Our California Road Trip begins with a flight from Manchester to San Francisco and will take us to Yosemite, Monterey, Pismo Beach, Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, Los Angeles and San Diego.
Claimed to be the ‘crookedest street in the world’, the famous one-block section of Lombard Street in the Russian Hill neighbourhood of San Francisco was our first destination. The steep street was packed with tourists making their way up and down the sidewalks as drivers carefully negotiated the famous switchback bends.
We found this coffee shop in San Francisco’s North Beach neighbourhood and it was so good! Amazing coffee with delicious banana bread...just what we wanted to kick-start our first day!
After leaving San Francisco in sunshine, we wandered through The Presidio to the iconic Golden Gate Bridge with its pylons shrouded in low cloud. We made our way across the bridge in damp, cool and windy conditions and decided not to head up to the Marin headland (which was hidden in the clouds) as we wouldn’t have been rewarded with the picture postcard view of the bridge. Nevertheless, crossing the world famous Golden Gate Bridge was an unforgettable experience that we both really enjoyed!
From where we were staying in the Hayes Valley neighbourhood, it was a relatively short walk up to Alamo Square Park to enjoy a view of San Francisco’s famous ‘painted ladies’ with the city skyline as a spectacular backdrop.
After enjoying the views of San Francisco’s skyline from Dolores Park, we headed down into the Mission District, a bustling neighbourhood full of character. Amongst the independent cafes, restaurants and colourful street art, we found in the Clarion Alley Mural Project.
We clocked up plenty of miles and a huge number of floors exploring the steep, hilly streets of San Francisco. There were so many highlights - the spectacular cityscape views from Coit Tower, Dolores Park and Alamo Square Park, the neighbourhoods of the Mission District, Hayes Valley and North Beach, riding the iconic cable cars, and making our way through The Presidio to the Golden Gate Bridge to name but a few!
How the other half lives! On our last morning in San Francisco, we wandered through the affluent neighbourhood of Pacific Heights to The Presidio...passing some huge, luxurious houses along the way
After wandering through Pacific Heights we made our way down through The Presidio along Lovers Lane...taking notice of the signs to be wary of the possibility of encountering Coyotes! We stopped for a coffee at Starbucks near the Walt Disney Family Museum, after finding the iconic Yoda Fountain.
We had thought about making a second crossing of the Golden Gate Bridge to head up to the Marin Headlands but after reaching Crissy Fields we could see that the weather conditions were the same as Sunday so we decided to enjoy the iconic views from the beach...where it was now quite cool.
After leaving San Francisco we stayed overnight in Modesto, which was to be our ‘jumping off’ base for Yosemite National Park. It was very hot when we reached Yosemite Village and wandered along the forest trails to Yosemite Falls beneath the breathtaking majesty of El Capitan and Half Dome. The views of the surrounding mountain-scape were stunning and Yosemite was an unforgettable experience!
Probably most famous for being the birthplace of Star Wars creator George Lucas, Modesto had been the base for our unforgettable day trip to Yosemite National Park. The next morning we decided to treat ourselves to breakfast at Denny’s before taking in the George Lucas statue and heading off to Monterey on the next leg of our California Road Trip!
After the heat and sunshine in Yosemite yesterday, it was cloudy and much cooler in Monterey. We explored Cannery Row before warming up with burgers, loaded fries and shakes in the comfort of one our favourite American diners...Johnny Rockets
Once the morning fog had cleared, we decided to go for a walk along the scenic coastline of Pacific Grove, just south of Monterey.
The cloud and cooler weather persisted but we still enjoyed exploring the rugged coastline of Asilomar State Beach.
This stunningly scenic drive took us along the outstanding coastline near Pebble Beach, where we witnessed a beautiful sunset as the waves crashed into the rocky shore.
Leaving Monterey, we set off on the epic Highway 1 drive down the breathtaking California coastline. The clouds tumbled down over the hills as we reached our first stop along the way, adding an eerily idyllic atmosphere to our view of the iconic Bixby Creek Bridge.
The drive down Highway 1 was an unforgettable experience and the coastline views were breathtaking. Along the way, we spent time at Pfeiffer Beach, McWay Falls and Partington Cove as well as taking a couple of pit-stops to enjoy the stunning scenery.
Our last stop during the drive down California’s iconic Highway 1 was Partington Cove, a hidden treasure found at the end of a scenic walk down to the sea. After enjoying the late afternoon sunshine, we challenged ourself to make the steep trek back up to the car as fast as we could!
After enjoying the stunning drive down Highway 1 yesterday, we spent the day at exploring Pismo Beach and it's famous pier.
After spending the day at Pismo Beach, we set off for the next stop on our road trip...Santa Barbara. We checked into The Presidio motel then made our way down to Stearns Wharf just as the sun was setting. We enjoyed the stunning views across the palm tree lined beach under a golden sky before rounding off our evening with a delicious meal at Casa Blanca.
