Last year I saw photographs online of Carmel-by-the-Sea and I was sold. It looked like a little European village dropped in the California coast. I was excited to visit this little town and had no idea what I was in store for. As I started to explore the area I realized there is so much to see. I narrowed down my search and decided to stay in Santa Cruz, it was more reasonably priced than Carmel and close to everything. I would visit the Redwoods, Big Sur, Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea and do the 17 Mile Drive through Pebble Beach.
I arrived in San Jose on Saturday, got my rental car and drove an hour to Santa Cruz. I ended up getting a teal Mini-Cooper Convertible. It could not have been more perfect. I went to Pacific Avenue and did some shopping and had lunch before heading to my Airbnb. It was fantastic! A small studio apartment, maybe two hundred square feet with a private patio, kitchen and two bikes. There were many things in walking distance such as a grocery store called New Leaf, Verve coffee and Kelly’s French Bakery. It’s like France follows me wherever I go! It was lovely. At the end of the street, about six blocks away was the ocean where I viewed many sunsets. I went to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk and rode the Skyglider that takes you over the Boardwalk with amazing views of the ocean. It was quite fun. After walking around for a bit and having some ice cream I called it a day.
I wasn’t anticipating California to be mountainous and so foresty (yes, I made that word up). Everyone said I needed to see the Redwoods, so I packed a picnic and set off for the Big Basin Redwoods State Park. It was a nice drive, very windy and through dense trees. It was peaceful, and the day was perfect. I’m not a very outdoorsy person and I hate to say it, but I was unimpressed. Yes, they were really big trees that had been there for a long time and that’s cool, but just not my thing I guess. My family would have loved it! I found some picnic tables in the forest and had a lovely picnic which was enough for me.
The following day I went to Big Sur and for a drive along California Highway 1. In the morning it was foggy, overcast and a little gloomy. Not the best weather for seeing the California coast but luckily it cleared as the day went on and it was gorgeous. I saw the Bixby Bridge (see the pics before and after the fog, such a difference), stopped at all of the turnouts and took a million pictures. Per the recommendation of my Airbnb host I went to Nepenthe for lunch, well, I ate at Café Kevah. There was no wait and the food was lighter for lunch. It was picturesque overlooking the ocean and was a great spot to have lunch. They have a cute shop there as well, The Phoenix. I would suggest popping in for some souvenirs or gifts. After lunch I drove a little further to the Seal Beach Scenic overlook then turned around for the two hour drive back to Santa Cruz. I stopped at the Bixby Bridge again on the way back as the weather was gorgeous now and not dreary like it was in the morning. The drive is definitely worth it and quite beautiful. When I arrived back to my Airbnb I cooked a delicious dinner and settled in for the evening.
I was surprised how much I loved Monterey and the 17 Mile Drive. In Monterey I went to the Old Fisherman’s Wharf and it was great! I had a latte at Water and Leaves, the latte was fantastic, the atmosphere perfect and the outside seating was lovely. After walking around the Wharf, I went to lunch at Paluca Trattoria, the spinach and artichoke ravioli was delicious! And yes, it was the restaurant the girls ate at on Big Little Lies on HBO. And yes, that is kind of why I decided to eat there. After lunch I went to Cannery Row to wander for a bit. I even stopped by Ghirardelli for their World-Famous Hot Fudge Sundae, I have to say, it was delightful! Then I headed for the 17 Mile Drive.
The 17 Mile Drive was set up so nicely, there was a path of red lines in the center of the lane to make sure you stayed on the right path, signs in all the turnouts with information and showing you where you were on the map and the scenery was stunning. This is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. It cost $10.25 USD to get into the 17 Mile Drive and it was worth every penny. Pebble Beach was pretty with white sand and large pebbles everywhere. The day was perfect, and it was serene here. Driving along the water was spectacular and the views were everywhere. I had to really pay attention to the road! While seeing the Redwoods did not impress me, I enjoyed seeing the two hundred and fifty-year-old Lone Cypress Tree. I hope it makes it to three hundred!! I also stopped to have some photo shoots with my car, which I must admit was quite fun. It took me over two hours to drive 17 miles and it was my favorite day!
So, what about Carmel-by-the-Sea? Well, I decided it needed it’s own post! I know you can’t wait! Stay tuned!!
Santa Cruz Pacific Avenue
Santa Cruz Airbnb
Santa Cruz Boardwalk
Big Basin Redwoods State Park
Big Sur and California Highway 1
17 Mile Drive
Kelly’s French Bakery (Santa Cruz)
Sunsets at the Beach (at the end of my street in Santa Cruz)