The road trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles along the coast is one of the most iconic road trips in the world. Even weaving in and out along the rugged coastline, this trip could easily be done in under a day but taking so little time would deprive you of some breathtaking scenery. The route is packed with things to see and do and is very RV friendly. Most commuters and heavy vehicles tend to opt for the shorter inland run along Highway 5, so you will not cause holdups as you dawdle along, craning your necks to admire the scenery.
You will probably feel a little heart sore at having to leave the assorted wonders that San Francisco has provided you with but that will all soon be forgotten when you see what this weekend journey has to offer. The adventure you are embarking on is a mixed bag of stunning natural environment interspersed with colonial architecture, wine farms and historical buildings. The eclectic mix really does offer something for everyone, especially when combined with all the freedom that goes with driving in a self-contained home. The climate in Los Angeles is slightly warmer than what you will be leaving behind but throughout the voyage, your weather is likely to be fine.
No visit to Santa Barbara would be complete without a visit to Stearns Wharf. This is the oldest working wharf in the US and if you get there really early, you will be able to buy fresh fish directly from the fishing boats as they return to harbor. There are plenty of shops and restaurants to enjoy but be aware that the later in the day you visit, the more crowded the area will become. It is a wooden wharf and it is suggested that you don’t wear heels or walk barefoot.
Whilst at the wharf you have a number of options to keep you busy. One of the favorites among both locals and visitors is to take a bike ride along East Beach. Riding is flat and smooth and there will be plenty of opportunities to take those memorable photos along the way. For something a little less sedate, you might like to hire a paddleboard or do a kayak safari.
The run through to Santa Barbara is an easy one, so enjoy the drive. Once in Santa Barbara, you are going to be spoiled for choice when it comes to things to do. The town, often referred to as the American Riviera, has a distinct Spanish colonial feel to it. There are plenty of RV parks if you decided to push through rather than overnighting in Solvang. If not, you might want to park up for a while and hit the town on foot. Stroll along State Street to get a feel for the place, and then you might want to visit the old Mission from which the town derives its name. It is a beautiful building with a stunning courtyard and a display of how the building was built.
Another place you might like is the Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens. Here you will see an impressive display of local plants as well as the renowned redwoods that were planted there in the 1930s.
Solvang is a quaint little town that gets less attention than it deserves. It was first inhabited by the Danes and they have left a distinct fingerprint on the architecture and the cuisine. While there, you might like to visit the Vintage Motorcycle Museum or as a slightly different alternative, you could try a bit of wine tasting. You are, after all, in the heart of California wine country.
Flying Flags is convenient to get to and offers a restaurant, bar, swimming pool, and barbeque pits if you fancy just cooking your own steak. The following day you will be heading toward Santa Barbara and you have a choice of two routes. You can continue along the coastal highway or you can take a slight detour and drive through the hills. The inland route will provide you with some amazing views and allow you to experience some totally different geography.
The beauty of this route is that you are almost just minutes from the next beauty spot. From Carmel to Pfeiffer Beach should take less than an hour, but it won’t. You will be traveling along Highway 1 and there is simply too much to see for you to do the run without stopping. Don’t worry though, there are plenty of pull-offs along the route from which to get those once in a lifetime photos.
People often think of renowned Big Sur as being just one beach but it actually refers to the whole bay between Carmel and Cambria. The Pfeiffer National Park is a redwood forest that runs down to the sea. It offers a mix of both coastal and forest hiking, biking, and even kayak trails. Look out for black-tailed deer, skunks, and raccoons. One place that is great for taking photographs is the McWay Falls. It involves a hike of just over half a mile but the views are spectacular. Check conditions before visiting because the area can be affected by landslides. If it is, there are plenty of alternative hikes.
A short two and a half-hour drive from San Francisco will bring you to Monterey. This is a great place to park up and explore on foot. The town’s architecture is predominantly Spanish and Old Monterey provides a great place to wander. It was once a cannery town and was made famous in John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row. The street is now a great place to grab a bite to eat.
From Monterey, it is just a ten-minute drive to Pacific Grove. This is a sleepy coastal town that is also great to explore and grab a quick coffee before jumping back into your RV and heading along 17 Mile Drive to Carmel. Carmel is sometimes called the butterfly town as this is a stopover for the annual Monarch butterfly migration. This normally takes place in October and is accompanied by parades and a bazaar. Don’t worry if you miss this. The town is beautiful enough in its own right. There are plenty of RV parks to choose from but 4.5 miles from Carmel is Carmel RV and there you will find all that you need while remaining close enough to Carmel if you wish to revisit.
You are now only an hour and a half from Los Angeles and the end of your road trip adventure. If you can squeeze in a little visit on the way there are plenty of pit stops to choose from, including Buena Ventura State Beach just outside Ventura.
On the other hand, you may want to push on and start exploring the wealth of things that Los Angeles has to tempt you with. Most of these need little or no introduction. There is, of course, Hollywood Boulevard and that compulsory shot of the Hollywood sign. You might also be tempted by a tour of Universal Studios and let’s not forget Disneyland. The city of Angels has more than enough going on to keep you exploring for months.