Coastal California Road Trip

A California Road Trip Along the Coast

Three siblings on an adventure - California Road Trip Jessie BenderWhen I decided to hit the coast of California for a road trip, who better than to invite than my siblings! We sorted out our top places to visit and then crammed into my Civic and took off. We booked our lodgings a few hours ahead of time as we neared the end of the day. By doing so, we ended up in a lot of little towns we never heard of, which is my favorite part of not planning every step of your travels. Not knowing where you’ll end up requires creativity and an open mind.



Here is how my siblings and I spent The California Road Trip of 2016:

OxnardChannel Islands - Oxnard, CA - California Road Trip

Our first evening placed us in the little town of Oxnard. We stayed at Casa Via Mar Inn, a cozy motel with an 80’s/Southwestern theme less than a mile from the beach and marina. After we unpacked, we walked down to the fascinating Channel Islands, where rows of houses sat on channels, all with their own docks and boats. We also checked out the marina and walked along the beach, collecting shells and getting soaked by rogue waves. I loved discovering this little town, with it’s unique and unexpected features.




After a couple hours of driving, we were really craving Mexican food for lunch and pulled off into the charming town of Cayucos. After getting a Mexican fix at Martin’s Restaurant, we walked down the road to the street fair taking place. We moseyed through the fair, poking through the trinkets and wares, chatting with the friendly townspeople. We walked along the pier at the end of town and watched all of the fishermen and surfers enjoying the day.


San Simeon

Elephant Seal Vista Point - San Simeon State Park, CA

When I spotted a sign that read “Elephant Seal Vantage Point”, I insisted my brother follow that sign immediately. We were not disappointed. A shoreline covered in lazy, belching elephant seals was completely unexpected and amazing! They honked at each other, flopped around in the sand, and played in the surf. While we could have stood there and watched them for hours, our adventure awaited…


Big Sur

Big Sur, CA - Highway 1 California Coastal Road Trip

If you ever watched those movies where the characters are driving along the winding coastline, it was likely near the Big Sur area. My brother’s favorite part of the whole trip was getting to drive the car up the twisty roads. Every turn produced a new picturesque view of the ocean and canyons, which explains the large quantity of Big Sur photos on my camera. This was the scenic portion of the road trip that takes much more time but is worth every second!


San Francisco – China Town

China Town San Francisco - California Road Trip

When we decided to visit San Francisco, China Town was a must-see for sure. When you arrive early in the morning, you get to see the shop keepers and market owners setting up and putting out their wares. We loved admiring the gorgeous architecture with the elaborate details, bright colors, and beautiful touches like lamps and lanterns. There was also plenty of window shopping, and of course, downing delicious food like dim sum and cashew chicken!


Muir Redwood Forest

Redwood Forest - Muir Woods National Monument - California Road Trip

Following the recommendation of a friend and former Marin county resident, our #1 quest to see the redwoods lead us to the Muir National Monument. We knew there would be big beautiful trees but our expectations were surpassed when we walked into the forest. The need to hug trees are fierce in this place and thoughts of Star Wars and Ewoks can’t be helped. Everything is lush and colorful, providing a much-needed retreat from the city.


Yosemite Valley

Yosemite Valley - Ribbon Falls - California Road Trip

When we approached the Yosemite area, the fog was so thick, it was hard to see the cars in front of us, let alone the views. Once we arrived in the Valley, the fog slowly dissipated, uncovering the majestic peaks and falls surrounding us. One second you saw Half Dome, the next you had a little peek of Ribbon Falls. Every view more stunning than the last, we were in a permanent state of awe.


Even though we spent a whole eight days  to do this road trip, we barely scratched the surface of all the places to see. Every place we went, we hated to leave so soon because there was 20 other things we wanted to explore! We decided we just have to do it again!


California Road Trip Route:

2016 Road Trip Route

Where did you go on your favorite road trip!?

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