Driving Time: 1 hour
US Hwy 101 and California Highway 1 diverge in San Luis Obispo. Going north, you'll pass the entrance to California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) and soon drive out of town. About 10 miles from where you left US Hwy 101, the road meets the coast near Morro Bay.
North of Morro Bay, the highway runs close to water. The dark-colored patches in the water are the canopy of an underwater kelp forest. Individual kelp fronds grow more than 100 feet (31 meters) long and as fast as 2 feet (0.75 meters) in a single day. Sea otters find food in the kelp and wrap themselves in the fronds when they sleep.
Points of Interest and Side Trips
Morro Rock: You can't miss the big rock that gives the town of Morro Bay its name. It's the last of the Seven Sisters, a chain of worn-down, ancient volcanoes that lie between Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo.
- Morro Bay: A side trip into this laid-back town with a nice, protected harbor, especially popular with families could last a few hours or overnight.
Cayucos: One of California's cutest little beach towns, a bit old-fashioned, with a nice pier and beach and a fabulous restaurant (Hoppe's Bistro). Even if you don't stop, it's worth a driving detour. Exit at Ocean Avenue, the town's main street which intersects the highway on both its north and south ends.
- Harmony: This tiny place got a lot of press coverage a few years ago, so you may have heard about it. You'll find a winery there and a small pottery shop, but not much else.
Cambria: Pronounced cam BREE uh, its the most sophisticated of the area towns,
with lots of art galleries, bed and breakfast inns and lodging strung along a
pretty coastal road, good for an overnight stop or a day's visit. You'll find another short but scenic side drive north of town, along Moonstone Beach Drive.
- If you're lucky, you may see one of the oddest sights I've experienced in this part of California - a herd of zebras grazing alongside the highway. We found the descendants of animals brought to California for William Randolph Hearst's personal zoo near call box number 1-538 just south of San Simeon, but it's easy to know they're around because of the cars parked beside the road and people out photographing them.
- San Simeon: Its name is most closely associated with Hearst Castle, but it offers little except some places to sleep.
There are plenty of places to get gasoline and food along the road.