Monday, May 24, 2010

Highway 1: from San Francisco to LA

Yes, it's been a while. I'm still in London. Long story! Still loving it and travelling the world over - most recently we explored the delights of South Africa: Cape Town, Plettenberg Bay, and went on safari. Amazing. One of the most common things people ask me since I have lived and travelled over here is for recommendations (accomodation, restaurants, bars etc) for their own holidays - so I think I will try to be useful for more people and post some of my carefully compiled travel guides here! Below is a brief guide to some recommended stops along the gorgeous Highway 1 - from San Francisco to LA. I did this trip with my boyfriend (now fiance!) in 2007, and it was absolutely beautiful. Here is my quick guide to recommended stops after you have left San Fran (that's a whole separate travel guide!):

Santa Cruz
Probably the first place you’ll come to that you feel like stopping as it’s about an hour and a half out of San Fran – it’s got an ok beach, with a full-on American style amusement park on the sand and a jetty with shops and stuff. We stopped here for a drink on the beach but I didn’t think it was that amazing.

OK to drive through but kind of reminds me of Central Coast in Australia so I don’t think you are missing out on much if you just skip this – apparently the aquarium is quite good though if you're into that kind of thing. Also good for watersports from what I have heard.

Big Sur
Beautiful but it's almost too close to San Fran to stop for the night (if you're only taking 2 nights to do the whole drive). One place we really wanted to stay but couldn't because there is a minimum of 2 nights usually are these luxury eco-friendly yurts called Treebones Resort. You should check them out - they look sensational. I was so gutted we couldn't stay there - one day! (we could see them on the hill when we drove past as they sit temptingly on the precipice of the cliff).

Pebble Beach/Carmel
These places are beautiful to drive through and stopover (world-famous golf courses at Pebble Beach and seal watching). Carmel is a cute, affluent town (we spent our first night here in a beautiful little BnB that I can't remember the name of). Kind of old-lady shops from what I remember but some cute little cafes/bars serving amazing seafood/tex mex and a nice main street.

Hearst Castle (about half way between LA and San Fran) is a really fun stop - it sounds hideously cheesy but it's basically this giant castle/mansion that was built by the publishing magnate William Hurst and is heavily influenced by European architecture (in a 'ranch' setting) with a crazy collection of art, antiques, animals, sculptures etc from Hearsts travels. He used to host massive parties attended by old Hollywood elite like Clark Gable, Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe etc etc. The views are amazing and it's worth seeing and doing the tour. Check it out.

Elephant seals
Just before you get to Hearst Castle you should stop just south of Point Piedras Blancas as there is a huge colony of elephant seals and they're fun to watch for a while! :)

San Luis Obispo
Definitely one of the better stops. If you can, try and stopover here on a Thursday night as they have a big farmer's market where they close the main street and have a big party with food stalls, live music etc. The food is amazing - more BBQ'd ribs than I have ever seen with all the trimmings - Stu will wet himself. There are also good shops and some really nice restaurants/bars/wine-tasting places. Check it out.

Santa Barbara
About an hour and a half before you get to LA. We stayed here overnight but if you’ve only got 2 nights, I think Carmel and San Luis Obispo are better options (although quieter so it depends what you’re after and your timing). Again we just stayed in a motel place that we drove up to and asked about availability but I would recommend booking somewhere if you stayed here as it took us a few places to find somewhere and that was in September. It’s very beachy, very much like an upmarket beach town in Australia with lots of shopping, bars, restaurants etc.

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