Seattle to San Diego Road Trip (part 4/4): California

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Carmel (photo courtesy of CarmelCalifornia.com)

Santa Cruz to Carmel (45 miles)

The drive along California’s coast from Santa Cruz to Carmel-by-the-Sea is about an hour. Stay at La Playa Carmel, a beautiful hotel whose elevated terrace overlooks its sumptuous gardens, pool and giant chess board.

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La Playa’s elevated terrace: Note the Pacific Ocean in the background

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La Playa

Daisies, fuchsia, nasturtiums, geraniums, Mexican salvia and many more flowers fill La Playa’s gardens.

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La Playa’s garden (note chessboard on the left)

Bike around Carmel’s peaceful streets, filled with charming houses with distinctive architecture in a variety of styles and gorgeous gardens. Click here for the story behind Carmel’s fairytale cottages, like those in the two photos, below. Such an interesting story!

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Someone actually lives in this storybook cottage! (photo courtesy of CarmelCalifornia.com)

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Carmel’s main street (photo courtesy of CarmelCalifornia.com)

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Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house in Carmel (photo courtesy of CarmelCalifornia.com)

Click here to read the interesting history of Carmel Mission (below).

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Carmel Mission, circa 1771 (photo courtesy of CarmelCalifornia.com)

Finished the day with a delicious dinner at fun and pretty Grasing’s

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Our best meal in Carmel (photo courtesy of Grasing’s)

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Grasing’s bar is warm, friendly & filled with casually stylish locals.

Returned to our cheerful, big room with a fireplace at La Playa.

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room at La Playa Carmel (note the Pacific Ocean view)

Carmel to Montecito (245 miles)

The drive along the Pacific Ocean from Carmel to Montecito is five hours along Highway 1. Such a DRAMATIC and BEAUTIFUL coast!

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You will drive over the much-photographed Bixby Bridge near Big Sur.

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Bixby Bridge

Montecito is a beautiful and rich town with big and diverse houses. Oprah has a house here; in fact, she is the largest land owner in the area. Montecito is the next town south of Santa Barbara, which is pretty but not particularly interesting.

Checked into the San Ysidro Ranch, which was stupidly expensive (cheapest room=$700=ours; no meals included; while pretty, our room was half the size of our $440 room in Carmel) but gorgeous gardens, including an extensive kitchen garden, and nice staff. Jack and Jackie honeymoon-ed at San Ysidro Ranch.

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San Ysidro Ranch’s charming main building

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gardens at San Ysidro Ranch

We lay by the pool alone here for three flawless hours…ahhh!

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Old Mission (founded 1786) in Santa Barbara

Drive into nearby Santa Barbara, visited its historic Mission, drive down State Street (its main street), and have a little cocktail at the Four Seasons Biltmore.

Montecito to La Jolla (210 miles)

The drive from Montecito to La Jolla is approx. 4 hours down Highway 1. The water is a blue/green and doted with surfers and some paddle boarders…SO California!

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(photo courtesy of CarmelCalifornia.com)

The water and beach are beautiful until you get to Malibu…famous Malibu, where the beach-side houses completely block the water views. Seriously claustrophobic. Let’s hope the rich and famous flock to Malibu because there is an enclave of fab houses somewhere there, though they were not evident to us. Plus,we encountered no traffic on our entire drive from Seattle through California…until we got to Malibu. From then on, the roads were more congested.

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the beach at Crystal Cove (photo courtesy of the Crystal Cove Conservancy)

We stopped by Crystal Cove along the way. Ever heard of it? Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, CC is a step back in time…to the time of luau parties with CEO’s mixing with beach bums and artists beginning in the 1920’s.

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(photo courtesy of the Crystal Cove Conservancy)

Think sunset cocktails in the 46 quirky cottages pieced together in the 1920’s out of salvaged materials…

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(photo courtesy of the Crystal Cove Conservancy)

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(photo courtesy of the Crystal Cove Conservancy)

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(photo courtesy of the Crystal Cove Conservancy)

…in 2001 when the California State Parks department evicted the residents, a proposal for a beach resort met with protests, at which point the parks department restored the cottages to their kitschy 1930’s and 40’s glory, and open 13 of them for overnight stays. Now referred to as the Crystal Cove State Park Historic District you can rent a beach cottage and pretend you are back in its luau party days (click here). Don’t you think this would be fun!?!

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(photo courtesy of the Crystal Cove Conservancy)

On the drive into La Jolla, you will see a reconstructed Middle Eastern desert village (low, one-story huts) up from the beach on the Pacific. It was built for training purposes by one a number of big military bases in and around San Diego, which is 14 miles from La Jolla. We drove through one of these bases (hundreds of acres, on the outskirts of SD) on either side of Highway 1.

