10 Day California Coast Road Trip | Day 6: Solvang, San Simeon & Big Sur, California
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Overview: Our day began in the Danish inspired town of Solvang. We then drove the Pacific Coast Highway 1 to San Simeon to see the elephant seals, and then on to Big Sur, California.
We woke up in our cute Danish inspired cottage to more rain! Like pouring rain!!
Having lived almost 14 years in the South, we are no newbies to hard storms! We’ve lived through many hurricane seasons. The way that the wind and rain was hitting our windows, reminded me of living in North Carolina looking out our back windows as the hurricane storms came through the state.
Although we just couldn’t escape the crazy Californian rain, we were destined to still have fun!
We ran out of our cottage room, down to the main dining room and got soaked! We ate a quick breakfast and then hit the road. Before leaving town, we made sure to check out the most adorable Californian town; Solvang! I was disappointed that we couldn’t really get out of the car and walk around, but the rain was coming down so hard, that we concluded that we’ll just have to come back!
Isn’t that just the cutest downtown ever? It absolutely reminds me of Garmish-Partenkirchen, Germany!
We took a lunch break at a local Mexican restaurant along Highway 1 in the town of Arroyo Grande, California. Clayton would have stopped for Mexican for every meal if the kids and I would have agreed! Haha!
We hopped back on Highway 1 and headed north towards San Simeon!
San Simeon, California Elephant Seals
While we were at the Zachari Dunes resort (day___), another mom at the pool began chatting with me about where we were from, etc. They were from California (near San Simeon) and told us that now was the perfect time to see Elephant Seals on the beach. So Clayton and I made sure to add San Simeon to our stops along Highway 1. I was literally so excited for arrive because seeing wildlife on our vacations is usually my most favorite thing on vacation!
When we arrived at the Rookery (a breeding place), there was signage telling all about the Piedras Biancas Elephant Seal Rookery. It was super interesting!
Literally, once you got out of the car and peered over the railing, you saw a sea (literally!) of elephant seals! It was CRAZY!
In all honesty, if you didn’t hear them (haha, you’ve got to listen to the video with the sound ON!) you would have thought they were dead! Just a bunch of washed up blubbery seals!
Totally the opposite – they are alive and well. And actually, most of these elephant seals are actually babies! Just a couple of months old! They grow so quickly!
In this photo below, you will see a cluster of larger seals to the left, they are also lighter in color. Those are females – most of the moms are back at sea, refilling their tummies after feeding their babies and not eating for one month. *The babies gain around 10 pounds per day from nursing…and the moms don’t eat! Let me just say…us moms sure are amazing! We would do anything for our babies! (yes, my whole purpose in life was to be a mom!)
Here’s a close up of some of the adult females that were on the beach.
Circled in blue, was the only male we saw still on the beach. All of the males have also left to return to sea. They only come to shore two times per year: for mating and for the birth of the babies.
Here’s a better shot of the male, where you can see his elephant-like nose!
While elephant seals are known for their silly looking noses, only the males develop the elephant-like nose. Also, they don’t develop their noses until at least 5 years of age…hence why you don’t see the elongated noses on these babies.
Then the rain realllllly started coming down and the winds were FREEZING! We went running for the car for shelter!
Check out the Harbor Seals we saw along the coast in this video!
Hearst Castle is also located off of Highway 1 in San Simeon. While we did not stop to take the house and grounds tour, we did pass by the entrance to the castle as well as the winery grounds. (Notice all of the rain! Again, so unlike California!)
Pacific Coast Highway 1 Road Closure
We drove north on Highway 1 as far as we could before the road closure. At the time of us visiting (March 2023), there were 200 miles of Highway 1 closed due to rain and mudslides. However, the Pacific Coast Highway 1 is absolutely gorgeous and a must-see attraction when visiting California. I highly recommend checking out my post California: Pacific Coast Highway 1 – Day 1 as I share some of the most stunning views of the country!
While this section of Highway 1 was actually open, hopefully this photo will give an idea of what it would take to actually close down the road!
Fernwood Resort in Big Sur
Our next destination was Fernwood Resort located in Big Sur. Clayton and I stayed here back in 2015 when we did a similar trip along with visiting Yosemite. While Clayton and I knew what to expect (little roadside motel with store and restaurant…and no TVs in the bedrooms) the kids were less than thrilled. HA! However, it’s actually a nice little motel, with friendly service and truth be told…there aren’t many options in Big Sur. So you take what you can get!
You have to check out these posts about Yosemite! It’s Clayton’s hands-down most favorite National Park!
- California: Yosemite National Park: Mariposa Grove – Day 2
- California: Yosemite Cloud’s Rest Hike – Day 3
- California: Yosemite National Park, Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls, Mirror Lake & Yosemite Valley – Day 4
After checking in, we hopped back in the car and tried driving 12 miles Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park to the waterfall that Clayton and I visited back in 2015. However, the road was closed because of fallen trees and rock fall. Boo! This was such a beautiful place to visit. **Be sure to check out our photos from our trip to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in Big Sur, California .You have to hike through a tunnel to get to the waterfall! It’s quite a fun hike!
The rain and weather was really a killjoy on this trip…but we turned around and headed back towards Fernwood Resort, but took a few moments to capture the beautiful Californian coast along Highway 1!…even in the pouring rain!
Big Sur Lodge
We stopped at the Big Sur Lodge and did a short little hike near the entrance.
After all of our little roadside detours, we headed back to Fernwood and ate dinner at the resort’s restaurant, then called it a night.
At 3:30am I woke to crazy storms, yet again. Truth be told, I was a bit worried for my family being in the thick of the woods with such super tall trees! …moms, we always worry about our babies!