Discover California’s Highway 1

California’s Highway 1 Discovery Route is the perfect road trip where you’ll find cool beach towns connected by a winding two-lane highway hugging the dramatic Pacific coastline. One option is to start in Morro Bay and cruise the central coast north past the Hearst Castle up to the Piedras Blanca Elephant Seal Rookery. And since it’s California, don’t miss wine tasting at some of the boutique wineries that make up the Pacific Coast Wine Trail.

Morro Bay

Morro Bay Harbor
Morro Bay Harbor photo credit: John Cameron

Stay at the Front Street Inn and Spa, located steps from Morro Bay on Embarcardero and you can watch fishing boats from your room. Tourism and commercial fishing are Morro Bay’s main industries. Grab breakfast next door with locals at La Parisienne, known for their croissants.

Windows on The Water, Morro Bay
Windows on The Water, Morro Bay photo credit: John Cameron

Top restaurants in town, both with great views of Morro Bay, include Windows on the Water and The Galley Seafood Grill and Bar. At Windows, try their fresh sand dabs or the locally-sourced Abalone presented in the shell on a bed of seaweed and cucumber salad.

The Galley Seafood Grill & Bar, Morro Bay
The Galley Seafood Grill & Bar photo credit: Sherel Purcell

At The Galley, have the amazing Blackened Pacific Rockfish. They make an excellent clam chowder too.

Things to do in Morro Bay

Central Coast Outdoors, Morro Bay
Central Coast Outdoors photo credit: John Cameron

Paddle around the shallow Morro Bay Estuary with a kayak from Central Coast Outdoors. Craig, the experienced guide, pointed out seals and sea otters and the thriving oyster farm. Enjoy a gourmet picnic lunch on the sand dunes paired with an excellent local zin and craft beers before kayaking back to the dock.

Morro Rock, a 576 foot high volcanic plug that guards the entrance to the harbor, is Morro Bay’s defining feature – it’s visible for miles around.

Farmer's Kites and Surreys, Morro Bay
Farmer’s Kites and Surreys photo credit: Sherel Purcell

Cycle to the Rock on a bike from Farmer’s Kites and Surreys, located on the Embarcadero. Another good bike trail will take you north past the beach around the cloisters, a wetland bird sanctuary.

If you’re a golfer, constant elevation changes and nary a level lie make The Morro Bay Golf Course a short but challenging track with some great views.

Stroll the Embarcadero and drop into Chateau Margene’s tasting room. Micro winery Chateau Margene, one of the ten wineries that comprise the Pacific Coast Wine Trail, produces only Bordeaux-style wines (Cabernet Sauvignons, Cabernet Franc & Meritage blends) and sells direct to customers and wine clubs.

Cayucos

Drive ten minutes north on Highway 1, to neighboring Cayucos and stop into the Cass House Grill for lunch.

Cass House Grill, Cayucos
Cass House Grill photo credit: John Cameron

The Cass House Grill features farm to table dishes and the best lobster roll you’ll find anywhere. Their secret? – the grilled milk bread. Try the chef’s delicious cauliflower empanadas – cauliflower, parmesan, mushroom puree, sherry vinegar and truffle oil.

Just up Ocean Avenue from the Cass House Grill is the famous Brown Butter Cookie Company. Butter browned on the stove gives these cookies a rich, nutty taste.

Brown Butter Cookies
Brown Butter Cookies photo credit: John Cameron

With flavors like citrus, almond, cocoa and espresso, you’ll want to try them all. They also have a second store in Paso Robles.

Harmony

Harmony Cellars
Harmony Cellars photo credit: Sherel Purcell

Nearby, the town of Harmony is home to a boutique winery, Harmony Cellars, another one of the wineries that make up the Pacific Coast Wine Trail. Producing just 7500 cases annually, you won’t find their wine in any BevMo. Try their wonderful Grandpa Barlogio Zinfandel, available only in the tasting room.  Artisans in the glass blowing shop and pottery studio  call Harmony home. It also has the world’s tiniest chapel.

