They say that for an epic road trip, there’s no place quite like California. We can vouch for this. California has it all, the pristine landscapes, the picturesque beaches, the majestic mountains and the incredible views. Our road trip was probably THE most stand-out’ish of our trip to California. A road trip in it self is quite exhilarating, given that you get the basics right; like good company, nice weather and a beautiful route. The sense of freedom and liberating yourself from the shackles of the daily rat race is…ahh…priceless.
First thing is first, plan your trip wisely, and decide what you want to see and where you are heading. Is it a day trip or overnight stay? Are you heading back to where you started or to a new city? We put some effort into this, we were based in San Francisco and wanted only a day trip. Considered driving to LA, but decided to use our time to explore San Francisco. Rented a car for two days, but the weather was very unpredictable (rainy, windy, sunny, rainy…) so basically took a chance on which of the days we would road trip and where. Luckily both the days chosen where sunny and glorious!
The first day we chose the Highway 1 from SF through Santa Cruz and then on to Monterey. From there we drove through the 17 mile drive to Carmel-By-The-Sea and then Highway 1 again down to Big Sur.
The second day we chose Highway 1 over the Golden Gate Bridge to Muir woods and Muir beach, from there Highway 1 to Stinson Beach and then to Valley Ford where we made a turn towards the Sonoma area. From there we drove to Armstrong Redwood reservation park.
17 Mile drive
Good lord what a coastline! This stretch of beauty is just mesmerizing. The roadway is privately managed and there is a 11 dollars fee for driving, but biking and walking are free. The roadway stretches between Pacific Grove and Pebble beach and along the coastline you will witness breathtaking rocky mountains and stunning beaches.
We had a pit stop at the Pebble beach Lodge which is considered super posh with golf courses most golfers would give an arm and leg to play on. But we are not golfers and was not overly impressed with the restaurant there. The food was rubbish! Apart from that, everything else about the 17 Mile drive was perfection!
Big Sur is a bit farther from 17 Mile drive and we didn’t have too much time there, but got to experience the magnificent view along the rocky coast and forests with lush hillsides. Big Sur and many other places along Highway 1 have excellent hiking trails.
Wine tasting in Sonoma
Of all the places we visited on our road trip, Sonoma vineyards was overall the least interesting. Probably because we had the ultimate vineyard touring experience in Tuscany fresh in mind, and guessing the vineyards in Sonama had no chance in h..l to impress us. We did not visit Napa Valley, but it is said to be much more polished than Sonoma. Perhaps we would have liked Napa Valley more….? Either way the winery we visited (Marimar estate) was a bit extraordinary with their organic farming and biodynamic practices in their vineyards. Wine is good too.
Our initial plan was to visit Muir Redwood Forest, but we were tipped by a local in Sonama to visit the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve. This is a huge forest with majestic redwood trees thousands of years old, the world’s tallest living organisms.
The oldest tree in the park, Colonel Armstrong, is more than 1,400 years old. The tallest tree, Parson Jones, extends upward more than 94,5 meters (it’s taller than a football field is long). These trees has been around since the dark ages, that’s pretty damn cool!
To sum-up, road tripping in California is a great experience. Key is plan plan and…oh plan.