The California coast….. Oh man, its beauty just can’t be put into words! Of all the places we visited on our 15-day family road trip, this is the one place I dream of returning. We sat in awe at each stop, starring into the glory of it all, almost stunned. There is just so much to explore along this long stretch of windy roads and steep cliffs. You could stop a million times and never grow tired of seeing its sites. God definitely had his good times designing this place!
We began this part of our trip sightseeing in LA, visited the Santa Monica Pier, then began heading north on Hwy 1. Our 1st Stop was El Matador State Beach in Malibu. There are sea caves here! It’s only about about 25 minutes from Santa Monica. Next, we drove to Santa Barbara, 1-hour 45min from Malibu. This is a beautiful, luxurious town. We spent a couple hours walking around the State Street area and drifting along the Stearns Wharf Pier. Our 3rd Stop was Morro Bay, about 2 hours from Santa Barbara. This is an adorable little town. We loved the vibe of this town. There are a lot of shops to visit, awesome local restaurants and the famous Morro Bay Rock. Don’t’ forget to walk out to the big rock! We spent the night here and enjoyed a little down time in this lovely, low key destination.
The next morning, we Drove to Monterey Bay, 3 hours from Morro Bay. With the road construction during the time of our trip, you must drive 3-hours to Monterey Bay on the 101, then back track to the Big Sur area on Hwy 1, instead of driving the entire Hwy 1. There was mud slide causing a section of the road to be completely closed. Once the road construction is finished, you will be able to drive straight up the coast and avoid back tracking. Don’t forget to check the status of the road construction before your trip.
We spent the day at Point Lobos State Park. This park is amazing! If you ask my kids, they say this was their favorite place. They LOVED the tide pools. They could have spent all day climbing the roads and discovering all the amazing creatures hiding among them. Take a lunch in the park and have a picnic! I would suggest not missing this place if you have a few hours to enjoy it. We stayed in Carmel-by-the-Sea that evening which is a beautiful small town between Monterey Bay and Big Sur.
After visiting Point Lobos, we drove south towards the “17-mile Drive” on Hwy 1. Bring a picnic with you. There aren’t many places to stop and eat. This is considered the Big Sur area. You will be heading south or “back-tracking” if there is still road closures on Hwy 1. This is the part of your trip where things get intense and completely breathtaking. The roads are narrow and windy, but we handled it fine with a 15 passenger van. You will want to stop A LOT. Do it! Slow down and enjoy the gorgeous sites. Also, prepare ahead by taking some motion sickness medication if you are prone to it! Some Big Sur destinations that you don’t wont to miss are the Bixby Bridge, McWay Falls, and Julia Pfeiffer State Park Beach. This entire drive may be the most beautiful thing you see in your lifetime. Try to get all the way to Julia Pfeiffer State Park Beach if you can! Then, you will turn around and drive back toward Monterey Bay.
Next, we drove to Santa Cruz which is about 50 minutes from Monterey Bay. Santa Cruz was our favorite beach town of the trip! Its a very nice, chill town without all the luxury found in Santa Barbara. It was great for kids. We never felt anyone had to behave a certain way. We absolutely loved the Wharf. You get a very close up views of the sea lions! They are so cute and fun to watch! We ended up spending our entire day on the wharf, watching the sea lions & enjoying the Boardwalk. Some other things you may be interested in doing at Santa Cruz are the Natural Bridges State Beach or Ano Nuevo Park. We stayed in Santa Cruz that night before heading off to San Fransisco the next day.
If you are interested in our detailed, day-by-day itinerary from our entire 15-day Road Trip, go here. We visited Nevada, Utah, Arizona and California!
Santa Barbara, CA
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
Carmel-by-the-Sea/Big Sur, CA
Santa Cruz, CA