 

Cambria

Cambria makes a perfect stopping point as the Hearst Castle is just 17 minutes away. Located minutes from downtown on Moonstone Beach,  you’re just steps away from  the ocean at The Blue Dolphin Inn.

Moonstone Beach, Cambria
Moonstone Beach, Cambria photo credit: John Cameron

The moonstone gemstone is said to bring good luck and promotes inspiration. See if you can find some of these tiny gemstones as you stroll the beach.

Top restaurants in Cambria include The Black Cat, Robin’s and Linn’s. Linn’s is THE place for a gourmet breakfast.

Linn's Restaurant Cambria
Linn’s Restaurant photo credit: John Cameron

Skip the usual English muffin and order your Eggs Benedict on a bed of polenta. The popular bakery features their famous Ollieberry pies.

At Robin’s, diners are serenaded by frogs in the beautiful indoor courtyard featuring live trumpet flower plants.

Robin's Restaurant, Cambria
Robin’s Restaurant photo credit: John Cameron

Try the spinach salad with pecans, cranberries and feta. Or the cioppino and an Indian style tofu curry with carrots and raisins.

San Simeon

William Randall Hearst chose to build his famous castle overlooking a beautiful stretch of the California Highway 1 Discovery Route near San Simeon.

Indoor Roman Pool at The Hearst Castle, San Simeon
Indoor Roman Pool photo credit: John Cameron

Don’t miss the beautiful Indoor Roman Pool, which consists of a million Murano glass tiles, some with a dazzling layer of gold leaf inside.

Hearst Ranch Winery
Hearst Ranch Winery photo credit: John Cameron

For a relaxed lunch after seeing the Hearst Castle, stop into the historic Sebastian’s Store in San Simeon which features a Hearst Ranch Winery tasting room – your $15.00 tasting fee is refunded with a purchase. Hearst Ranch Winery is another winery on the Pacific Coast Wine Trail.  Try the  tri-tip steak sandwich or a burger made with beef from the Hearst Ranch. A Hearst Ranch Tempranillo  pairs well with a green chili cheeseburger.

 

Our last stop on California’s Highway 1 Discovery Route is the Piedras Blancas Rookery, four miles north of the Hearst Castle.
The Piedras Blancas elephant seal rookery spreads over 6 miles of shoreline around Point Piedras Blancas.

Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery
Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery photo credit: John Cameron

Before 4 pm, visitors can chat with docents who will explain the life cycle of these huge creatures. Their eyes are ten times more sensitive than ours and their whiskers can detect motion in the water,  helpful in locating prey. The wheelchair accessible viewing areas are open every day of the year and are free.

 

Denver’s Top Luxury Hotels

Denver’s top luxury hotels showcase three different approaches in three different neighborhoods.

Four Seasons Hotel, Denver

Flagship luxury brand The Four Seasons has a great downtown address – The Colorado Convention Center, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, and the Ellie Caulkins Opera House are all within easy walking distance.

Four Seasons Hotel Denver-Lobby
Four Seasons Hotel Denver-Lobby photo credit: John Cameron

The  modern interior design subtly reflects the natural beauty of Colorado, and oversized windows offer both downtown and Rocky Mountain vistas.  At the EDGE Bar in the Four Seasons lobby, a tapas-style menu pairs well with local microbrews and over 50 wines by the glass.

Four Seasons Hotel Denver-fireplace
Four Seasons Hotel Denver-Fireplace photo credit: John Cameron

Four Seasons Hotel Denver offers 239 ultra-spacious guest rooms and suites within a modern 45-storey building. Suites feature a lounge chair and ottoman in a separate living area. Generous bathrooms include a deep soaking tub and a shower in a separate glass-enclosed stall.

The fitness center on the third floor has views of the rooftop pool terrace. Guests can choose from cardio machines equipped with televisions, free weights and a yoga studio.  The spa ushers in new treatments each season, such as an Evergreen Massage for winter. All guests can use the spa facilities – a perfect ending to a session in the rooftop pool.

