Jul 13, 2016


There are so many incredible parts of California to explore that you could live there for a year and still not see them all I'm sure of it. After our month long stint in Venice, we borrowed a mate's Ford Mustang (of course) and shifted gears outta the city life and into dirt mountains, rocky crests, aqua waters and a slower pace of life. 

Here are a few of my fav's from our second month in Cali, on the road.


Big Sur and Highway 1

This is a must see. Even if you only have a weekend free, head from LA north to Highway 1 and don't stop (much) until you get to Big Sur (if you have longer than a weekend, by all means, stop everywhere!).
>> For an epic itinerary of Highway 1 from San Diego all the way to San Fransisco, check out VisitCalifornia.com. The entire coast line is gorgeous and we've done it all, but for the purpose of this snippet, I'm sticking to Big Sur for you.

If it's peak season, you will need to book ahead big time! If it's off season and mid-week, you'll find a place to stay. But it also depends on your budget. On one occasion when accomodation was tight, we found what was probably the cabin available, and it was $395US... we politely declined. Drove north until we hit the other end of Big Sur, and stayed there.
Just north is Carmel which is the prettiest little seaside town. Again, not cheap in peak season. Try one town further in Monetery where accomodation is much cheaper, but not as pretty. We found a camping ground that was epic and $15 a night in Monterey. From here, you can still drive in and out of Big Sur each day if you wish.

Now, pre-warning here, yes some of these places can be tourist-y, and off-the-beaten-track-type may want to avoid them, but they are popular for a reason. They are freaking magical!! Or a bloody damn tasty spot to eat damn fine food. Remember, you're likely hours from civilisation so what's an extra half hour to see what you came here for? Moving on...

Big Sur Bakery

Food first right! This place is known as the "famous Big Sur Bakery". So of course, me on my foodie adventures, had to get here. We rocked up 20 minutes before they opened at 8am and we were 2 of 14 people already waiting to get first dibs on the pastries that are to die for! Their almond croissant has to be the best I have ever had! And I've eaten them across the globe, including Paris, so you can believe me when I say this.
Grab a couple to share, sit in the sun and enjoy. every. little. bite... or opt for takeaway and go sit by the creek 5mins north (see below). Oh and grab a bag of their macaroons for the car trip. You'll be happy you did later on. You can eat here all day with a more formal egg-style brekkie, lunches and dinners, but we just got baked goods and bailed!

TIP >> Don't pay $6US for a coffee here unless you're dying for a espresso-style-milky-mocha. Drive 5mins north to the River Inn for an organic drip coffee that tastes even better, will set you back $2US, and eat your pastries there.

Big Sur Bakery, 47540 Highway 1, Big Sur, CA 93920, (831) 667-0520, bigsurbakery.com

Almond croissant + BACON PASTRY! It was insanely good. 2 other pastries bought not shown here ;)

Big Sur River Inn

Pretty much smack in the middle of it all, whether you realise it or not you'll likely stop here to stretch your legs, grab a bite or a drink, relax in the fresh air, or use a bathroom. This is my favourite place to stop on the entire length of the highway through Big Sur. There's something unexplainable about the air here and I am transported there with a smile on my face every time I think about it :)

TIP >> Grab a take away coffee from the convenience store next to the cafe for $2 (it's ORGANIC!) and walk down the back to the creek and perch your bum on a wooden chair sitting in the ankle deep water and just chill (with your pastry from Big Sur Bakery). Breathe. Take it all in. It's fucking magic here. And on weekends there's live music, kids swimming, people everywhere, the buzz is palpable.

McWay Falls

Easily and most likely the most recognisable image of all of Big Sur, is McWay Falls. 

It should be (and likely is) seen by every traveller along Highway 1. You can't really miss it and you come around a corner, and bam, there's cars everywhere and there you see this breath-taking view. So go on, park the car, get off your butt and go check em out for real! There's a little trail to get you to where this picture can be taken, and it will take you about 3 minutes to get there! Enjoy :)

McWay Falls, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Image from here

Esalen Institute

Not many people know about this but I first heard of it when I saw Lissa Rankin speak about her mid-life crisis and she came here to "heal" - in naked hot baths with strangers. But when you mention Esalen to any health-wise, spiritual-types in LA, I was still surprised how few had heard of it. But I suppose that's the magik of it. Think of it like the grandaddy to all holistic retreat spaces.

"Esalen is more than a retreat center or an educational institute. Anchored by the inspiring beauty of Big Sur and an unparalleled intellectual history, Esalen is a world-wide network of seekers who look beyond dogma to explore deeper spiritual possibilities; forge new understandings of self and society; and pioneer new paths for change."

If anyone has heard of it though, they usually know of the hot baths and naked people. And it's because unless you are booked in to stay here during a workshop or retreat, the only way to get in here is between 1-3am (by appointment only) as a public visitor, strip down naked, and sit in the tubs. And it's well worth it. These spring-fed baths are something of a California landmark, and rightly so—there is something absolutely magical about soaking under the moonlight with the sound of the ocean crashing below you.

Luckily for us though, through friends we got a day pass. So we lay, we soaked, we ate, we drifted into naps, we walked, we meditated, we soaked again... And vowed to come back next time and stay an entire week.