We stayed at La Valencia in La Jolla, a peach-colored stucco grand dame. Built in the 1920’s, it hugs a hill in front of the park on the beach. Palm trees, Bougainvillea, flowering hedges, & pots of roses dot the grounds. Lovely, retro-glam pool!

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La Valencia in La Jolla

La Jolla is easy to see on foot and nice enough, although its abundance of tacky, tourist-town art galleries detract. Drive to the Hotel del Coronado (where “Some Like it Hot” was filmed) for lunch. The architecture is exaggerated and wonderful, and its location is very pretty but it is too big (600 + rooms). There are lines for the ladies’ room! However, we had a very nice lunch there, looking at the white sand, sparkling blue water, palm trees and people walking by.

San Diego is 15 miles from Mexico and the second largest city in CA.

End-of-Trip Observations

  • The trip from Seattle, WA to La Jolla, CA is 2,165 miles, traveling on Highways 101 and 1. We did the entire trip without interstates, except for a short part where we had no alternative. Most of this drive is on two lanes and uncrowded = a pleasure and probably did not add much to the travel time.
  • The people on the West Coast were way nicer and more laid back than those on the East Coast–consistently.
  • Surfers are everywhere along California’s coast…true to stereotype!
  • Washington, Oregon and northern California (north of San Francisco) have small populations.
  • The green of the NW coast is in stark contrast to the brown of the SW coast.
  • I can see why the NWesterners are “crunchy.” The natural landscape is so exaggeratedly beautiful (redwoods, mountains, beaches) that their focus is outdoors.
  • The most beautiful, polished art we saw on our entire trip was in Western Art & Architecture magazine in our room at Tu Tu T’un Lodge in Oregon. Well-executed “cowboy art” of landscapes and men on horseback and animals. Beautiful, sophisticated horses made of polished redwoods, river rocks and stones, lots of glass.
  • For most of our drive north of Malibu, the drivers were much more considerate than those on the East Coast.
  • In southern CA, we saw many fields of workers picking crops by hand—back-breaking!
  • We encountered little evidence of the history of the West Coast, except for the pretty Spanish missions (churches attached to monasteries) and not many of those.

Hang ten!

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(photo courtesy of the Crystal Cove Conservancy)

Seattle to San Diego Road Trip: California (part 3/4)

Redwoods coast better

(photo courtesy of Redwood National Park)

The sun came out the second we drove across the boarder from Oregon into California. No wonder they call it “sunny California!” Washington and Oregon are gloriously green because it rains a lot but, I have to admit, California’s sunshine was a relief.

Gold Beach, OR to Eureka, CA (136 miles)

Redwood National Park starts at the Oregon/California boarder and is 50 miles long. RNP looks exactly like the travel photos you have seen in magazines: picture perfect, awe-inspiring and peaceful.

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RNP has it all: beach, mountains, woods & lakes. (photo courtesy of Redwoods National Park)

Drive the Avenue of the Giants in Humbolt Redwoods State Park, a 31-mile country road that parallels and intersects Highway 101 with 51,222 acres of mighty redwood groves!

Redwoods in fog and sun

Be sure to chat with your hiking partner as you walk these trails because bears like them, too, and they don’t like to be surprised! Needless to say, I chatted up a storm. (photo courtesy of Redwoods National Park)

Our first overnight stop in CA was in Eureka at the Carter House Inns. Eureka is a Greek word and a mining term meaning, “I found it!” (you needed to know that). The town is unattractive except for a few short blocks, where the Carter House Inns are located.

Eureka to Healdsburg (202 miles)

Departing Eureka, we continued our drive down the stunning California coast through Mendocino (Did you know that “Murder, She Wrote” was filmed here?). Mendocino is a beautiful, small (pop. 900) town, perched on a rocky cliff. Visit the Mendocino Headlands State Park and the lovely Point Cabrillo Light, built in 1909.

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(photo by Alison de Grassi, courtesy of Mendocino County Tourism Commission)

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(photo by Alison de Grassi, courtesy of Mendocino County Tourism Commission)

We tore ourselves away from beauty queen Mendocino to drive inland two hours to Healdsburg in Sonoma County. As we drove, the scenery changed rapidly from craggy beaches to rolling hill-after-hill of vineyards, similar to Burgundy, France.

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near Healdsburg (photo courtesy of the Wine Road)

Three million TONS of wine grapes are grown in CA each year! Sonoma County is all vineyards and conveniently located just one hour north of San Francisco.

Stayed at the Hotel Healdsburg. It’s fun, nice and well-located.

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Hotel Healdsburg’s pool with main building in the background. Beam me up!

Ride bikes along the pretty, rolling hills of Dry Creek Valley near the hotel. Then, spend the day wandering around Healdsburg, tasting wines (including sparkling ๐Ÿ™‚ and exploring the little boutiques. Healdsburg is the only town I have ever been to that has multiple blocks of small tasting room/stores, each representing a different vineyard.