We wanted to make the most of our day so we were up in time to see the sunrise at Stearns Wharf...but it was cloudy! Our reward for an early start was a coffee at Breakfast Culture Club on our way back to The Presidio motel. We really liked this coffee shop and decided that we would go back tomorrow!
Santa Barbara was such a picturesque city that we thought it almost looked like something from a movie set! To enjoy the amazing panoramic views across the coastal city and its mountainous backdrop we headed up to the top of the historic County Courthouse...and Katie telephoned while we were up in the bell tower!
We found Helena Avenue Bakery in Santa Barbara’s aptly named Funk Zone. We both enjoyed a coffee and a delicious freshly baked treat while we sat in the hot sunshine in the courtyard.
The weather was gorgeous while we were in Santa Barbara so after leaving Helena Avenue Bakery we decided to go for a walk along the seafront from Stearns Wharf to Shoreline Park.
On our last morning in Santa Barbara we decided to hire bikes from The Presidio and ride all the way down State Street in time for sunrise at Stearns Wharf. Sadly, it was cloudy again but we had so much fun that it was well worth it! On our way back from the Pier to Breakfast Culture Club, we saw huge double decker trains crossing the railroad just yards in front of us...a memorable experience.
While we were in Santa Barbara we stayed for two nights in The Presidio motel, which had a balcony that enjoyed views across the city. The motel was mostly memorable because of Michael, the friendly and very helpful reception desk clerk...who went out of his way to provide bikes (for free) in time for our dawn ride down to Stearns Wharf.
We had decided to drive from Santa Barbara straight to Los Angeles, rather than stop off in Malibu. It was a difficult choice but it gave us the chance to spend the afternoon enjoying the hike from Griffith Park all the way up to the peak of Mt Hollywood and the iconic Hollywood Sign, via the landmark Griffith Observatory. It was sunny and hot, but we really enjoyed the epic uphill journey and the stunning views of the world famous sign and panoramas across the sprawling metropolis below. We had an amazing time and it was such an unforgettable experience...a great start to our time in Los Angeles.
After spending an unforgettable afternoon hiking up to the iconic Hollywood sign, we headed down into Los Angeles where we enjoyed a meal at Hard Rock Cafe before walking from the landmark Grauman’s Chinese Theatre along the world famous ‘Walk of Fame’ on Hollywood Boulevard to the corner of Hollywood & Vine!
On our first full day in Los Angeles, we treated ourselves to a visit to Universal Studios theme park. As expected, it was different to the resort in Florida, but we had great fun and really enjoyed the attractions...and lack of queues. The best ride was the Backlot Tour, which included both Jaws and Fast & Furious as well as a tour of the Studios...and we also had the chance to meet some famous characters!
After spending the day at Universal Studios, we had time to head over to the famous shopping district of Rodeo Drive...big mistake! Only joking...we had fun quoting lines from ‘Pretty Woman’ as we wandered past the designer stores and exclusive boutiques to the the Beverley Wilshere Hotel!
For our first few nights in Los Angeles, we were staying at the Comfort Inn on Santa Monica Boulevard, from where we could enjoy a great view of the California sunrise.
We love Santa Monica! After making our way to the beach, we walked all the way along the Pier...passing the ‘End of the Trail’ Route 66 sign on the way.
After wandering along the Pier, we made our way down on to Santa Monica beach and relaxed in the California sunshine for a couple of hours while we made plans for the rest of the day and tomorrow.
During the afternoon we wandered from Santa Monica beach through the attractive Third Street shopping district and on to Primo Passo Coffee, which was near Montana Steps. It was a lovely coffee shop on a neighbourhood high street where we enjoyed delicious coffee and muffins.
After arriving in Venice Beach, we wandered around to the famous boardwalk before walking up Windward Avenue to Menotti’s Coffee Shop...which we had found on Instagram. It was a really cool little place and the coffee was delicious. Afterwards, we had a look in Animal House vintage clothes store next door which was full of cool t-shirts so we bought a Vans original for Katie...for only $20!
It was a relatively short walk from Menotti’s to Venice Canals Historic District, which was a peaceful, attractive area...very different to the edginess of Venice Beach! As we wandered alongside the canals we decided to look for the bridge and house that appeared in the Valentine’s Day movie...only to realise that we were stood right next to them!
After exploring Venice Beach and visiting Venice Canals, we made our way along the stylish Abbot Kinney Boulevard. We stopped for coffee (and an amazing lemon meringue croissant!) at the very cool Intelligentsia...which had an industrial style interior and a stepped seating area.
After leaving Venice Canals, we found some locations that appeared in the Californication TV series before walking along the famous Abbot Kinney Boulevard...a street lined with independent boutiques and stylish restaurants that had stunningly staged store fronts and wall murals. It was such an interesting street to walk down...Venice Beach was full of surprises!
We were so glad that we had given ourselves a whole day to spend at Venice Beach as there was so much to see and explore - Venice Canals, Abbot Kinney Boulevard, the famous Boardwalk, Muscle Beach...it was a place full of contrasts and surprises!
