San Simeon Stories and Tips

The Drive from Monterey to San Simeon

Along Hwy 1 Photo, Big Sur, California

After spending nearly three hours at the aquarium, it was time for us to make our way south along "The 1". Highway 1 is a two lane road that connects the central coast towns from Monterey to our evening's destination, San Simeon. Having been forewarned to not attempt this twisting and winding two lane road after dark, we wanted to provide for plenty of viewing time along the way. As the driver, taking photos could only be done from designated pullouts and viewing areas.

The Garmin had the route at roughly 100 miles and two & a half hours. It took us nearly four! Generally referred to as the Big Sur area of California, the scenery was spectacular. Some of the areas were in tall pine forests, while others were more coastal and barren. Warnings about rock slides were frequent, with evidence of road damage seen in several areas.

We made sure to stop at the Bixby Bridge. Opened to traffic in 1932, it is a great example of "open-spandrel arch architecture" and is probably the most photographed bridge along the Pacific Ocean. Many car ads from the 1960's and 1970's featured this bridge that spans Bixby Creek. As you drive south, there is a large pullout with decent views for photographers to capture the moment. I would have loved to walk out more into the overlook, but with the high winds that afternoon, I opted to take my photos from the gravel path along the parking lot.

There are a number of parks along Hwy 1, but unfortunately, we did not have the time to spend exploring. One worth noting is the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Those interested in hiking can venture into the park to see 2,500 year old redwoods and the lovely McWay Falls. For more information, they have a very informational website:

Approaching San Simeon, we also saw a lighthouse beacon off in the distance. Unsure which one it was, I simply snapped a photo and moved on. I could not identify the structure, but will include a photo with this story anyway!

San Simeon is where the Heart Castle is located. Our plans would include a tour the next afternoon. In addition to the home of Wm. Randolph Hearst, there are still other Hearst Family businesses in San Simeon including the Hearst Winery and a cattle ranch. Near the Hearst Castle is Old San Simeon Village. Visitors can drive down the loop road to check out Sebastian's General Store which dates back to 1852. Designated a Historical Landmark, is has also served as the local post office for more than 130 years. (It should be noted that this is not the original location of this store, as it had been moved from San Simeon Point several years ago.)

Today the general store features Hearst beef in their cafe and is a popular dining place for local cowboys and residents.

While at Sebastian's General Store, we noticed a small building off in the distance. Unfortunately with the parking lot at the store gated, we could not get very close, nor could we read the small picture sign telling of the building's history. Again, research on the internet was necessary to learn more about this building. This one-room schoolhouse was built in 1903 and has since been "repurposed" into a home with additions (bedroom, bathroom and laundry) built on and utilities connected in the 1960's. I did find a real estate listing with a "reduced asking price" of around $350,000.

Other landmarks along this stretch of road near San Simeon are the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse and the adjacent elephant seal rookery. During our two day stay in the area, we would also tour these popular attractions. (See reviews and photos in this journal.)

Our road trip concluded as we arrived to our hotel in San Simeon with enough time to catch the sun setting into the Pacific Ocean. In deed, it was a glorious day!

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