California’s iconic Highway 1 has many natural and historic attractions along the Central Coast, famous for its beaches and migrating whales. But there are also numerous “secret” spots along the approximately 440-mile (708 km) coastal drive between San Francisco to the north and Los Angeles to the south (where Highway 1 becomes Pacific Coast Highway). By Mimi Slawoff
Have grippy shoes and cameras ready for a new perspective on a classic road trip.
Stow Lake, San Francisco
Paddle on a manmade lake dating to 1893 in Golden Gate Park. Stow Lake Boathouse rents rowboats and peddle boats ideal for cruising by the lake’s stone bridge, waterfall, and Chinese pavilion. See ducks, turtles, birds, and other wildlife.
Batteries to Bluffs Trail, San Francisco
Leave the city behind for a short hike that follows the Presidio’s wild western shoreline. Seasonal native dune plants and wildflowers attract butterflies and birds. Consider a sunset hike for majestic views.
Devil’s Slide Trail, Pacifica
Walk on the only stretch of Highway 1 closed to cars. The easy 1.3-mile ( 2 kilometre) paved trail has signage, benches, and ocean views. Devil’s Slide was part of Highway 1 for many years but was dangerous because of falling boulders. In 2014 a tunnel was built for cars and this portion of Highway 1 was transformed into a pedestrian trail. Look closely to see a railroad bed in the hilly terrain, the only remnants of an ill-fated railway.
Sea Horse Ranch, Half Moon Bay
Horseback riding on the beach is sure to be a trip highlight. The one-hour scenic Equestrian Trail ride (USD 90 or INR 6,730) has beach and ocean views but skips the sand. Book the 90-minute Trail and Beach tour (USD 100 or INR 7,478) to ride on Poplar Beach. The Early Bird Special offers a two-hour trail and beach ride for USD 75 (INR 5,608).
Shakespeare Society of America Headquarters, Moss Landing
To stop or not to stop? That is the question — and the answer is yes. Moss Landing, a tiny fishing port best known for its catch, is also home to the Shakespeare Society of America headquarters containing thousands of artefacts, some dating back 500 years. Peruse the rare book and reference collection, museum and memorabilia, visual art, and theatre arts archive.
Public Art Walk, Sand City
Grab a coffee at a local bakery and download this map of California’s highway to find murals, a dino sculpture, and painted bee boxes on a self-guided public art walk in Sand City, a 2.9-square-mile (7.5 square kilometre) town on the Monterey Peninsula. The quirky, Instagram-worthy public art and murals in the West End are created by local and visiting artists.
Hidden Beach and Waterfall, Ragged Point
McWay Falls may be the most photographed waterfall on the Central Coast, but it’s not the only one. At Ragged Point, the steep, half-mile (0.8 kilometre) Black Swift Trail leads to a tiny black sand beach with a waterfall on California’s highway. Heads up: the trail can be slippery.
Piedras Blancas Light Station, San Simeon
Built in 1875, the still operating light station is named for the unique white rocks offshore, home to seabirds, sea lions, and elephant seals. Soak up lighthouse history on a two-hour tour to the Fog Signa Building and the bottom level of the lighthouse. Bring binoculars for wildlife sightings. Reservations are necessary.
Fiscalini Ranch Preserve, Cambria
Take a walk on the wild side at the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve, a protected open space with over 150 different native plants and 430 birds. Long hiking trails and a coastal bluff with views of migrating whales and birds make this a must stop — and it’s free.
Marley Family Seawoods, Cayucos
Hunt vegetarian style and munch on kelp (it’s nutritious!) on a private seaweed foraging tour with the Marley family. Learn about sustainable and respectful harvesting and how to forage edible seaweed. Then enjoy a seaweed ramen treat on the beach.
Cayucos Tide Pools, Cayucos
There are many turnouts between Estero Bluffs (shortest walk to shore) and Harmony Headlands for easy access to tide pools brimming with sea stars, anemones, spiny urchins, purple shore crabs, and more. Plan your visit for low tide when marine life is more visible. Find more marine life at a beached boat in Point Estero.
Morro Bay National Estuary, Morro Bay
You may have seen huge Morro Rock (it’s hard to miss!) but check out the secluded estuary and wetland inhabited by hundreds of animals and plants. Hike coastal trails or rent a kayak (from A Kayak Shack) and paddle in calm water to Sandspit Beach.
Swinging Bridge, Arroyo Grande
Balance on a swinging bridge 40 feet above the Arroyo Grande Creek, and 171 feet across. It was built in early 1875 by the Short family, whose land was divided by the Arroyo Grande Creek.
Dunes Center, Guadalupe
For about 60 years, the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes held a secret about the 1923 film “The Ten Commandments.” After filming, director Cecil B. DeMille had the set buried in the dunes on the California highway. There it sat until archaeologists excavated it in 1983. See the huge sphinx head, prohibition-era liquor bottles, makeup, and tobacco tins at the Dunes Center.
Llama Farm, Santa Barbara
Spend a night “glamping” in El Capitan Canyon, where resort guests can hike to a nearby llama farm, interact with animals, and chat with farmers. You can also see llamas by the side of the road just south of the campground. Park at the El Capitan surf spot overlook.
Rancho La Patera and Stow House, Goleta
Learn about California’s railroad and lemon history at this historic site and ride a miniature train at the adjacent South Coast Railroad Museum (open weekends). Plus, enjoy lush Victorian gardens and free concerts (the first Sunday of each month).
Ventura Botanical Gardens, Ventura
A fire that scorched the ocean-view Ventura Botanical Gardens in 2017 revealed a secret: hidden terraces and long stone walls from the late 1700s. They’re now an integral part of the 107-acre Mediterranean-themed gardens, which have since grown back.
Self-realisation Fellowship Lake Shrine, Pacific Palisades
Find your zen at the hilltop nature and spirituality sanctuary, housing a temple, a meditation garden, and a lake with ducks, swans, fish, and turtles. Founded by Paramahansa Yogananda, the facility’s Gandhi World Peace Memorial contains a portion of Gandhi’s ashes sent from India.
Annenberg Community Beach House, Santa Monica
Hang out at the public beach house featuring the Marion Davies Guest House, a historic swimming pool with marble decking, volleyball courts, and more. Built in the 1920s by William Randolph Hearst for actress Marion Davies, the property was sold to the state of California in 1959. It’s operated by the City of Santa Monica.
Venice Canals, Venice Beach
Tucked away in a residential neighbourhood, the Venice Canals (built in 1905 by Abbot Kinney to resemble Venice, Italy) are surrounded by lovely homes with private docks for non-motorised boats. Stroll along sidewalks and bridges to photograph the pretty canals.
This story first appeared on www.travelandleisure.com