5 Highlights along Highway 1, California
I need to share a secret with you. Considering my age and my former attitude (talking childhood attitude here) towards the topic, I find it pretty embarrassing but I have to admit that I am obsessed with Baywatch.
Have you stopped laughing yet? I know, I know, as a woman I should criticise the obvious combination of soft-porn and family show; as a film student the production of suspense and the lack of rigor. When I was a kid I hated it and always looked down on my classmates with their red bathing suits, pretending to run in slow-mo like Pamela.
But be honest – raise your hand if you’ve never dreamt of the Golden State. Sandy beaches anyone? Paradise-like shores? Hot surfer dudes? Shorts and bikinis all year round? Baywatch was just the TV start of decades of California dreaming to follow. Later O.C. California hit the screen and inspired a new generation of teenagers to dream of sun, beach and the good life.
Watching Baywatch makes me nostalgic about my trip to California a few years back. Not to mention the fashionable late 80ies clothes – a dream. The following are 5 of my favourite spots in and around Los Angeles’s coastal sisters.
The most common and definitely most beautiful scenic road every California traveller will drive down is Highway No. 1, leading along the coast all the way from San Diego up to Northern Cali. There are so many stops on the way that it would take months to appreciate them all with enough time. With the limited amount of time we had, we had to pick some over others.
1. Big Sur Bixby Bridge
One of these stops is impossible to miss – the Big Sur Bixby Bridge. There is simply no way around crossing the bridge on No. 1. It was opened in 1932 and still is one of the tallest single-span concrete bridges in the world.
2. McWay Waterfall
This very special waterfall is located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in the Big Sur region. Why is it so special? Because the waterfall used to pour directly into the ocean. Only in the 80ies the bay filled with enough sand to form a beach. Yet, the scenery is marvelous.
There is a small path (I refuse calling it a hike) leading to some scenic points from where you can get glimpses at the waterfall and the stunning landscape.
3. Gaviota State Park
This state park as such is not extraordinary. Its location is. Leaving San Luis Obispo southbound No. 1 turns its back on the ocean for quite a while due to military areas and airports. Gaviota State Park is the first beach you will be able to access before entering Santa Barbara (or the last one if you go northbound).
It offers a parking space, camp ground, picnic tables and a tidy beach. For me it was the perfect spot to observe plenty of birds and relaxing on a beach without being surrounded by super-pretty houses.
4. Malibu, Santa Monica and Hermosa Beach
Yet of course, there’s no California trip without these crowded beaches, which we know by heart from TV shows like Baywatch. Malibu, Venice, Santa Monica, Hermosa, Redondo and Long Beach. Without having been there before, it seems as familiar as the annual visit to your aunt’s house. You recognize the atmosphere, accept strangers as your neighbors and walk the piers like a local.
And whereas these beaches can get very crowded in peak season, you can best enjoy the unique atmosphere during September afternoons and sunsets.
5. La Jolla
Going further south and leaving Los Angeles behind, you will enter the mysterious Orange County – generally known as O.C.. Huntington, Newport, Laguna Beach, Dana Point – any of these ring a bell? In their appearance the OC beaches are very similar to the LA beaches, that’s why it kind of gets boring after a while.
All your hopes lie within entering La Jolla – a beach community just north of San Diego. I promise this will be a good one. Whether you are a beginner or advanced surfer or if you just like to watch hot dudes killing the waves, like me, this is the place to be. No muscle beach, no yellow lifeguard trucks, no rich kids fooling around on the beach. Just the ocean, the board, your camera and you.
*All photos by Kathi Kamleitner