California Road Trip - Highway 1 Pacific Coast
After spending a day at the Sequoia National Park, we continued our Road Trip through California. We slept in a little town called Visalia and the next morning, we got on the 198 towards Coalinga.
After an hour on the same road, we arrived at Harris Ranch Inn & Restaurant, part of the largest ranch on the West Coast and California's largest beef producer.
It goes without saying that we had to have steak for breakfast (vegetarians cover your eyes!) Argh!
The worst part is that it was veeery yummy!
From there, we kept driving along the same beautiful road with its smooth curves for two hours- there was hardly a car or house in sight ‘til we got to Monterey.
In just under 3 hours, we arrived to a totally different scene from the mountains of the previous day. In sunny Monterey (which lies on the edge Monterey bay) is Cannery Row. Named after Steinbeck’s novel, Cannery Row used to house several sardine canneries. Today it houses several cool shops, piers, seafood restaurants and most importantly, the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
For hot sauce lovers, Pepper Palace is paradise! Unlimited variety and free samples!
The famous and scenic Pacific Coast Highway drive often begins in San Francisco, but since we went to Sequoia, we actually started the drive a few miles south. Without question, one of the highlights is the 27 km route between Monterey and Carmel, passing through the private communities of Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove which are dotted with mansions and golf courses along the coastal border.
Point Joe. Behind me is Spanish Bay, known for its bagpipe player who fill the air with song at sunset.
Admission for the drive is $ 10 per car. Be sure to pick up the map at the guardhouse that marks the entrance. The road is well marked with the number and name of each point of interest and plenty of space to pull over to take in the views. One of the nicest stops is certainly the Cypress Point, where often you can see sea lions swimming.
Another not-to-be missed spot is the picture perfect Lone Cypress, where the most famous tree of the region reigns lonely at the top of a rock by the sea.
We arrived in Carmel just in time to see the most spectacular sunset!!
Carmel has a "mountain town" feeling and is famous for its numerous art galleries,amazing restaurants and during this time of year, ornately decorated Christmas stores.
A good point to note is that in order to maintain the "low-key" charm of the city, there isn't any public lighting in the streets
There are numerous culinary options for any foodie - we even wanted to stay another day just to further explore its cuisine.
After exploring the dim streets for a while in 9•C temperature, we knew that nothing would warm us up like a hearty Italian dinner!! So we went to the renowned, romantic restaurant Casanova, which has an e-n-o-r-m-o-u-s wine list that's recognized worldwide. There are more than 30 thousand - that's right THOUSAND - bottles of wine, stored in the cellar below the restaurant. (It’s also possible to ask to have a tour after dinner!!) More than that, the restaurant (previously the home of Charlie Chaplin’s chef) houses the "Van Gogh room", which contains the original table where the painter ate his meals, acquired and brought to the US by the restaurant's Belgian owners.
Ossobuco - so good you can eat it off the floor - and Zinfandel wine from the Carmel region.
Early the next day, we started our journey towards Los Angeles.Big Sur is neither a city nor small village but actually the name for the entire region, ranging from Carmel to San Simeon. On it we passed the following locations, all in the span of 3 hours.
First stop was the Bixby Bridge, an iconic bridge built with the highest single concrete arch in the world.
I tried to fit the entire bridge into one picture, but failed.
Pfeiffer State Beach:
The biggest challenge on this trip is finding the way to this beach, which is one of the main reasons it’s famous!! There are no road signs at all pointing to the entrance, which is located just after a sharp curve. The area has no phone signal, so after crossing the bridge, be sure to look out for first road exit on the right.
Admission is $5.
As soon as we arrived, we immediately understood the reason the beach is so intentionally hidden – it’s an effort to protect such beauty!
Due to erosion of the surrounding rocks, the sand here has a beautiful pink tone to it. Arguably, the most striking feature is the stones pierced with holes, through which you can see the sun setting if you look at just the right moment.
If all that's not enough, there are still some natural pool formations.
With all its natural beauty, it's no wonder why at the end of the beach there's an area full of hundreds of stacked stones alluding to an ancient Peruvian practice. The practice is a symbol of worship and gratitude to nature.
We then went from beach to brunch and arrived at this super cute hotel-restaurant, which was built in a wooden rustic style by a Norwegian immigrant in the '30s.
