Ojai 23rd to 24th August ( Santa Barbara area)
This is going to be a controversial statement as I know it’s a popular place but we didn’t stay in Santa Barbara on this trip as I’m not a huge fan (I’ve been a few times, including April last year). In my opinion it’s great for shopping and a spot of lunch but there are far greater beaches along the coast which are more affordable. We looked at staying but even a 1* motel6 was $300 a night! The architecture, food and wine in the area are great but it’s more fun to go off the beaten track. We ended up staying in a town called Ojai which was around half an hour drive from Santa Barbara, it was stunning and I’m so pleased we did. It had similar archetecture but was more polished (not as many rough sleepers) lots of cute shops, restaurants, the best supermarket I have ever been in and a few bars which played live music.
Our accommodation (Caravan Outpost) blew our socks off and I would definitely recommend this place, especially if you are travelling with kids. As you can tell by the name we stayed in a caravan but this was a super cool airstream , the camp is made up of 9 airstream caravans and 1 converted trailer. They have all the mod cons including air con, fully functioning kitchen, shower & toilet and a record player. Each one has it’s own name and personality, ours was called Yeti. The camp itself is beautiful with a general store and bikes that you can take out. We cycled into town along the safe cycle paths, stopped for a drink, picked up food to cook for dinner and the kids had a play in the local play park. If you are thinking of going this summer I would book this place quickly at only $179 a night it was a steal!
We only stayed here one night which was enough as the town is pretty small but definitely one I’d add to the list if you are in the planning stages. We left here and headed towards the coast stopping at the strangest town on route called Solvang. I wouldn’t stay here overnight, a quick drink or some lunch is enough. The town is very unique, it is a mini Denmark! From the architecture to the food the whole place is Danish, we wandered around for about an hour before getting bored and jumping back in the car. One fact about Solvang is that it is one of the most popular destinations for Japanese tourists!
Morro Bay 24th – 25th August
This place is breathtaking! The second you arrive you automatically become relaxed, the sea air and the wildlife just does something to you. We had never heard of Morro Bay before and took a punt booking this area, I am soo pleased we did. It is a beautiful fishing town full of seafood restaurants and bustling bars. We only stayed here one night but I could have easily done two as I was just so chilled. After we checked in to our hotel (Blue Sail Inn) we went straight down to one of the bars, the kids were happy as it had an arcade, they played and I sat with a glass of wine watching Otters and Seals swim around in the wild!! We ate dinner at the most popular restaurant (Dorns), the clam chowder is a must but a word of warning…if you go for a main course fish and chips it’s big enough for two. In the morning we got up early and booked a whale watching trip, this was a bucket list experience and I cried real tears when the first humpback came out of the water. They cannot guarantee you will see any but we saw 12 on our trip, it was the best experience ever! (It is cold in this area so make sure you have jeans and jumpers ready)
Santa Cruz 25th – 28th
The drive from Morro Bay takes you through the scenic Big Sur, without a doubt the most beautiful road in the world. Make sure you make a stop off at Piedras Blancas beach which is home to hundreds of Elephant Seals, you cannot walk on the beach but there is a platform you can stand on and take it all in, we stood here for ages laughing at these huge creatures.
We chose to stay in Santa Cruz as it was a more affordable option and use this as our base to visit Monterey and Carmel. If I could go back I may have added one night in one of the scenic Inns along Big Sur but at the time we booked they were all full. Make a pit stop at Nepanthe for lunch, the view and atmosphere is fab, the gift shop is pretty special to.
Santa Cruz itself is a buzzing beach town, it is a little rough around the edges but the kids enjoyed it, especially as they found a gaming cafe! A month away from their computers started to take it’s toll so this was a welcome attraction. There is a huge beach, amusements park, a wildlife centre and some fab shops. An attraction in Santa Cruz which is a must is The Mystery Spot, its only $8 per person and is a funny experience, like something from the twilight zone, you’ll only need a couple of hours for this.
We headed back on ourselves when leaving Santa Cruz and headed to Montery as the Aquarium was on our must see list, I’m glad we did as it was incredible. Make sure you leave yourself a full day as there is soo much to see and do. We left Montery before the sun went down as we were desperate to pass through Carmel in daylight, this place is like a chocolate box town and I wish I had a spare $25 million to buy a house there! It is extremely expensive but safe, clean and the sand on the beach is the softest I have ever walked on. Clint Eastwood was once the mayor of Carmel, he still lives there and now and owns Mission Ranch, he did own The Hogs Breath Inn but sold it to a close family friend
San Francisco 28th – 30th August
Our final stop on this incredible adventure, two more nights back where we started in San Francisco. We treated ourselves to a 5 star hotel booked through Mr & Mrs Smith I touched on this in my first blog post (here) We had no plans and spent our last days wandering the hills, eating ice cream and reflecting back on memories which will last us a lifetime. We let the kids pick the final dinner and they unanimously went for meatballs, we found the best place called Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack, it is an uber ride away but the food was legendary, the music was on point and they even had a pinball machine and Photo Booth, the perfect way to capture the last night in California.
If you are thinking of planning a trip like this but are worried about the cost, all I can say is that we don’t live in a big house, we don’t have loads of expendable cash but we saved up for a long time and I wouldn’t change a thing. We often sit at the dinner table and recount our favourite parts, laughing and almost crying with joy as these were the best moments that will stay with us a lifetime.
I hope you have enjoyed reading the road trip series. If you have any questions at all please do let me know as I will be happy to help. Now we need to start thinking of where we are going to go on our next adventure!