Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea, California audio tour: California Coast Driving Tour: From Carmel-by-the-Sea to Big Sur

California Coast Driving Tour: From Carmel-by-the-Sea to Big Sur

Driving Tour

120 mins

About the Tour

Experience a spectacular driving tour that follows Highway 1 to Big Sur, often called “the greatest meeting of land and water in the world.” You’ll be greeted by views of the Santa Lucia Mountains rising abruptly from the Pacific Ocean, in contrast with the jagged rock cliffs and churning seas. This section of Highway 1, which opened in 1937, is considered one of the most scenic driving routes in the United States, if not the world. It’s filled with unblemished natural scenery and dotted with four state parks, hidden beaches, rocky coves and rolling hills.

Our tour starts in Carmel-by-the-Sea, and continues south to Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, the crown jewel of California’s State Park system, and Carmel Highlands, the location of several movies and television shows. Further on, at Garrapata State Park, you’ll find a long coast strewn with rocky coves and headland meadows. You’ll cross the iconic Bixby Bridge, pass by the prominent volcanic rock home of the Point Sur Light Station to the Big Sur River Inn and famous Nepenthe Restaurant before we stop at the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.

Along the way you’ll have an opportunity to:

• Witness waves crashing against rocky cliffs
• Take in stunning views of the Big Sur Coastline
• Hike through redwood forests and discover hidden coves
• Hear about the history of this rocky coast and its people
• Learn about the flora and fauna of Big Sur
• Visit four California State Parks

All stops, visits to state parks and subsequent hikes are optional and parking fees for state parks are not included in the price of this tour. For more detailed information about these stops please see “Places to stop along the way” in the tour description.

This 35-mile driving tour can be completed in about two hours without any stops. On the other hand, this is your adventure. You may stop where you want, when you want and for as long as you want. It’s up to you! Happy Adventures!

Please review “Places to stop along the way” and the “Precautions” section for important information on driving and hiking.

Download a souvenir brochure of the tour
View maps of all the hikes on this tour

This California Coast Driving Tour from Carmel-by-the-Sea to Big Sur is a collaboration by Lynn Momboisse and Dale Byrne.

Tour Producer


Lynn Momboisse

Hi! My name is Lynn and I am a native of California and have resided in Northern California for most of my life. For many years I lived in beautiful Carmel-by-the-Sea where I co-authored the book Historic Homes and Inns of Carmel-by-the-Sea. My love of history and passion for discovering the beauty of the Golden State has led me to create a fun little blog titled "Adventures of a Home Town Tourist" where I recount many of my walking tours and hiking adventures throughout the world. I currently live in the majestic Sierra Foothills and will be exploring and writing about my adventures throughout this gorgeous country. And now I'll be able to further share my travels with you through the power of the new VoiceMap tour app. I can't wait for you to join me. Happy Adventures!

How VoiceMap Works

Focus on your surroundings, not the screen

VoiceMap’s audio tour app uses GPS to play audio automatically, at the right time and place. Just install it, then download your tour and go to the starting point to begin your walk, drive, cycle, train trip or even boat ride.

Follow a route with turn-by-turn-directions

Tours follow a route from a fixed starting point. This is how we provide turn-by-turn directions. It also helps publishers tell a story greater than the sum of its parts. But you can use Resume to pick up a tour from the closest location whenever you like.

Listen as many times as you like

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Take virtual tours anywhere

Just select Virtual mode in the VoiceMap app to listen to tours at home – or anywhere else. You’ll see the option after you download the tour. You can also listen to the whole tour here on the website.

Buy for less on and sync

Once you’ve purchased a tour, it’s added to your VoiceMap library. If you sign into the app using the same method you used on the website, you’ll have access to your full library of tours in both places.

Use VoiceMap offline

The VoiceMap app works entirely offline if there’s no data connection, so you don’t have to pay roaming fees. Just download the tour over WiFi before you get started.

