My Road Trip Up the Coast of California

Traveling up the Coast

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to explore the Pacific Coast Highway 1, which runs all the way up the coast of California. It was the perfect mix of planned and spontaneous. I want to share my experiences with all of your along with some recommendations if you’re planning on taking a similar trip up the coast. Our trip took us through the Central Coast of California.

The drive itself was extremely breath taking, in which my words won’t do it justice. There was so much to see along the way both on land and out at sea, from the actual hitch hikers to the California Galapagos Islands to the cliffside views.

We took the PCH all the way up to Monterey on our first day of the road trip. These were some shots that we captured along the way. I’d recommend some motion sickness medicine for anyone with a weak stomach, because the winding roads up the coast are no joke!

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Carmel by the Sea

Our first stop was in Carmel, California which the locals refer to as “Carmel-by-the-Sea.” This was a gorgeous town nestled on the coast complete with magnificent homes, white sand, and unique local boutiques. For lunch, we stopped a local seafood place and snacked on baked brie cheese and clam chowder at Flaherty’s Seafood Grill. The only thing we didn’t get to while we were here was making a stop at the Mission Ranch Hotel and Restaurant owned by Clint Eastwood as I’ve heard it has beautiful scenery!

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Pebble Beach Golf Course

Pebble Beach is another great place to stop along the 17 mile drive near Carmel, California! Breath taking views along the ocean, especially if you’re a golf enthusiast.

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Monterey

Monterey is a beautiful town thriving along the bay with plenty of sea life. It was probably my favorite stop on the trip. We had an amazing dinner at the famous Old Fisherman’s Grotto on the Wharf – their clam chowder is legendary! It’s right on the water, and we even saw a sea lion swim under us while dining on the waterfront.

We stayed at the Portola Hotel & Spa, which I definitely recommend. You could walk everywhere from the hotel and our room was extremely spacious, clean, modern, and inviting.

We spent the next day touring the bay on a two and a half hour Whale Watching Tour. We saw at least 4 humpback whales, harbor porpoises, a pack of 500+ dolphins, sea lions, and plenty of seabird species. We finished out our time in Monterey with a drive through Cannery Row with great boutiques, beautiful hotels, and many sea life adventures.

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Santa Cruz

Then, we made our way about an hour north to Santa Cruz, which is just south of San Francisco. We took a stroll along the Santa Cruz Pier and stopped to eat at another local seafood joint (definitely a theme for the trip!). We watched the sunset along the ocean before checking out the great shops along Pacific Avenue, definitely worth taking a trip to.

During our trip we stayed at the Hilton Santa Cruz, which was an extremely nice hotel nestled among a hillside on the brink of the Redwood forest. We saw a show at the Catalyst (a local recommendation) to see the DJ, Minnesota before ending the night at 515 and grabbing a late night slice of pizza on Pacific Avenue. Be warned, there are only 2 Uber drivers in Santa Cruz if you’re planning on catching a ride!

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Big Sur

We made our way back down the coast towards Big Sur for a quick hike along the McWay Waterfall Trail before stopping for brunch at Nepenthe. A great spot for grabbing a bite, taking in the spectacular views, and shopping at one of the best local boutiques. Big Sur was probably the prettiest destination we visited during our road trip.

It was unlike anything I’d ever seen, so untouched with turquoise waters and magnificent forests. Be warned there is almost no cell service for miles, so I’d recommend bringing a Coastal California book with a detailed map. It was a life saver!

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 San Luis Obispo 

We made our way down to SLO for our last night of the trip. Oprah Winfrey claims it’s the “happiest place in America.” It has the perfect small town feel in between beautiful rolling vineyards, beautiful beaches, great local food, and plenty of shops.

We stayed at the Best Western San Luis Obispo, which was another great spot close to town. We ate at the local SLO Brewery followed by some bar hopping along Higuera Street Downtown.

The next day, we started off our day with a wine tour of Edna Valley Winery. The wine there was extremely tasty with gorgeous hills and mountain sides filled with grape vines. They are known for their Sauvignon Blanc, so I’d definitely recommend trying it out!

We didn’t make it to their farmer’s market on Thursday’s, but I’ve heard they are legendary.

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Santa Barbara

Our last stop of the trip was the infamous Santa Barbara. I’ve only driven through the town, but never stopped by. I’d definitely like to make my way back as we only stopped for lunch, but it was yet another great spot despite the cloudy day.

Santa Barbara has beautiful beaches with outdoor adventures, great dining, wineries, shopping, and paradise-like weather. We stopped out at the farthest point on the pier for lunch at the recommended Santa Barbara Shellfish Company. I finished the trip with my last bowl of delicious clam chowder. This trip featured some of the best seafood I’ve ever had!

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 I hope you enjoyed my PCH road trip up the coast of California! It was a great adventure that I’d recommend to any California resident or anyone looking to see some beautiful sites right here in America. The trip takes you away from your everyday routine, and truly makes you realize you don’t have to travel thousands of miles to a remote country to see breath taking sites, when they’re right here in our backyard!

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