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near Healdsburg (photo courtesy of the Wine Road)

Drive the Wine Road, which includes six of Sonoma County’s 14 wine growing regions: Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley (very attractive, well-tended vineyards and wineries, with fancy signs and gardens at their entrances), Green Valley, Chalk Hill and Rockpile. Taste the wines, eat oysters and loose yourself in the views of the vineyard-covered countryside.

Healdsburg to Pt. Reyes (67 miles)

Next stop south along Highway 101 to Highway 1: Point Reyes National Seashore, 71,000 acres of nature reserve on a peninsula sticking out into the Pacific Ocean.

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Chimney Rock Trail at Pt. Reyes National Seashore Park (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Point Reyes is made up of low, sand-colored mountains surrounded by water. Soft, pretty light at dusk. Very undeveloped with enough small towns to give it interest. PR is only an hour by car from San Francisco. We spent a day driving around the peninsula, with big views of scrub-covered low mountains dotted with cows and occasional ranches. Had a fun lunch on Tomales Bay, sitting outside by the water while imbibing just-plucked-from-the-water oysters at Marshall Store Oyster Bar & Smokehouse.  Delish clam chowder and simple, wonderful ambience!

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Pt. Reyes (NPS photo/Dan Wells)

Tiny Pt. Reyes Station is a boho town near the park and a bit of a foodie destination. We had a sophisticated and mmm, mmm, good dinner at The Olema’s ground floor restaurant called Sir and Star. Located in tiny Olema, two miles from Pt. Reyes Station, The Olema is also an inn and has been so since 1876. Read this NYT article for more. We stayed at Manka’s Inverness Lodge whose rooms were each in converted campers. Stylish idea, charming furnishings but our camper/room was stub-your-toe crowded. Would not recommend it because of management’s “we can do no wrong” attitude. If I went back to Pt. Reyes Peninsula again, I would stay in Nick’s Cove and Cottages, whose rooms are converted fishermen’s shacks on the water. Kitsch appeal!

Next stop: Santa Cruz, three hours south down Highway 1.

Pt. Reyes to Santa Cruz (140 miles)

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(photo courtesy of the Dream Inn)

What a glorious drive! On our left, we passed siren-scented Eucalyptus trees, pumpkin patches and lush fields of crops; and on our right, the mighty Pacific Ocean. The farther south we drove, the higher the hills climbed. We drove through few towns and then, suddenly, Santa Cruz (pop. 65,000). Where’s Gidget, I wondered, because SC is a well-polished throw back to the 1960’s.

By now, you may be tired of nature shots so here’s a photo tour of the cheery, ’60’s-chic interiors of our hotel, the Dream Inn

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(photo courtesy of the Dream Inn)

From your balcony, you will see the long 1904-built pier to your left and Cliff Walk to your right. Have a cocktail or two at the old-timey bar on the municipal pier looking onto Monterey Bay, watching the surfers catch waves.

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Does this not take you back to 1962?! Get a room overlooking the pool on the top floor. Saunter along Cliff Walk (in the background of this photo) to see its pretty houses. (photo courtesy of Dream Inn)

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(photo courtesy of Dream Inn)

Surfing was introduced to the US in 1885 at Santa Cruz when three Hawaiian princes who were attending military school nearby commissioned a woodworker to make three planks (surfboards) out of local Redwood. They spent their school vacation in Santa Cruz surfing. And that was how the craze began!

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Hallway at the Dream Inn—love it!!! (photo courtesy of the Dream Inn)

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The Dream Inn’s hotel lobby: They are really working the surfing theme. Love it!

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Dream Inn’s fire pit overlooking the pier (left), beach, and cliff walk (right): Nightcap, anyone???

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Even the Dream Inn’s coffee shop is cute! It’s name is Verve, as in the record label

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Santa Cruz’s amusement park was built in the early 1900’s & is in mint condition. Really fun to explore! (photo courtesy of the Dream Inn)

Whew! California is a big state. We are going to have to finish up our CA coastal drive in the next post. Stay tuned!

Seattle to San Diego Road Trip: Oregon (part 2/4)

Sure, you could drive the entire Oregon coast in 10-12 hours, but then you would miss gazing at…

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Ecola State Park, part of the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail (photo courtesy of Andrew Harper)

Quinault, WA to Manzanita, OR (157 miles)

Almost as soon as we crossed into Oregon from southern Washington, the towns were more attractive. Our first stop was Manzanita, a relaxed little town (population 600) developed 100 years ago with a charming main street, some nice shops…and a BIG gorgeous view of the Pacific Ocean at the end of its main street.

