a slow road trip in // california

photo: visit california


For the second article in our new slow road trips series, we're taking a journey to California to discuss one of the most iconic road journeys in the world. Taking in a diverse landscape of sun-drenched beaches, national parks, scorched desert and coastal highways, there's such a wide array of options available when it comes to driving around the Golden State that it can become overwhelming. To get the most out of your journey, take things slow on Highway One.


photo: columnm


california's highway one

Stretching from San Francisco in the north to Los Angeles in the south, Highway One is one of the most well driven and well loved of all America's classic road trips.

Plan for at least seven days to ensure that you see everything without feeling rushed, or take your time and spread the journey out over a couple of weeks, allowing for detours or extended time in your favourite destinations. Passing through two of the most exciting cities in the States, a scattering of vibrant small towns and some of the most dramatic beaches on the west coast, you'll get a good glimpse of the diversity of the Californian landscape.


photo: vagabond 3


san francisco to santa cruz

Start your trip by spending a few days in 'the city by the bay', soaking up the atmosphere and ticking off all of the tourist hot-spots. Walk over the Golden Gate Bridge, visit the sea lions at Fisherman's Wharf, take a boat trip out to Alcatraz, and relive the swinging sixties at Haight-Ashbury.

If you're a hardened urbanite, ensure that you get your fill of big city life, as your next stop, the relaxed beach town of Santa Cruz, is significantly smaller. En route, stop off at Half Moon Bay to admire the view and snap a few photos. Santa Cruz is likened to mid-century America, with its old school boardwalk and surfer-centric culture, making it the ideal destination for spending a few frivolous fun-fuelled days before getting back on the road.


photo: rtbevent

monterey to carmel

The scenic drive down the coast to Monterey Bay offers numerous opportunities for stopping to admire the view and perhaps even the glance to glimpse a whale breaching. Whilst in Monterey, make time to visit the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, where you can relax in the company of glowing jellyfish and watch penguins feeding.

Driving south, stop off in Carmel to admire the quiet white sand beaches before embarking on a slight detour to view the sights of the scenic 17-mile drive. It may deter from your journey south, but this short trip around the peninsula offers chances to spot seals and sea lions in the wild, and to stumble across secluded beaches.


big sur

Journeying past a seemingly never-ending stretch of spectacular coastline, you will eventually come across one of the most photographed bridges in the States, Bixby Bridge. This marks the beginning of Big Sur, and a 90-mile route lined with spectacular cliffs and rugged bays. You'll want to take your time over this stretch of road, stopping intermittently at view points to admire the scenery, take photographs and unwind on unspoiled beaches.

Don't miss Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and the awe-inspiring sight of McWay Falls crashing down into the ocean, the Henry Miller Memorial Library for an insight into the Beat Generation, and the natural hot spring baths at the Esalen Institute. 


photo: another breed of kat


santa ynez valley

Wind your way down the coast, past the unexpected wonder of Hearst Castle and find yourself in wine country in the Santa Ynez Valley. The perfect place to slow down, unwind and sample the local grapes, this region is rife with wineries, vineyards, rolling hills and wine tours. Made famous by the 2004 filmSideways, the area offers a selection of limestone chateaus where you can take a break from the road and spend a few days relaxing and drinking California's finest wines.


photo: travel smart blog


los angeles 

You're now on the home stretch of your trip, and heading towards one of the biggest and most bustling cities in the whole of America. LA can seem daunting for first-timers, but if you know where to go, there are relaxing little pockets of the city to discover. Drive through Malibu admiring the beaches, before driving through Topanga Canyon and admiring the view out over the San Fernando Valley.

Once you arrive in the city itself, seek out Silver Lake to unwind with the local crowd, take a hike up to the Griffith Observatory to admire the views over the city, and enjoy the Beverly Hot Springs natural mineral water bathhouse to relax after your trip. 


photo: the la travel guide
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