The Golden State | North California

The Golden State | North California

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!

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Drive to Tunnel View for the money shot looking back over Half Dome (middle), El Capitan (left) and Bridal Falls (right)
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Mirror Lake is incredibly tranquil and the whole park smells amazing
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Our little huts in Curry Village!
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Watch for bears….
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Beautiful morning rainbow at Yosemite Falls – same spot as the Moonbow
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Look closely to see a Moonbow! Yep, a real thing that only happens at certain times in a year
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Half Dome at sun set
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Upper and Lowe Falls in Yosemite National Park
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In this shot you can really appreciate the scale

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.

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Glamour and Cali blue skies at Heart Castle
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Such a shame visitors can’t enjoy a dip in the pool! It was so hot as well.
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The beautiful indoor pool with incredible tile work throughout
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Hearst Castle has the most immaculately maintained gardens that ooze tropical glamour
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These guys literally covered the beach – you can imagine the stench

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.

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All of the houses and gardens in Mendocino are immaculately maintained
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Too cold for swimming in April, but that sea looks pretty inviting!
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The village of Mendocino
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Every property and garden is overflowing with colour and character
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The coast line around Mendocino, North California
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Breath-taking views south of Mendocino before you hit San Fran

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.

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The incredible beach at Carmel – but see that sea mist lurking?!
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Mum thrilled to finally see some proper sunshine at Carmel
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Fisherman statue in Monterey where we stayed due to prices in next-door Carmel

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.

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Photos and a drive through don’t really capture the majesty of these huge Redwoods
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Paul Bunyan and His Pal, Babe The Blue Ox

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.

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Walk down to this cove at Trinidad to find a single and lovely restaurant
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We pulled over here at Trinidad – highly recommended
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Unidentified spot on the California coast!

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.

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Dramatic skies at Morro Bay (ignoring the power station to the right)

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.

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An out-the-window shot of the Big Sur, capturing the rolling mist that always seemed to hang around

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.

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Get some jazzy wheels for the Pacific Highway drive

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.

 

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4 Responses

  1. Whooo.. Yosemite Falls is so stunning! How can I get there anyway? 😀
    Well, this is cool for me and my friends adventure journey. How wonderful experience it would be!

    • It’s well worth the trip April I’m sure you’d love it… although yes, quite a long way from Missouri! Let me know if you want any more tips.

  2. Very nice. I think that once I’ll manage to get to the US, my first visit will be in Yosemite National Park. I think I will really love it! 🙂

    • Yosemite is amazing Julius! It also helps that’s it’s fairly small and manageable versus some of the bigger monsters like Yellowstone, and it’s so close to LA and San Fran. I hope you make it there at some point: America is a fascinating country to travel.

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