A drive up the California Coast is on traveller’s wish lists around the world, and we meet quite a few people on our DTLA bike tours doing just that. Sadly most people make the same mistake of not allotting enough time to truly do the US 1 right.
Ideally taking 3 or 4 nights between L.A. and San Francisco is perfect, but most people think they can do it in a day. Trying to do the coast in a day is just going to leave you disappointed having to whiz by so many potential stops. At the very least plan for 1-2 nights, Cambria or Big Sur being one of them, and perhaps Los Olivos/Solvang, or Carmel/Monterey.
The wine country around Los Olivos is some of the most beautiful Steinbeck, with rolling hills, cute little towns and great wine, without the Napa traffic jams. Just after Santa Barbara, take the San Marcos Pass rt 157 up into the mountains, stop off at Cold Spring Tavern; then head to the tasting rooms of Los Olivos, or take a ride through Foxen Canyon and stop at a winery. On your way back to the 101, Solvang is a gingerbread Danish town worth a stop for some baked goods.
DO NOT MISS the Hearst Castle, make reservations a few weeks in advance, you’ll never see anything like it in the world. Citizen Kane comes to life as you walk through the mansion and guest houses chock full of antiques and art collected by William Randolph Hearst. And the views, oh my…you might even spot some of the wild Zebras left over from Hearst’s animal menagerie gathered to entertain guests like Charlie Chaplin.
Big Sur and Macway Falls are not to be missed either. Plan a lunch or dinner here as Nepenthe and many others offer magnificent views of the coast. Stop in at the River Inn, order a beer, then walk out to the creek, park your self in an Adirondack chair situated in the river for a foot soak. You do not want to be driving this stretch in the dark as it is gorgeous, and a bit dangerous. Big Sur has all levels of accommodation, even some family friendly cabins, with campfires and s’mores.
I could go on and on, but you get the idea. You do not want to be racing up US 1, passing sea lions, beautiful views and quaint towns to get to your S.F. hotel. Our Historic Core Tour is a great jumping off point for California as we get into the history of California, its early days, and founding. Take your time, Universal Studios and Venice Beach can’t compete with US 1.