To be honest this is a hard blog post to begin. I have now been back in Australia for two weeks and looking through / editing images for this post has me wishing I was back in California.
A lot of people recommend driving from north to south (San Francisco to LA) as this view puts your car on the ocean side of the road, letting you look out unobstructed by other cars. We however chose to drive from LA to San Francisco. I think driving south to north was incredible. The scenery just gets better and better as you leave the congestion of Southern California and approach the more Central Coast. Within a 400 mile stretch of road you get to experience cities, small beach towns, redwood forests, and sandy beaches. I don’t think driving in the reverse of what most people do hindered our experience in anyway. We still got to see the incredible coast line and it wasn’t spoiled by any stretch, just because we were on the opposite side of the road to the ocean.
When it comes to road tripping make sure your schedule is flexible! Jonathan and I traveled with two friends in an RV – a four sleeper was definitely big enough for us all. We basically had our loose itinerary and we knew where we were sleeping each night – everything else we played by ear.
What highway should you take?
We took Highway 1… I think. It’s the one that has winding roads and cliff faces as far as the eye can see. It is simply breathtaking and that’s not just because of the lack of guard rails. I highly suggest taking this route as it’s like nothing you’d have seen before. I grew up on the coast in Australia and I was absolutely blown away by the landscape in California!
WHERE TO STOP
Here is where we stopped. It’s so hard to make sure you stop at all the suggested towns along the way. There’s so much to see. My friend Bec suggested we break the trip up with driving three hours each day – that way we could see the towns in between, as well as knowing how far we had to go each day.
These are the places you can stop at while still in LA if you want to maximise your time there. If not, I suggest just driving through and do them at the end of your trip if you fly back to LA.
Los Angeles: We flew into LA from Sydney – a mammoth 18 hour flight or so. It actually went pretty quickly. We stayed overnight in LA for one night because someone high up in RV land has made a rule that no one can pick up an RV after a long haul flight. I suggest you check this out if you’re looking at booking one in for yourself post flying! Also we went to Walmart and bought our own linen, pillows and supplies instead of buying the RV’s packages – Walmart has towels for $2USD. We then donated them to charity at the end of our road trip! Except the towels, because: gross.
Venice Beach: Venice Beach is stunning, but it’s completely touristville. I don’t really like crowds, so it wasn’t really for me. It was cool to see places I’ve seen in movies such as Lords Of Dogtown and you know, other movies too. Also; don’t be surprised is about 50 people try and hand you their 2016 equivalent of a mix tape like they think we still have CD players. Venice also has some pretty sick vintage stores that I would recommend checking out!
Santa Monica: We drove through here on the way to Pismo Beach and then again on the last three days of our entire holiday we came back here to visit. Again, it’s quite touristy, but it was definitely cool to go to. The pier is vibrant and has a lot of atmosphere – the beach is so vast. The landscape is a lot different to Australian beaches.
Malibu:We drove through here and weren’t able to stop because of the accident. So all I can tell you is, it was super pretty…from the backseat of the RV. That’s all I can vouch for, sorry.
We were supposed to stop here but due to the accident we reached it after dark unfortunately! If you do this road trip please factor this town into your trip! It’s a city in Santa Barbara County, California and it is a mini Denmark!
Night one – we stayed at Pismo Beach RV Resort.
We arrived at night time due to the four car accident in Malibu that had us held up for two hours. I don’t think they all realised just how inconsiderate it was to have an accident then and there. Next time they should definitely schedule it in post peak hour. I jest. I jest. No one was hurt thankfully!
The great thing about arriving at night is the fact you don’t know what to expect come morning. Is it going to be an eyesore of a town? Is it going to be full of zombies? Who knows.
For dinner, most things were closed so we found ourselves eating at one of the only places still open; Hot Shots. A local guy recommended it to us. It was an all America style restaurant that had pool tables, air hockey, arcade games. At that point in time I think I had definitely reached my quota in fried food.
