California Cruising Up The Coast

After years of talking about it, I finally planned a trip up Highway 1 from Orange County to San Francisco. Attending college in Fullerton, I regularly made the commute up Interstate 5 but never took the time to drive along the coast. What breathtaking views I’ve been missing out on! I’m already thinking about the next time I can stay in Big Sur.

First stop, Santa Barbara. Nestled on top of a hill overlooking all of Santa Barbara, the Belmond El Encanto is a stunning property with beautiful amenities including an infinity pool, gardens and an unbelievably friendly staff. I love getting settled in my room and heading down to the restaurant to enjoy dinner out on the terrace that has sweeping views of the ocean. It was a bit chilly the night I was there and the staff immediately offered me a blanket so I could continue to sit outside. One of my favorite things about the Belmond El Encanto is that they are extremely pet friendly and bring your fur baby treats, dog bowls and a big cozy bed. The grounds are beautiful and have trails to go on walks. Scout, my Swiss Mountain Dog loves it here as much as I do.

We spent 3 nights in Santa Barbara and had a hard time squeezing in all our favorite restaurants. One of our favorite lunch spots is the Lucky Penny (sister restaurant to the Lark next door which is amazing for dinner). We each got a Margarita Pizza because they are way to delicious to share. One of my other favorite places to dine is Bouchon. Every single dish was unbelievable. I have a weakness for Foie Gras and Duck Confit and they do a superb preparation. I can’t wait to come back!

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Back on the road we planned lunch in San Luis Obispo. Just 100 miles north of Santa Barbara its the perfect town to stop for lunch to break up the drive to Big Sur. A few of my girlfriends went to college at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and sent us to their favorite spot, Novo located right on the creek. We enjoyed their famous shrimp spring rolls and yummy steak lettuce wraps which were delicious. They were so accommodating of Scout and brought her water and even prepared here chicken and rice for lunch. She is one spoiled pup! I was sad we couldn’t spend more time in San Luis Obispo because there are so many other great places to eat, hike and explore.

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After a nice lunch break and walk along the creek, we were ready to hit the road and get back on highway 1. 92 miles until our next destination: The Wind and Sea Estate in Big Sur. Words can’t describe the breathtaking scenery along the coast. We also got incredibly lucky with weather and had crystal clear views of the Pacific Ocean. With redwoods to your right and ocean views to your left, it is all so beautiful. Windy roads make the 90 mile drive take almost 3 hours and there are hardly ANY gas stations ~ so be sure to fill up by Cambria (otherwise you end up like us paying $7 a gallon at a teeny tiny isolated gas station that only carries premium).

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Once we got to the estate, we were blown away by the views inside the home. Built on a cliff overlooking the ocean, the 6 acre property had 360 degree unobstructed views of the ocean and wilderness. There were stairs that went straight down to the water that were SO steep I had doubts that I’d make it back up! The property had 2 amazing outdoor copper bathtubs overlooking the ocean and in direct view of a little island where seals lived. All 3 bedrooms had views of the ocean and large wrap-around patios. The yard included a fire pit where we stayed up late roasting s’mores. In the living room was a rotating wood burning fireplace that was so nice to cuddle up next to on the couch to read a book or soak up the views. ***Make sure you do grocery shopping before driving up or down to Big Sur because there are no supermarkets*** There is one small convenient store and deli but it is very small and limited.

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While driving up Hwy 1 to check out the area, we came across an adorable property called Deetjens Big Sur Inn. They are a historical site that was built in the 30’s and looks like a fairytale cottage. The dining room is open to the public for breakfast and dinner and they have a large wine list and a bar. We fell in love with the place and ended up eating there 3 times! They have so much history and character not to mention delicious food. They are one of the only original buildings in Big Sur.

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I don’t think any trip to Big Sur would be complete without visiting McWay Waterfalls, the famous waterfall spilling directly into the aquamarine colored Pacific Ocean in the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. It’s hard to believe you’re in California and not some tropical island (minus the cool temps). What a truly remarkable view. We also did a nearby hike called Tanbark Trail. It gets steep fast and soon you are overlooking all the tree tops. It is a 6 mile loop, however we only went about 3 miles. What an amazing adventure in Big Sur!

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After 4 magical days in Big Sur, we began our drive to San Francisco with brunch in Carmel and a drive through the famous scenic route called the “17 Mile Drive” where my husband was lucky enough to get a tee time at Pebble Beach Golf Course!

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Alas, after a week of driving up the coast, we made it to San Francisco ~ just in time for my sister’s graduation from SF State’s Nursing School Program!

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