If you're driving the whole Los Angeles to San Francisco route, you may have opted to spend the night in Carmel.
Pacific Coast Highway - Los Angeles to Cambria and
Big Sur Highway - Cambria to Carmel.
But back to this northern section...
Carmel-by-the-Sea is a quaint town known for expensive boutiques, art galleries, its beautiful Spanish Mission and golf courses. You can easily linger a day or two here.
Visit Point Lobos State Reserve and view sea otters, sea lions, and at the right times of the year, California Gray Whales migrating.
Only about 4 miles (6 km) north of Carmel and Pacific Grove, you'll come to Monterey.... But why not take the scenic route?
17 Mile Drive
Leave California Highway 1 for a bit... Pay the price of admission... (there is a fee of about $9.00 per car)... and drive the 17 Mile Drive (27 km - but the name IS 17 Mile Drive).
You'll drive past some of those famous golf courses, through forests of Monterey Pine and see the Lone Cypress tree on Cypress Point which is a favorite photo subject for tourists. If you stop for lunch at one of the restaurants at Pebble Beach, Spanish Bay, Poppy Hills, or the Lodge, you may get your ticket validated and get your gate fee back. (You may be able to talk your way in without the fee if you tell the gate keeper that you will be stopping for lunch. It's worth a try.)
Monterey, Original Capital of the State
You can probably find cheaper motels and B&Bs in Monterey than in Carmel.
Visit Fisherman's Wharf. Most of it has been converted into touristy markets and restaurants, but it's worth a visit.
Take a day trip onto the bay to see whales... the boat companies list the species they've been seeing lately.
Stroll to the historic buildings nearby. Monterrey was the capital of the state of Alta California in Spanish and Mexican times and many of the buildings from that time have been restored.
You should also see Cannery Row... made famous by the John Steinbeck novel. This is a little further along the seafront. The old sardine packing plants have been turned into shops and restaurants, but it is here that you will find the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It's exhibit of California kelp forests is amazing. It's one of the largest and finest aquariums in the country and really shouldn't be missed.
Santa Cruz - Beaches, Old Time Boardwalk, and Redwoods
Follow California Highway 1 around Monterey Bay to the surfing town of Santa Cruz. It's a laid back beach and university town... full of students and retirees.
Remember these northern California beaches often have morning and evening fog... our "marine layer". You'll want to have something warm to wear for those times... just in case.
There is a surfing museum along West Cliff Drive near the Beach Boardwalk and a great path to watch the surfers.
If you have time, you can take a side trip up Highway 9 to Henry Cowell State Park where you can walk among California's towering Coastal Redwoods.
Wild Ocean Views Near San Francisco
Head back to California Highway 1 and head north again... You pass coves with roaring surf, sandy beaches, agricultural towns and Pigeon Point Lighthouse.
You'll see more of those Redwoods on the hills that drop down to California Highway 1, and side roads that lead up to funky little wineries.
Happy travels... even if you don't travel the world... just remember that life is a journey... embrace and enjoy it! Judy and Mark
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