Day 31 – a month away so far – and I’m back in California, complete with Mama Stark and clinging on to our wheels. It turned out to be a fairly whistle stop tour, but ultimately a fantastic few days as there’s just so much to see. Every bend of the coastline continues to amaze. The weather let us down on multiple occasions, but this didn’t make the journey any less rewarding. I’ve written separately about San Fran and LA as they deserve their own entries. Enjoy.
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3 THINGS YOU REALLY CANNOT MISS:
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK | wow. A major highlight. We didn’t do any of the big hikes, but the falls and Half Dome, El Capitan and Bridal Falls trio are incredible sights to drive to. Note: the accommodation options aren’t great: it’s camping, pricey ($200+/night) basic motels, or pre-erected heated tents at Curry Village where we stayed, and food picks even worse!
HEARST CASTLE | a fantastic inland detour! The castle boasts sumptuous gardens and pools, as well as bizarre medieval-inspired rooms and Great Gatsby-esque pizzazz. Also check out: the enormous colony of stinky elephant seals.
MENDOCINO | has fabulous views and gardens. It’s very quaint and perfect if you have a Mum in tow like me. There’s lovely little cafes for lunch and the place oozes charm.
3 THINGS WORTH A SNOOP:
CARMEL | is a very pretty uber-touristy gem that exudes money, and boasts a beautiful beach of pure white sand. There’s a 17 mile headland drive which we dismissed as it cost $10! Also check out: neighbouring Monterey, where we stayed. A gorgeous part of the country.
AVENUE OF THE GIANTS | is a particularly stunning stretch of the West Coast USA drive, taking you inland through 300ft Redwood forests. The trees are beautiful, but it is difficult to truly appreciate their scale when simply driving through. Also check out: Paul and Babe at Trees of Mystery.
TRINIDAD | we stumbled on this tiny village in North California, with a delicious seafood restaurant down on the harbour for a lunch of scallops and prawns. There were two big fatty elephant seals chilling on the beach.
3 THINGS TO STAY CLEAR:
MORRO BAY | we picked this stop over San Luis Obispo as it was by the coast, but (yet again) it was covered in mist and there are 3 horrible power chimneys that dominant the skyline. Didn’t help that we accidentally booked a grim smoking motel room, which stank.
BIG SUR | it’s a little silly to put this in the ‘miss’ section, but the frustrating sea mist meant we by-passed a lot of this coast, including highlights like Bixby Bridge and Pheiffer Beach. I wasn’t as impressed by my first Big Sur run as I had been by parts of Oregon or around Mendocino, but I’d definitely like to drive it again.
ROUTE 128 | if you’re trying to do the Coastal road on Highway 1 and you suddenly end up in land, then you / your driving buddy has taken a wrong turn! The temperature increase and lack of ocean are two vital clues. We made this mistake and had to detour quite a way back, but the scenery is pretty special regardless.
1 THING I WISH I’D DONE:
SAN LUIS OBISPO | I seem to regularly read about how great this spot it, although not sure why yet! Perhaps it’s Bubblegum Alley – a tourist attraction known for its accumulation of used bubble gum on the walls of an alley. Doubt it. I also wanted to visit the Madonna Inn.
AND KNOW THIS: More turkeys are raised in California than in any other state in the United States.