Ever since I took a short drive North up Hwy 1 from SF to about Mendocino a few years ago, I was thrilled by the Pacific coast views as the road winds around the high cliffs, revealing a deep blue Pacific and breathtaking scenery around every bend. With that episode opening the appetite so to speak, I’ve always looked forward to making that trip all the way down the coast, from SF to LA.
So as the plans for this vacation were taking shape, I sat aside one full day for this particular leg. Wanted to make sure we have ample time to stop and take in the scenery. And stop we did. Often. For there is so much worthy of a “pit-stop” or two... Or ten. Wild beaches surrounded by cliffs that seem to sprout straight up from the ocean, suspended bridges, whale watching, elephant seals (around San Simeon), and further south, tons of roadside fruit stands peddling the freshest “in season” fare that obviously taste nothing like what one gets in the neighborhood grocery store (strawberries were in season, but also enjoyed some great cherries, apricots, blueberries and raspberries).
I won’t attempt to describe this scenery too much. It’s on every “Top 10” road trip article out there (see some links at the bottom) but before I let some of my pics do the talking, here’s some personal notes:
- Monterey is definitely worth a longer stop. And definitely the 17 mile drive that winds around the several fantastic golf courses on the peninsula (Pebble Beach, Cypress Point, Spyglass Hill, etc.) is a must do
- Just south of there, Carmel-by-the-Sea, seems plucked from a Kinkade paining where things slow down just enough for people to enjoy excellent restaurants, art galleries and boutique shopping. We grabbed lunch at Flaherty’s Seafood Grill and Oyster Bar, but frankly you can throw a dart and find a similarly great restaurant anywhere in the area. Next time will definitely put aside more time to stroll through…
- Point Lobos: another state reserve worth spending a couple hours
- Bixby Bridge, somewhere between Carmel Highlands and Big Sur – a definite Kodak moment stop. One of many…
- Big Sur can be worth a longer stay in order to enjoy the multiple state parks in the area. Maybe next time…
- Saint Simeon for a close encounter with elephant seals. There are hundreds on the beach… and they stink!
- Stop everywhere you see people glancing through binoculars. More than likely there will be whales spouting just near the shore
- And stop along the way at as many fruit stands as you can. I had some cherries that brought back memories of climbing up my grandma’s tree and eating them right off the branch! Yup. They were that good!
- Stop in San Luis Obispo (funny name for an American city) and check out the hype; it was recently voted the “happiest place” in the country!
Short history lesson justifying all these Spanish names in California: as these lands were initially claimed and colonized by Spain, it wasn’t until 1821 that Mexico won the Independence War and made Alta California just another Mexican province. In 1848 the American-Mexican war established today’s borders, north of the Rio Grande, and California a US territory (it did not become a state until 2 years later). 167 years since that war, looks like Mexico is taking it back, little by little! Kidding, of course, but numbers don’t lie. There are multiple counties in Southern CA where Hispanics are a vast majority (for example Imperial County – right on the border – is 80%). Starr County (in Texas this one) “wins” that category by a landslide with 97%. And those are just the official figures. California as a whole is about 38% Hispanic/Latino. Census figures. Likely a considerable “curve” needs to be added for actual numbers… OK, this whole reference and “parenthesis” puts all Latinos in the same bucket, which is not fair for Mexicans, but you get my gist… And no, I’m not trying to make a political point, or be insensitive to that demographic (after all, I’m an immigrant myself [the legal kind] and love South Americans as a “people”. I just find the whole predicament a bit amusing with a hint of ironic, a dash of karma and a few sprinkles of redress … just funny to me!
Well… I didn’t mean to go that far down that rabbit hole. The obsessive-compulsive in me takes hold from time to time… Sorry!
...a bit of Carmel and Pebble Beach
...and... back on the road...
As bucket lists go, this road trip should be on everyone’s. And done at a leisurely pace. Ours felt a bit rushed, but still enjoyed it tremendously.
If we weren’t in such a rush to stick to the Itinerary (Los Angeles was on the list next) would have loved to spend another day around Paso Robles. Hope Family Wines makes a Treana red that’s quite exquisite, and I’m sure there are other wineries in the area worth a stop...
As I mentioned, next stop: LA (link)
As I mentioned, next stop: LA (link)
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Links to the rest of the itinerary:
- Death Valley
- Napa Valley
- San Francisco
- Los Angeles
- San Diego
- Grand Canyon West & Hoover Dam
- Las Vegas
PS - a few good resources if planning a similar drive:https://www.gapyear.com/articles/216212/13-incredible-stops-on-the-pacific-coast-highway