8 Must-See Destinations on the California Coast
Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 6:44PM
Nathan Ciurzynski in Big Sur, Elephant Seals, Half Moon Bay, Hearst Castle, Marin Headlands, Mavericks, Monterey Bay Acquarium, Painted Ladies, Photos, Pigeon Point Lighthouse, Postcard Row, San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge, San Simeon, Travel
I recently blogged about a road trip that my wife Jackie and I took not too long ago from San Diego to San Francisco. I've really been looking forward to drafting an article to share more of the images that I took on this trip. I had so much fun working on this article. I hope you enjoy it equally as much. For our travel to San Francisco, we drove straight up the central valley of California in order to save time. On the way back, we hugged the coastline nearly the entire way home enjoying routes 1 and 101. For those readers unfamiliar with this geography, the California coastline is a stunning stretch of real estate marked with hills, steep drop-offs into the ocean, several deep canyon spanning bridges, rolling green pastures with scattered cattle, and gorgeous teal and blue ocean. If you haven't done this drive yet, it's a must. It's slow and mostly on a narrow double lane road. Most of it is very rural so there's limited radio reception...better bring your iPod. This list represents my top 8 stops along the way and is in no particular order. Each stop includes images that I took there and I've also included a link to Google Maps for each stop so that you can visualize the location better.



1) Monterey Bay Aquarium. The Monterey Bay Aquarium currently has on display approximately 550 different species of animals and plants. One of the attributes of this aquarium that I think most people find so inspiring is the shear size of the tanks. 2,000 gallons (7,570 liters) per minute, day and night, is pumped through more than 100 exhibit tanks. During the day, they filter the water so it's easy for visitors to see through. At night, raw sea water is pumped through many exhibits. Their kelp forest exhibit alone holds approximately one-third of a million gallons (1,268,109 liters). It's understandable after seeing these massive tanks why nearly 2 million people each year visit this aquarium. My favorites were the variety of sharks, jellies, stingrays, otters, penguins, and an array of fish that boggles the mind. Below are photos of a Leopard Shark, an Anemone, and a Black Sea Nettle Jellyfish.
Location. For more information on the aquarium or to plan a visit, check out their website.









2) San Simeon. San Simeon is best known for Hearst Castle...that's right...a castle in California. Strange as it may sound, you can actually tour this castle, which is also now a state park that is located inside San Luis Obispo county. William Randolph Hearst, the man behind Hearst Castle, is an important figure from the twentieth century whose influence extended to publishing, politics, Hollywood, and the art world. Throughout his life, William Hearst dreamed of building a dwelling similar to those he had seen in Europe as a boy. Hearst Castle was the realization of this dream as he and architect Julia Morgan collaborated for 28 years to construct a castle worthy of those he saw in Europe. During construction Hearst used the castle as his primary residence and it was here that he continually entertained the elite of Hollywood, politics and sports. The Castle was never completely finished yet it stands as a remarkable achievement.

What else makes San Simeon a must stop is the elephant seal lined beaches there. If you've never seen an elephant seal, the males, especially, are comparable in size to the walrus. They're very easy to photograph with a reasonably long lense or zoom distance since most of their day is spent lying lazily on the sand of the beach. They're alot of fun to watch. Don't get too close though. Check out our article on Elephant Seals for more images: Ever Seen an Elephant Seal?
Location. For more information on the castle or to plan a visit, check out their website.







3) Pigeon Point Lighthouse. Fifty miles south of San Francisco on winding U.S. Highway 1, stands the 138 year old, 115 foot tall Pigeon Point Lighthouse. This is one of the most easily accessible and picturesque lighthouses in California. This is also one of the tallest lighthouses in America. The lighthouse is currently closed to the public, but the grounds remain open.
Location. For more information on the lighthouse or to plan a visit, check out their website.



4) Mavericks Surf Break and Half Moon Bay. If hearing the name, "Mavericks Surf Contest" doesn't mean anything to you, this contest is unlike any other in the world. Located just 45 minutes outside San Francisco at the northern tip of Half Moon Bay, this exclusive contest is for surfers by invite only and is announced just 24 hours prior to the contest start. Every year a really big swell rolls in from the north always during the winter season that kicks up waves as tall as 50 feet. Only the top 24 big wave surfers in the world are invited. This internationally acclaimed surf contest draws tens of thousands of spectators on a moments notice each year who eagerly await news all season long of this event. Traffic is backed up for miles and all the attention in the little community of Half Moon Bay, California is directed to the ocean. Half Moon bay is otherwise a somewhat quieter coastal community with a small, upscale, water-front retail and tourism center.
Check out our recent article A Day at Mavericks.
Location. For more information on the surf competition, check out their website.







5) Big Sur. Big Sur is a sparsely populated region of the central California coast where the Santa Lucia Mountains rise abruptly from the Pacific Ocean. The name "Big Sur" is derived from the original Spanish-language "el sur grande", meaning "the big south", or from "el paĆ­s grande del sur", "the big country of the south". The terrain offers stunning views, making Big Sur a popular tourist destination. Big Sur's Cone Peak is the highest coastal mountain in the contiguous 48 states, ascending nearly a mile (5,155 feet/1571 m) above sea level, only three miles (4.8 km) from the ocean. (Excerpt from Wikipedia.)
Location.









6) Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park - McWay Falls. McWay Falls is a beautiful waterfall in Big Sur's Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Fed by McWay Creek, the waterfall is formed from an 80 ft. drop off the cliffside onto the beach which is nestled in a little cove. The overlook view of the cove where the waterfall drops, is stunning to say the least. Unfortunately, you cannot get down onto the scenic beach since the cliffs are too dangerous to descend.
Location. For more information on the par or falls, check out their website.



This is definitely one place that I'd like to do a one day road trip to in order to capture a sunset. If anybody in the so-cal area is interested in joining me, leave me a comment.

7) Postcard Row. Across from Alamo Square Park on Steiner Street in San Francisco, the Painted Ladies are located. You might know them better as the homes featured on the opening credits for the television sitcom Full House. These homes are located just south of downtown San Francisco at 710-720 Steiner Street otherwise known as "Postcard Row." Alamo Square is a beautiful park in the middle of this very hilly residential community directly across from the Painted Ladies. About 48,000 Victorian homes like these were built in San Francisco between 1849 and 1915, many of them painted in bright colors. These particular houses were built between 1892 and 1896 by developer Matthew Kavanaugh and they appear very frequently in media and mass-market photographs of the San Francisco and its tourist attractions as well as in an estimated 70 movies, TV programs, and many ads.

Recent Blog Article: Painted Ladies - Victorian Houses in San Francisco
Location.





8) Marin Headlands. For arguably the best view of the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge, head out to the Marin Headlands. The Marin Headlands are located on the northwest side of the Golden Gate Bridge. This location also provides access to the 150 year old Point Bonita Lighthouse at the entrance to San Francisco Bay. The Marin Headlands and Point Bonita Lighthouse are part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the largest urban national park in the United States. The Marin Headlands covers various types of histories from the Miwok Indians to the Military, including historic Fort Barry and Fort Cronkhite, and the NIKE Missile site.
Location. For more information on the Headlands, check out their website.

For more photos of the Golden Gate Bridge check out our other article: The Golden Gate Bridge.







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