Picture this… sitting passenger princess in a car with the AC at a perfect 73 degrees, sipping a 26 oz iced coffee, snacks are packed, the sun is shining, and life is good. This can only mean one thing! Besides pulling over every hour to use the gas station bathroom because you thought it was a good idea to get a 26 oz coffee… it’s time for a ROOOAD TRIIIP! I know sitting cramped in a car for hours on end is not ideal, but lucky for you we are staying at some charming California coast cities along the way! I am giving you the run DOWN on my favorite road trip UP the California coast.
1st stop: Santa Barbara. Everyone knows the city by the beach 2 hours from LA (on a good day). Known for its beautiful Spanish inspired buildings, college town vibes, and for quickly becoming a food stop for most travelers en route to their final destination. Stay a few hours or a few days, enjoy the shops, and restaurants that run along State Street.
2nd stop: Solvang. A cool Danish-style town with Danish inspired eats, including an authentic Copenhagen Sausage Garden with Bratwursts and beers the size of your head. They have a ton of wine tasting shops, as well as pastry shops to satisfy the sweet tooth. Stop by Solvang to stretch your legs for a few hours or stay a night. After all, those beers are the size of a small child and it’s better to be safe than sorry!
3rd stop: Cambria. My favorite sleepy seaside city! Staying at a hotel on Moonstone Beach Drive and waking up to the waves crashing steps away from your room, sitting on your patio with a coffee in hand on a crisp morning is UNBEATABLE. It has a small walkable downtown with wine shops, restaurants, and novelty stores. One of my favorite events during Christmas time happens in Cambria – the Christmas Market (a nod to European Christmas markets)! It begins after Thanksgiving and ends shortly after Christmas. There are thousands of lights, festive food and drinks, items for sale, and most importantly CHRISTMAS SPIRIT. Not too far down the road is Hearst Castle, a ticketed experience, but definitely worth seeing. You will need to buy your tickets ahead of time, and if you read my last article, you know the drill, people! We come PREPARED! I digress…the Hearst Castle pool inspired the Caesar’s Palace pool in Las Vegas and the interiors are unbelievably luxurious and over the top. Mr. Hearst spared no expense! And why would he?! We love a man with taste. A couple days here and then you’re off to the next stop….
4th Stop: Big Sur. So we are definitely hungry after that stretch of highway, right? Stop at Nepenthe, where the view is breathtaking and the food isn’t half bad either. Big Sur may be for the outdoorsy folks, but BEFORE YOU TRY TO SKIP OUT ON THIS…anyone can enjoy this gem. Camp in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, stay at the Big Sur Lodge, or for a really special treat, stay in a yurt at Treebones Resort. Big Sur is an absolutely gorgeous State Park worth visiting – even if only for the day. If you camp, this campground fills up 6 months or so in advance, so good luck! Some other well-known points of interest include McWay Falls, Pfeiffer Beach, and Andrew Molera State Beach to name a few. A full day or 2 is all you need.
5th Stop: Carmel-by-the-Sea. This town has cottage style buildings that give me an old English city aesthetic, with alleys that lead to small shops and tucked away restaurants. They have an incredible coast line and beach to sit and watch the sunset. If you’re into golf, this is where Pebble Beach is – a golfer’s dream and by the looks of it, you can see why. Or if you don’t want to spend $600 to golf, you can drive what is known as the “17-Mile Drive” and it’s STUNNING. Carmel is my go-to spot for a nice change of scenery when I want to get out of the hustle and bustle of LA County. If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m basically 80 years old at heart, so some of you may find this city a little too slow paced. But if you need to relax and just chill, this could be a really nice place to park your butt for 1 or 2 days.
This lil’ road trip is barely halfway up the California coast, but it’s a good place to start! Because let’s be real… if we are going any further, we are definitely flying. Flying into SF, renting a car, and going through Napa, Yountville, Mendocino, and other seaside cities is something I have been wanting to do for ages. I love a good road trip! It gives you the freedom to stop wherever you want, for however long you want, and navigate to places off the beaten path on your own watch. There’s so much to explore in our great state – we just have to get out there and go. As I always say… money will return to you, but time and experience never will….so, what are you gonna do about it? JUST GO!!!