PACIFIC COAST HIGHWAY
After finishing a travel assignment in La Quinta, CA, Leslie and I were planning to continue working in CA, however, we were presented with a different opportunity. We were lucky enough to land contracts in Florence, OR. I saw this as the ultimate chance to take a trip on the PCH! We took a 2 week vacation – 1 week to fly home to visit our families and the second to drive from LAX to Florence (actually to Reedsport 23 miles South cause that’s where we ended up finding a place to live). According to Google Maps, it’s an 860 mile and 13.5 hour drive without taking the PCH and definitely a lot longer (but well worth it) by taking the PCH. Knowing that we may not get another opportunity for this, I wanted to be very detailed with my research to make sure we got to see just about everything we would want to in the week that we had.
One of the most important places to go was Big Sur. If you’ve been following my blog or my Intstagram, you’ll know that I love Big Sur. At this point in April of 2017, we had not yet been there. I am going to share our experience of everything we wanted to do and did do, the best things we saw, this mistakes we made, and so on to share our experience and hopefully help your experience driving up or down the PCH! Day was one Tuesday, April 4, 2017.
DAY 1 Tuesday 04.04.17
We arrived at LAX late Monday night and stayed the night with my Uncle, Aunt, & Cousin in Beverly Hills (thanks Jordan, Susan, & Madeline)! We left early Tuesday morning to get a jump start on the trip. Here’s what we had planned for day 1:
Day 1 Map
Leave Beverly Hills by 8am
Breakfast: Undergrind Cafe (pictures on timeline)
Santa Monica Beach
Santa Monica Pier
El Matador State Beach
Santa Barbara: On The Alley for lunch (photos on timeline)
Walked on Santa Barbara Harbor to Point Castillo overlooking Stearns Wharf
Fishwife for dinner
Lodging: Casa Verde Inn
Undergrind Cafe: This place was delicious. Great reviews online. I usually order an espresso latte if we go out to a coffee shop and it was spot-on. For breakfast, the burrito was amazing. Leslie got the smoked salmon bagel sandwich which was also perfection. This place was pretty chill and a fantastic little spot for breakfast and coffee in Beverly Hills. It was the perfect quick stop too before our drive began!
Santa Monica Pier & Beach: Well, the first part of the drive wasn’t too long because we were only going to Santa Monica. We got here about 9:30 am and wanted to walk along the pier and on the beach. Not a whole lot was going on at the time that we were there. I think the best time to be there would be around sunset for the views and to see the Ferris wheel lit. We easily found street parking very close but I would imagine this would be more difficult if you came at a busier time. There are plenty of shops and restaurants to enjoy. The beach was really nice and I got a pretty cool photo under the pier. There were some sea lions under there as well!
Santa Monica Pier
El Matador State Beach: We chose to come here for the amazing scenery and rock formations. We were here just before noon. I think every place would probably be best at sunset but timing just can’t work out that way! We walked along this beach and enjoyed all the rock formations (and there are a lot of them). It was definitely worth coming to. We saw a few photographers and models working here as well. Tip: In order to access the beach, there is a pretty steep downhill walk!
Santa Barbara: We timed it perfectly to get here for lunch. This place was tough to find parking! We lucked out and found a lot near the harbor and had our minds set on going to On The Alley for lunch, which was another fabulous decision since this place was also delicious! We both ordered the shrimp Cobb salad and if we’re back in Santa Barbara, I
wouldn’t hesitate to do it again. There was only outdoor seating and you can’t leave your foodunattended for 2 seconds because the birds will get it. After lunch, we walked on Santa Barbara Harbor to Point Castillo overlooking Stearns Wharf. We originally planned on walking along Stearns Wharf but parking was a nightmare because of all the construction that was going on. Since we had to keep moving, we didn’t spend a lot of time here either and took off to make it up to Monterey.
Monterey: We had to get off the coastal road since our trip was just after the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge had collapsed so we took 101 to Monterey. We found a pretty good deal on booking.com at the Casa Verde Inn. It’s a 1-star motel and the reviews varied quite a bit but for $60 a night, we decided to take our chances. We really had no complaints overall. It was about what we expected. It was clean enough, everything worked, and it was an affordable place to stay. It was pretty much what you’d expect when you’re trying to save some money. For dinner, we had no clue where to go. It was almost 8pm, so we wanted to find a place that was open til at least 9 and we ended up choosing Fishwife in Pacific Grove. It was pretty good but – it was very difficult to choose where to get dinner in the Monterey area, for some reason. Every restaurant seems to have a 4.2 or 4.3 star review on Google.
