California’s Highway 1 – a Roadtrip Tale
Broad beaches lined with high palm trees in front of a hilly landscape, the curvy roads of Highway 1 winding round steep mountains, below just the roaring sea. Hollywood. Skaters and Surfers, Wine and Sun. Always sun in California.
Those are the images that most people summon when thinking about California and to be blunt: that’s exactly it. Road tripping on Highway 1 from Los Angeles to San Francisco – or the other way around – is certainly not one of those itineraries that got super hyped and when you are following the path you can’t help but thinking that it´s just not thaaat great after all .. The Pacific Coast Highway 1 IS that great, it even exceeded all our expectations we had for this California trip.
In opposite to my normal “I need to plan every step of that goddamn trip otherwise I just can’t” approach, I did not book everything in advance. Well, except L.A., Ventura and San Francisco.. but we must walk before we run, right?
After all we ended up with the following Itinerary, with locations and Motels decided on over lunch and booked with booking.com. We traveled California during low season (mid November) and the weather was still nice, but we had no trouble at all finding motels under 60€/night, Breakfast included.
Day 1 -2 Los Angeles and Highway 1 kick off
Being less impressed by Hollywood and Downtown L.A, we spent most of our time strolling around Santa Monica and Venice Beach, driving around Silver Lake and Beverly Hills, enjoying beautiful sunsets and doing what we like most: wander, eat and drink.
Day 3 Ventura
After spending an outstanding morning at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, enjoying the view and even doing some hiking, we left L.A. direction north and arrived in the late afternoon at our Airbnb in Ventura. I suffered horribly (no shit) from jet lag, However, I got
forced convinced to leave the comfort of a bed and to my big surprise (and after an unreasonable amount of painkillers) we spent a nice evening in Ventura’s Anacapa Brewing Company with craft beer as local as it can be and decent food.
Day 4 Pismo Beach
After starting the day in Ventura, enjoying the early morning sun with a walk at the beach (jet lag ftw), we followed the advice of our Airbnb Host and set Pismo Beach as our day goal. The distance was long enough to get some road done on Highway 1 but close enough for not being in a rush. Thus we spent a fair amount of time in Santa Barbara, had lunch in a Mexican Restaurant with an unfortunate balance of price and quality and that shall remain unnamed, visited the Mission (which is really interesting and I will write about it at another time) and stopped 2 or 3 times at random spots along Highway 1 that turned all out to be stunning. We even managed to make up for the poor lunch experience with dinner in bed: beef jerky, chips and (good) wine from paper cups, like you do.
Day 5 Monterey
Highway 1 from Pismo Beach to Monterey looked reasonable when seen on a map. It really did. And in fact, it’s only 240km, something you should be able to do easily within a day.
We had a cozy morning in Pismo, spent quite some time photographing, got a sandwich as a snack in Cambria and slowly started to hit the road around noon. And then it became really long and the numbers on the green road signs got smaller very slowly, like REALLY slow, and the idea “oh we’ll have lunch on the road” didn’t work out that well neither because the area of Big Sur is really not that populated.
We were presented stunning views, saw amazing Californian landscapes and it was indeed fun driving but we left with the feeling that we did not take enough time to get the most out of the Big Sur Region. We had time for picture stops but we missed out several occasions where a longer stop over and a hike was required. After all, it was doable and I still would recommend to take Highway 1 and not stopping at all than taking the shorter Highway 101, but it’s just a little annoying to be in such a fucking awesome spot on earth and not having time to enjoy every inch of it.
Day 6 Berkeley
That choice seems odd, I know. I was very much stuck on the idea to enter San Francisco from North by crossing the Golden Gate Bride, which is generally complicated when approaching San Francisco from South. As workaround we drove around San Francisco and in order to get to town early, we picked Berkeley as a good starting point for the next morning.
But first things first: We spent a slow morning in Monterey, where we found a Parisian Bakery that had the most amazing selection of pastries and quiches, and that is more Parisian than Amelie Poulain possibly ever could be. We continued with having and extensive walk around the Port where nothing looked like L.A. or Santa Barbara anymore and where we most likely did not enough walking to work off the pound of butter we had for breakfast.
After a little detour to the Gilroy Premium Outlets (OMFG), we made it back to Highway 1, came across the unbelievable stunning Shark Fin Cove (check out our blog post) and finally arrived in Berkeley.
Day 7 and 8 San Francisco
It was the good call to stay over in Berkeley and not to cut down the idea of crossing that damn bridge. I am sure I would have regretted that forever. San Francisco was the final we hoped for, fireworks, sparks and a ton of glitter at the end of an amazing California trip, we had a blast, every minute of it and even the Mexican Food in Santa Barbara wasn’t that bad after all. To read in detail about our San Francisco experience and especially the extraordinary food discoveries, check out this post.
Check out our Gallery to see more pictures from this road trip!