An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast Highway

Windswept + Wild: The Sun Sets on Our California Trip

The bulk of our trip to California last month was spent where we’re both the happiest: by the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea.

An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast Highway

On the second to last day in the Golden State, after we’d logged our time in Santa Cruz on the boardwalk, SVV and I set off south along the coast. Two of our dear friends, Justin and Lyndi, were also in town from Nashville for the Big Sur Marathon. We figured this was the perfect excuse to meet them in Pacific Grove for the afternoon and an even better excuse to go in search of some wildlife en route.

An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast Highway

An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast Highway
An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast Highway

As we neared Moss Landing, we pulled over to take some photos. After turning away from the beach to head back down the Pacific Coast Highway, we saw a cluster of photographers shooting down into the bay.

Pro tip: If you spot a smattering of long lenses all hovering in one spot, you should always pull over.

An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast Highway

It was OTTERS, y’all! Lots and lots of cuddly, playful, couldn’t-be-cuter otters. There were a solid 50 of them, maybe more, sunbathing and frolicking in the placid waters. I suddenly wished I traveled with a long lens, cumbersome though it may be.

An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast Highway

From there, we rushed on to Pacific Grove to make it in time to see our friends before they had to take off in the opposite direction.

An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast Highway

After a late lunch and toast to Justin’s 26.2-mile victory at Victorian Corner—the staff of whom were super friendly and accommodating when we technically arrived a half hour after food was being served—we each went our separate ways: them to Big Sur and us just around the corner to Lovers’ Point.

An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast Highway

An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast Highway
An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast Highway
An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast Highway

An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast Highway

I’m not going to sugar-coat things: It was freezing. We barely stayed longer than a minute in any one stop as we didn’t arrive equipped with down coats (OK, the California native, SVV did; I, on the other hand, did not).

An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast Highway

We drove to the edge of the rocky town where the iconic 17-Mile Drive begins north of Pebble Beach before the sinking sun and the biting wind steered us back home for a final night with the VV clan.

An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast Highway

The following day, on our very last morning on Santa Cruz, we killed a couple hours in town checking out the murals, enjoying the warmth (finally!) and doing what we do best: brunch and photo shoots.

An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast Highway

An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast Highway

An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast Highway
An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast Highway

An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast HighwayThen, it was off up the PCH yet again! The best part about staying in Santa Cruz, hands down, is the easy access to so many deserted beaches and quaint coastal communities within an hour’s drive in either direction.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: Don’t waste your time on Santa Cruz’s Main Beach. Instead, escape the masses and enjoy the clean surrounds of Natural Bridges or Seabright or even Capitola if you’re staying in Santa Cruz proper.
An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast Highway

An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast Highway

We were flying out of SFO, so this time we drove north—back up to San Francisco, slowly and methodically, stopping at even more coastal viewpoints that we missed on the way down.

An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast Highway

It was still windy as Hell and tough to stand without being blown five feet, let alone set up the tripod and ND filter and take a shot on a 20-second exposure, and yet, we persevered, making pit stops in Pescadero and Año Nuevo.

An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast Highway

Instead of arriving in the city via Highway 1, we cut over at Highway 84 in San Gregorio to make our way through the towering redwood forests surrounding La Honda and Woodside.

An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast Highway

An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast Highway
An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast Highway

An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast Highway

An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast Highway

Once we finally made it to San Francisco, it was late afternoon and we just had time for a brief drive through our old stomping grounds Pacific Heights, which I think offer the best views of the city.

An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast Highway

Local’s tip: Skip Lombard  and head up Divisadero or Scott Street in the direction of Crissy Field, and the entire city will unfold in front of you, both to your north and your east. In late afternoon, there are no better views of the city.

An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast Highway

From there, we went to an old favorite, B-Star Bistro, with my good friends Trina and Autumn before making it out to Sutro Baths just in time to watch the sun set.

An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast Highway

An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast Highway
An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast Highway

An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast Highway

Then, we moved down the road a bit to Ocean Beach where the sands were shifting dramatically as if we’d teleported to the Sahara.

An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast Highway

An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast Highway
An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast Highway

An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast Highway

We drove back through the city and over into Berkeley for our final night at Hotel Shattuck Plaza before a 3am wake-up time to our next destination—but not before stopping on Treasure Island to see San Francisco’s illuminated skyline in all her skyline glory.

An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast Highway

Our time in California was all-too brief—just under five days, though once every other year is about all my waistline (and wallet) can take, to be honest—and we were on the go the entire time, but I’d say we accomplished a lot, wouldn’t you?

An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast Highway

An Iconic Road Trip Down the Pacific Coast Highway

COMMENTS
  • May 20, 2016

    Santa Barbara looks awesome!

    • May 24, 2016

      Sadly, we didn’t make it to SB on this trip, though it is one of my favorite cities in California!

  • May 20, 2016

    I like what you’re doing with your photography when you’re taking shots of the sea! The first pic is particularly beautiful!
    Dominique recently posted..Staelduinse Bos – Bat Route 3,5kmMy Profile

    • May 24, 2016

      Thank you, Dominique! We hadn’t gotten the filters out in ages so were a little rusty, but it was fun =)

  • May 20, 2016
    Britt

    As a new NorCal resident (East Sac suburbs), these Cali posts have totally jam packed my weekend getaway list! Love it – thanks!

    (long time lurker, first time commenter, btw. Big fan of the blog!)

    • May 20, 2016

      I love to hear that! Nice to “meet” you, Britt—my in-laws actually live in the East Sac suburbs (Fair Oaks, Citrus Heights and Cameron Park). I hope you love it there. So close to Tahoe (jealous)!

      • May 23, 2016
        Britt

        Oh awesome- I work in Citrus Heights and live in Roseville! I have a ton of exploring to do as a FL transplant, and Tahoe is a big one on the list. I’ve been snowboarding there, but nothing more. Between the mountains and the Bay Area and everything in between, I should be kept nice and busy.

        • May 24, 2016

          Very cool! You’re in the sunny part, which is a huge plus over the Bay Area 😉 One thing I never did, though, in all my trips to Sac was to go to the Jelly Belly Factory! #fail

  • May 25, 2016

    Gorgeous photos! My last trip to SF was last year in March and it was gorgeous…every other time, though….freezing!
    Leigh | Campfires & Concierges recently posted..Angkor Wat by BicycleMy Profile

  • May 28, 2016

    Thanks for Sharing Technical information and importance of Blog..

  • June 2, 2016

    Nothing could give one such a peaceful feeling better than the sea, particularly when there’s no crowd around you and it’s not the high season. Nobody is around and you have the nature all for yourself.

    I like the landscape photos on this post. Thanks for sharing them.
    Rahman @ Destination Iran recently posted..Khoresht Gheimeh, A Simple Persian Food to MakeMy Profile

  • June 19, 2016

    thanks for sharing important useful tips.
    Kiron Saha recently posted..Advanced SEO Training center DhakaMy Profile

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