Road tripping California is a rite of passage. There comes a time in somebodies life where they should hire a car, and drive a coastline stopping only when their desires insist. California is a dream to explore. Wet, luscious, rainforests are just minutes from precipitous, vertigo-inducing cliffs. Warm winds, great beers and rosy sunsets: Cali is a must.
In January 2015 a darling friend and I began our road trip. We started in San Francisco, and finished in Los Angeles. It took us four glorious days. Here is what we did.
Staring out in San Francisco with a compulsory McFlurry, we hauled our suitcases into the car and headed off for some exploring. Our first stop was Muir Woods National Monument. While the park itself it stunning, make sure to keep an eye out for the panoramic views just before the turn off. We were hoping to do some hiking, but the trail turned out to be more of a leisurely walk due to the popularity. Paved, fenced off areas make Muir Woods perfect for people with disabilities and children. The deep, verdant green trees shot high into the skies.
We piled back into the car and made our way to Highway 1. This is the big guns. This is what Cali is famous for. The drive itself is almost made impossible by the sheer difficulty to keep your eyes on the road. 180 degree views of the ocean and the stark grey, yet sometimes buttery yellow cliffs are far beyond my available literary capacity to describe.
Next stop was Bodega Bay, which is just shy of two hours north. The popularity is unsurprising – the beaches were phenomenal. While we could’ve spent days exploring the surrounding coastline, we only had 4 days to for our road trip, so we continued to our day 1 final destination, Eureka. Arriving late in the evening, we collapsed into bed.
We travelled California in late January, and had no problems booking accommodation the day before we set off. I’d recommend travelling Big Sur like this. It allows you more freedom and flexibility to stay in certain destinations. Just keep in mind, there’s a lot to see, so don’t get stuck at the first beach you see.
Our second Day exploring central California began with two easy hikes in Prairie Creek Redwood State Park and Redwood National Park. Highlights include Big Tree, the Newton Drury Scenic Parkway, and Fern Canyon, featured below. I had no idea sites like these were visible in the United States. It’s scenery that I’d associated with Canada! Fern Canyon is exactly what it sounds like – a canyon made of lush, green ferns.
After exploring northern California for most of the day, my fellow roadtripper and I headed South via Highway 1. We left enough time to drive through upmarket Sausalito, and spy on how the upperclass live. Driving across the Golden Gate Bridge was a phenomenal highlight. Nobody really tells you how large it is. You’re so high in the sky, the extreme winds move the car from side to side.
Our final destination was in San Bruno where we spent the night. Two minute noodles with a few sad beans were served as dinner.
Our third day started with cloud and sporadic raindrops. We were so disappointed as today was to be the day we’d planned hugged the glorious Highway 1. As you’ll see in the photos, our initial fears were quickly alleviated. It turned into the most fabulous, bright, warm day.
Our first move was to leave San Bruno, and make our way to Half Moon Bay and Highway 1. Half Moon Bay
We happily got lost as we meandered down south. Late in the afternoon we found ourselves at McAbee Beach and Point Lobos State Reserve. I hadn’t felt sun this powerful since I’d left Australia in July. We drove a little further to find a perfect destination to watch the sunset. Being an east-coaster, the sunset over the water is a rare and spectacular sight. To watch it at Garrapata State Park surrounded by dear, smelly otters, and grey whales was like nothing I’d seen before. Let the photographs do the convincing.
That night we stayed in a cheap auto hotel in Monterey.
As we moved down south we were happy to learn that the highly anticipated Big Sur Coastline was just as breathtaking as we’d imagined. Hundred metre drops, buttery beaches, turquoise waves, and fresh white foam. Our first stop was Pfeiffer Beach National Park. Pfeiffer Beach itself was dreamy. The water in unlike anything we have on the central-east coast of Australia. Next was Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, where we explored McWay Falls and Partington Cove. The waterfalls are actually on a beach, where the water drips directly into the ocean. Real Alice in Wonderland stuff.
We watched the sunset later that day at Ragged Point, before collapsing into bed at Arroyo Grande.
That night our final destination was Los Angeles. After feeling nothing but freedom and space for four days, it was difficult to drive into smoggy, hectic LA.
The four days I spent driving California’s coastline are memories etched deep into my memory. If I haven’t yet convinced you to add this road trip to your travel to-do list, perhaps this quote by American novelist and poet, Jack Kerouac will. “Soon it got dusk, a grapy dusk, a purple dusk over tangerine groves and long melon fields; the sun the color of pressed grapes, slashed with burgandy red, the fields the color of love and Spanish mysteries.” Take the time to explore this land of love and mystery. I promise you won’t regret it.