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My husband and I love traveling together. Since we started dating, we have taken multiple small trips during the year and one longer trip. Our first long adventure was to Costa Rica for our honeymoon. In December of 2016 we spent our first anniversary traveling to Paris and Spain. In 2017 I was looking for a location within the United States that would involve less plane rides, so we decided on a pacific coast highway road trip. This post is a little delayed, seeing as we took this trip 9 months ago, but a little distraction has been occupying my mind for those nine months. We actually found out we were pregnant on this trip.
Here is our Route One road trip itinerary from the first half of our trip. For your road trip you have the option of starting either in San Francisco or San Diego. We began our trip by flying into San Francisco mid-day on Thanksgiving.
Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip Days 1-3: San Francisco
San Francisco, the city of hilly streets, street cars, and the Golden Gate Bridge. Here are my recommendations for things to check out while in the City by the Bay:
What to see:
This expansive park in the middle of the city is home to botanical gardens, the Conservatory of Flowers, California Academy of the Sciences, and a Japanese Tea Garden. We choose to only experience the botanical gardens because the expansive grounds would probably to take multiple days to explore. However, if you are there on a Saturday or Sunday a free shuttle between hot spots in the park makes it more manageable.
Pier 39/Fisherman’s Wharf
This pier offers shops, great food, street performers, and views of the harbor, Alcatraz, and the bridge. You can also catch the antics of the colony of sea lions that spend the days lounging on floating docks.
What to experience:
A Harbor Cruise
There are multiple companies that offer the opportunity to take a harbor cruise, which allow you to take in great views of the city, Altracraz, and sail right under the Golden Gate Bridge.
Alternative Views of the Golden Gate Bridge- Land’s End and Fort Point
If you have access to a car, definitely visit Land’s End Park to experience your first views of the Pacific Ocean and hike a bit to see glimpses of the Golden Gate Bridge. Then drive across the bridge to get a true feel of it’s scale. Fort Point, which is essentially under the bridge on the San Francisco side of the bay, is also a good place to learn about the military history of the city and get up close and personal with the bridge.
What to eat:
Sourdough bread is a San Francisco classic, as is the Boudin Bakery. At their Fisherman’s Wharf location, you can eat in the cafe, learn about the bakery’s long history, and see the bakers at work.
Ghirardelli Square, where the Ghirardelli factories were originally located, should definitely be on your list to visit while you devour a yummy sundae for lunch.
Related Post: Find out how I pack for a ten day trip in a carry-on
Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip Day 4: Monterrey and Carmel-by-the-sea
As you begin your drive from San Francisco you will be treated to beautiful stretches of coastline that run right next to Route One. Our first stop of the day was approximately 3 hours south in Monterrey.
Monterey Bay Aquarium is considered one of the best in the country and is world famous for it’s dedication to ocean conservation and educating the public about marine life. Don’t miss the daily feeding sessions, which offer the chance to learn more about the sea otters and penguins that call the aquarium home. The entire aquarium is an opportunity to learn about conservation, even in the cafe where everything is sustainable and the food is locally sourced.
On your way from Monterey to Carmel, take a drive along the iconic 17-Mile Drive which features rocky cliffs, white sand beaches, golf courses (including Pebble Beach), and homes of the very rich. The entrance fee for the drive is $10. Unfortunately we visited on a very rainy day, so the views were more stormy then scenic.
Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip Day 5: Big Sur
The next morning thankfully was bright and sunny, the perfect day to drive Big Sur with the top down on our rental convertible. Big Sur was undoubtedly the most beautiful part of the drive down the coast, so make sure you have plenty of time to experience the views by pulling over at some of the many lookout points along the way. From Caramel-at-the-sea, where we spent the night, it would have been a 30 drive to Bixby Bridge, although the stops in between made it longer.
This bridge is one of the most photographed in all of California, although I was less then impressed. Hence the the picture of my hubby with the convertible instead of one with the bridge.
Nepenthe and McWay Falls
Although the food at Nepenthe is good (if a little pricey), you really eat here for the beautiful views of the California coastline. 15 minutes down the road is a hidden hike which offers views of the 80 foot McWay Falls and its accompanying blue water cove from a vantage point above, even though the actual waterfall is inaccessible.
Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip Day 6: Hearst Castle
After staying the night in San Simeon, we headed straight to Hearst Castle in the morning. You can learn more about our trip to Hearst’s mansion by visiting my post on that day.
That concludes part one of our Pacific Coast Highway road trip. In the last leg (coming soon), we travel to Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and San Diego.