DAY 2 Wednesday 04.05.17
This was the day we were going to get to Big Sur (wahoo!). We planned the trip so we would spend 2 nights in Monterey, giving us a chance to explore Big Sur for the first day and Monterey for the second. We found a pretty good deal on lodging on booking.com & stayed at the Casa Verde Inn. We ended up Big Sur (during the day) & Monterey (in the evening) on this day:
Day 2 Map
Carmel Valley Coffee Roasting
Breakfast: From Scratch
Big Sur (drove to bridge)
Carmel River State Beach
17 Mile Drive
Carmel Valley Coffee Roasters: First off – they have multiple locations. We went to the one in Carmel in Barnyard Shopping Village in Carmel. We didn’t intend on coming here. We were just planning on getting breakfast and the place we wanted to go to changed locations (I forget what it was) and we had to wait about a half hour for From Scratch to open. With that said, we didn’t mind because we love trying different coffee shops in new places. This one was fantastic and I would recommend it.
From Scratch Restaurant: As I mentioned above, we planned on going somewhere else for breakfast but I’m super glad that place didn’t exist because this was a memorable and delicious breakfast. I ordered the corned beef hash that comes with 2 eggs and potatoes. It’s by far the best corned beef hash I’ve ever had. It is real corned beef and made in-house.
Amazing Corned Beef Hash
Big Sur: As I mention a lot – I love Big Sur. At this point, I had only been excited about visiting but had not actually been yet. At this time, the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge was closed so we were limited to stopping there. Also, a lot was closed because of the tragic Soberanes fires. We were able to get in the entrance to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park but the park itself was closed. It was still a fantastic and memorable part of the trip to get to experience this part of Highway 1, not knowing if we would get to again (of course with getting to work in Monterey 6 months later, we had plenty more opportunities). We primarily enjoyed pull-offs along the way. Check out my Big Sur page for more detailed info on this beautiful place.
Bixby Creek Bridge
Carmel River State Beach: I feel like this place is a little hidden gem. It’s not super exciting but it’s never busy and it’s a fun place to explore and look for creatures. We found a ton of crabs, little fish, and mussels for days. We spent a
while here on our way back from Big Sur and without knowing what to expect, it was surprisingly lots of fun,
especially finding all the crabs in the tide pools.
Carmel River SB
Poke Lab: This seemed like an interesting concept. At the time,
we had never been to or heard of Poke Bowls. At the time I’m
writing this, I have seen many places that serve this kind of food.
If you are unsure of what a Poke Bowl is, I would describe it as
putting sushi ingredients in a bowl and eating it that way! Going
into this, we did not realize we would be eating raw fish. For
some reason, it is easier for us both to eat raw fish in a piece of
sushi instead of loose in a bowl. It was very delicious so they
definitely do a good job here. If you are not into raw fish, this
place would probably not be for you. It’s definitely worth giving
17 Mile Drive: The next stop was 17 Mile Drive. *Tip: It costs $10.25 to get in (as of 1/28/18). I’m not going to talk much about this place now because I have a separate blog post dedicated to a bike ride we did through 17 Mile Drive (bikes are free). For some reason (I have no idea why), the guard let us in for free; no questions asked. I still wonder why he did this but thank you, guard! We really didn’t spend much time through here either at this point. Click here (coming soon) for my more thorough page on the 17 Mile Drive.
Lovers Point: A popular stop as Monterey meets
Pacific Grove. This is a popular stop for weddings
and it is beautiful. A rocky area with some grassy
areas. Plenty of benches and places to sit. We got
here just after sunset and it was starting to get cold
and breezy! We saw a few sea otters just out past
Fisherman’s Wharf: There are 2 wharf’s in Monterey –
Wharf 1 and Wharf 2. Both are very nice to walk
along. We didn’t realize which was which when we
came. We just wanted to walk along a Wharf in
Monterey so we ended up doing Wharf 2 and it was
nighttime. There are several restaurants toward the
start. When you keep going, a popular fishing spot
is on the right side. All the way at the end there is
a fantastic fresh fish market. If you’re looking for the
more-touristy wharf, you’ll probably want to go to Wharf 1 (we came here for the first time in January 2018). There are tons of seafood restaurants, little shops, and a cool lookout at the end. There are whale boat tours toward the end. We haven’t been to any of the restaurants yet on either Wharf but I had a local recommend the Old Fisherman’s Grotto as being the best on Wharf 1.
