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Road trip: California coast beach memories

We have a dream: to cruise up the California coast in a convertible, top down, wind blowing through our hair; exploring beaches and watching sunsets.  The dream was born one Sunday on a one-night layover in LA. We rented a convertible and drove around Venice Beach and then up through Malibu with the top down. Yes, we thought, this is the life and the dream was born.

California coast

La Jolla Sunset, photo Steve Collins

A few years later, we were ready to go on our California coast convertible dream trip. After a stay in San Diego we were heading up the coast. Final destination:  Carmel. We were excited.  The convertible was rented and ready to go. Then, the weather turned. It was cold and wet. Not top-down weather and after all, what’s the point of renting that convertible if you can’t put the top down. We went to Plan B; driving up the California coast in a sedan. The drive up the Pacific Coast Highway is fantastic no matter how you do it. We plan to try the dream trip again. Target date: October 2013.

Meanwhile, we have some great California coast and beach memories.

California coast

Surfers north of San Diego, photo Steve Collins

We spent time getting to know San Diego a bit and spent some time in La Jolla. Then up the road for  a night in Santa Barbara where we went on a whale watch and one in Big Sur. We were guests of the wonderful (and quietly luxurious) eco-resort, Post Ranch Inn. Our last stop before heading home:   Carmel. Here are a few of the beaches we encountered on the way.

I had never seen seals close-up until we went to the Children’s Pool in La Jolla. A lot of harbor seals hang out here.  You want to watch from above. The seals own this beach.

California coast

Gray whale near Santa Barbara, photo Steve Collins

On a whale watch out of the harbor at Santa Barbara, we spied a Gray Whale and her baby making the long swim from Baja to Alaska.

The California cost is often rocky. The stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway from just north of San Luis Obispo to Big Sur is wild and rocky and perfect.

California coast

Elephant seals at Piedras Blanca, photo Steve Collins

Elephant seals lined a beach at Piedras Blancas, just north of the famous San Simeon, former home of William Randolph Hurst. These big seals won’t win any beauty contests or any races, either.

California coast

McWay Falls, Big Sur, photo Steve Collins

The curvy road through Big Sur, sometime closed because of wash outs, can be a knuckle- grabber at times.  Big Sur is beautiful beyond words. It’s a bit hard to get to sometimes, but well-worth the effort.

California coast

Point Lobos, photo Steve Collins

You can feel the power of the ocean hitting the rocks at the beach at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve between Big Sur and Carmel.

California coast

Carmel sunset, photo Steve Collins

Our last night in California, we joined a crowd to watch the sunset show at a beach in Carmel. The show was worth it.

With the new day, we headed home filled with great memories. We’ll be back. The dream awaits.

This post is part of a blog carnival (round-up) of beach posts. Other travel bloggers have posted their beach travels there. Check it out.




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20 Responses to “Road trip: California coast beach memories”

  1. Cathy Sweeney
    May 4, 2019 at 7:17 pm #

    You’re right — no matter the weather, the California coast is awesome. There’s a lot of diversity too, I think — sandy beaches, rugged coastline, etc. If you ever get the chance, take a drive up the Sonoma coast, too. Steve did a great job catching a photo of the whale. Not easy to do.

    • Billie Frank
      May 4, 2019 at 7:24 pm #

      We were a bit far out for that whale. We saw hundreds of dolphins heading out to sea, Not sure why he didn’t catch it. We did a trip down the Sonoma coast years ago. It was pre-camera days. It was beautiful. We slept in places right on the ocean both in Oregon and Fort Bragg. It was heaven.

  2. Linda ~ Journey Jottings
    May 4, 2019 at 9:15 pm #

    Cruising up the coast in a convertible is a dreamy notion - so I hope October brings you brilliant weather!
    In the meantime - this post will well and truly keep the dream alive - Its wonderful - And I want to do it :)
    Linda ~ Journey Jottings recently posted..Joining the Dots with Journey JottingsMy Profile

    • Billie Frank
      May 5, 2019 at 7:00 am #

      Thanks Linda. We hope for brilliant weather, too.

  3. Leigh
    May 4, 2019 at 9:32 pm #

    Good luck with the October plans. We were on the coast one year in October and although it wasn’t exactly hot it was still very pleasant - and that coast is so beautiful you’re bound to have a good time.
    The La Jolla sunset shot is beautiful!! Great to have something like this to look forward to.
    Leigh recently posted..A Hike to the Black Tusk in Garibaldi Provincial Park, BCMy Profile

    • Billie Frank
      May 5, 2019 at 7:00 am #

      We’ve been in October and it can be rainy, but…. Fingers crossed that the weather will cooperate. Otherwise back in a sedan and the dream stays on the bucket list.

