The latest washout that shut this spectacularly scenic stretch of road in January has been repaired, ahead of schedule and under budget. Way to go, Caltrans!
The reopening means the return of day trippers zipping through the tight turns, pulling over just long enough to snap photos of the prettiest coastline on the planet. Hey, don’t be in such a hurry. Here are a few places you should consider exploring on this memorable trip through a stunning sliver of Monterey County.
This state highway is quite an engineering marvel, an unlikely vision that dates back to the late 1800s. Then, a Monterey-based physician actually walked the rugged land before pitching the idea of a road. According to the Cambria Historical Society, construction began in 1922 and was fraught with dangerous delays. Not surprising given the dramatic nature of the landscape.
The full 100-mile stretch of highway officially opened in 1937 and became part of the California highway system in 1939. It was designated a state scenic highway in 1965.
There’s no better place to learn more about the history of this special place than Lucia Lodge. Opened in the late 1930s to accommodate travelers on the newly opened highway, its dining room is decorated with vintage photos from those good old days.
The handful of rooms on the bluff have been updated. They’re simple, comfortable and clean. Just don’t expect amenities like robes. There’s WiFi, but no television sets. That’s not why legions of loyal fans clamor to book the place. It’s the astonishing view, looking south along the rocky coastline far below.
If the timing’s right, you just might spy a migrating gray whale, swimming closer to shore than usual. That’s because they’re traveling north with their babies this time of year.
Forget about snagging a reservation on busy weekends. Weekdays are a better bet. And if No. 10 is open, grab it. That gem on the end has sweeping southern views and also looks west… into the great wide open, as Tom Petty famously sang.
When checking in at the general store, guests are currently offered the option of ordering a take-out dinner. The fare has an Italian accent, with Chicken Parm along with a white wine and cream steamed mussels in linguine dish weighing in as customer favorites.
Take your meal out to one of the tables on the nearby deck to enjoy the best views while dining you’re likely to ever experience. The restaurant also offers dine-in for lunch.
More to explore along the way
A wonderful place to begin… or end a trip to Big Sur
The charming coastal town of Cambria is roughly 75 miles south of Big Sur and it makes a perfect jumping off point or good place to end up.
Not far from the San Luis Obispo Regional Airport — a small gem that’s home to a number of nonstop flights — Cambria offers some pretty amazing access to the coast.
The Moonstone Beach Boardwalk winds its way along a stretch of road dotted with popular, low-key accommodations. We like the Blue Dolphin Inn, where the staff delivers a picnic-style breakfast to guests each morning.
Explore the historic downtown’s boutiques, bars and restaurants, many of which offer outdoor seating. Indigo Moon serves dinner in a lovely garden setting, for instance.
If you want to make like a local, head out on a hike in the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve, just west of town.
While nearby Hearst Castle remains closed for the time being, the William R. Hearst Memorial Beach is a mighty fine stretch of sand to walk. Later, cool off with a frosty margarita at El Chorlito in San Simeon. The family-run restaurant has been making diners happy since 1979.