Time to get back to the coastline

Trip Start Feb 28, 2012
Trip End May 11, 2012

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Flag of United States  , California
Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Managing to dodge a hangover but still swearing never to drink that much again, we set out to do a final run of the vineyard trail to see some of the bigger and more commercial vineyards before heading out to Monterey for the evening. It was pretty much as you would expect but were still amazed at how impressive some of the vineyards look such as Black Stallion, Darioush, Robert Mondavi and Berringer. We've included a few pictures so hopefully you can get an idea from them.

We finished touring just after lunch and headed off for our next destination, Monterey. We were really looking forward to this part of the holiday as from now on we would only be along the coastline hopefully enjoying the much talked about Californian beaches and coastal towns. We arrived late afternoon and just had enough time before sunset to wander down to the pier, check out a couple of shops and have dinner before heading back to the hotel to get some much needed rest.

We managed to rouse ourselves relatively early the next morning, had a quick breakfast and headed out for the day. After taking a quick drive around Monterey we meandered our way up to Pebble Beach golf course along the ’17 mile’ route taking in the beaches and scenery along the way. It’s a rather dramatic landscape most of the way around with waves crashing into ragged bits of rock – not particularly inviting for a quick dip, but pretty to walk and drive along.  There are a few very pretty sand beaches along the way as well, but the day was a little chilly for us to venture in!

I must say I didn’t expect much from the Pebble Beach golf course, but Gav promised me that it was one of the best in the world and I was pleasantly surprised.  A whole gated community; it was amazingly manicured with several golf courses bordering the ocean.  There was one t-off point which was right on the edge of a cliff, one wrong step and you would lose more than just your golf ball!

Driving around we decided to settle into the Pebble Beach Hotel for lunch.  Their restaurant and bar looks over the 18th hole, which also looks over the ocean and on a sunny day it is easy to kill a few hours just looking out.

Eventually we figured that it was time to head off on the rest of our drive for the day.  We took our time driving through Carmel, which is a really pretty town with some beautiful homes overlooking the golden sandy beaches.  It would have been great to stay here rather than Monterey the night before as it had so much more character, but you live and learn. 

Our next plan was to drive along the coast of Big Sur and check out the incredible landscapes that you see in so many pictures of the area.  Surprisingly the Big Sur area is quite an easy drive (or so I am told since I accidentally put my license on a boat back to Oz and couldn’t contribute to any of the driving!) but the sheer drops into the ocean only a matter of meters away from your car are enough to take your breath away. 

The drive along the Big Sur stretch only takes an hour or so, but it is beautiful to drive all the way along Highway 1, which hugs the coast the whole way down to Santa Barbara.  As you descend from the hills of Big Sur and get closer down to sea level again it’s easy to spot seals lazing on the beach or bobbing their heads up in the water.  We stopped at one viewing point towards sunset and the seals were everywhere with their little heads sticking up out of the water staring at us.  So cute!

Our intention was to make it all the way down to Santa Barbara that night, but after a few lengthy stops we opted to check into a good old Best Western in Santa Maria for the night – not much to report in this town except that there are a lot of motels catering for people doing exactly what we were!

Starting off relatively early the next morning we drove down to Santa Barbara to check out the scene.  The palm-lined beach at Santa Barbara is very nice with the mandatory long pier with restaurants dotted along and bicycle vendors at every turn.  I’m not sure if it was the time of year, but the beach had a lot of seaweed washed up on the shore which kind of detracted from the whole look, but it was a relaxing place for a stop nonetheless.

After a mosey through the shops and a quick bite to eat we made our way down to Huntington Beach where we were to spend the night.  This turned out to be our favourite beach along the Californian cost, with beautiful long stretches of clean sand and wide paths along the beachfront to support the tourist influx that I’m sure arrives in summer. This is one of the beaches where they hold some of the major surfing competitions in the world, it has lots of surf shops and restaurants and the main road is pretty busy but it comes across as really friendly and relaxed and it is easy to spend lots of time there. Apparently the city council is deliberately trying to keep the beachfront undeveloped (aka no skyscrapers etc) – I think this is great and I hope they manage to keep it that way!

This was our final beachy night as the next afternoon we headed off to LA!
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