I was enchanted by the beauty, peace and atmosphere of the place, which was initially a meeting point and rest stop for hippies and passerbys. Since 1990, it has been on the National Register of Historic Places and is a must-see stop. The food may not be extraordinary but it's cheap and hits the spot after a long drive, and the atmosphere is an absolute delight!
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park:
Not to be confused with the beach of the same name.
Here at one of the most famous stops on Highway 1, you cannot access the beach or water. You can however see the famous McWay Falls, a 24m waterfall which flows directly into the sea.
Initially the fall was straight into the sea, after a landslide in 1985 - which you can see on the other side - local topography has changed, generating a small inaccessible beach of turquoise waters.
From there, we started to leave the Big Sur perimeter and follow its beautiful scenery along the perfectly curves highway:
Elephant Seal Vista Point:
In the San Simeon district, we got to the most entertaining point of the trip: the observation of dozens of elephants and sea lions that have adopted this beach as their home. There they sleep, sunbathe, play, fight and emit very funny sounds! Note the practice of throwing sand on his body with its little hands !!
Cayucos - Brown Butter Cookie Company:
By now we we're hungry again. Why not try the buttery cookies at Cayucos, straight from their factory?
From there you can also see Morro Rock, a round stone of volcanic formation that is located in Morro Bay.
Kelsey See Canyon Winery:
A worthy trip to California must include a visit - and tasting(!) - to one of its thousands vineyards.
On the road between Morro Bay and Obispo, we choose a small family vineyard, where the own grandson of its founder told us about the wines! It only costs $10 and you can have a tasting of 6 wines.
Be sure to also taste the house apple cider !!
Still had time to catch a beautiful sunset and see a show of kitesurfers working their maneuvers!
on this beach is allowed to driveway
A Danish village in the middle of California, is also worth a visit, whether to do Christmas shopping (which is the best time to visit it) or to get some calories in at some of the delicious bakeries !!
Whatever the reason, you will be charmed by the atmosphere and architecture of the small town!
PS: when we got there it had already darkened and unfortunately most of the shops were already closed, because everything closes at 5 in the winter! Take a note and plan accordingly! :-)
From there we went to Santa Barbara, where we stayed at the Montecito Inn, cute hotel of the one and only Charlie Chaplin !!
This city, which has won the title of American Riviera, has a climate described to be similar to the Mediterranean and is located between the blue Pacific Ocean and a mountain range. So different and interesting it deserved a post of its own!
The first European inhabitants were Spanish missionaries and soldiers in order to protect and convert the natives to Christianity. The city's architecture is faithful to the colonial style and still breathes the mission to educate. Several universities are located there.
A pier with a beautiful view, good seafood restaurants, souvenir and ice cream shops, etc. Luckily it is still possible to observe marine life - giant whales - as well as gulls and pelicans hungry for human's leftovers.
The Forum, still in operation, is a must!!!
Today's building replaced the old structure, destroyed by an earthquake. Its corridors and rooms are a masterpiece designed in the Spanish colonial style.
Notice the tiles and the ceiling of the main room! Visit the top floor El Mirador that has a 360 degree view - and go down by the stairs to take look at the bell.
Mac Mahon law library
Founded in 1786 by the Franciscan order, the main objective of this was to convert the natives to Christianity. Several elements of the extensive water treatment system built by the natives in 1800 are still active. The laundry is still visible on the front lawn.
Though we didn't have time to visit the inside of the chapel, the interior of the is known to be a "must-see" ... Take a note !! :-)
You cannot leave California without eating a typical Mexican food.
Done masterfully, the food comes in HUGE portions, surrounded with a super casual atmosphere.
Ceviche mexican style, shrimp tacos and ... That's right: of course some rice and beans cause I'm brazilian!
Before leaving the beautiful road and entering the hellish rush hour traffic of LA, we also took a peek of the beach in Malibu, home to many celebrities and address of renowned restaurants such as Nobu. It is not hard to understand why.
It is not hard to understand why.
Highway 1 Pacific Coast -> officially DONE!!
It is noteworthy that this trip was done in three days, very well timed, which is not impossible, of course, but it would be ideal with more time to enjoy each place! :-)