I let my arm dangle out the car window as I watched the waves crash into the shoreline to my right. The California sunshine beamed into the window as I adjusted the straps on my race car seatbelt. Nope, I never thought I would be spending my Thursday morning driving along California’s Highway 1 in a 1954 Chevy Cruiser, but I was doing just that.
Photo courtesy of Visit California
It all began when Visit California invited me along with 80 other international journalists on an epic Dream Drive to celebrate the reopening of Highway 1. Major mudslides and flooding had caused road closures for 18 months. The highway had reopened in late July and this media adventure was the proper way to celebrate its return! It was a classic car convoy as close to 100 vehicles from 8 different decades took the road escorted by the oh so generous Highway State Troopers.
My morning began when I was given my car assignment at the WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca. My driver Dave Buchanan greeted me with a big smile as he welcomed me into one of his prized possessions, his 1954 Chevy Cruiser. Dave’s wife Sue handed us snacks and waters through the open windows and waved farewell as we took our first lap around the track before heading to Highway 1. Dave has driven this track many times before. He and I chatted the entire way about his racing days in this very car in Mexico. The drive stretched from Monterey and ended in Morro Bay where we were welcomed with a large party in the harbourfront to celebrate with our new friends.
I have rounded up my top picks from Monterey down to the Central Coast below, so you can begin planning your own 2019 adventure.
This picturesque harbour town is also the set of the HBO series, Big Little Lies. Wander down to Fisherman’s Wharf and listen to the sea lions bicker with one another on the rocks below. Become a clam chowder connoisseur by comparing samples generously handed out by the restaurants on the pier. There is a pedestrian footpath that hugs the shoreline from Fisherman’s Wharf to Canary Wharf where bars and restaurants line the street on either side. At the end of the strip is the Monterey Aquarium, if you don’t have time to go in, spend a few moments gazing at the shoreline, you are likely to spot a whale or two.
Golf enthusiasts are encouraged to visit Pebble Beach, whether to stay, play, dine or shop. The Sticks at Pebble Beach is the ideal spot for happy hour. Sip a beverage while being serenaded by a bagpiper during their nightly sunset performance. This is a daily tradition to signify the end of a day on the golf course.
Driving across Bixby Bridge, photo courtesy of Visit California
Big Sur has been described as the gateway to adventure. This rural mountain community boasts a number of activities, campsites and beaches. The Bixby Bridge, one of the most photographed bridges on the West Coast, stands proudly welcoming cars into Big Sur. Weather patterns change frequently, but if you happen to catch this bridge on a clear day it is worth pulling over for some photos.
Those seeking some R&R are encouraged to check into Ventana Big Sur. This luxurious 5-star resort is perched high above the sea immersed in nature. Although this resort was founded in the 1970s the 59 rooms and suites have recently been refreshed, and every detail has been carefully thought out. The sweeping 160-acre property has everything you need for a quiet escape. If you prefer a more intimate affair, you can opt for a glamping tent down the hill nestled among the redwoods.
If you are hoping to continue on a health and wellness journey Esalen Hot Springs is not to be missed. These natural hot springs have been frequented since the 1800s. The waters healing properties are known to help those suffering from arthritis.
Poolside at Ventana Big Sur
Morro Bay, photo courtesy of Visit California
Charlie Chaplin and Amelia Earhart were just a few of notable guests who visited newspaper mogul William Hurst’s castle. Hurst Castle was the place where William called home between 1919 and 1947, now the castle belongs to the state of California. Rest assured, the magic has been preserved. This elaborate castle includes a home theatre, complete with a fur vault so the guests didn’t get chilly. The outdoor pool was once the set for Lady Gaga’s music video, and if you peer out into the fields you can still spot some zebras from Hurst’s private animal reserve. Across the road lies Hurst Ranch Winery, which happens to be situated right adjacent to one of the best beaches in the SLO CAL area.
Cambria/San Luis Obispo
Cambria is a quaint seaside town with a strong focus on art and culture. This adorable little strip of shops looks as if it was plucked out of the 1940s. The art galleries that line Main St. range from pottery to large-scale canvases to some of the most intricate sculptures I’ve seen. Riccardo Gallery is not to be missed as all of his sculptures have a moving component in order to incorporate shadow play. If you are looking to unwind and spend the night, pick up a bottle of the Estate Syrah from Stolo Family Vineyards. The area’s cooler temperatures contribute to the unique flavours of the wine.
Cass House an ideal place to grab brunch or a family style meal in Cayucos. The ever-changing menu is guaranteed to offer the freshest fare. After grabbing a bite, photographer enthusiasts will enjoy a visit to Chris Burkard Studio. As a native explorer, photographer and published author, Chris has fused his passion for surfing and photography to create a number of projects. His work has been featured around the world. Don’t don’t be surprised if he welcomes you into his studio barefoot just back from a morning of surfing.
Highway 1 is one of the most popular road trips in North America. There is no denying that over the past couple of months the California wildfires have caused mass devastation to Malibu and surrounding areas. Fortunately, Highway 1 was not affected. If you’re feeling extra generous following the holiday season and want to help, please volunteer or donate to the Red Cross.