Californian Coast

Home Up Californian Coast 2

I have my own B&B & walking holiday business, Southdown B&B/White Horse Walking Holidays. Take a look here.

If you'd like to sit back and go travelling with me, click here for a musical montage of this trip (Media Player and sound needed).

This was our second road trip in California, this time driving on Highway 1, the coast road, for the majority of the journey. We stayed in B&Bs and an apartment, all booked by myself through the internet, using information from CABBI (Californian Bed & Breakfast Inns) and Trip Advisor to help in my search. I'm pleased to say that all the arrangements went without a hitch which was a great relief. We decided to fly into San Francisco and back out from Los Angeles, the reverse of our trip in 2000. Our itinerary was as follows: Olema (North of San Francisco, in Marin County), Carmel, Cambria, Santa Barbara, South Pasadena, San Diego and Idyllwild. About 1100 miles and 18 nights so a fairly leisurely pace.

Thursday 12th April

We were fortunate enough to have saved enough BA Miles to qualify for Club World, so had a very comfortable flight with good food and some good films. We collected our Avis car, a Ford Focus which had ample room for us and our luggage. San Francisco in the rush hour, what a start to the driving experience for Martyn. Rather him than me. We drove across the Golden Gate Bridge with its spectacular views, and perfect weather - no sign of the fog that is so often found in this area. We turned off the busy Highway 101 onto Highway 1 - which was incredibly twisty and slow, but with beautiful coastal scenery, and finally arrived at The Bear Valley Inn in Olema at about 7pm, where we were to stay 4 nights. This is a lovely place with very welcoming hosts, Amanda & Ken. After our busy day we decided against going out for dinner, filling the odd gap with the chocolate nuts and bananas in the cosy lounge. We met Kathy and Bob, fellow guests from Ohio. We're hoping they will visit us when we start our walking holiday business!

Friday 13th April

We awoke to beautiful sunshine and a good breakfast and then set off for Pint Reyes Lighthouse, about 40 scenic minutes drive away. We walked from the visitor centre, enjoying the pretty wild flowers, the birds and fabulous ocean views where we looked in vain for migrating whales. It was freezing in the biting wind but hot in sheltered areas. There are 300 steps and lots of long slopes down to the lighthouse - unusual since lighthouses are usually at the top of cliffs! It had to be sited lower than the high fog line and is beautifully preserved. We then drove on to the Historic Lifeboat Station a few miles along the road and walked the mile to Chimney Rock, across the headland where we saw many more wild flowers. Our next stop was Drakes Beach for coffee and a snack - entertainment provided by the spectacular waves - then a walk and return to the Inn via the excellent Bear Valley Visitor Centre.


In the evening we ate at The Farmhouse, a friendly pub/restaurant serving enormous portions of delicious food: for Martyn local oysters, for me coconut prawns and wild Alaskan halibut for us both. We drank Californian Sauvignon Blanc which amazed us by being 14% proof, surely a record for a dry white?

Saturday 14th April

As forecast, the rain started during the night but we had a walk planned and decided to be brave. Our walk was The Bear Valley Trail, just over 4 miles each way. We bought some picnic items at the deli and departed from the Visitor Centre. It was very wet but a lovely trail and the rain eventually eased off. We were lucky enough to see some deer and some unusual birds - we think they were red-winged blackbirds and turkey vultures. By the time we reached Arch Rock, the sun was shining and what a view, stunning. We were the only ones there for a short while but it then became very busy - great timing on our part. Walking back was much nicer with the sun shining.




We dined at The Farmhouse again in the evening - at this rate we'll be like barrels by the time we get home.

Saturday 14th April

Amanda was away so Ken cooked our breakfast and very kindly gave us a packed lunch as we were off to San Francisco for the day, leaving early at 8am. We were there in an hour, having taken a faster, but still mainly scenic, route. We had tickets already booked for an afternoon trip to Alcatraz so collected them and then went on our Bay cruise (Red & White Line) - again already booked. Have to say it was rather spoilt by the number of tourists who were only interested in taking photos of each other, oblivious to their surroundings. They were making such a noise and rushing around changing position for their photos. It was a nice cruise but the headset commentary was of poor quality. We went close to Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge and the views were great - the weather was very clear, no sign of any fog.



On our return we ate our lunch in a pretty garden area on the Wharf and then explored Pier 39 of which we had happy memories from our previous visit with our daughters a few years ago. Then back to Pier 33 for the trip to Alcatraz. The boat was full and on arriving we were given a tour introduction and then watched a film showing the island's history. Next we went on an audio tour which took us right around the actual prison. It was fascinating, certainly a real punishment. We didn't have much time left to look around the rest of the island as the boat was returning at 4.30. We'd thought it would have been later so a tip: book an earlier trip than we did, you can stay as long as you like but only if there's a boat returning!

Back on the mainland we had an early dinner at Dante's on pier 39, a very good value set menu with sensibly sized portions so we managed 3 courses. Then back to Olema for our last night.

Monday 16th April

We were sorry to leave this lovely region but also keen to see what other delights the coast road would have to offer as we set off along Highway 1 for Carmel. The views are spectacular and we encountered little traffic. I was reading East of Eden by John Steinbeck so was keen to visit some of his country but I did make a mistake regarding the location of the Steinbeck Museum and we found ourselves in Monterey instead of Salinas. No matter, we visited a waxworks museum instead and learned a little but it was rather old-fashioned and uninspiring. The same couldn't be said of the Aquarium, however, which was superb. Expensive but beautifully laid out and a centre for conservation. It's right on the seafront and very modern and one of many highlights of the holiday.


We drove on to the Carmel Country Inn, where we had a suite with bedroom and lounge. This really wasn't B&B as we know it in the UK. Both places so far have had complementary sherry for guests. We ate out at a Vietnamese restaurant and enjoyed it very much. We did a spot of window shopping, amazed at the number of art galleries and shops. it's certainly a very smart place indeed, quite unique and mainly very individual shops.

Home Up Californian Coast 2


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