American Roadtrip | California – Driving the Pacific Coast Highway

After a beautiful few days in San Francisco we were back in the car and were planning to take a few days to drive the Pacific Coast Highway down to Los Angeles.

I’m sure most are aware how foggy and misty San Francisco can get around the bay but we were lucky to have three days of stunning, clear, warm weather while we were there. So when we headed south, out of the city, we were wondering why it was so hazy. It didn’t really seem like fog but it certainly wasn’t clear. Out of the city limits we stopped to get some supplies for the trip and a picnic lunch and we learnt of the Californian wildfires north of San Fran and down in LA. As Logan drove, I searched for more information on the fires and sadly we began to learn how extensive they were and hence why we could see the haze of the smoke.

California Wildfires Nov 2018 Map
Californian Wildfires of November 2018. Source: Google

Day One

The Pacific Coast Highway or State Route 1 (SR 1) is so often featured on lists such as “best drives or road trips” and we soon began to experience why, with some incredible coastal scenery laid out beside us.

It was very hard not to stop all the time but we waited until lunch and stopped in at San Gregorio State Beach (B)San Gregorio State Beach_California_AmericaAnother break along the way and a leg stretch at Pigeon Point Lighthouse (C)Pigeon Point Lighthouse_California_AmericaAccommodation for the night was at Super 8 by Wyndham Santa Cruz (see our Wyndham Properties review here) and we headed out in the evening to see the longest pier on the west coast at 836.68m in length.Santa Cruz_California_AmericaRoadtrip Map 7

Day Two

We continued south and the winds had changed, they were pushing the smoke from the wildfires out towards the coast, but nonetheless there was more stunning scenery as we cruised along.

First stop today was the fantastic engineering feat of Bixby Creek Bridge (B) and then a quick stop just down the road a bit near Point Sur Lighthouse (C). You can see just how poor the visibility was.Bixby Creek Bridge_California_AmericaWe found a nice view-point for lunch and then continued on until stopping at San Simeon and the elephant seal rookery (D).San Simeon elephant seal rookery_Pacific Coast Highway_California_AmericaAccommodation for the night was at Days Inn by Wyndham Santa Maria.Roadtrip Map 8

Day Three

Our plan was to take the Pacific Coast Highway all the way down to Malibu and Santa Monica and into LA but with the wildfires we drove as far south as Ventura and then headed towards Santa Clarita and then down into Hollywood.

Santa Barbara Pier_California_America
Santa Barbara (B)

We didn’t stop too many times during this days travel, the smoke and haze was getting more prominent as we got closer to the Los Angeles fires. The last stretch along the coast by Ventura (C) was very pretty and we could see many RV’s and campers parked up. We stopped at Ventura for lunch before heading off Highway 1 and inland due to the road closures.

Accommodation for the night was at Super 8 by Wyndham Hollywood/LA Area and wow, this was a real eye opener. This area was very seedy and we saw numerous sights and sounds that raised our eyebrows and kept us on our guard.Roadtrip Map 9

Day Four

We woke up excited as today we would be finally heading to Anaheim to start our Disney experience, but first we still had a couple of things we wanted to tick off the tourist list around Los Angeles  First stop, the Hollywood Walk of Fame…. well how underwhelming and disappointing. I’m not really sure what I was expecting but this area was easily one of the most uncomfortable places I have been over my lifetime. It was dirty and there were vagabonds everywhere, often shouting at each other (or themselves), evidence of drug use and a strange odour in the air which was probably a mix of a few things. We walked down a few parts of the “stars” near the Capitol Records building but didn’t stick around for too long. It certainly did not have any glitz and glamour that the name “Hollywood’ was built on. But as Logan and I said to each other, Hollywood isn’t actually where any of the celebrities live or even really work.Hollywood Walk of Fame_California_AmericaNext up we headed up some narrow, windy and horribly maintained roads to try to get a good pic of the Hollywood sign. The people who live around this area must absolutely loath all tourists but I guess the sign was there before they moved in. It was erected in 1923 as a billboard for an upscale “Hollywoodland” real estate development. After the rise of American cinema in Los Angeles the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce began a contract in 1949 with the City of Los Angeles Parks Department to repair and rebuild the sign. However, the contract stipulated that “land” be removed to now just spell “Hollywood” and reflect the district, not the housing development.Hollywood Sign_California_AmericaSo from those interesting experiences I just had to see what all the fuss of Rodeo Drive was about. Logan and the boys dropped me off as there is not really anywhere to pull over, even for a few quick pics, and we certainly don’t have the right connections or bank balance to stop traffic. So they parked up at the nearby Beverly Gardens Park while I walked up and down Rodeo Drive taking photos and looking very out-of-place in my shorts, singlet and jandals.Rodeo Drive_California_AmericaAfter a picnic lunch in the park we headed out to the coast and Santa Monica Pier.As we suspected, another tourist trap with overpriced entertainment and food but something we won’t wonder about any longer or feel the need to revisit.Santa Monica Pier_California_AmericaIf San Francisco was one city that we would go back to, then Los Angeles is definitely one I have no desire to. After all the stunning scenery along the coast I would loved to have continued on, but for now, we had a much anticipated date with Disney!!

Average Daily Spend for 4 nights – $273.65 NZD ($13.85 under budget per day)

– Paula

 

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