Updated: Feb 28, 2021
The road trip from San Francisco to Carmel -by- the- Sea is one of the most scenic road trips in the world. Maybe you have driven from Los Angeles to San Francisco so many times and your looking for something different, a nature escape from the city.If you haven’t taken the Central California roadtrip from San Francisco to Lover’s Point at the edge of Monterrey Bay, your missing out. Like the Great Ocean Road in Melbourne, this coastal trip is one of the top highlights in the world, combining miles and miles of ocean views along one of the most scenic drives in the world. This coastal roadtrip is home to one of the most awe-dropping scenic drives of the Pacific Ocean and is rustic California living at it’s finest.Start from your starting point location in San Francisco,and from there head to Santa Cruz, Pacific Grove, and Carmel. Some of most beautiful attractions in the world are located on this scenic drive, including the world-renowned Pebble Beach golf club and course. This trip can be completed in a couple of days and is a great getaway from the city. Lay your head down and let the ocean waves and spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean wash away your worries and struggles.
1.Santa Cruz- Natural Bridges State Park
From Interstate 1 from San Francisco, you first destination should be Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is a nice weekend getaway from San Francisco and is only around an hour and half driving on the Interstate.Santa Cruz was founded in 1769 by the Spanish explorer Don Gaspor de Portola and since has become a popular destination for it’s Boardwalk, Seabright StateBeach and Natural Bridges State Park, where you can view the monarch butterflies. The sea arch that is seen on this beach was formed from the fractures in mudstone cliffs, giving it its unique shape and formation that we see today.Some mornings can be cloudy and foggy, but it usually gradually clears up in the afternoon.The Boardwalk has an amusement park on the beach and is known for it’s various rides,snacks and views of the harbour from the park.Santa Cruz is also known as the birthplace of surfing and is synonymous with summer sun, beaches and the fishing pier where long summer days and relaxation go hand in hand.
2. Seabright State Beach
A popular beach near the boardwalk, this expansive beach allows you to play many beach sports.The location is also ideal for viewing shorebirds and migrating whales from April through November. I loved overlooking the expansive structure and watching the ocean waves fall towards me. California and Santa Cruz are known for their expansive beaches and nature, with seagulls flying above the sand and ocean waves. Relax along with the ocean waves and people watch from far away as time passes you. One of the great things about Central California and its beaches is that the waters are so pristine and nice that you would not feel the same congestion as in Los Angeles or San Francisco.
3. Pacific Grove and Lovers Point Park
From Santa Cruz, drive further South along Interstate 1 to the bridge between Pacific Grove and Lovers Point Park.On the Monterey Peninsula lies Lovers Point Park and Pacific Grove, a popular destination for swimming, biking,bird-watching, kayaking and other activities. Pacific Grove also has history and artistry located on some of the bike paths, for example one particular mural notes the influence and importance of a Chinese community during the early 1900s and their legacy to the community.Lovers Point Park is a popular place for gatherings and weddings alike because of its spectacular backdrop of the Pacific Ocean and Monterey Bay. The rock formations extend out into the ocean, and you can walk out to the shore to get a better view of the ocean and Monterey Bay. Be sure to have your camera ready and your turn off your Instagram filter because the natural beauty here in Pacific Grove exceeds that of filters on social media. Let your natural self show and bathe under the glow of the California sun.
From Pacific Grove, head to Carmel, and enchanting and mystic city by the sea.Carmel is a wonderful charming and romantic city that contains and harbours the Spanish Mission and Basilica architectural buildings and fairy-tale like cottages. Carmel became a city and incorporated in 1916, and later became known for several fairy tale like cottages, including the Hobbit House built by Hugh Comstock. Come to Carmel to explore the art, architecture and Spanish origins, and leave inspired by it’s folktale legends and tales. The Folktale Winery and Vineyards is a must see attraction there, offering expansive wine tastings and tours.
5. 17 Mile Drive
The drive down to Pacific Grove and Carmel passes through various locations such as the 17 Mile Drive, where the famous Monterey lone cypress tree is located near Pebble Beach and the world famous golf course, where PGA legends such as Tiger Woods played. Along the 17 Mile Drive, you will get a glimpse of expansive mansions and luxury cars of the rich overlooking Tomales Bay. Although a small fee is required to enter the 17 Mile Drive, it is worth it for the views of Pebble Beach and the distinct California lifestyle that immerses you into a different world. There are several rest stops along the way where you can take photos of various places, or when sitting in your car you can be sure to snap some pictures of the passing views.If you are envisioning your perfect California roadtrip, the drive along the 17 Mile Drive is definitely part of that : open air deck sports car driving down the open winded streets with the California sun behind you.
6. Fishermann’s Wharf
End your road trip and head to back to San Francisco, but not before dining at Old Fishermann’s Wharf’s in Monterrey. There are a wide array of options to choose from, but the authentic seafood, from the fresh crabs to salmon and oysters are some of the best in the region because of their proximity to the ocean. Established in 1845, it was a fishing village before branching into a large tourist destination,inviting millions of visitors each year. Fishermann’s Wharf is a popular destination during the holidays and long weekends, so be sure to plan in advance and enjoy browsing Monterrey Bay.
This is my favourite coastal road trip because it brings to light many of California’s small towns and exposes their culture. From Carmel to Santa Cruz, this coastal road trip is a great refresher from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles or San Francisco and is rather untainted with industrialization that gives each city and each beach it’s own unique flair, allowing only nature to distinctly change its formations. For those of you who want to adventure further, be sure to head further down Interstate 1 to Big Sur, where you will be graced with stunning coastlines overlooking the Pacific Ocean.With the Pacific Ocean as your backdrop and a stress reliever, you will definitely see your work and your life in a new light after this trip. So step on your gas pedal, and start your California roadtrip now!