If you’re heading south along scenic Highway 1 from SF to LA, you’ll past the high profile towns of Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea and Big Sur. But go a little farther, and just 5 miles before the famed Hearst Castle, is a gem worth pulling over for. Trust me, the elephant seal rookery is the real show-stopper along Highway 1, with good reason. Mature male elephant seals can weigh in at 2 tons or more and have noses that can reach a length of 2 feet from the onset of puberty, making these massive beasts a genuine treat to watch! At the time I was there, I was fortunate to witness the the return of both male and female seals from Alaska (where they had been foraging to bulk up for several months of fasting) as well as the birthing season of seal pups. We were also treated to a spectacular sight put on by a territorial male with its thunderous hollow bellows (akin to a Harley revving up in a gym), announcing its dominance to all in its path- simply awesome. http://www.elephantseal.org/
Tip: Check the rookery calendar before going to ensure that seals have returned to the beach. There is no charge to view the seals.
Note: There is the nearby town of Cambria which you can stop by for a lovely walk around it’s main street before making your final journey down south.