California Coastal Road Trip!
September 15, 2018
by Dawn Loy
When my husband and I were deciding on our honeymoon destination, the first place that came to mind was California. It did not take much time to make a decision since California has about everything we wanted in a honeymoon. It literally had the happiest place on earth (Disneyland!) and so much more!
Planning vacations is my utmost favourite thing to do. With Google Maps (and a car), you can absolutely get anywhere in the USA. We started our trip in Los Angeles and spent a few days there before driving up the coast to San Francisco. In this post, I’ll be focusing on the coastal drive and the wonderful nature spots to stopover and the eateries to indulge in.
If you are planning on embarking on this marvellous journey, do consider doing it during summer (from May till September) since you will get longer daylight. That way, you will be able to cover more ground!
Without further ado, let me get into the exciting highlights of the coastal drive!
Driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco in ONE day
We started our journey bright and early at 7 am after picking up our rental car from Hertz in Los Angeles.
Our first stop was Malibu. The beach town that is known to be the home of the rich and famous. Driving up the coastal highway, you will get to see many beautiful coastal houses. We made a brief stop at the Malibu Pier and snapped some pictures and took in the beauty of the ocean. According to the Malibu Pier website, you could even get a chance to spot dolphins if you’re lucky!
After another hour and a half drive up north, we arrived at the Spanish and Mediterranean styled town, Santa Barbara. This town is really nice, quiet and peaceful. With the help of Yelp, we found our breakfast place at a traditional American restaurant, Garrett’s Old-Fashioned Restaurant.
Upon entering the restaurant, we were greeted by the very friendly waitress behind the counter. The place lifted to its name and indeed looked like the classic old-fashioned restaurant with the signature American booth and the American coffee served the moment you get to your booth. We ordered the seafood omelette (must try!) and biscuit with gravy. The biscuit with gravy was something different, it was more savoury because of the gravy. If you’re someone who likes savoury biscuits, this might be something you’d want to try.
After our delicious breakfast, we headed around Santa Barbara and took some photos around the town and visited the Stearns Wharf (and took more pictures!)
After a short time but a wonderful time in Santa Barbara, we went back on the road! The drive up north was so pleasant, we got to enjoy the scenic views of every part of the journey. They have many viewpoints at seemingly random places for people to stop by to take pictures.
We drove for another hour and a half and got to our next destination, San Luis Obispo! It was the perfect spot to take a break. This was where I had one of the BEST pork ribs and Asian chicken salad in my life. It was life-changing! Also, would like to take a moment to thank Yelp, how will I find good food without you?!
This life-changing experience was at a barbeque restaurant named Firestone Grill. I would definitely go to San Luis Obispo.
After San Luis Obispo, we proceeded to drive up north for another three hours for the where I felt was the highlight of our coastal drive – Carmel Valley, where we also stayed for the next two days. Carmel Valley is the place to stay in if you need a quiet and peaceful getaway. We rented a beautiful Airbnb with a spectacular view of the mountain ranges in Carmel Valley. My favourite thing about the Airbnb – IT HAD A HOT TUB. One night my new husband and enjoyed the hot tub at night under a sky illuminated with stars and when the weather was a good 15 degrees Celsius. It was truly memorable.
After settling into our Airbnb and a great night of rest, we set off bright and early to explore the town. Our sweet Airbnb host recommended a great breakfast place in Monterey called First Awakenings. We ordered the Day Starter Skillet and a Raisin Walnut pancake that was huge but really tasty. I have to say that that was the best breakfast I’ve had the whole trip.
We visited Monterey’s Aquarium right after our sumptuous breakfast. The Airbnb we stayed at provided free passes and that was really awesome. We then drove down the coastline and pitstops at different points like Carmel Beach, Point Lobos State Park, Bixby Bridge then towards Big Sur. It was a huge pity that the highway close to Big Sur due to a serious damage on the highway. Though we did not have the time to, we drove through the iconic 17-mile drive the last trip we were in California and I have to say that drive is not to be missed!
San Francisco/Napa Valley
We stayed for just one short night in San Francisco since we’ve already visited previously. However, this time we got to try the famous Boudin restaurant. We had the classic clam chowder, but the crab mac and cheese IS to die for! It was the best thing we had on this trip. We spent a short night in San Francisco and we left (really) early the next morning (3:30 am!) as we headed to Napa Valley to catch the hot air balloon with Napa Valley Balloon Inc that departs at 5.30am. It was our first time on a hot air balloon and though it was a pricey activity, we did not regret it one bit. The view from the hot air balloon was stunning.
If you’re considering a destination for a nice relaxing road trip, I’d highly recommend that you drive up the California coast. It’s a trip definitely not to be missed!