  4. Linda
    May 5, 2019 at 2:39 am #

    I’m sure that California is both more interesting and beautiful than most of us who haven’t seen it think….it suffers from the fame of Hollywood, as so many places suffer from the notoriety of just one town or city in the area…..thanks for confirming that to me. Can’t wait to see for myself!
    Linda recently posted..The legend at the Heart of a Canarian Village: Vi la Flor de ChasnaMy Profile

    • Billie Frank
      May 5, 2019 at 6:58 am #

      It is a beautiful state. From rugged coastlines, to desert, to mountains and redwoods and Sequoias I feel like I should break into a verse of “This Land is Your Land.” It is WAY more than Hollywood, a mere blip on the map.

  5. Patricia aka BoomerWiz
    May 5, 2019 at 5:57 am #

    There are so many beautiful stops along the California coastline. You’ve mentioned a few spots I was not aware of and I will check them out like the Children’s Pool in La Jolla. Actually coming from the West I thought all beaches were rugged like the west coast, specifically the Pacific Northwest coastline. Of course I know that is not true now but I still have a fondness for this coastline. Great pictures and memories guys.

    • Billie Frank
      May 5, 2019 at 6:56 am #

      I love the ruggedness of the west coast. I was raised on the east coast and while there is some rocky shoreline, especially in Maine and Nova Scotia, I thought all beaches were sandy. I’m glad there are both. One of the best beaches I discovered on the west coast was on the Olympic Peninsula. It was covered with sand dollars. I used to spend a lot of beach time searching for them-they are very rare on the east coast. I collected dozens.

  6. budget jan
    May 5, 2019 at 8:32 pm #

    Yours is a trip that I would like to do as well. U.S.A. is an unexplored gold mine for us (apart from NYC which we visited in 2012). Thanks for the ride.
    budget jan recently posted..West Point Sunset Magnetic IslandMy Profile

    • Billie Frank
      May 5, 2019 at 8:52 pm #

      I’ve driven around a lot of the USA and we’ve done the CA coast- which is wonderful and diverse- but we really want to do it in the convertible. It just seems perfect. While you’re exploring, check out Santa Fe. Pure gold!

  7. Agness
    May 5, 2019 at 10:20 pm #

    Wish I woke up there one day. La Jolla Sunset is just breath-taking. I could stroll down the beaches all day long.
    Agness recently posted..Postcards from Guilin – Guangxi Province, ChinaMy Profile

    • Billie Frank
      May 6, 2019 at 8:00 am #

      I thin a US trip would be great for you- the $25 a day would be challenging- but doable with a lot of careful planning.

  8. Suzanne Fluhr (Just One Boomer)
    May 5, 2019 at 10:48 pm #

    Your post is a reminder why the Big Sur drive is the one against which we measure any coastal drive we take anywhere in the world. We drove south from San Francisco one year on Route 1, stopping at B&B’s along the way. A few years later, we had the chance to drive north from San Francisco along the coast to Seattle when my husband had back to back conferences in both those cities separated by a week—no sense flying all the way back to the east coast just to have to turn around and fly back out west — at least that was my argument (successful).
    (BTW, we were thinking of possible taking a trip to New Mexico in October, but if we do, we’ll definitely try to time it so you’ll be there and not in your convertible on the California coast!)
    Suzanne Fluhr (Just One Boomer) recently posted..Philadelphia Phriday – The Day Before Our Son’s WeddingMy Profile

    • Billie Frank
      May 6, 2019 at 7:59 am #

      I look forward to driving that stretch again. If we can get more time- we’ll go all the way to Portland. If not, the trip will end in Santa Fe. We’ll definitely be here the first two weeks in October as it’s one of the busiest travel times of the year. Santa Fe gets spillover from the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta and the weather is usually perfect. I hope we can meet!

  9. Gaelyn
    May 6, 2019 at 7:26 am #

    I love that Hwy 1 coastal drive. Haven’t done it in years. Convertible sounds grand under the right weather conditions.
    Gaelyn recently posted..A week of wildlife in Kruger National Park South AfricaMy Profile

  10. gregory urbano
    June 25, 2019 at 3:35 am #

    there is just something about the california coast that is otherworldly!

    • Billie Frank
      June 25, 2019 at 9:58 am #

      Interesting, Gregory. I haven’t yet had that experience- will be mindful of it when we next visit.

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