The Four Seasons is only one block away from trendy Larimer Square with some of Denver’s best dining options. Check out chef Troy Guard’s contemporary cuisine at TAG.

Hong Kong Sea Bass at TAG
Hong Kong Sea Bass at TAG photo credit: Sherel Purcell

The savvy waiters have excellent wine pairing suggestions and must tries include the taco sushi, Miso Black Cod and the Hong Kong steamed seabass in a ginger soy vinaigrette.

Kimpton Hotel Monaco Denver

Near the 16th Avenue Mall and the renovated historic Union Train station, pet-friendly boutique hotel brand Kimpton is renowned for its popular happy hour where guests mingle over drinks and snacks. Did I mention its free? No two Kimptons are the same, each property has its own personality.

Kimpton Hotel Monaco Denver Lobby
Kimpton Hotel Monaco Denver Lobby photo credit: Sherel Purcell

Walking into the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Denver, guests encounter a huge living room lobby complete with a grand ornate ceiling and an oversized fireplace – the perfect spot for the classy complimentary evening wine and beer tastings complete with hors d’oeuvres from the on-site Italian restaurant, Panzano. Tonight a free mini neck and shoulders massage and a singer/pianist complete the entertainment.

Kimpton Hotel Monaco Denver guest room
Kimpton Hotel Monaco Denver guest room photo credit: John Cameron

Interior designer Susan Caruso’s urban and western redesign of the guest rooms mixes animal hides, satiny drapes, quirky lamps, and oversized headboards in bold oranges and turquoises.

There are complimentary bicycles to use during your stay, an on-site 24-hour fitness center with cardio and resistance equipment, complimentary overnight shoeshine, complimentary morning Lavazza coffee and tea service, same-day laundry and dry cleaning service and luxury bath amenities. You can even request a goldfish companion for you (and your dog) for the duration of
your stay.

Halcyon Hotel Cherry Creek

Denver’s newest luxury hotel, the independent Halycon, is located in Cherry Creek , a mixture of urban development and tree lined residential streets, just south of downtown. Hermes and Tiffany are just some of the luxury retailers that inhabit the upscale suburb, Denver’s Rodeo Drive.

Halcyon replaces the traditional reception desk with a kitchen counter where friendly staff will fix your favorite coffee drink or pour you a glass of bubbly. Enjoy complimentary drinks including red and white wine, beer and mixed cocktails from 3 pm to 10 pm daily.

Just past the kitchen counter is an inviting living room complete with contemporary art pieces, two fireplaces, books, tv and board games set up amidst lounging chairs and sofas. From there you can proceed to the Rooftop Pool Deck where you may catch a session of sunset yoga led by yogis from neighboring Pura Vida Fitness & Spa.

Halcyon Hotel Cherry Creek Living room
Halcyon Hotel Cherry Creek Living room photo credit: John Cameron

Spread across 2 floors, the 1300 square foot Presidential Suite features an open concept living space on the main floor with a bedroom and ensuite bathroom upstairs. The outdoor terrace, designed by local Halcyon partner Restoration Hardware, offers views of the Denver skyline. Halcyon elevates the cool factor with retro-style turntables and vintage vinyl in every room.

Halcyon Hotel Cherry Creek Gear Garage
Halcyon Hotel Cherry Creek Gear Garage photo credit: John Cameron

Explore the Cherry Creek Trail bike path and surrounding city parks on complimentary Vespas, e-bikes, and Belgium cruisers.  The Gear Garage at Halcyon also offers a Hamboard which feels like surfing on wheels and made in Denver longboards. Outdoor adventure kits come in an Osprey Backpack that includes a Go Pro, binoculars, Swiss army knife, Bear Naked bars, and bottled water. Photographers will love the loaner Leica film cameras and Halcyon will even print and ship your prints home.

Your Guide to an Active Vacation