The most scenic part is Big Sur between Carmel and San Simeon. This is a 90 mile stretch, but in general is so scenic and its also a bit curvy slower road will take you 3 to 4 hours. As such, you want to be sure to do it daylight hours. If you want an early start in the morning, you could drive to Morro Bay on day 1. However if you get a noon or later start, then I would stay in Carmel instead. You don't want to miss this part of the scenic beauty due to its getting dark, etc.
Thanks for this. We are planning on leaving our hotel in Fishermans Wharf first thing in the morning. Will that leave me enough time to enjoy the sights and get to Morro Bay for sun set?
"....Will that leave me enough time to enjoy the sights and get to Morro Bay for sun set?"...
Depends on how many stops you make and how much time you spend at them. Let's say you stop in Carmel and fall in love with its storybook architecture, wind swept cypress tree lined beach, all the cutesy shops and can't bring yourself to rush back to Highway 1 to continue the slow drive down through Big Sur. Sure, it's only a 3 hour drive to Morro Bay from Carmel, but that's WITHOUT stops! And this is arguably one of California's most scenic drives with several points of interest worth stopping for. Time of year matters, too. You definitely do NOT want to drive the Big Sur coast AFTER dark. The highway sits hundreds of feet above the ocean with sheer drop offs and lots of really tight hairpin turns. It can NOT be rushed.
As a guide.... SF to Morro Bay is a 6 1/2 hour drive WITHOUT stops via Highway 1. Budget your time wisely and you'll be fine, but I imagine you're going to be kicking yourself for not giving this drive more time.
I personally think attempting to drive to Santa Barbara from Monterey is too much for one day since that drive includes Big Sur. Keep in mind that Big Sur is south of Monterey/Carmel and would be on Day 2's agenda, although I would try to fit Point Lobos State Reserve in on Day 1.
Big Sur is the most scenic part of Highway 1 and saving it for the second day ensures a generous amount of time for enjoying the sights.
Don't take Highway 101 to get to Santa Barbara! You'll miss Big Sur if you do.
Hi. Thanks this is really useful information. How about breaking the journey around San Simeon? I can not see anywhere closer to Big Sur that is nice and I can afford! The route planner is saying it is 4 hours from SF. Do you think that is reasonable?
Four hours is not reasonable from San Francisco to San Simeon. I would double it to eight hours minimum, to allow time for the views and the sage.
"....The route planner is saying it is 4 hours from SF. Do you think that is reasonable?"...
That's via the fastest inland route and NOT via Highway 1 through Big Sur. SF to San Simeon via Highway 1 is a minimum 6 hour drive WITHOUT stops. Is that reasonable to you?
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