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The Beauty of the Central Coast of California

Bixby Bridge Big Sur Central Coast CA

Bixby Bridge in Big Sur

We’re often asked where is our favorite place that we’ve visited.  It’s always hard to pin that one down as it’s an ever moving target. We start talking about how we love Burlington, Vermont in the summer and the same goes for Colorado. But then, the Southwest is nice for winter. I mean, really, how do you decide? But, I can say for sure that Central Coast in California is one of the most beautiful areas I have seen. It has two of my favorite features in a landscape; hills and rocky coast. And I love the juxtaposition of these two so close to each other. You can be frolicking in soft hills in the morning and drive over to coast to have lunch on a rocky point in the afternoon. That’s a good day in my book.

Hills in Toro County Park in Salinas, CA Central Coast CA

Toro County Park in Salinas

Huge Calla Lilies in Carmel

Huge Calla Lilies in Carmel

We drove this strip of California’s legendary Highway 1 five years ago on an anniversary trip. We started in San Luis Obispo with a stay at the fun and famous Madonna Inn and made out way north through San Simeon, Big Sur (one of our favorite places on Earth), Monterey, and into San Francisco where we flew back to our sticks and bricks on the other coast. We loved every minute of that trip and couldn’t wait to get back.

Central Coast CA poppies

California poppies on the Old Coast Road behind Bixby Bridge. It’s suitable for 2-wheel drive unless it’s wet.

Brandon near Big Sur in Central Coast CA

Brandon near Big Sur

This time, our trip would be a little different. We had more than a week to make the drive and would be able to stay longer in places, although not as many of them. We skipped a few spots like San Simeon and we chose not to drive through Big Sur with the motorhome, which actually gave us a chance to see more of those beautiful rolling hills. Our Central Coast time would culminate in Brandon’s diving adventures in Monterey. He was not a scuba diver when we had visited before or when we lived in California and it was his mission to dive the coral reefs of Monterey.

Morro Rock in Central Coast CA

Morro Rock

We stayed in Morro Bay while Brandon used the San Luis Obispo airport for a work trip. It was March and hills were lush and verdant doing their best impression of Ireland. Morro Rock looked magnificent and the short cliffs above the beaches were carpeted with spring flowers. It was really a great time to be in the area. Best of all, on our previous trip we really wanted to see otters, but had only seen one. This time, after we settled in at the RV park, we went down to Morro Rock and there were a dozen otters wrapped up in the kelp sleeping. Being spring, there were also mothers carrying around their babies on their stomachs. It was perfect!

A mother and baby sea otter

A mother and baby sea otter

We went directly from Morro Bay to Monterey/Carmel and stayed for a month. Brandon was going to get all the diving in that he could. Between diving, we explored the dry land. We took a trip to Salinas and visited the National Steinbeck Center. There we picked up a copy of Travels with Charlie on audio, so we could listen to it as drove around the area and around the rest of the country. It’s amazing how relevant this book still is. It is a time capsule of the era while at the same time shows people have not really changed that much and still hold the same views.

Monastery Beach, Monterey in Central Coast CA

Monastery Beach in Monterey

Wildflowers in Toro County Park in Salinas in Central Coast CA

Wildflowers in Toro County Park in Salinas

We also made a couple visits to Big Sur. We must have visited during the week years ago because it had been quiet and easy to shoot Bixby bridge with no traffic. This time, we chose to go on a Saturday (mistake!) and there were so many people around the bridge, I couldn’t get a shot without someone or something in it. We gave up and drove into Big Sur. As we made our way south, the fog rolled in enveloping the rocky coast and McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. It may have blocked out some scenery, but it was nonetheless beautiful.

A crowded Bixby Bridge in Central Coast CA

Bixby Bridge

The McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park Central Coast CA

McWay Falls-  Pro-tip: Make sure your tires are off the road when parking to see this waterfall. Ask us how we know. 😐

Big Sur Fog in Central Coast CA

The fog rolling in on the coast in Big Sur

After our stay in Monterey and Carmel, we headed back south a little to meet up with some friends and stay at a BLM campground just north of Paso Robles. All of the beautiful green hills we had seen along the 101 going up were now beautiful gold hills. It’s amazing the difference that a month can make! And this was still spring, mind you. We hadn’t reached the dry summer period yet. The hills around the campground were covered in trees, so looked they greener. But driving through the farms, wineries, and ranches on the way, you could see they were already yellow.

Williams Hill BLM area in Central Coast CA

Williams Hill BLM area

The yellow hills around Williams Hill

The gold hills around Williams Hill

Old building in CA hills

From our perch on a hill, we headed inland for a bit and then left Central Coast and headed north leaving behind the hills for a different kind of beauty. This area will always be on my list of places to visit again.

Have you been to the Central Coast? I’d love to hear your thoughts, leave a comment below.

Big Sur cliffs in Central Coast CA Big cliffs in Central Coast CA

Sunset at the beach Central Coast CA

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