California Coast Locations

Discussion in 'Travel' started by david_manzi|2, Jun 17, 2003.

  1. I'll be driving the California coast in August, and would like to
    acquire information on any good photo locations along the way. I'll
    be driving from LA to SF and stopping in Santa Barbara, San Luis
    Obispo (or nearby) and Carmel (or nearby).

    Any recommendations?
  2. It depends on what you are shooting, but I'm assuming you want
    to shoot seascapes and that sort of stuff. I live in Santa Barbara,
    and there are some great seascapes here. Try and avoid the
    more popular beaches like Leadbetter and East Beach. There is
    just too many people and tourists everywhere. Some of the best
    places to shoot are the small turnoffs north of SB on the 101.
    Usually it is an adventure to get down to the beach, but well
    worth it. Best time to shoot in SB area is at sunset and even 45
    mins after sunset, thats the light I love. I have a few shots in my
    folder of Santa Barbara beaches if you want to check them out.
    Big Sur is a must also. Have fun.
  3. stemked

    stemked Moderator

    Big Sur. Lovely seascapes. Redwoods State Park (you can guess what's there). Ano Nueve (I think that's where it was) for Elephant seals.
  4. In my opinion, the most interesting stretch of the Southern California coast is between Big Sur and Monterey. Some highlights include the state parks: Julia Pfeiffer Burns (waterfall plunging into the ocean), Garapata (rocks and surf) and Point Lobos (many abstracts of trees and stone). The first two are good afternoon/evening locations, while I prefer Point Lobos in morning fog. Tuan Terra Galleria stock photography
  5. Summer in general is not good for elephant seals, but in season
    the coast close to Hearst Castle (a worthwhile stop too if
    you are interested in architecture, make reservations beforehand)
    has much better access than Ana Nuevo.
  6. Take Highway 1 down the coast, instead of the inland 101 route, and the entire coastal stretch between Carmel and San Simeon will keep you plenty busy with image opportunities. I think it's the single most beautiful segment of highway in the entire country. Some specific locations are detailed in the book, "Compass American Guides Coastal California" with photography by Galen Rowell.
  7. 17-mile drive in Pebble Beach. Great scenery.
  8. Highway 1: especially west/north of San Luis Obispo.

    Besides the coastal spots, the Missions at Santa Barbara, La Purisima (Lompoc), Santa Ynez(Solvang) and Carmel are notable for their architecture and gardens, La Purisima was restored by the CCC and is a State Park and has a much more original setting, less encroached upon by surrounding urban/suburban areas.

    The Guadalupe Dunes are pretty interesting and much less impacted than the dunes nearer Pismo. Morro Bay and Montana de Oro are kind of the starting point for the really stunning sections but really, from Cambria north, it's opportunity on opportunity. Morro Bay is about a half hour or less west of San Luis Obispo and there is some semi-reasonable lodging at SLO, and Morro Bay. Cambria and San Simeon are about 1/2 hour further. Beyond there, lodging opportunities are relatively sparce until you reach the monterey/Carmel area. The elephant seals may be on the beaches near San Simeon/Piedras Blancs. You'll know if they are there.

    On the inland side, there is a nice waterfall at Salmon Creek, a little ways past Ragged Point. McWey Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park falls almost directly into the ocean at a fantastically beautiful cove. Point Lobos State Reserve is justly popular. A web search on Big Sur will develop a lot of information. here's a sample:

    Just take it easy on the driving and allow as much time as possible. Watch for other tourist drivers and poison oak.
  9. I agree with Quang-Tuan Luong 100% -- the coast gets most interesting around the time you get to Julia Pfeiffer Burns SP and stays interesting the rest of the way north, but especially up to Monterey or so (maybe a little further north, up to Pescadero).

    Of course you should do the Pacific Coast Highway rather than 101, and just stop as you go. You'll find so many places along the way, it's difficult to list them all here. Before I went, I did a search here on, and there are 20 or 30 good threads about places to go.

    Have fun! It's one of the most beautiful areas in the country I've seen, and I've seen plenty of the country! ;-)
  10. Thanks to all for the excellent replies! Now comes the big decision: what gear? Do I travel light, and take the Canon G2 with the accessory lenses, or move all the way up to the Pentax 654NII with a couple of lenses? Decisions, decisions...
  11. Gas up in Carmel(north) and above San Simeon (south). In the little town of Big Sur itself it's 50% higher.

