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Steve Jermanok’s Active Travels: Driving Avila Beach to Monterey, California

Big Sur, California
Big Sur, California

Highway 1 on the mid-Californian coast is the road you see in car ads, a stunning stretch of road that deserves to be driven in a red convertible. The climax is the route through Big Sur, where the stomach-dropping turns edge the bluffs as you gape in awe at the wide clean beaches and cliffs that drop precipitously to the frothing ocean. Spend the first night at the sleepy hamlet of Avila Beach, staying at a room overlooking the water at Avila Lighthouse Suites. The next morning, drive north to tour Hearst Castle and see the dreamy blue-tiled indoor pool, inlaid with 22-karat gold. No wonder Cary Grant visited the estate more than 40 times. Four miles north of Hearst Castle, a must-stop is the beach of Piedres Blancas to watch hundreds of large elephant seals lounging, grunting, wrestling, and diving into the Pacific. Continuing north, the mountains of Los Padres National Forest rise above the Pacific and the road becomes a mix of ups, downs, and hairpin turns. A quarter-mile walk at Pfeiffer Burns State Park leads you to the waterfalls and wildflowers of this rugged paradise. For lunch, stop at Nepenthe to dine on nachos while overlooking the stunning surroundings. Finish the drive in Monterey, to visit one of the America’s most innovative aquariums, bike along the waterfront past seals, and dine at seafood restaurants on the street John Steinbeck coined Cannery Row.  

steve   Steve Jermanok As a columnist for National Geographic Adventure, adventure travel expert at Budget Travel, and regular contributor on outdoor recreation for Outside, Men’s Journal, Health, and Sierra, Steve Jermanok has written more than 1,000 articles on the outdoors.He’s also authored or co-authored 11 books, including Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England and Men’s Journal’s The Great Life. His latest book is Go Now! Put Your Life on Pause and See the World. He’s currently an adventure travel expert at Away.com and blogs daily at  Active Travels.

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