DAY 3 Thursday 04.06.17
We had a very busy day yesterday mostly exploring Big Sur. We planned to use today to finish up our Monterey explorations and end up in Bodega Bay (we had made a reservation at a campground). We didn’t set aside much to do in San Francisco since we had been there before and knew we would be back. The main thing we wanted to do before leaving town was Point Lobos. If you are making this drive and have not been to San Francisco, you will want to make sure you spend more time there. Click here for a link to my San Francisco page for many fun activities to do there! We also really wanted to explore much of Marin County, however, we decided to skip this as well, knowing that we will get another opportunity to get back there. Click here for the link for my Marin County page. Here is what we did do:
Day 3 Map
Breakfast: Bagel Bakery
Point Lobos State Reserve
Chipotle (Westlake Shopping Center, Daly City)
Ocean Beach, SF (with Leslie’s pal)
Golden Gate National Rec Area (brief stop)
Lodging: Bodega Dunes CG
Grocery: Pelican Grocery & Deli
Bagel Bakery: This place was not exactly as I expected. We came here because we were looking for a quick breakfast sandwich and wanted to try a local spot. The reviews were kind of average and I would say the food was as well. It was quick which was nice but to me, it seemed like it was an average, overpriced breakfast sandwich. The menu is extravagant so I suppose you could have any breakfast sandwich you could imagine. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it (sorry to say). *TIP: Since this trip, we have gone to First Awakenings and The Club Room for breakfast. Both of which are sit down places but were absolutely delicious. The Club Room is at the Portola Hotel and overs an amazing buffet style breakfast ($19.95). We came to First Awakenings for lunch but it was fantastic and would certainly be delicious for breakfast if you have some extra time.
Point Lobos State Reserve: This is an extremely popular spot for hiking and exploring in Carmel-By-The-Sea. It costs $10 if you park inside but there is a ton of free parking on the street around the entrance and you can enter for free by foot. On this trip, we were pressed for time so we paid the $10 and parked near the trail for China Cove. We have been back here since then and I would recommend the street parking to save $10. It adds about a mile and a half to your hike though depending on where you go). China Cove is beautiful and I don’t think you should come here without seeing it. Otherwise, there are plenty of trails to explore beautiful coastal scenes. Both times we have been, there have been tables set up with folks educating visitors about the park.
Ocean Beach: This was a last-minute unexpected stop. This is also where it started getting cloudy and cold for pretty much the rest of the trip. We met up with Leslie’s old friend Amanda and walked quite a ways down this beach. All I remember was being freezing and wanting to get back to the car. It’s a huge beach with tons of fire pits and plenty of space to hang out.
Golden Gate National Recreation Area: I can’t say much about this place. We drove up about 3/4 of a mile to enjoy the view but we didn’t do any exploring here. Battery Spencer offers a great view from the North of the Golden Gate Bridge (it was closed during this visit). We plan to get back here and I will add more information (or make a separate post, which I will link here) once we are able to spend more time here!
*UPDATE* We did it! We have made it back there and spent a decent chunk of time there! CLICK HERE for my post on Marin County!
Golden Gate Nat. Rec Area
Bodega Dunes: When it comes to campgrounds I’m not familiar with,I always like to make a reservation, if possible. I just don’t want to risk potentially not having a spot! That was not necessary at this campground. Pretty much every spot was empty. The CG host was extremely nice. After settling in, we went to the Pelican Grocery & Deli to get some stuff for dinner. They had really good sandwiches and pasta salads. By the time we got back to the campground, it was pouring! Knowing we would only be at the campground for about 10 hours, we emptied out the back of the Element and slept in there. The most memorable part of the night was the rookie mistake we made. We left our cooler on the picnic table with Leslie’s leftover sandwich, some of the pasta salad, and a little bit of other food. When we woke up, the cooler was on the ground and everything EXCEPT THE ONIONS (and the sandwich packaging and tupperware) were gone! According to sources on google, bears don’t like onions. We are usually very good about where we store our cooler but did not think about it with downpour of rain & trying to rush to get back in the car.
DAY 4 Friday 04.07.17
Anywho – Friday’s plans were to get up to Eureka. From here on out, the weather was pretty cold and rainy! Here’s what we had planned for the day:
Bodega Head Trail: It was a cool & cloudy morning but the trail was empty! The trail offered a loop with incredible coastal views. It’s a pretty easy 1.7 mi loop. If you are staying near here, I would recommend it.
