Napa to San Luis Obispo was one of the longer legs of the trip, taking about 7 hours including stops along the way. We didn’t take the most direct route to SLO, instead opting to navigate around San Francisco and down California Highway 1 (also called the Pacific Coast Highway). We got to see some of the most beautiful landscapes on this stretch of our journey… Landscapes that quickly changed from rolling vineyards to rocky beaches and rugged mountains. Our first stop was in the magical little town of Carmel but the Sea.
Carmel by the Sea
We didn’t do a lot of research so we didn’t know exactly what to expect from Carmel. As we drove around we immediately noticed something striking: the city looks like it’s straight out of a fairy tale. Homes and storefronts were all built with beautiful stonework and rolling rooflines. Each home seemed to have something unique about it, whether it be a rounded doorway or bright color.
The city’s interesting architecture began in the 1920s with cottages Hugh Comstock built for his wife and her dolls. These quirky cottages were designed in the style of an English village, and were immediately embraced by the artsy Carmel community.
We stopped for a quick bite at the Village Corner, and then walked around before grabbing our car to continue down the coast.
We drove alongside the beach as we left Carmel. We were surrounded by beauty everywhere– crashing waves, gorgeous twisting trees on one side…
…And in the other, more enchanting architecture (check out that chimney!)…
…and rich colorful gardens.
It wasn’t long until we reached the Pacific Coast Highway. Its bending roads gave way to more incredible views. Every turn was another wonderful panorama.
We stopped several times to breathe the salty air and take in the scenery.
We crossed the famous Bixby Bridge, one of the tallest single-span bridges in the world.
The winding curves of the PCH finally straightened. It wasn’t much farther until we passed Hearst Castle, and then came upon The Elephant Seal Rookery in San Simeon. As far as the eye could see, hundreds of seals lay on the beach seeming to tan themselves in the late afternoon sun. They were actually were molting, a process where they shed their skin and hair, and regenerate new.
We knew we were close to San Luis Obispo when we swath nearby Morro Rock rising from the skyline. Stay tuned for the next leg of our California adventure.