On to the second part of our trip (see previous post for info about Santa Barbara) – Santa Barbara to Carmel.
The Highway 1 coastal drive starts just after San Luis Obispo – about 2 hours from Santa Barbara. Note that the most spectacular scenery doesn’t really start until after Cambria (another half an hour’s drive). Photographs don’t do justice to the breathtaking landscape along this road.
Places of interest along the drive:
We stopped in this surfing town for a picnic on the beach (in the shadow of a ginormous rock and even more ginormous power station!). The town itself had a few eateries and shops but we didn’t have time to explore.
http://hearstcastle.org/ Book tickets in advance if you want to visit.
Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery
Just after San Simeon there is a popular, well sign-posted stop to watch hundreds of huuuuge elephant seals flop about, snooze and occasionally fight on the beach. Amazing sight!
There are plenty of laybys and places to pull over to enjoy the outstanding views.
We did the drive from Santa Barbara to Carmel in one day (approx. 4-5 hours of driving) but if you want to take your time, there are about half a dozen camping sites and some hotels and along the way. Here are a couple to get you started:
Carmel is a small, arty town on the coast. It’s famous for having had Clint Eastwood as its mayor. We loved the laid back atmosphere and huge number of restaurants.
Watch the sunset!
This is my number 1 thing to do in Carmel. If you’re in town around dusk, you’ll notice everyone casually making their way down Ocean Avenue to the beach to watch one of the most magnificent sunsets you’ll ever see.
Monterey Bay Aquarium
http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/ Monterey lacks the charm of neighbouring Carmel, but it does have a wonderful aquarium. Well worth the entrance fee. We had a great dinner afterwards in http://www.schoonersmonterey.com/
17 mile drive. You have to pay $10 to drive along this section of road (refundable against any purchases within the park). I was surprised by the amount of development going on and the scenery isn’t as wild and majestic as Highway 1. However, we did enjoy lunch and the view at The Bench on the Pebble Beach Golf Course http://www.pebblebeach.com/dining/the-lodge-at-pebble-beach/the-bench
Carmel River State Beach
Our rental house was situated in Carmel Meadows, a small estate in the Carmel River State Beach area (search for Ribera Road in google maps). The beach doesn’t have any facilities but as a result was wonderfully quiet. The sand isn’t as fine and white as the beach in town but there are rock pools, mussels, and hermit crabs. It is a stunning place and worth a visit.