    Don't worry about finding interesting shots, just save some film for the next mile of the PCH
  12. Second that on gas. Carmel/Monterey at the north end and Cambria/San Simeon at the south end, if you've got the range, Morro Bay actually has as cheap or cheaper gas than San Luis (or did last time we were up there). In between you'll be hit with remote/resort level prices. Same with food, etc. Morro Bay is OK, San Luis is really the last stop going north where you have a lot of variety shopping - WalMart on up. You might feel like packing a picnic basket, bottled water, etc., there aren't a lot of convenient sources.

    Those signs that say "Curves - Next 90 Miles" aren't kidding! FWIW, for the driver's viewing opportunities, southbound is the ocean side and has better views. OTOH, driving north, you aren't on the cliffside, if your passenger is squeamish. Several times we've had to "wait" at construction zones. Spending 20 minutes just gazing over the rocks and waves? Can't say we minded much. You might want to make sure you have munchies, water, etc.

    If time permits, Morro Bay and Cambria offer kayaking and the Morro Bay area has the bay, wetlands and dunes as well.
  13. The portion of the coast from Carmel Highlands to Point Sur is my favorite.
  14. Gear? Since you're driving, I don't know that there is necessarily any reason to restrict yourself. Much of the area is easily accessed and some of the forested areas could make a tripod welcome. I've seen people shooting with large format at waters edge in Point Lobos, a guy with a Hasselblad and a G2 at McWey Falls, etc.
  15. Craig,

    Driving with gear isn't a problem, flying it from Boston is a pain. I think I'll take the G2, along with a MF setup in case I see something worthwhile. This isn't necessarily a photo trip, but more of a road trip with my wife and son. But, old habits die very hard, so the MF setup may be a pain, but not that bad. I'd hate to miss a killer shot.
  16. David,

    With regards to flying from Boston to SoCal with MF gear: I've done it with the F.64 MFX bag holding a Mamiya 645E with lenses and a Nikon 90s with vertical grip and lenses, with about 30 rolls of 120 and 35mm film. I had an Domke F4A flattened in my suitcase to use once I got California so I could just carry the equipment I needed for a given excursion.

    This worked fine: passed the carry-on size restrictions, and while it weighed a ton, worked fine. This was my official 'carry-on', with my laptop bag as my brief-case.

    And I'll just cast my vote for the Route 1 drive, especially between Carmel and San Francisco. Stunning scenery. Another good drive is to get off of Route 1 around Gilroy and drive east towards San Jose/Cupertino, up over the mountains. Spectacular vistas. Sorry, it's been a few years and I cannot remember the road numbers.

    Have a fun trip.
  17. Ah! Two more things to think about (I happen to not be very sensitive to either but sensitivities vary a great deal): motion sickness, Poison Oak.

    The highway through Big Sur is almost continuously curvy for over 70 miles! You might want to consider some of the OTC motion sickness preventatives if any one in the family is sensitive. I don't use them but find that one of my daughters is quite sensitive. This road will do it!

    Poison oak is prevalent throughout the area. Staying on the trails should be all you need to do to avoid it but a Google Search on Poison oak will bring up a lot of hits with i.d. photos, etc.
  18. I agree 100% with the answers... Monterey-San Francisco stretch is a must. Early in the morning, with fog, without fog, Sunset on Pigeon Point, waves... You will be amazed how fast the weather changes on this road. Ten miles, and you get from bitter cold humid fog to beautiful sunshine. The coast is a real wonder that absolutely deserves your 6*45 camera.
    So does San Francisco.
    If ever you have the opportunity, the highway 1 north of San Francisco is great too, you can drive to Point Reyes or just take the ferry to Sausalito. Try to go to treasure island at night for a -classical but nonetheless rewarding- night shot of San Francisco civic center and Oakland Bay Bridge.
    Happy shooting!
  19. David,
    Checked out your Southwest gallery/report. You're going to want to drive north up 1, not south. I don't know how much was kidding and how serious you are about heights, but heights are something else that abound in the Big Sur area! This bridge is at Limekiln, a small State Park campground. There's a creek and redwoods and a hike to an early limekiln facility for making cement. This was a scan I tried off a print a while back when I was trying to get used to my old scanner.
  20. Craig,

    Heights are a little concern, but not a huge problem. I guess I'll find out when I get there. Fear of heights did keep me off Angel's Landing, but that place is a little extreme.

    Following the advice, I'll be bringing the MF gear along with the G2 digital. Old habits are hard to break...

    Thanks to everyone for the good advice!

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