West Coast Road Trip: San Francisco & Santa Monica Pier
The Golden Gate Bridge is not gold. It is a rusty red colour. But watching the bridge with the hot California sunshine in my eyes while holding onto my hat to protect it from the coastal winds was nothing short of a golden moment.
In May 2019 my boyfriend, Josh, and I drove down the west coast from our hometown on Vancouver Island, Canada, to Las Vegas, Nevada and back. This is the second blog post of the series detailing our trip. I hope it provides some practical information and some travel inspiration.
After our short sleep at the Manchester Beach Campsite, we drove along the coast for 3.5 hours until we reached the Golden Gate Bridge viewing point. What a sight to be welcomed with! We walked along the viewing area and explored for about an hour in the hot sunshine. It was our first day of hot Cali sun and we definitely should have put on some sunscreen. We drove over the bridge and found parking by Fisherman’s Wharf at the Zephyr Hotel, $16 US, all day – which was lucky because it was the cheapest parking we could find in that area.
Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf is a gorgeous area. It is definitely a tourist location but it provided a nice peek into San Francisco. We saw the famous sea lion dock on Pier 39 where hundreds of sea lions bask in the sun each day. We enjoyed lunch on the patio of Wipeout Bar & Grill, $35 US, on Pier 39 – delicious food with slow service.
I wanted some cool treats so we walked further into Portland and found Beacon cafe which made a delicious iced americano, $3 US, and we of course had to try some Ben & Jerry’s ice cream from the pier before we left, $6 US. On our way out of San Francisco we got gas, $42 US, and drove 1.5 hours to San Mateo County Memorial Park which was very reasonably priced, $25 US, but was a little off the beaten track. Memorial Park is located a peaceful forest and was lovely for a quiet evening of reading in our tiny tent.
We packed up pretty early and left by 8:15am. We headed straight to Monterey as it was highly recommended by my good friend. We found a breakfast nook with quite the line up – the Monterey cafe, $36 US, was well worth the wait. We loved Monterey – the white sand beaches were ideal for our afternoon walk and there was a sweet fisherman’s wharf area as well. We bought some groceries at Trader Joes, $13 US, and visited a sweet little book store right next to the Monterey Cafe. All in all my favourite place yet.
We left Monterey and headed to Big Sur with high expectations. Alas, Bixby bridge was a bit disappointing although still very pretty. The whole Big Sur coast was fairly disappointing as the entire drive was foggy with no views of the horizon, much less the ocean. I ended up getting nauseous but the saving grace of our drive was the absolute gem of a campsite we found at Limekiln Park, $35 US. Campsite #2 was by far the best site as it overlooked the ocean. That afternoon, we sat by the beach while eating and reading. Limekiln Park also had a fantastic, although advanced, waterfall hike that I highly recommend!
We took a bit longer in the morning and were on our way by 8:50am. We drove through more fog and ended up at Pismo beach. We went for a beautiful and chilly beach walk and then got Chipotle for the very first time, $21 US, which was better than I could have imagined! We loved it. The drive did not take as long as we had thought so we had some free time before checking into our AirBnB in Guadalupe. We decided to go see the new Avengers movie, $20 US, which was an entertaining and chill way to spend our day.
We went to the Guadalupe town and I have to admit I felt nervous walking around the town. There were plenty of cops and not a lot of nice stores. We felt a bit anxious so we went to Santa Maria and picked up dinner – pizza from Fatte’s pizza. The pizza at Fatte’s is always two for one and we really enjoyed it, $18 US.
We arrived at our Airbnb and were greeted by our friendly host Belinda and her dogs. Our room was very clean and nice – brand new everything. Nice Italian couple stayed across the hall. Overall, would recommend.
We awoke and left for Malibu early, but as we drove, we couldn’t find any parking that didn’t cost upwards of $40 so we kept driving and simply enjoyed the stunning homes as we drove through. When we arrived in Santa Monica we got parking at the pier, $14 US. There was a yoga fest on the pier called Wanderlust where we got free products like health drinks and snacks. We spent the whole day walking the pier and the downtown area of Santa Monica.
We ended the day at Dudes Brewing in the Santa Monica rooftop mall. Dudes was a great spot, $31 US, with delicious tasters. Our Airbnb in Santa Ana was a wonderful location but I wasn’t feeling very well. We found some fish tacos at Wahoos Fish Tacos, $34 US, and enjoyed an early night.