Ginochio’s Kitchen: If I remember correctly, I thought it was delicious but Leslie was kind of unhappy with her order (but I liked her order!). It was a short drive and in a cool location near the water. It’s a very small place and gives the family-run vibe (not sure if it is or not). I got the breakfast burrito. They also have a great-looking lunch menu.
Mendocino Headlands State Park: After the 100 mile drive from breakfast to here, we were ready to get out of the car. It was still pretty cold and it had been raining off and on. It was more of a drizzle the whole time we were here. This is a free State Park and I didn’t notice much guidance of what to do. We found a few different places to park and walked out towards the different spots for coastal views. It’s very a scenic and peaceful area. We spotted some very large sea lions lounging around. As the rain started to pick up, we got back in the car for a very short drive over to our spot for lunch.
Goodlife Cafe and Bakery: I’m 99% sure we both ordered panini’s with a side of soup (perfect for the cold and rainy day) and 100% sure that whatever we ordered was delicious and satisfying. It’s an oder-at-the-counter style restaurant. There is one tiny little bathroom. The windows outside face the main street. Mendocino is a very cool town with plenty of shops and restaurants and a great place to walk around. Even with the rain, we walked up and down the main street (it’s not very long) before heading back in the car and heading off to Glass Beach.
Glass Beach: I don’t remember how I originally heard of Glass Beach but it was one of the must-see places on this trip. I was really looking forward to trying to get some cool photographs showing off the beach’s “glass sand.” The rain started coming down a little harder by the time we got here and I let the challenge get the best of me. It was also getting to be a little later in the day and we still had a 3 hour drive to Eureka for our Airbnb. Photo’s or not, it was so cool to see what looked like glass from broken beer bottles all over the beach.
Eureka: The rain continued. It was another rainy night in Eureka. Our airbnb was actually for a tent in a guys backyard. He also had a pop-up trailer that no one had reserved for the night so he let us upgrade to that for $10 extra in cash. It was a neat Airbnb. There was an outdoor shower, an outdoor (but covered) utility sink with coffee/tea and a 1/2 bath in the garage. For dinner, we walked 1/4 mile from the home to Babe’s Pizza for the buffet style salad bar. With so much eating out so far in the week, we were ready for something healthy. *UPDATE: After living in Eureka for 2 months in Aug-Sept 2017, we learned the Babe’s is a popular spot and the locals love it.
DAY 5 Saturday 04.08.17
The final day of the trip! With the way the weather had been and after 5 days on the road and a new job for us to start on Monday, we were about ready for it to end. We found 1 Redwood hike that we were very excited about (and it was awesome). We planned for lunch somewhere in Crescent City and then off to Reedsport!
Damnation Creek Trail: We almost missed it. We drove by it once, realizing we went too far and then got it on the second try. The parking lot is just a pull-off on the side of the highway. So you don’t miss it, here are the coordinates – 41.648110, -124.113133. There are some signs that you can see but you won’t see them til after you park! This is a 4 mile round trip trail that begins winding through the redwoods and ends at the beach – what more could you ask for??? *TIP: The harder part of the hike is on the way back. You will mostly descend on the way out and ascend on the way back! – #totallyworthit
Damnation Creek Trail
we pulled off in a parking lot once we entered Crescent City googling a ton of places trying to figure out where to go. We ended up deciding on this place because of it’s location and reviews. Sometimes we go out to eat somewhere and I just really like a place. That happened here. Part of it was because it was the first sunny day we had since San Francisco! But also, the food was very good and whatever beer I ordered was delicious. It was the first time on the whole trip that I ordered fish & chips. I had been wanting them the whole trip and it was worth the wait, as they were delicious here. If we come back to Crescent City for a meal, I won’t hesitate to return here.
Fish & Chips
Reedsport: It was time for the homestretch. 3 and a half hours til we get to our new home for the next 3 months. We drove straight through with 1 quick stop for full-service gas in Oregon (which was a law at the time). The law that patrons cannot pump their own gas ended beginning in 2018. The first store we saw as you enter Oregon from California was a pot-shop as well. Although, I suppose now that rec-marijuana is legal in CA, that store may not be doing as well. Reedsport is a tiny town with a population of about 4,000. It was fun living there for a while!