After spending a memorable day exploring Venice Beach, we drove along to Santa Monica and headed straight down to the beach in time to catch another stunning sunset...they just keep getting better! It was such a special experience as we watched the sun lower on the horizon behind the famous Pier and the Pacific Park wheel...amazing!
We spent Saturday morning at Huntington Beach where there was a beach volleyball tournament and a surf competition taking place. After taking pictures of the surfers during our walk along the Pier, we headed into the centre which had a real ‘surfer’ vibe with open air markets, surf shops...and even a Volkswagen convention with rows of gleaming Camper Vans lining the streets.
After leaving Huntington Beach, we drove down the coast to the marina city of Newport Beach...the ‘yachtie’ capital of the O.C. (Orange County). We enjoyed a coffee at the out of the way but lovely Common Room Roasters before driving down the Balboa Peninsula to the beach. We walked along the beachfront path then relaxed on the white sand in the hot sunshine by the Pier.
Late in the afternoon, we drove from Newport Beach on to Laguna Beach which was a lovely seafront town full of independent boutiques and restaurants. We treated ourselves to coffee and cake at Zinc (a good recommendation by a local couple) before wandering down to the beach, then continuing on our journey.
After a day of visiting Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach then enjoying a stunning sunset down at the secluded Thousand Steps Beach, we treated ourselves to an evening meal at Ruby’s Diner, about a mile back along Pacific Highway. With vintage cars parked outside and classy 1950s style decor inside, Ruby’s Auto Diner looked fantastic...like something from a movie set!
After giving ourselves another early start, we had spent the first part of the morning at Sunset Cliffs before heading into San Diego. We wandered through the historic Gas Lamp Quarter then made our way over to Copa Vida - a really bright and airy coffee kitchen next to the San Diego Padres baseball stadium.
On the recommendation of a local, we headed for the ‘Little Italy’ neighbourhood where we found a great coffee shop called Bird Rock Roasters. While we enjoyed a delicious coffee and cake sat in the open window fronts, we watched the planes fly surprisingly low overhead as they came into land at the nearby city airport.
San Diego’s palm-tree lined waterfront looked stunning in the blazing California sunshine but we were underwhelmed by the historic Gas Lamp District and there was no real city-centre as such. We managed to find two excellent coffee shops in the attractive East Village and Little Italy neighbourhoods but after wandering around the city, rather than explore Balboa Park, we decided to head for La Jolla...the nearby resort where we were advised the locals spent their weekends.
After spending the day in San Diego, we made our way to nearby La Jolla later in the afternoon. We had a look around the very modern (outdoor) Westfield shopping centre before heading over to the beach, where we enjoyed a stunning sunset at Scripps Pier.
On our way from San Diego back to Huntington Beach we decided to stop at San Clemente...and it turned out to be a little gem. The view across the railroad to the stunning beach and historic Pier while we sat in the covered terrace outside Bear Coast Coffee was so memorable. It was such a special little spot that we had stumbled on...we even bought a branded sweatshirt as a souvenir!
After spending the morning in San Diego and the afternoon in the delightful San Clemente, we were back in Huntington Beach in time to witness yet another unforgettable sunset...absolutely stunning!
On the penultimate day of our epic California Road Trip we drove into Los Angeles where we took a quick trip to the impressive Walt Disney Concert Hall before heading to the Melrose District. We had coffee at Point Five before wandering along Melrose Avenue between Fairfax and Beverley, taking in the murals, street art and vintage fashion boutiques.
After leaving Melrose District, we drove on through Melrose Place to Beverly Hills where we took photos of the iconic Beverley Hills Hotel signage, the world famous Hollywood sign in the distant hills and Paramount Studios.
After spending the day exploring the Melrose District and Beverley Hills neighbourhoods of Los Angeles, we enjoyed a meal at Sawyer in Silver Lake before driving on to nearby Dodger Stadium. We bought an LA Dodgers cap from one of the street hawkers that were entertaining the queueing traffic. The atmosphere inside the 56,000 seater stadium was electric as we watched the Dodgers take on the Colorado Rockies in our first baseball game.
We had decided to spend the last day of our unforgettable California Road Trip at Disneyland and were on our first ride (Space Mountain : Ghost Galaxy) by 9:15! We rode Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, the Indiana Jones Adventure, Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise and Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters...it was great fun! We spent the evening at Downtown Disney, which was decorated in pumpkins ready for Halloween, before watching the fireworks display that was taking place at the adjacent Disney’s Californian Adventure theme park. A memorable day to finish off our amazing holiday.
After our incredible California Road Trip, it was time to go home. We left our hotel at 6 o’clock in the morning and drove to LAX airport where we dropped off our rental car at Thrifty and checked into our flight to Seattle. As we enjoyed a coffee from Starbucks, we reflected on how amazing the last three weeks had been...feeling very different to when we were last in LAX!