Repost: What You Should Know about Doing a California Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip – A Personal Post & Birthday Celebration on the West Coast

Jan 25, 2020

“Travel: The only thing you buy that makes you richer.”

Well, friends, it is finally time for a more extensive California post. 

On my bucket list for life was the big ticket item of doing a road trip down the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to Los Angeles. For my birthday, my beloved husband (aka my ride-or-die boo of 11 years), Charles, treated me to this epic trip and did most of the driving (he deserves a million thank you’s just for that alone). Of course, I’m not one to hold back on advice, so I have a few obvious and sometimes overlooked practical tips specific to PCH road trips: 

  • Rest stops can be rare and pricey in certain parts. Stock up on gas, snacks, and whatever else you might need for the trip before you go and when you see an opportunity.
  • There’s barely any cell phone service in certain areas, so my advice is to never close out of Waze or any other GPS apps — as I accidentally did when taking a photo and it took awhile for the GPS to connect back to my iPhone (sorry, Charles!).
  • At nearly every turn is a breathtaking photo. Be ready and use turn signals for peeps behind you. (Yes, there will be tourists in your photos. It’s okay.)
  • Got motion sickness? Scared of heights and switchback turns with sharp drop-offs? Samesies. Bring your non-drowsy Dramamine, breathe, and just look directly ahead. 
  • Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen.

Below are a selection of images taken by Charles and by me. We went to other places as well, but these were the major points that I wanted to share and include a Google Map link for you all to make this post #linkedaf.

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA: Point Reyes National Seashore | Cypress Tree Tunnel | Artistic Lake Merritt AirBnB | San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts  | San Francisco City Hall | Mission Bay Waterfront | Point Lobos – Sutro Baths | 

ON THE ROAD: Carmel-by-the-Sea – La Bicyclette | Bixby Creek Bridge | McWay Falls | Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park | Santa Barbara – Belmond El Encanto | Santa Ynez 

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: West Hollywood – Gracias Madre Greystone Mansion | Wayfarer’s Chapel | Terranea Resort | Pasadena City Hall

And a big thank you to Johanna for being the ultimate Northern California tour guide, picture taker, and design guru. To our friends, Matt, Dana, and their sweet baby girl for making us feel at home in their home for dinner when we really needed a non-hotel night in. And also to Kait at Roam Travel for helping us (Charles, really) put together an AMAZING birthday celebration at Belmond El Encanto. Highly recommend Roam and their services to make any trip extra special — just a warning that you may love what they put together so much that you never want to leave.

Sidenote about photography in California: If you are from the East Coast and have been suffering through rainy weekends and super flat light, you will quickly get acquainted with your highest shutter speed setting, chromatic aberration, stopping down your aperture, and crying inside when you see a consistent and stable weather forecast that doesn’t change on an hourly basis. 😉

LAKE MERRITT AIRBNB

CYPRESS TREE TUNNEL + POINT REYES NATIONAL SEASHORE

POINT REYES BOAT

PALACE OF FINE ARTS

POINT LOBOS – SUTRO BATHS 

(Built in 1896 and later destroyed by a fire, this public bathhouse once had several saltwater pools.)

SAN FRANCISCO CITY HALL

SAN FRANCISCO WATERFRONT (SOUTH)

CARMEL-BY-THE-SEA

VARIOUS POINTS ALONG THE HIGHWAY

BIXBY CREEK BRIDGE

MCWAY FALLS

JULIA PFEIFFER BURNS STATE PARK

BELMOND EL ENCANTO – SANTA BARBARA

SANTA YNEZ

LOS ANGELES (& SANTA YNEZ lower right)

GREYSTONE MANSION

WAYFARER’S CHAPEL & TERRANEA RESORT

PASADENA CITY HALL

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