One of our favorite local escapes is the drive down Highway One to see the elephant seals at Año Nuevo State Reserve. This is the largest mainland breeding colony for these animals in the world, and it only takes about an hour and a half to drive there on one of the prettiest roads there is. The short hike out to the seals is gorgeous, too. At this time of year you can view them up close and personal—we're talking hundreds of pounds of blubber just a few yards away. It's amazing. And with great camping and dining in nearby Pescadero, this is a fantastic last-minute getaway. Check out our favorite spots in the area after the jump...
Just ten miles up the highway you'll find Costanoa, a campground and resort where you can choose to stay in a lodge, a furnished tent bungalow, or on a pitch-your-own campsite. There's a fantastic spa, as well as a hot tub and sauna available for guests, but the real attraction of Costanoa is the property itself, with its miles of hiking trails with incredible views of the coastline, which is just across the road. Venture across that road to go tidepooling on the beach. Leslie's post from a while back has more info.
(Side Note: We noticed on our last trip down there that Costanoa was bought by KOA, but haven't stayed there since the changeover. Can anyone comment on whether it's still nice?)
For dinner you can head north just a few more miles to the tiny town of Pescadero, where Duarte's Tavern is a local institution. The bar is over a hundred years old, and the food is fantastic—fresh local seafood, warm sourdough bread, a creamy to-die-for artichoke soup, and homemade pies with fruit canned by the owners all year round.
Elephant seals, tidepooling, artichoke soup, maybe a massage... we really can't think of anything better!
Visit the California State Parks web site for more information about Año Nuevo, including instructions for how to get the required permit (no big deal, unless you're going from December to March, which is the mating season—during those months, you'll have to reserve in advance).