South of San Francisco, the Big Sur mountain ranges are a dramatic presence on the iconic Californian drive up Highway 1 from Los Angeles.
The famous Highway 1 hugs the US west coastline as it winds its way through majestic forests of centuries old trees, the Pacific Ocean sparkling brilliantly far below. The drive from Santa Monica in Los Angeles, up to San Francisco via Malibu, Ventura, San Antonio, Santa Barbara, Monterey, and other famous American cities and towns is certainly a box tick experience.
The blue green ocean is a constant companion on the journey, delivering memorable moments like the neanderthal elephant seals frolicking in their seaside breeding ground at Cambria, and the dramatic golden sunsets as night falls over the waves.
The drive up Highway 1 can be taken at your own pace but is best enjoyed over several days. A half way stop in Carmel or Moonstone Beach allows you to explore the opulent Hearst Castle at San Simeon, eponymous one-time residence of billionaire media baron William Randolph Hearst, who was also well known for his Hollywood connections. A huge tourist drawcard, the castle is a must-do on your itinerary if history is your thing.
Pushing onto Big Sur, Highway 1 delivers with magnificent vistas, sweeping along the wild expansive coastline or winding through the winding rocky mountainous terrain. Big Sur feels significant. You want to stop there forever and let its energy soak into the very core of your being. Its natural grandeur encourages you to move more slowly, think more deeply, eat more intentionally. To just be. Perhaps even hug a thousand year old tree or two. It’s such a tonic in today’s 24/7 world. The existence of nature living large all around you is a great leveller, offering limitless existential nourishment.
Mid-century modern oasis Post Ranch Inn is a perfect place to stop and stay, perched at the cliff’s edge with privacy and peacefulness abundant. We were greeted by deer on arrival, the creatures grazing calmly amongst the timber villas and throughout the estate. The villas range from those built high on stilts, to those carved into the mountainside, with views forever out to sea and up the coastline. A restaurant on site, expansive grounds for exploring, horizon edge swimming pools, a library, spa and yoga facilities mean there is no need to leave. If you do decide to venture out, perhaps for a meal, the inn team will kindly chauffeur you.
After a few days pause, we embark on the last 150 kilometres of our Highway 1 adventure. Seeing the Golden Gate Bridge come into view as we arrive in San Francisco is a fitting finale to a wonderous journey. Its striking red form sweeping across the Bay feels so familiar from countless movies as do the streets of the city that lends itself so well to filmmaking with its dramatic locations.
If you fancy continuing north from San Francisco you will find yourself in Napa Valley wine country, a perfect way to cap off to a week on the road.
Readers also enjoyed this story about Brisbane fashion icon Elizabeth O’Connor-Cowley.