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Manzanita’s main street (photo courtesy of Sunset Vacation Rentals)

Suggest you stay at the Inn at Manzanita and request a room with a balcony looking toward the ocean.

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Manzanita’s WIDE beach: No wonder this pup is so happy! Few houses dot this beach, despite how it looks in this photo. (photo courtesy of Katie Bell, courtesy of Manzanita Visitors Center)

You can catch Chinook salmon, sturgeon and steelhead trout in this bay, as well as Dungeness crabs and, at low tide, clams. And you know what that means: good seafood available at local restaurants!

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Manzanita’s beach is seven miles long. Note the lovely river in upper left. This is a photo from the Manzanita Visitors Center, so I am not sure who these girls are! (photo by Melissa Perry)

And speaking of hiking, once you have explored Manzanita, go up, up, up to the trail along the ridge of Neahkahnie Mountain, which overlooks the town and beach. That’s what the girls in photo above are doing. You will walk through meadows and woods of tall pines that border the trail along the ridge of the mountain, all the while looking at the great arc of the ocean below. What a view!

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The trail was treacherously steep and on the edge of a sheer cliff, in some parts.

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The trail along Neahkahnie Mountain leads to this beach, where we had a windy picnic.

While staying in Manzanita, drive 15 miles north along the coast to the grand and glorious Cannon Beach. Here’s why…

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sea stacks on Cannon Beach

In his Oregon coast itinerary, Andrew Harper recommends staying at the Stephanie Inn at Cannon Beach, but we prefer Manzanita to Cannon Beach because the town is smaller with more charm. We also prefer the Inn at Manzanita. While probably not the most glamorous place you have ever stayed and not on the beach (though we could see the ocean from our balcony), the Inn at M is simple and nice, versus The Stephanie Inn, which felt a bit impersonal and slightly blue-hair.

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Haystack Rock on Cannon Beach

A Bit of History from the Ecola State Park timeline: “1806 – On hearing news of a beached whale, a party from the Lewis and Clark expedition that was encamped at Fort Clatsop
near present day Astoria, visited what is now Cannon Beach in hopes of acquiring blubber and oil. The expedition party, including Captain William Clark and Sacagawea, crossed over Tillamook Head and found the whale near the mouth of a creek Clark named Ecola, the native term for whale. Clarkโ€™s journals and interaction with the native inhabitants provide the earliest documentation of the Tillamook people that inhabited the region.”

Manzanita to Gold Beach, OR (272 miles)

Depart lovely Manzanita and drive south along Oregon’s SPECTACULAR coast. After six gorgeous hours, you will arrive at TuTu’Tun Lodge, a very nice fishing lodge on the Rogue River, which is eight miles inland from the Pacific coast. “The Tututni (Tu Tuโ€™ Tunne) Native Americans of the Rogue were the first inhabitants to settle the area. The name of the lodge was inspired by ‘the people of the place by the river’ โ€“ a rough translation of the Tututni encampment where the lodge now stands,” per TuTu’Tun’s website.

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TuTu’Tun Lodge

The architectural style of the lodge is Frank Lloyd Wright meets Mission style with a touch of Asian. “The wonderful Northwest textures are everywhere in the cedar beams, fir wainscoting, slate hearths and river rock fireplaces. Even the grass cloth walls evoke a modern take on the plant weavings of the Tututni.” (per TTTL’s website)

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TuTuT’un Lodge’s pool overlooks the peaceful Rogue River.

At dusk, guests gather on the main lodge’s terrace overlooking the winding Rogue River. WONDERFUL hors d’oeuvres are passed as you sip your cocktail, before proceeding into the lodge for dinner. While dining with a table of strangers is not my fav, we had a good time and the meal was as outstanding. The hotel managed to create the feel of a convivial dinner party.

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inside the main lodge at TuTu’Tun, where the meals were DELICIOUS

TuTu’Tun is a fishing lodge. We don’t fish…and yet, we had a great time. Why? Because the lodge is upscale (these photos do not do it justice) with lovely flower arrangements sprinkled throughout and nice architecture, as well as beautiful grounds, a big, lush dahlia garden, set on a bucolic winding river. Plus, there are lots of fun things to do: fishing (steelhead salmon, Chinook salmon, silver salmon and Coho), spa-ing, jet boating (really fun!), kayaking, paddle boarding, pool lounging, and hiking. Being fabulously sporty at all times ๐Ÿ˜‰ we of course partook in all of these activities, except the fishing, kayaking and paddle boarding.

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Rogue River as seen from TuTuT’un Lodge

After exploring the Rogue River via jet boat, hiking its surrounding trails, and lounging by its pool, continue down Oregon’s wild and lovely coast towards your next stop: California!

IMG_1506 (1)Be watching your inbox for the third and fourth installments of our road trip down the west coast of the US!!