If you are a road tripper like me or simply enjoy travelling, the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) or the California State Route 1 is the quintessential road trip. The PCH features more pit stops and activities that you could possibly visit in just two or three days. I know this because I did try to squeeze it all in three days and believe me, I could not do it all! I had to plan another trip just to visit the places I missed out the first time. Through this blog post, I take you from LA to San Francisco on a long and ‘Oh so beautiful’ road trip and hopefully inspire you in planning your own getaway.
LA to Solvang to Hearst Castle to Big Sur
According to my husband, a successful road trip starts early in the morning and even though I complain about it, it makes sense.
Solvang is a Dutch-styled city popular for its quaint restaurants, Danish bakeries, windmills and souvenir shops.
Next stop is Hearst Castle which is really a mansion that used to be a private residence. I suggest you buy the tickets online in advance. We missed out on Hearst Castle because we got there late. Yes, that happens on a perfectly planned trip. Nevertheless, I got a glimpse of the mansion from afar and just sulked afterwards.
Big Sur – I love everything about Big Sur since it has so many hidden gems along the way. Big Sur’s grandeur is marked by mountains soaring high into the clouds and the Pacific Coast in parallel, never fails to enthrall one into the serenity of nature. A must visit is the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park popular for the McWay Falls and easy trails leading to panoramic views of the ocean.
As you drive by Big Sur you can choose to enter any of the state parks. We went on the Salmon Creek Falls Trail which is a quick hike through the trees and boulders leading to a beautiful waterfall. There are pipes laid down to help you get closer to the waterfall.
- Get a copy of the mile markers (online or at any Big Sur state park visitor center) to locate the places you are interested in stopping by.
- Go old school and get a California State map because cell reception is bad on the Highway.
- Don’t be in a hurry to pass through and drive with caution.
Carmel-by-the-Sea, Monterey – San Francisco
Carmel is a small town in Monterey County that looks straight out of a story book. The town is filled with art galleries, boutiques, quaint restaurants, charming inns and golf course overlooking the ocean. Every nook and alley leads to hidden specialty shops and cafes. It is highly rated as a top romantic destination and dog friendly. So much so that dogs are allowed leash-free on the beach and the restaurants and inns extend their welcome to your furry friends.
For shopping Carmel Village and Carmel Plaza offer a wide array of choices from luxe brands to specialty shops and boutiques like the Diggidy Dog, Two Sisters Designs and many more. We walked on Ocean Avenue which is a paradise for window shopping and ended up at Carmel beach. At the end of Ocean Avenue in Carmel is the beautiful Carmel beach.
17-Mile Drive and Pebble Beach
17 mile drive is a scenic drive winding through the Pacific Grove, famed Pebble Beach, golf courses, private homes, restaurants and cypress trees. There are 21 scenic points on the 17 mile drive. There is an admission fee ($10) per car for visitors.
Point Lobos State Reserve offers easy to difficult trails through the headlands where the rocky terrain meets the ocean. The ocean is home to sea lions, sea otters and birds. There is a $10 fee if you park your car inside the reserve.
San Francisco is a beautiful city. It’s known for its hilly landscape, year round fog, the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars and colorful Victorian houses. Just walking on the streets you will find beauty at every corner.
Golden Gate Bridge
No trip to San Francisco is complete without visiting the Golden Gate Bridge. You can drive, bike or walk and enjoy the beauty of this American landmark. There are many places from where one can view and photograph the bridge.
We drove to Marin Headlands which is part of the Golden Gate National Recreational Area. It has varied hiking trails featuring wildflowers, sea cliffs, wildlife watching and postcard-like views. The drive along Conzelman Road to Point Bonita is picturesque.
Must see and do: Kirby Cove, Rodeo Lagoon, Point Bonita Lighthouse Trail.
- It is best to go to the visitor center and get a map.
- Bring along a jacket and snack with you.
Twin Peaks – From this vantage point take in the view of the city. You can see many of San Francisco’s landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge, Alcatraz, downtown buildings and the colorful Victorian houses. It is very windy on top of Twin Peaks so come prepared.
Lombard Street, also known as the “crooked street” is one slow and steep ride downhill. Have a lot of patience while you are there, be it finding parking space or simply driving on the road. A walk on Lombard Street is way better than driving as you can stop, gaze and take pictures whenever you like.
The Palace of Fine Arts is a perfect setting to enjoy some quiet time in the city. The Roman inspired architectural building with its reflection in the water makes for a great photographic moment.
There are so many other places in SFO that you could explore like the Golden Gate Park, Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz Island, Chinatown, etc. I visited the Golden Gate Park and some attractions in the Golden Gate National Recreational Area on a separate occasion which I will share in future posts.
Remember, travel is all about making memories all over the world. So Keep Calm and Travel On.