Coast Roads – Part 1

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Big Sur

If you like driving and you’re a fan of coast roads, then California Highway 1 is a must. The road itself runs the full length of the state, but the part most folk wish to see is located on the central coast between San Luis Obispo and Carmel and offers a stretch of about 100 winding miles of coastline hugging nirvana. 

It’s by far the most dramatic stretch of road I’ve ever driven on – with the mountains of Pfeiffer State Park looming up on one side and sheer 400ft drops to the ocean on the other, it’s jaw-droppingly astonishing. There are rocky outcrops like dragon’s teeth standing sentinel all along the coast which are relentlessly pounded by the surge and might of the Pacific and around each bend there are new vistas and heart stopping drops, no two views are the same.

Towards the top of the road (if travelling south to north) you come to the Bixby Creek Bridge, which in itself is an eye-catching sight; built in 1932, to this day it remains the longest single span concrete arch bridge anywhere in the world. The road is well maintained throughout which given the weather and rock falls it endures is no mean feat, it has plenty of stopping points and laybys for admiring the view and despite the number of tourists who drive it, does not feel crowded.

Pacific Grove and 17 Mile Drive

Just north of Carmel is 17 Mile Drive which winds along and around the Monterey Peninsular. The land is owned and run as a designated state park and includes Pebble Beach golf course which means to the American golfer what St Andrews means to the British. The coastline is similar to Big Sur in that is it very rugged and dramatic, but with the difference that you can view it at ground level, giving an altogether different and much closer perspective.

hired bikes for the day so we could take it all in and also to get out of the car for a while and as the wind was blowing a fair old hooley, we decided to go for electric bikes. These were great fun and work on the principle that the motor kicks in when you pedal and the more you pedal, the more the motor works; there’s also a throttle to use for extra bursts of speed should you need it for hills or just to take a break.

The road has been built with bikes in mind and so there was plenty of room for us and the cars, buses etc. Along the way we went through the woods filled with cypress trees and passed coves, cliffs, bluffs, white sand beaches, and also saw the lone Cypress tree which is used as the image and logo of Pebble Beach – similar to the bridge over the Swilken Burn at St Andrews.