Route 1 – Big Sur Coast Highway

Departure: San Simeon, California
Destination: Monterey Bay Aquarium, California
Time to allow: 1 day

Crashing waves, rolling fog, sheer rocky cliffs, and pleasant bends and curves make a trip down Big Sur Coast Highway an unforgettable experience. You can complete this itinerary in a day, but high quality lodging and camping areas are available if you feel like a day isn’t enough to see it all.

Start: San Simeon, CA

Stop 1: Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument 
Directions from previous place: From San Simeon take Hearst Castle road to the castle, mile marker 57.8.

Suggested Time at This Site: 30 minutes

Above the ocean at San Simeon lies the creation of two extraordinary people, William Randolph Hearst and Julia Morgan. Their collaboration, which took nearly 30 years to complete, transformed a hilltop campsite into the world-famous Hearst Castle.

Stop 2: Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery

Located just off Highway 1, the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery is home to a population of around 8000 elephant seals. From December to April, the beaches fill with the animals during their mating season, and pups can be found learning to swim.

Directions from previous place: Return to the Byway and continue north. Signs indicate the location of the rookery. Vista points begin at mile marker 61.3 and continue on to 65.1.

Distance from Previous Site: 7.7 miles / 12.3 km
Travel Time from Previous Site: 10 minutes
Suggested Time at This Site: 30 minutes

Located just off Highway 1, the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery is home to a population of around 8000 elephant seals. From December to April, the beaches fill with the animals during their mating season, and pups can be found learning to swim.

Stop 3: Ragged Point Vista
Directions from previous place: Continue along Highway 1, at mile marker 72.9.

Distance from Previous Site: 7 miles / 11.2 km

A popular destination for large tour bus groups to stop and stretch their legs, have lunch, and take in the experience of the California Big Sur Coast. Home to the largest waterfall in Big Sur and popular for weddings, Ragged Point offers what some call the best view along the Byway. A hiking trail offers a closer look at nature.

Towering high above the Pacific on a promontory with 400 foot sheer cliffs, Ragged Point offers one of the finest ocean vistas in the world, often called the “Million Dollar View”. One of the few places on this coast with a trail down the face of a cliff, it also boasts the largest waterfall on the Big Sur coast.

Stop 4: Limekiln State Park
Directions from previous place: Take Byway to mile marker 21.

Suggested Time at This Site: 1 hour

This 716-acre park features the beauty of the redwoods, the rugged coast and the cultural history of limekilns, which are kilns or furnaces in which limestone and/or shells are burned and reduced to lime.

Navigation Point: Lucia
Directions from previous place: Continue along the Byway to mile marker 23.

Stop 5: Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
Directions from previous place: Continue along byway to mile marker 35.9.

Suggested Time at This Site: 1 hour

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park stretches from the Big Sur coastline into nearby 3,000-foot ridges. The park features redwood, tan oak, madrone, chaparral, and an 80-foot waterfall that drops from granite cliffs into the ocean from the Overlook Trail.

Stop 6: Big Sur
Directions from previous place: Big Sur is located right on the Byway.

Suggested Time at This Site: 1 hour

Though recognized as a town on most road maps, Big Sur is really more of an area than a town. It contains a large camping area, while many inns, restaurants, and other small shops are found up and down the corridor.

Stop 7: Point Sur State Historic Park
Directions from previous place: Keep traveling along the Byway, signs will notify you of the State Park.

Suggested Time at This Site: 1 hour

Point Sur Historic State Park features the Point Sur Lighthouse. Modern technology has now replaced the kerosene lamps of times past, but the beautiful buildings remain part of the scenery along the Big Sur Coastline.

Stop 8: Carmel
The city of Carmel is situated in a forested area just off Highway One. Carmel is about five miles south of Monterey and 26 miles north of Big Sur.

Stop 9: Point Lobos State Reserve
Directions from previous place: Located a few miles down the Byway.

Suggested Time at This Site: 30 minutes

Deriving its name from the offshore rocks at Punta de los Lobos Marinos, Point of the Sea Wolves, where the sound of the sea lions carries inland, the reserve has often been called the crown jewel of the State Park System.

Stop 10: Monterey
Directions from previous place: Continue along Highway 1

Suggested Time at This Site: 2 hours

In its early days, Monterey was the capital of the Spanish territory of California, while Monterey Bay was an important port. The city displays its historical importance with beautifully restored historic buildings and a “Path of History” walking tour.

End: Monterey Bay Aquarium
Directions from previous place: Located in Monterey

Suggested Time at This Site: 2 hours

The marvels of our ocean planet come to life at the world-acclaimed Monterey Bay Aquarium. Your visit will carry you into the hidden world of Monterey Bay– a place of ever-changing beauty at the heart of the nation’s largest marine sanctuary.

Total Distance Traveled : 14.7 miles / 23.5 km

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