Major Landmarks

  • Point Lobos State Reserve

  • Carmel Highlands

  • Rocky Creek Bridge

  • Bixby Creek Bridge

  • Hurricane Point

  • Point Sur Light Station

  • Garrapata State Park

  • Andrew Molera State Park

  • Big Sur River Inn

  • Nephenthe

  • Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

  • Partington Cove

  • McWay Falls

Directions to Starting Point


Starbucks 3650 Rio Road, Carmel-by-the-Sea (parking lot on the southside of Starbucks by the double doors)
In the Crossroads Shopping Center

From Downtown Carmel-by-the-Sea

Take Junipero which turns into Rio Road. Stay on Rio Road and cross Highway 1. Turn right at the first stop signal into the Crossroads Shopping Center. Follow this road to the second entrance to the parking area on your right. Then turn right into this second opening, it will be right before a set of flag polls. To your left will be the Rio Grill clock tower. Drive toward the double doors to this Starbucks and park here in the southern parking area for Starbucks.

From Carmel Highlands

Travel north on Highway 1. Turn right onto Rio Road. Then turn right at the first stop signal into the Crossroads Shopping Center. Follow this road to the second entrance to the parking area on your right. Then turn right into this second opening, it will be right before a set of flag polls. To your left will be the Rio Grill clock tower. Drive toward the double doors to this Starbucks and park here in the southern parking area for Starbucks.

From Monterey

Travel south on Highway 1. Turn left onto Rio Road. Then turn right at the first stop signal into the Crossroads Shopping Center. Follow this road to the second entrance to the parking area on your right. Then turn right into this second opening, it will be right before a set of flag polls. To your left will be the Rio Grill clock tower. Drive toward the double doors to this Starbucks and park here in the southern parking area for Starbucks.

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Places to stop along the way

All listed opening and closing times are as of November 2020 and subject to change at any time. Some parks may be closed periodically due to fire or weather conditions. THE FOLLOWING STOPS AT STATE PARKS ARE OPTIONAL. Parking fees for stops are not included in the price of this audio tour.

For basic information of individual California State Parks visit their website

If you enter and pay for parking at a California State Park, keep your parking receipt as it is good for parking at any other California State Park you visit on the same day.

Parks we will have the opportunity to visit on this driving tour:

Point Lobos Natural Reserve: Open 8 am - 5 pm / Last entry 4:30 pm / Parking $10 More info here You may also purchase a map for $2 at the entrance station with all of the hikes. (Optional hikes: North Shore Trail to Cannery Point 1/4 mile easy hike; Cypress Grove Trail 3/4 mile easy hike; Sea Lion Point Trail 3/4 mile easy hike; Bird Island Trail 3/4 mile easy hike). Parking at this state park is 100 cars and fills up almost immediately after opening. If the parking is closed there will be a sign in front of the park on the highway. If you do visit this park, shut down the driving tour after you pass the entrance booth. When you are done visiting the park come back to the entrance booth and press resume and the driving portion of the tour will continue.

Garrapata State Park: Free (Optional Hikes: Garrapata Bluff Trail 1/2 mile easy hike; Calla Lily Valley best in spring 1/2 mile moderate hike)

Point Sur Light Station: Fee for tours by reservation only here

Naval Facility Point Sur: $10 tour fee - limited hours Saturday and Sunday

Andrew Molera State Park: Open 8 am to sunset $10 Parking - A map of open hiking trails will be posted at the entrance booth.

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park: Open daily 8 am to sunset / $10 parking fee - many times the ranger will give out free maps of this park. View here. (Optional Hikes: Self-guided Nature Trail 1/4 mile easy; Valley View Trail 2 miles moderate to difficult)

Partington Cove Trail to Partington Point : Free parking along the highway (Optional Hiking moderate level)

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park Hike to McWay Falls: $10 parking –8 am to sunset


Carmel Highlands (Viewpoint)
162 Spindrift: Film location of Play Misty For Me
157 Spindrift: Film location of Basic Instinct and Big Little Lies
40 Yankee Point: Film location of Big Little Lies
Pull out for Garrapata Bluff Trailhead (Viewpoint - Hike is optional)
Pull out for Garrapata Calla Lily Valley Trail (Viewpoint - Hike is optional)
Driveway to Rocky Point Restaurant (Viewpoint)
Pull out for Rocky Creek Bridge (Viewpoint)
Pull out for Bixby Creek Bridge (Viewpoint)
Hurricane Point Turnout (Viewpoint)
Little Sur River Beach Turnout (Viewpoint)
Point Sur Light Station Driveway (Viewpoint)
Ventana Big Sur (Viewpoint)
Nepenthe Restaurant: 48510 Highway 1, Big Sur
Partington Cove pullout (Viewpoint - Hike Optional)
Julia Pfeiffer Burns Vista Point (Viewpoint)
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (McWay Falls Hike Optional)

