After our busy couple of days in San Francisco our road trip finally begun as we picked up our BMW 4 series convertible and hit the road. If you’ve been to San Francisco before you will already know how steep and abundant the hills are – thank god all of the cars are automatic, I would definitely not have been ready for those hill starts! Saying that I did leave all of the driving to James as he wasn’t daunted by driving on the other side of the road like I was. Our first overnight stop was in Monterey, an idyllic small fishing town around 2 and half hours from San Francisco. The drive was mainly on Route 1 on the Californian coast and it really is such a picturesque drive – there are loads of farms you can stop off to buy cherries and strawberries & also lots of lovely beaches and nature trails to visit. We stopped at a beach and took a really short walk at Rancho del Osa state park as a warm up for our visit to Yosemite National Park. Within this time, (only around 30 minutes), my hair managed to tangle into a complete mess and James was bitten on his hand by a spider!
We were both really excited to visit Monterey as we had both heard great things but the one thing that let it down for us was the weather, unfortunately it was pretty cloudy and mild for the couple of days we were there. I also had a really bad cold while in Monterey and one night I had to stay in the hotel so I do feel like I didn’t get to see as much of the town as I would have liked too.
We had already booked our hotel in Monterey when we heard the new tv show, Big Little Lies was actually filmed and set there (what a show!). This did mean I was also quite excited to spot any possible filming locations and to see where Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon caught up over coffee. Old Fisherman’s Wharf is a popular location for Big Little Lies and I can see why as it really is very picturesque. There are day trips that you can book from the pier to go whale watching out into Monterey Bay which is known for having a bounty of whales and other sea creatures in its shores, and you can hear the flocks of sea lions as soon as you get close to the pier.
One of the top recommended activities to do in Monterey is visit the Monterey aquarium, although; as only days before we had visited an aquarium in San Francisco, we decided to give this a miss. After googling the aquarium I do wish that we had gone but you have to just prioritise at the time what you want to get out of your trip.
In a recent article by The Culture Trip they voted Carmel by the sea as the most beautiful town in the state of California and it really is worthy of this title. When lots of people think of California, Los Angeles or San Francisco might be the top of their minds but I really enjoyed seeing a laid back and chilled side of the state. There is definitely a village feel to Carmel by the sea which makes the town feel very refreshing and authentic for tourists to visit. On the day that we visited it wasn’t the best weather but there were lots of people out of the beach – with surfing being a very popular pass time.
One of the key places to visit in the area of Monterey is Point Lobos State Nature Reserve, a vast wildland with a rugged cliff coastline and crashing waves, notorious for spotting whales, sea lions, and otters along with the wildlife in the park, a favourite for bird spotters. This was something James had planned and I really wish I had asked more questions about how much walking we were going to do that morning as I made the mistake of wearing sandals. The landscapes are stunning; we walked so much that day but it really was worth it. My advice; wear trainers or hiking boots if you’re planning on visiting Point Lobos. There are lots of routes that you can take and with a car park quite central inside the park you really can do as much or little walking as you like.
Bixby Creek Bridge:
Bixby Creek Bridge is a must visit if you are visiting the County of Monterey, and one of the most photographed bridges in the US! Largely because of its aesthetic design against the backdrop and foreground of the pacific coastline. It is definitely a hot spot for tourist pictures. If you have watched Big Little Lies you will also notice that Bixby Bridge is in the main titles of the show. Not only is the bridge itself really impressive, the coastline surrounding it is really worth checking out. There is actually quite a lot of greenery in this section of the coastline making it a really worthwhile stop on the Pacific Coast Highway drive. Once you get to the bridge you will see lots of other cars pulled over so once you have found a safe spot pull over and park. We decided to get pictures on both side of the bridge as it looks quite different from both angles. Unfortunately our initial plan was that we would drive past Bixby bridge to visit Pfeiffer beach and stay for a night in Cambria but this had to be changed due to the recent landslide in California. It’s still early days but there are rumours that a lot of the coastline roads will be closed for at least a year so bear this in mind if you’re planning on taking this route.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the 2nd instalment of our Californian road trip as much as I did writing it. Check back soon for my next post all about our time staying in the wonderful Santa Cruz!
Katie Travels xo