The Big Sur region is to California, what the Great Ocean Road is to Victoria. Ninety miles of winding road that hugs the coastline, sandwiched between the ocean and the Santa Lucia Mountains. There’s something truly cathartic about getting behind the wheel and leaving your worries behind, if only for the weekend.
Easy there tiger, preparedness is key to a successful road trip. Before you put pedal to metal, spend some QT with Mr Googlemaps and get familiar with the route. It’s not rocket science. Just follow the Pacific Coast Highway 1.
I recommend you drive south to north. The vistas are clearer and you’ll be on the inside lane (driving off a cliff face would really put a damper on things).
We set out in a big boy Yukon SUV. Twas a bad idea. The lengthy wheel base was not compatible with the constantly winding road. Often times we were crossing the mid line on blind corners. Stick with a mid size SUV. Leave the Escalade to the Real Housewives.
Tips for a happy road trip:
- Keep an eye on the fuel gauge. Top up when you can. There are stretches of up to 40miles without a gas station.
- Stop at every restroom you pass. Seriously.
- Allow plenty of time. It’s a scenic drive, not the Bathurst 1000.
- Pack plenty of water and snacks. A case of the Hangrys (Hungry + Angry) is not cute.
- Be prepared for motion sickness. Pop a pill before you depart.
- Get yourself some polarised sunglasses. The sun is blinding as it sets.
Enough chit chat. Are you ready to roll? I call shotgun.
From Hollywood, cruise along Sunset Boulevard all the way to Malibu. If you are driving a mustang convertible, slap yourself upside the head. Come on now, it would be less conspicuous to wear a flashing neon “tourist” sign.
Pass by familiar landmarks such as the House of Blues, the Viper Room, the UCLA campus and the Beverly Hills Hotel. Smell the wealth emanating from the some of the schmanciest neighbourhoods in the city. Detour up one of the side streets. Say Hi to Brandon and Brenda for me.
When you hit the coast, stop and pay your respects on the stretch of sand where Pammy debuted her red one-piece swimsuit. Cue the Baywatch theme.
Don’t dilly dally. Get back in the car and onto the Pacific Coast Highway.
If the traffic is light, pull over at Point Dume in Malibu. Wiggle your toes in the sand on Zuma Beach.
Continue along the PCH1. You’ll pass through Ventura and Summerland. After an hour you should reach the home of the Bold and the Beautiful – Santa Barbara.
Grab a pastry from the Anderson’s Danish Bakery on State Street or fish and chips on Stearn’s Wharf. After something a little more substantial? Leave your car with the valet at the Four Seasons Biltmore and enjoy lunch on the patio at Bella Vista.
From Santa Barbara, you have the option of taking a detour to Hearst Castle, before heading back out to the coastline.
Fuel up in San Luis Obispo, before embarking on the Big Sur leg of the trip.
You’ve got a good 4 hours of this kind of vista ahead of you.
As the sun is setting, you should be arriving in Monterey.
We stayed in an oceanview room at the Spindrift Inn located on Cannery Row right on the waterfront. The decor is a little too frou frou for my taste, but I was completely hooked once we lit the fireplace (set off the smoke alarm) and I stretched out in the bay window seat.
I was super keen to roll around in the sand in the manner of ‘From Here to Eternity’ but alas Mr Flashman is adverse to sand in his pants. Instead, we grabbed a bottle of wine and feasted on fish and chips in our room, then nodded off to the sounds of waves crashing below.
Rise and shine sleephead. Monterey awaits.
Breakfast (included in the rate) is delivered to your room. While you eat, look out the window. We were entertained by a harem of seals enjoying a leisurely morning swim. The hotel provides binoculars for scoping out the wildlife. They really do think of everything.
If it floats your boat, spend the morning at the world renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium, then have lunch at one of the restaurants on Fisherman’s Wharf (try the traditional french crepes at Brittany’s).
The grand finale of the road trip is 17 Mile Drive at Pebble Beach. Follow the red dashed line that marks the trail. Pay the $10 entry fee and grab a map at the park entrance gate on Sunset Drive/Pacific Grove. Don’t miss Lone Cypress, Spanish Bay and Fanshell Overlook. Your Mr may wish to flex his golfing muscles at the Lodge.
End your trip on a sugar high with a stop at Cottage of Sweets in Carmel.
Where to from here? San Francisco is a couple of hours away, as is the Napa Valley wine region.