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Pacific Coast Roadtrip

I think it's on every one who comes to California's bucket list; the ultimate road trip on the infamous highway 1. Since I've moved to Los Angeles, I've just been dying to do the trip and we FINALLY did it a few weeks back! We started in San Francisco and while we didn't go past Los Angeles all the way to San Diego, I've rounded up a list of our stops that should definitely be added to your must-do list.

San Francisco

Our visit to San Francisco was short this time but I have a more detailed list of San Fran must-sees HERE. Some obvious musts are the Golden Gate Bridge (best view is Fort Point), Fisherman's Wharf, a trolley tour of the city, Muir Woods, and beautiful Lombard street. Also key tip: DRESS WARM and I mean toque and parka! All my friends always think California is sunny and warm, but San Fran is a whole different ballgame. The fronts off the ocean will seriously chill you to the bones even mid August.

Charming Italian Eats: Nob Hill Cafe

There's no shortage of incredible restaurants in San Fran, but if you're looking for a cute and intimate city experience for amazing Italian, definitely check out Nob Hill Cafe.

*source: the culture trip

Seriously some of the best pasta I've ever had! But it is intimate, and I mean a tiny place, so expect to wait if it's a weekend. Highly recommend: the spicy penne betola.

Cool Experience: Bourbon & Branch

Our friend Caro found the coolest speak easy for us to visit, secret password and all! Unfortunately they have some rules, no photos being at the top of their list. And yes while I did order off the prohibition menu as I don't drink much these days, they have some OG decor from when it was a functioning speak easy and a huge variety of creative mixed drinks and huge whiskey list. We also spoke to the hostess who gave us a tour of the speak easy's downstairs rooms, secret entrances and exits.

Santa Cruz

En route from San Fran to Carmel, we stopped for lunch in sleepy surf town Santa Cruz. Like the Huntington Beach of northern California, you'll fit right in with a surf hoodie and UGG boots. There's a ton of cute brunch spots closer to the water that embrace the Norcal surf culture.


Next stop: beautiful Monterey! We went to the wharf by Monterey Bay and it's like a smaller, less touristy version of San Francisco's fisherman's wharf. There's so much marine life here, we must have seen two dozen sea lions, fish, and other marine life just hanging out in the bay. If you have extra time, Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of my favourites!

Don't Miss: Point Lobos State Reserve

There's so many national parks and beaches in the area to choose from and we just happened to choose Point Lobos. I'm so happy we did; every trail we hiked had views that took my breath away over and over. It was a little overcast and foggy for our trip but I think that just added to the mystical magic of the scenery.


Carmel has to be one of my favourite towns I've been to in California (my mom's too). It seriously looks like it's straight out of a storybook; cobblestone streets, super authentic and unchanged art galleries and one of a kind shops, little nooks and gardens.. everything is just so charming. They even have a rule in place that no chain restaurants are allowed (except for one Starbucks in the city center) to keep everything super old-school and true to form.

Stay: Carmel Highlands

No matter where you go in Carmel, it's probably going to be expensive. Hotel prices were way out of the question when looking last minute but god bless Air B&B! We stayed in Carmel Highlands which is about a 10-15 minute drive from downtown up in the foresty hills overlooking the mountains and ocean. It was perfect. There is no ambient lighting so the stars at night are the most beautiful thing you'll ever imagine.

 Air B&B views

Perfect peaceful Carmel night

Big Sur

After day dreaming about Big Sur, all the books and poems and Pinterest photos about it, I finally got there! And we went the perfect day because the next day we drove by, it was shrouded in smoke and fog from the forest fires so you couldn't see a thing.

Must: Bixby Bridge

The iconic Bixby bridge drives right over the pacific ocean along the cliff's edge and the view is just breathtaking. Photo op required!

Must: McWay Falls

Most likely the photo you're thinking of when you think Big Sur is the view of McWay Falls. And it looks just like it, plus there's insane views all around! You can also hike to get a better view, but the view from the scenic point off the highway was perfect for us.

San Simeon

San Simeon is known for the infamous Hearst Castle. However, it is super super touristy and we learned once we got there you actually have to buy a tour just to see the castle alone, which was a bit of a bummer so we didn't make the trip this time. However, we did stop by the elephant seal reserve which was definitely worth the pit stop in San Simeon!

Fun pit stop: Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Reserve

Santa Barbara

Probably one of my favourite SoCal towns, Santa Barbara is adorable in every way, and has that summer year-round weather that you want. "Downtown" is full of cobblestone streets, cute alleys with little cafes and shops, and the beach and boardwalk is super "California" lined with palm trees and beautiful sunset views.

Must Eat: Finch & Fork

*from Finch & Fork website

Seriously some of the best wine and definitely one of the best meals I've had out here! Located right downtown, if you're looking for a great date spot with a super romantic vibe and great selection of whiskey (says Joey) and local California wine, don't miss it.

Pitstop: The Old Mission

If you love architecture, definitely make a stop at the Old Mission in SB. Once an old Spanish mission sitting on 13 acres overlooking the ocean, you should definitely walk the grounds including historical artwork, mausoleum, and lush gardens.

 Rose gardens at the Old Mission

And back to the insanity of Los Angeles we went! There sums up the highlights of our road trip down the coast. Have you done the trip yet? Let me know your highlights!

1 comment on "Pacific Coast Roadtrip"
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