Following our day in Yosemite, we drove across to Santa Cruz. This was a mammoth drive that took around 7 hours. If I had had more time, I would definitely have liked to have split this drive across two days but we decided to use our time on the coast. When we FINALLY arrived in Santa Cruz, we were so exhausted that we decided a night in our motel room with a Chinese takeaway was the only option for the evening! 

After our night in, we woke up ready to explore Santa Cruz. We had heard great things about the Beach Boardwalk so that’s exactly where we headed. Unfortunately it was a Saturday so everyone else seemed to be heading there too! Traffic was bad but it was worth it. The Boardwalk was so much fun!  

 There were lots of carnival rides and games and food stands. It was such a great atmosphere. I would highly recommend it and I would love to go again!  


After a few hours at the Carnival we headed to Carmel-by-the-Sea, a beautiful coastal town. It is such a cute little place and I would definitely recommend a visit. I think it would be perfect for a weekend getaway, with the cute small town feel and the selection of nice restaurants and wine bars. When we were there, a lot of things seemed to be closed because it was half way between lunch and dinner so we weren’t able to get anything. We were happy just wandering around, but it’s something to bear in mind. There were also quite a lot of shops on the Main Street, although a few of these seemed to be quite pricey – I think it’s quite an affluent area.  



We were staying in Monterey that night, so after a stroll around Carmel, we headed back there. It’s only about 10 minutes on the Freeway, so Carmel is a perfect day trip from there.

When we were planning our trip, Monterey was one of the places that we were constantly encouraged to go to, but I have to say that I didn’t really understand why. We had a lovely meal at the Wharf, but beyond that I couldn’t really see why everyone talks about it. Maybe I missed something crucial – I didn’t go to the famous aquarium so maybe that was part of the issue. I would definitely chose Santa Cruz over Monterey if I was looking for a stopover at the north end of the Big Sur.   

The Big Sur

From Monterey we headed down the Big Sur. It’s only about 70 miles, so it’s easy to do the whole thing in one day but be warned – you will want to stop every 2 minutes to take more photos! It is so beautiful. We stopped at Bixby Bridge and Seal Beach and lots of other random viewpoints.  

   We decided to miss the McWay Falls and San Simeon. This was mainly for timing reasons – we wanted to get to our next location in enough time to explore there. If I do the drive again, I will make a point of going to the McWay Falls, which I have heard great things about, but I’m not sure I would bother with San Simeon – I am always sceptical of European reproductions – but maybe I will hear something about it to change my mind!

Santa Barbara

At the end of the Big Sur, we continued along the Pacific Coast Highway, or Highway 1 as it’s also known, to get to Santa Barbara. This was one place I didn’t know much about before we set off, but I really liked it. It was very Spanish in its style – even down to the street names – and I liked it a lot. I think I would like to go there again in the future, maybe as a day trip from LA, as it’s under two hours away.  

The next post in this series is about my four days in Los Angeles.