drove us up on the hill. On this land, there used to be the largest private zoo owned by Mr. Hearst. The castle itself is a museum. At that time, many Europen countries were suffering from the economic depression. Mr. Hearst bought lots of art pieces, even churches in countries like Italy. In a couple of rooms we visited, the entire ceilings were moved from Italian churches and rebuilt together here. The castle is in a Mediterranean theme, while many rooms in the castle have their themes or styles as well. My favorite rooms are the one in the bell tower and the Gothic Suite. The details and exquisiteness blew me away. Just being in these chambers, I could imagine the golden age of Hollywood. So many famous stars were longing to spend a weekend on this enchanted hill! On the way out, we also saw the indoor Roman Pool, which was breath-taking. I could talk about Hearst Castle for hours, even now many details are still vividly shown in my mind. It is a must-go along Highway 1, and I think it is totally worth the ticket price. 

Coming out from Hearst Castle, we went to see elephant seals on the beach. A great number of enormous elephant seals were lying on the beach and enjoying their sun bath. Sometimes they would flip sand on their bodies and continue taking a nap. It was pretty spectacular to see so many elephant seals together. They were also well-protected since people couldn't get on the beach and bother them. There were also some curious squirrels coming to say hi. They ran away after noticing we didn't have any food in our hands.  

Monterey & Carmel

We stayed in Monterey for a couple of days and went back to the Fisherman's Wharf two days in a row. I was already deeply in love with this place after the first time. It was not a big area, but the atmosphere was relaxing and pleasing. Numerous sailing boats berthed at the dock. In the shallow water, we saw three harbor seals. They were sometimes swiftly diving in the water, sometimes just floating like buoys. The cute seals are just one reason why I loved Fisherman's Wharf so much. Nothing can serve my stomach better after a day's traveling than Serf & Turf. 

Carmel is right next to Monterey with an entirely different feeling. This little town was full of quaint shops and galleries. It had an elegant European style. Carmel's beach was probably the most crowded one I saw in the last couple of days. Under the bright sunshine, everything seemed to slow down. I saw the happiest puppy on the beach, who was digging his head into the hot sand and then running into the water to cool himself down.  Who can't be fascinated about having such a relaxing and sunny life? I have kept seeing people talking about the "California sunshine" everywhere. It was when I truly felt it myself; I experienced the great charm of California. 

Point Lobos

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is in between Carmel and Big Sur. This area is very well-preserved. It attracts people with its original and natural charm. When we got there, the sunshine was hiding behind thick clouds. The turbulent waves showed us the powerful dynamics of nature. There were countless little hollows and gaps among the rocks. We found a type of purple sea urchin and some tiny crabs in the shallow water. 

I don't know for how many thousands of years the waves have corroded and washed the rocks, but the water has used its magical and tremendous power to carve them with mysterious patterns. One even had many circles that looked like alien writing. Along the sandy roads, yellow flowers were blooming here and there.  We walked to the Headland Cove, though the sky was cloudy, surprisingly we still saw sea otters and seals. Two sea otters were floating with a ball of seaweed. I have to say that it was a brilliant disguise. It took us a long time to locate them by eye. The water was not clean, but it was kept most naturally. We heard this place was also a great location for whale watching. Point Lobo's biodiversity is well protected.


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