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The Central Coast of California is a natural wonderland. Along Highway 1, there are redwood groves, national forests, rocky cliffs, crashing surf and beaches that provide myriad opportunites for viewing birds, whales, otters and seals. There's also the great man-made monument: Hearst Castle. It is one of the most beautiful drives in the United States despite the prevalance of poison oak and dangerous surf (all easily avoidable).
The following is a brief description of the towns along this 200 mile (325 km) stretch of Highway 1 and a sample of the attractions along the way (compiled from TA regulars and DEs). Destinations are described from the south headed north, though the drive can be done in either direction. One $10 State Park fee will cover all California state parks for one day. The America the Beautiful National Park Pass covers day use fees in the federally managed Los Padres National Forest (including Pfeiffer Beach).
While driving the entire stretch and visiting every attraction could easily take an entire week; a typical drive would involve 2 stops: one in the area south of Big Sur and the other in the Monterey Peninsula.
Harmony - a town that redefines "tiny" - population of about 18!