As Aussie kids growing up, the mighty U.S. of A. is pretty exciting. We see movies, read books and hear stories of this incredible place where the celebrities are a bigger deal, the palm trees are abundant and the food servings are much, much larger. When many of us reach a ripe age and have saved enough pennies, we willingly throw them at a trip to America. But where to start?
One holy pilgrimage many travellers decide to take is a road trip between Los Angeles and its sister city to the north of California, San Francisco. Both cities are a hub of cultural activity along America’s West Coast and being able to drive between the two lets you experience that iconic coast in all its glory.
Riding up (or down) the famous Highway 1 will take you around six hours, where you’ll see natural wonders, find small and homely roadside diners and even a quirky mystery house to delight any and all travellers.
Here’s what to expect on your drive from San Francisco to LA.
#1 Santa Cruz
Winding through Redwood forests and along sea-cliffs just outside San Francsico’s city limits you’ll stumble upon the town of Santa Cruz, the unofficial first stopover on your journey. Even in the heart of winter, that classic Cali sun is ever-present above this sandy coastal town. It has a long history as a surf hub (The Beach Boys’ ‘Surfin’ U.S.A.’ gives it a shoutout) and the town’s main attraction is the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk where you can revel in its wholesome “Americana” vibe for hours.
#nofilter needed here.
You’ll want a picture with these guys too.
Call shotgun for that right side front seat as you move on – there’s plenty of photo opportunities coming up.
#2 Bixby Bridge
Look out for Bixby Bridge a little further south – this arched wonder sure is a looker, but it’s even cooler to drive over. Be sure to stop right before it for an obligatory jumping shot. ‘Murica!
#3 Big Sur
Next you’ll pass along a rugged stretch of coast known as Big Sur. This is the best spot to get those wheels a little dirty and drive onto the sand to explore the coastline from sea level.
This is where you should unbuckle, stretch those legs and feel some sand between your toes.
Of course, if the weather calls for it you can check out a bunch of hidden swimming spots right along the shoreline. You might even get a cosy little nook like this all to yourself.
Or you can just spy from a distance. It’s way too easy to get distracted by nature here.
#4 McWay Cove
Keep following that coast-hugging road and you’ll reach the wonder that is McWay Cove. The cove is home to a 24 metre long waterfall that flows all year long. Depending on the tides, that water doesn’t exactly reach the ocean, causing the stream to run straight onto the sand. It’s nearly impossible to reach this beach by foot, but it’s actually best observed from a distance.
Definitely one to add to the list of places to stop, McWay Cove is an Instagrammer’s delight – as is much of Highway 1. The best part of this road trip pilgrimage is that there’s countless little nooks and crannies along the coast ready to be explored – all you need is a great driver and a good sense of adventure.
(All photos: Vincent Rommelaere)