Top-Down Ap­proach

Cruise up Cal­i­for­nia’s cen­tral coast in Rolls-Royce’s con­fi­dent new con­vert­ible

Bloomberg Pursuits - - Seek — Drive - Words HAN­NAH EL­LIOTT Pho­to­graph IAN ALLEN

High­way 1 is one of the few places in Amer­ica you can drive within yards of the ocean’s edge for hours at a time. And if you’re plan­ning to glide through Big Sur, the breath­tak­ing 75-mile stretch along the state’s cen­tral coast, you’ll want to draw in as much of the ex­pe­ri­ence as pos­si­ble. It’s con­vert­ible coun­try.

The 2017 Rolls-Royce Dawn is the car­maker’s first new drop­top in decades. At $339,850, it has space for four, a gen­er­ous trunk, a silkys­mooth trans­mis­sion, and enough Canadel pan­el­ing to out­fit a yacht. Top speed is 155 miles per hour, and the 6.6-liter V12 en­gine will hit 62 mph in a re­spectable 4.9 sec­onds. With the roof up, the cabin is co­cooned in quiet and se­cu­rity; the mas­sive brakes are firm like a vise. With the top down, you feel free. For­get glid­ing—you’re go­ing to fly.

Start your trip in leafy, man­i­cured Santa Bar­bara and drive north­west past the per­plex­ing hulk of Hearst Cas­tle up in the hills near San Simeon. Ocean breezes toss wild or­chids and cha­parral along­side the road, while far be­low, you can spot ele­phant seals sun­ning them­selves on spits of sand. The bright blue wa­ter, mar­bled by strings of white surf, makes a lovely, slow-mov­ing back­drop.

On my last trip, I stopped for a break at the Whale Watch­ers Cafe in Gorda, a tiny out­post with good iced cof­fee (and, yes, whale watch­ing). Recharge there, then drive 40 min­utes far­ther up the coast to the Esalen In­sti­tute (esalen.org), the his­toric re­treat renowned for its al­ter­na­tive ed­u­ca­tion work­shops and the heal­ing pow­ers of its hot spring baths. A visit to nearby Ju­lia Pfeif­fer Burns State Park (parks.ca.gov), where wind­ing foot­paths lead you down to quiet ocean coves, is also worth an hour.

Put the car’s pre­cise han­dling to the test along the sec­ond half of the jour­ney— that’s where you’ll find the most hair­pin turns and steep in­clines. In some spots, you’ll need to slow down as a pre­cau­tion, and that’s fine, be­cause you’ll want to ad­mire the view. Be aware:

Other trav­el­ers tend to make sud­den sight­see­ing stops along High­way 1. By the end of the day you’ll prob­a­bly be one of them.

The Post Ranch Inn (pos­tranchinn.com), a 100-acre re­sort perched on a wa­ter­side cliff deep in Big Sur, is the per­fect place to end your trek. The fa­mously ex­clu­sive spa, where rooms start at $825 a night, is a mag­net for Hol­ly­wood ex­ec­u­tives and Sil­i­con Val­ley types. Some cozy suites oc­cupy can­tilevered houses on the bluff’s edge; the wait list for these can stretch to longer than a year. A ninecourse tast­ing menu at the ho­tel’s Sierra Mar restau­rant fea­tures lo­cal in­gre­di­ents such as Mon­terey Bay squid and desserts fla­vored with Cal­i­for­nia bay lau­rel.

Give your­self the bet­ter part of a day to do this trip, and you’ll reach Post Ranch just as the sun dips be­low the hori­zon. As you pull up to the warmly lit inn, the last of the sun­light will be fight­ing against the area’s trade­mark mist, light­ing up rocks and trees in al­ter­nat­ing grays and greens.

Your farm-fresh din­ner— and a cock­tail—await. Just re­mem­ber to put the top up on the car be­fore head­ing in­side.

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