Remember the days when driving was fun? When the windows were rolled down, the music was blasting and there wasn’t a care in the world. Those were some of my favorite moments in time. So, recently, my best friend and I recreated those moments with an EPIC road trip up the California coast. We traveled from San Diego to San Francisco, primarily via PCH, with no real schedule (other than places to sleep) stopping along the way to see some of the gorgeous coastlines that Cali had to offer. With the official start of summer happening this weekend, I’m sharing all of our favorite spots along the coast!
Day 1 and 2
We started off in Newport/Laguna area for a wonderfully beautiful wedding (if you’re in cali and looking for just the most amazing wedding spot, the views and atmosphere of Orange Hill Restaurant was absolutely incredible). Before the wedding we went to Newport and Laguna.
Newport Beach is definitely the party beach, whereas Laguna Beach is much more about the scenery.
We spent the first day in Newport Harbor lunching at the Newport Landing restaurant enjoying some fun cocktails. For a local joint that had a sweet bar scene, we went to Mutt Lynch’s on the beach. It was the best place to get some serious nachos and beer and gave us the most fantastic people watching and karaoke singing.
We spent the next day in Laguna casual walk along the water, followed by a lazy beach day amongst the most gorgeous scenery.
As a way to see a bit more of the coastline we took the Pacific Surfliner from Santa Ana down to San Diego. This was my first passenger train! It allowed us to grab a quick cat nap as well as see more of the hills and beaches of Southern California.
In San Diego, we stayed right on Mission Beach at the Blue Sea Beach Hotel, which allowed us to have a beach/pool day (and recoup from the wedding the night before). We literally saw people of every walk of life riding bikes and blading along the boardwalk or day drinking and listening to music on the beach. We decided to have a fancy dinner and went to Georges at the Cove in La Jolla (a quick 10 minute uber from Mission Beach). The view from this restaurant was breathtaking. We watched a gorgeous sunset over the water while listening to the sounds of the seals below while sipping on a glass of wine. It was a perfect way to end our day.
From there, we took the train back north to the Huntington Beach Harbor to go paddle boarding and have some much needed catch-up time with friends.
To start the driving leg of our road trip we stayed in Redondo Beach at the Portofino Hotel and Marina. We woke up the next morning, had a wonderful breakfast with the local fishermen at Polly’s and continued up the coast in our Jeep, wind in our hair, sunshine on our face and the best 90’s jams blasting. We drove the Pacific Coast Hwy for most of the trip and it more beautiful with every turn. Unfortunately, a portion of PCH was closed due to a mudslide,but the alternate route was just as gorgeous, taking us through mountain ranges that I thought only existed in Colorado.
As we drove we stopped to walk the pier in Venice Beach, see the gorgeous homes and sights at the Point Dume Natural Preserve in Malibu and get lunch in Santa Barbara.
Night five was spent at the most eccentric airbnb in Arroyo Grande (where we shared space with chickens, horses, cats and dogs–I’m not kidding) and from there traveled to Margo Dodd State Park and Montana de Oro State Park as we continued north. If I could recommend one place to go along this coastline trip, it would be the Montana de Oro State Park. I have never in my life seen such amazing scenery. One way was a gorgeous mountain range filled with yellow flowers and luscious green grasses and the other way was miles of the clearest blue water crashing against giant rocks.
After the views of the state park we decided to get our fill of history at the Hearst Castle in San Simeon. I’m pretty confident I was meant to live here (every princess needs a castle, right?). It was really interesting to learn about the history of W.R. Hearst’s family, the architecture of the castle and the surrounding area of San Simeon. Big time bonus, there are wild zebras that roam the farm! Zebras, a castle and sweeping views of the city and beaches below equal a must see along the coast of cali.
After our excursions at the castle we went on to stay with the cutest 87 year old woman at an airbnb in Carmel. Carmel is exactly how everyone describes it, something straight out of a storybook. With white sandy beaches, local coffee and candy shops, and the cutest inns and cottages it is a perfect place to relax after driving all day. To get to Monterey from Carmel we took the 17 Mile Drive. If you’re a fan of golf (like me!) this drive will take you through the Pebble Beach Golf Course as well as awesome views of gorgeous homes. We stopped in Monterey for a quick lunch and continued on to our last stop, San Fransisco.
Day 7 and 8
We were the quintessential tourists through San Fran. We checked into The Warwick and started with a tour of Alcatraz (which was more interesting and informative than I thought it would be-we loved it!). We went to see the Full House House, the Grateful Dead house, the Painted Ladies, Fisherman’s Wharf and the Golden Gate Bridge. After walking around the entire city, we had delicious dinner at Colosseo Ristorante and topped the night off with a beer at the oldest bar in San Fransisco (The Saloon) and a glass of wine at a former brothel turned bar.
As a girl from the Midwest, LA was really the only place I thought of when I thought California, but as we learned through this trip, there is so much more to it. The state parks were absolutely incredible, the history of the state is truly interesting, the people are wonderfully friendly and thanks to the super-bloom, it was more beautiful than I ever anticipated. So, thank you, Sunshine State, for a wonderful time and allowing me and my bestie to take an EPIC road trip.
Here’s to adventure!
American (California specifically) Beautiful