In the morning JD and I wandered down to a local cafe called “Orange Cat Cafe“. They had… wait for it, a 20 year old orange cat! The poor thing sounded like he had a fur ball caught in his throat since 2002. We bought three coffees and chatted to the lady who worked there for about half an hour! That’s the best thing about travel – meeting locals and hearing local history.
Morro Bay, CA, is a must see. It’s a small fishing town that looks like a movie set. I didn’t realise at the time, but Morro Bay is out of Finding Dory! There are a lot of vintage stores and a really, really cool skate board museum which we spent a long time in! Jonathan absolutely loved it. The man who owned it gave us some suggestions as to where to stop for lunch and other cute towns between Morro Bag and Big Sur!
Not far from Morro Bay are elephant seal – there’s thousands of them. We also were lucky enough to see whales, dolphins and a lot of birds!
We briefly stopped in Cambria, CA. It was a really cute town. The main reason we stopped there was because there is a house called Nitt Witt Ridge and it is made from beer cans, abalone shells, and concrete. I would not suggest driving an RV on some of the streets in Cambria – it got a little dicey there for a second!
About 8 miles north is Hearst Castle – another attraction suggested to us. We drove in and basically drove straight back out. It’s a huge tourist attraction with overpriced food and the castle is actually miles away. You have to book a bus tour up to it and back, which we didn’t realise before going there.
I am not going to delve into Big Sur too much as it deserves it’s own blog post. Hang tight for some tips and images asap! We stayed in the most incredible part of the woods! Definitely a high light of the road trip for me.
We drove through Carmel-By-The-Sea albeit briefly. I would definitely love to go there again and spend the time exploring their wineries, gourmet markets and restaurants.
We went to Santa Cruz and stopped for lunch. We hadn’t done any research prior to pulling the camper up. JD and I really wanted to go there because of the skate and surf culture. The part we first pulled up in was pretty damn dicey. Like, leave your belongings locked up dicey. After lunch we drove down to the pier and found a nicer part of town – just goes to show sometimes it’s worth researching places!
OUTSKIRTS OF SAN FRANCISCO
We stayed in Daly City in an RV resort and then just ubered around to dinner and things to do. We also caught the BART to San Francisco the first day we were there. It’s so cheap and a really quick trip.
We found a gym at Daly City so JD and I went there one morning. The good thing about American gyms is they generally let you go there for free if you’re passing through or only there a couple of days!
Because we found ourselves heading north to San Francisco, rather than explore this area I can’t really tell you what the actually culture of Daly City is like.
- Buy your own linen (buy one big sheet set and if you’re traveling in a group of four, someone can have the top sheet, someone can have the fitted sheet),
- Look into using WiWander – if was our godsend for internet on the road. We used it for maps, the occasional social media, checking into flights and if I published a blog post! The connection was fast and we didn’t have any real hiccups. The only time we couldn’t use it was when we weren’t in service areas (some spots along the West Coast, HWY 1 don’t get service).
- Pack thongs for the showers if you’re camping / using RV showers!! I packed my trusty Havaianas!
- Buy a huge 10 litre water bottle for everyone
- Buy gloves to use to when you are emptying the grey and waste water
- Because you will need to pick up an RV or car the day after your long haul flight try and stay within close proximity to the hire address so you can either send two people to collect it or all get an Uber there together.
- Mobile coverage and GPS drops in some areas. Plan ahead and either put your plans in writing or save maps offline.
- Check with places that do “relocation” fees for RVs and car – this is a way to get them for cheaper if they need a vehicle brought back to another location.
- Check your mileage costs – Bec estimated our nearly to number. From memory we had to pay an additional $12.
- We had to wait an hour to collect our RV even though they told us to be there at 10am – bring water, food etc.
- Consider a packed lunch instead – your wallet and your waist will thank you for it!
- I highly encourage you carry a little cash on you wherever you travel – my card didn’t work at some places when we were in the USA, so cash was a savior!
- Pismo Beach
- Morro Bay
- Elephant Seal + whales + Dolphin this time of year!
- Big Sur
- Santa Cruz
- San Francisco
Stay tuned for my travel guides for: New York City, San Francisco, LA and Las Vegas
Have you been on this road trip before? Let my readers know some of your tips!