To experience the pristine, wild California coast, leave the city behind and drive the famed Highway 1 to charming Cambria and San Simeon, home of immaculate beaches, charming stops along the way, and, of course, the dazzling and regal Hearst Castle. The breathtaking Highway 1 Discovery Route, is a must-do for anyone who yearns to see California as it once was, before hyper-development changed the coastline for much of the state.
Highway 1 is the most iconic roadway in California, but not all sections are created equal. The length that passes along the coast through San Luis Obispo County (known as SLO CAL) brims with the best of the Highway 1 experience. And as the gateway to Big Sur, this SLO CAL stretch is well within reach.
What sets this highway apart? One-hundred miles of Pacific coastline, half of which are protected. A national marine sanctuary and a national estuary. Thirteen state parks. An elephant seal rookery and Monarch butterfly preserves. A Scenic Byway designation from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Two historic lighthouses and five historic piers. The only drivable beach in California. Centuries-old forests. Hundreds of acres of coastal vineyards. Uncrowded white sand beaches. History and heritage at every turn with nine locales on the National Register. And Hearst Castle, a hilltop beauty that is a State and National Historic Landmark.
This is one of the road trips of your life, one that glides past uncrowded sand beaches, crashing waves, and wine grapes ripening in the sun. Highway 1 is the most iconic roadway in California, but not all sections are created equal. The length that passes along the coast through San Luis Obispo County (known as SLO CAL) brims with the best of the Highway 1 experience. And as the gateway to Big Sur, this SLO CAL stretch is well within reach.
We stopped for a delightful lunch at the landmark Robin’s Restaurant in tranquil, historic Cambria. Housed in a restored adobe home Robin’s is a favorite with locals and visitors for its warm hospitality, cozy atmosphere and charming gardens. Robin’s offers “handcrafted global cuisine” and we dug into crispy Vietnamese spring rolls with kimchee, chili oil and plum-ginger dipping sauce followed by an unforgettable grilled chicken club with honey-smoked bacon, roasted Anaheim chile, avocado and chipotle aioli on a ciabatta bun. We then easily cruised just 5 minutes to San Simeon to our oasis by the sea: The Cavalier Oceanfront Resort, the only oceanfront resort in San Simeon and Cambria, just three miles from Hearst Castle, seven miles from the Elephant Seal Habitat (Rookery), and 10 miles from the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse.
With 90 beachside rooms, the Cavalier provides panoramic oceanfront rooms (some are just 20 feet from the Pacific) and comfortable ocean view accommodations, plus very friendly, welcoming service all around. Our room had a wood-burning fireplace, private patio and a deep soaking tub. While it’s ideal for families, we’d say it’s also great for romance.
Along with that, the Cavalier’s in-house Cavalier Coastal Kitchen is led by Chef Samuel Cots, a graduate of one of Spain’s foremost culinary institutions, Hofmann Culinary Arts School. A native of Barcelona, Chef Cots brings a passion for fresh ingredients and refined flavors to the Cavalier. For dinner, we exulted in a perfectly prepared filet mignon with carrot purée, grilled asparagus and mushroom butter. All with stunning views of the Pacific. And all elegantly and efficiently served by the gracious and professional Tuyet, a 15-year member of the lovely Cavalier staff. The Cavalier’s breakfasts and lunches were also great and generously plated which helped provide fuel for sightseeing and walking and taking in the gorgeous local scenery of San Simeon.
The Cavalier provides thoughtful touches in the room, such as binoculars to view the many seals, dolphins and whales swimming just offshore. This easy-on-the-pocketbook property is a short walk to enchanting nearby beaches and parks, some with fire pits, and the famous, not-to-be-missed elephant seal rookery is nearby. The Cavalier offers free high speed WiFi and room service. And, as mentioned, over-the-top Hearst Castle is minutes away, as are adjacent full-service spa services provided by Diva Spa. If you feel energetic, there is a spiffy fitness center, two beachside swimming pools and a bubbling hot tub.
There are many magnificent sights to see along the Highway 1 Discovery Route. If you need a respite from the madness, go there to get in a true California state of mind. The Cavalier is magic—we slept with ocean waves soothing our ears and even saw a whale spouting.
For more information and reservations, visit: cavalierresort.com and highway1discoveryroute.com