Part five of our Seattle to San Diego journey swings south from San Francisco along the peninsula's Pacific shores to magical Carmel-by-the-Sea. While our original route passed through Big Sur, extensive bridge damage from winter storms has required a detour via Paso Robles back to the coast, where the visual riches of San Simeon and the culinary spoils of San Luis Obispo await.
See the previous segments of our year-long trek:
Leg one: Seattle to Cannon Beach
Leg two: Cannon Beach to Gold Beach, Oregon
Leg three: Gold Beach, Oregon, to Mendocino, California
Leg four: Mendocino to San Francisco, California
Mile 28 | Half Moon Bay: Nature Break
Follow California Highway 1 as it slips south out of San Francisco and make a sweet morning out of hiking the wide, beautiful beaches of Half Moon Bay: Cowell Ranch State Beach and Half Moon Bay State Beach. Replenish with super local goods at the Saturday Coastside Farmers' Market.
Mile 130 | Carmel-by-the-Sea: Beauty and Beasts
Start with a stroll of ever-charming Carmel-by-the-Sea. Then leave the Pacific behind for the hillside retreat of Carmel Valley Ranch, home to alluring extras such as wine education classes and wellness sessions with horses, not to mention an excellent spa and restaurant. Rates start at $350.
Mile 236 | Paso Robles: History Detour
After a series of devastating winter storms, the road through Big Sur is closed, making a Highway 1 journey south impossible for now. Take a speedy detour inland on U.S. Route 101 to reach Paso Robles, a fine excuse to visit the exquisite Mission San Miguel.
Mile 281 | Hearst Castle: Instagram Heaven
Return to the coast just south of Cambria for a foray north to Hearst Castle, the eye-popping mansion that media magnate William Randolph Hearst built. Try to decide which is more spectacular: the art, the architecture, the swimming pool, or the ocean views.
Mile 324 | San Luis Obispo: Eat, Drink, and Be Merry
Bed down at the sweetly urbane Granada Hotel & Bistro, and spend the next day exploring. Start at Scout Coffee, grab cute swag at Ambiance boutique, taste excellent local wines at The Station, and go fresh and wood-fired at Ember restaurant in nearby Arroyo Grande.
DETOUR WORTH TAKING:
Slow down in Paso Robles to explore its burgeoning culinary scene. Check out Tablas Creek Vineyard, Bristols Cider House, BarrelHouse Brewing Co., and the Paso Robles Distillery Trail for liquid pleasures.
BY THE NUMBERS:
324 Miles driven
20 Percentage of North American Bird Species That Call Half Moon Bay Home
2 Number of Years Clint Eastwood Served as Mayor of Carmel
3 Hot Springs Pools Open to the Public in Paso Robles
42 Bathrooms in Hearst Castle’s Casa Grande
RELATED: 20 Best Beaches in California
Photos: SteveGeer/Getty Images; Courtesy of Carmel Valley Ranch; CompassandCamera/Getty Images; Christian Heeb; Courtesy of Anya McInory