We went out on this gorgeous trip on route 1, from LA till Monterey and back. I’ll describe the main cool stuff on the road from LA to Monterey, but you can go further north to Santa Cruz, San Francisco and beyond on the same road. We traveled this route over the weekend, but you can take your time and stop at each beach, winery or any other point you find interesting, many vista points are marked along the way.
LA - Santa Barbara: 87 mile, 1.5 hours
Santa Barbara is a cute coastal city – we just spent an hour there, walking on the pier and enjoying the views.
Barbara - San Simeon: 136 mile, 2.5 hours
If you have time, stop on the way at the Danish immigrant village of Solvang – it is very kitchy, but worth the stop http://www.solvangca.com/
San Simeon is recommended as a place to stay, because it’s pretty cheap and very close (5 miles, 15 minutes) to Hearst castle – a MUST on this tour http://www.hearstcastle.org/ make sure to book tickets a head!
Eat at Sebastian’s http://www.yelp.ca/biz/sebastians-store-san-simeon
: a few minutes north
Piedras Blancas – huge colony of sea elephants
about 1 hour
Parks in Big Sur: Julia Pfeiffer Burns, Point Lobos
Beach: Julia Pfeiffer
Carmel – walk on Ocean Avenue to see the galleries and eat good foodJ.
17 miles drive (a loop) - you can enter this gorgeous drive from Carmel or from Monterey – the loop takes about 2 hours with the stops, there are a few entrances.
Monterey – known for its famousaquarium http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/
Seaside might be a cheaper place to sleep in than Monterey.