Carmel-by-the-Sea Fairy Tale Homes Walking Tour
Carmel-by-the-Sea Off the Beaten Track Walking Tour
Carmel-by-the-Sea Scenic Road Walking Tour
Downtown Carmel in One Hour Walking Tour
Monterey State Historic Park and Fisherman’s Wharf Walking Tour
Monterey, California: Historic Cannery Row and John Steinbeck Walking Tour
Driving Tours of Lake Tahoe:
South Lake Tahoe to Tahoe City
Tahoe City to Incline Village
Incline Village to South Lake Tahoe

Best time of day

This area along the California coast is beautiful just about any time of year. However if you have an option of when to plan your trip, the best months to visit are spring months for wildflowers in April and May or the fall months of September and October. The summer months of June through August are the most crowded and the winter months can bring an abundance of rain which at times closes down parts of the coastal highway.

It is best to start early in the morning as parking lots for viewpoints and parks fill up at the day goes on, especially during the busy summer months or on holidays. The Point Lobos parking lot is highly restricted, allowing only 100 cars at a time into the park. If you are interested in visiting Point Lobos you should plan on getting there shortly after opening.


Speed limits on this driving tour average between 35 and 40 miles an hour. Take your time, be cautious and mindful as you drive this narrow and winding road. Pull over at turn-outs if you find cars piling up behind you. Obey the speed limit and any California Transportation workers instructions.

If you park and leave your car for any reason, cover all your valuables, securely lock your car doors and take your keys with you. Cars ARE broken into often so it is best to take ALL valuables with you.

If you take any of the optional hikes along the way, stay on the paths and be careful as you walk as the paths are uneven. Avoid touching poison oak which is prevalent near most paths.

IMPORTANT: Whenever you visit a beach along this driving tour, we STRONGLY recommend that you stay out of the water and never turn your back on the waves. Rip currents along the coast are extremely dangerous and rogue waves are known to pull people into the water to drown. Sadly, it happens every year and we don’t want you to be one of them. Enjoy the beauty of our beaches from the sand. Remember, if you venture to the water’s edge do what locals do and never turn your back to the sea!

When visiting the vista points along Highway 1 always stay behind any fencing or boulders and away from the edge of the cliff.

Cell Reception: This tour relies on GPS not cell reception so your tour should run well along the coast, however you will not have reliable cell reception once you get past Carmel Highlands, so you will not be able to send or receive texts or receive calls along various stretches of this highway.

Using VoiceMap

Search for VoiceMap Audio Tour on the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. Download the free App. Sign Up for a new account with your email and a password of your choice, go to the Explore option/Monterey Peninsula and purchase the tour you are interested in. Download the tour while you have good WiFi coverage. Click on the gear icon on the lower right corner and put the tour into yd/mi mode and turn off Tour Player Autolock and Audio Lost Alert. Then, select the Account option, select the tour you are going to take and read the information in the About option in the upper right. If you need directions to the starting point select Directions. It will open up another window in Apple Maps. You will need to close that window or use your phones interface to go back to the VoiceMap app to start the tour.

Go to your starting point, press start and follow the instructions of the narrator. Place your phone in a hands free holder on your car dashboard as there is a map on your screen that will show our travel route.

We also suggest that you have your phone plugged into an external charging port so that your tour isn’t interrupted by a dead battery.

You may pause this tour at any time using the pause button and resume it at any of the locations along the tour. If you decide stop along the way and take a meal break, or take one of the optional hikes, you should exit your tour by pressing the End Tour downward facing arrow on the top right, then just restart it from the closest location by restarting the tour using the Resume button. It will start at the closest stop.


This tour is a photographer paradise. Using the Video setting on your phone will shut down the VoiceMap app (and every other open app) and you will need to reload your tour. So, if you are using your phone for photos, try to use the Photo setting.


WOW! You just made my Day! I love making these tours and it is wonderful to hear that they are enjoyed! Happy Adventures! Lynn

Posted by Lynn , 11 months ago

Thank YOU for a most enjoyable trip on HWY 1!!!!

Posted by Anonymous Explorer , 11 months ago
Preview mode limited to first 3 locations.
California Coast Driving Tour: From Carmel-by-the-Sea to Big Sur