This year I finally did it; I finally visited the United States of America! The USA is a funny destination, it’s somewhere that all Aussie’s assume they’ll visit one day and yet so many of us haven’t been. Indeed it took me until now to get over and even then it was a work trip! Thanks to Helloworld, Visit California and partner airlines Qantas and Air America I ticked the USA off my bucket list by driving the California coast on a classic road trip in California.
I’m already looking forward to many more visits starting this September with New York.
Although I had identified the USA as a bucket list destination I had offered no further thoughts on where I wanted to go. It was up to Helloworld to research and provide me with a fun and photogenic destination and obtain partners to support the travels.
Driving the California Coast
Leaving from San Francisco after a couple of days of exploration, we hit the road for California with planned stops at Monterey, San Simeon and Santa Barbara.
The final destination of our road trip in California was Santa Monica with time at the end to hit all the tourist hot spots like Rodeo Drive, Venice Beach, Los Angeles and Malibu.
Just writing those names gives me such a big grin, all places that I’ve heard about and dreamed of visiting since I was old enough to watch movies! Here are some top tips for my favourite spots!
Classic road trip in California
I was staying at the Westin which is super central and we basically planned to hit the most photogenic places so I could get some iconic shots before we started our drive.
I think I saw every perspective of the Golden Gate Bridge but I also loved visiting Muir Woods National Monument and Sausalito.
San Francisco to Monterey
The drive from San Francisco to Monterey is only a couple of hours, which meant there was heaps of time to explore the area once we arrived.
We went immediately to Point Lobos and, despite the persistent rain, I took one of my favourite shots of the trip of my host Simone standing on one of the impressive cliffs.
I seriously couldn’t get enough of this place and spent hours getting drenched and watching the crashing waves.
It wasn’t the classic California weather I’m sure others would have hoped for but it was perfect for me!
The next day was the day I had been looking forward to the most, Big Sur!
I only had one day to enjoy one of California’s most beautiful stretches of coastline and I was ready for it.
I must have taken a thousand photos over our many stops while driving the California coast.
McWay Falls is the obvious hero shot and I wanted to nail that but I also enjoyed a hike to Pfeiffer Falls, some time at the Bixby Bridge and a few random beaches along the way.
Despite some pretty terrible weather I made the absolute most of the day and it was evening before we finally arrived to San Simeon where we were to stay the night.
The next day was another easy drive, just a couple of hours. We made the most of our time in San Simeon with a visit to Heart Castle (must-do) and a morning with the elephant seals at a nearby colony.
In Santa Barbara the Mission is a really pretty spot but there’s also a great pier that I flagged for a sunrise!
Finally we were on our way to Los Angeles, well Santa Monica to be exact although we had big plans for explorations.
Star spotting in Malibu
We grabbed a lunch and some star spotting in Malibu, walked the Hollywood Walk of Fame, ate In-N-Out Burger, hosted an instameet at Santa Monica Pier and visited some star homes in Hollywood.
Despite how touristy our program was I couldn’t believe how much fun I had.
These places are so deeply entrenched in my psyche that every experience was a revelation.
If you haven’t been to the USA yet driving the California coast is a wonderful place to start and a road trip in California is an experience I highly recommend.
Everything is so easy from direct flights to car hire and the famous San Francisco to Los Angeles drive is easy going and very, very pretty.
Like so many of my destinations I am already swearing I’ll go back with my partner and have more time! Haha.
If you’re planning on visiting California in winter, Lake Tahoe is a beautiful spot and a fabulous destination to go skiing and snowboarding. There are plenty of outdoor activities, such as snowshoe hikes and snowmobile tours. Other top spots for skiers are Sun Valley in Idaho and Jackson Hole in Wyoming.