Esalen Institute, 55000 Highway 1, Big Sur, CA, 93920, 888-837-2536 esalen.org

Image from Esalen.org These are where the hot baths are located. 

Carmel + Point Lobos State Reserve

Long considered the “crown jewel” of the California State Park system, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is a magnet for nature lovers the world around. From its breathtaking beauty to its fascinating wildlife to its friendly and knowledgeable volunteers, Point Lobos is a place where one can escape to the serenity of nature at its best... and see penguins!!

This felt like a scene from The Wizard Of Oz


Deep Creek Hot Springs

Apparently no-one knows about this unless you're a local. Lucky for us, a friend who's been living in LA for 3 years told us about it. And now I'm telling you. So there we go. Not so secret anymore.
If you love feeling like you're in the middle of nowhere, camping without ammenities, and swimming in fresh water creeks alongside hot spring baths and are not afraid of hiking, this is the place for you! Brock goes crazy if he is in a city for too long (me, less so) and this was the perfect antidote.

Get there early for a $5US/per person day fare, or pay $10US/per person to camp overnight. From where you park the car, you've got at least a 30 min hike down to where you can swim, chill, read your book you've been putting off for far too long, eat the picnic you packed, etc.
Coming back up, you're looking at 30-60 minutes due to the incline and the fact that you are so blissed out you can't be f#*ked!

When we camped here in June, we arrived at about 5pm, and got straight into swimmers and hiked on down for a late afternoon dip before the sun went down. It was pure bliss and a great way to get moving after a day in the car. As night fell, it was super windy and bloody cold though. We built a fire (when I say we, I mean Brock), ate our eggs and veggies we had with us, probably dark chocolate too, and bunkered down as best we could trying to hide from the wind.

The following day was spent by the creek until we decided to head off to Joshua Tree.

TIP >> Take EVERYTHING you need in with you. Extra water. Foods and snacks. Even toilet paper. Don't drive a precious car. Most of the road here is dirt and bumpy! If you don't have GPs, don't bother trying. And if you're heading to Joshua Tree after here, take the same road back to the nearest town first, and then head off. Otherwise your GPS wants to take you what looks like a shorter route (only by 15 minutes) but all roads are dirt. And designed for 4WD car only. And there are no street signs. And every dirt road looks the same. And the GPS will keep telling you to take a left turn over the train tracks when you cannot. Head back and go from there.

Joshua Tree National Park

The Lion King. I'm not joking. Seriously, that is all I have to describe this indescribable place. Sure I could say there's lots of mad rocks, cactus, dirt and that's about it, but that is not even close to how special this place is. You have to feel it for yourself.

In stark contrast to Deep Creek Springs, we were so warm here we didn't put the cover on our tent and barely had blankets on top of us. Again, bring everything you need, however this place is still pretty close to civilisation and stores if you need. There are toilets and coal-BBQs here but no showers.

Oh and watch your foot outside the tent. Magpies and coyotes hang around at night. I told you, just like the Lion King!

Image from here

Image from here



This lace felt like home for many reasons ~ we were so warmly welcomed in to people's lives and homes, the health scene here is similar to that of Venice and Sant Monica, although much more chilled beachy vibes here. It's kinda like Sydney Northern Beaches, whereas Santa Monica could be related to Bondi.

Epic organic foodie spots, long beautiful beaches, and super friendly locals. If you're a beach lover who prefers chillaxed vibes, this is the stretch for you.

Torrey Pines

Super close to La Jolla, this small section is right where hang-gliders and parachuters and small planes take off from. Besides it there is an epically steep dirt track down to the beach offering great views, and it must be a love of many locals, as to me it was gorgeous, but also so non-descript. However everyone we met asked if we went there! So perhaps it's a must on any road trip south of LA. 

Ocean Beach

I actually think it was a tiny beach next to what the locals refer to as OB, where we found this perfect little cafe serving cold drip coffee, green juices, an epic brekkie menu, and wifi (although it was pretty shit so not recommended if you need to do work). There is a drive along the cliff here that is gorgeous. I'm sure you could walk it as well but we had overcast chilly weather so decided against it. A great place to surf too!

San Diego

Of course! No trip south is complete with getting here. A mate of ours from New Zealand lives there now so we stayed with him multiple times in his apartment smack in the middle of DownTown. Obviously, we saw alot of the city which isn't our favourite place to explore usually, but it was pretty cool. We did venture around and across to Coronado (island) for a Sunday beach sesh with friends which as magical! Especially after being in the city - not too dissimilar to Sydney city. And then you drive into what feels like Sydney Northern Beaches or Orange County, California... it's just like "White America" if I can use that term. I loved it!

We explored Little Italy and the Old Town as well - where the best Mexican restaurant is and I highly highly recommend! It's called Cafe Coyote and has been there for over 15 years. It's gotta be the biggest restaurant I've ever been in! The margheritas are amazing! The pulled pork is delicious. And you can easily opt for salad over rice and beans if your carb intake is becoming too much (as it can at times whilst travelling)

No matter which road you take, any road will do in California. Enjoy your travels.

No comments:

Post a Comment