Highlights from our California Coast adventure

We drove 7,165 km (4,452 miles) through eight states and two provinces, stayed in nine places and four states, and were gone for 28 days.

Our jaunt down the California Coast was our best holiday yet.  I spent over three weeks by the beach with my husband and dog- who can complain about that?


We decided to power through Washington and Oregon since we’ve been a couple times and get to California. We hopped on the Redwood Highway in Grant’s Pass, Oregon, which is where our holiday truly began!



Here’s a list of all the places we visited with asterisks by where we stayed overnight:

  • Tacoma, Washington (travel night)
  • Crescent City
  • Eureka*
  • Avenue of Giants
  • San Francisco*
  • Santa Cruz
  • Carmel*
  • Monterrey
  • Santa Monica
  • Hollywood and LA
  • Newport Beach*
  • Huntington Beach
  • Laguna Beach*
  • Del Mar*
  • La Jolla
  • San Diego
  • Las Vegas*
  • Great Falls, Montana (travel night)


Nothing I write (nor the photos we took) will do the trip justice, so I thought I’d highlight some special places.

San Francisco
It was fun to drive the iconic Golden Gate to kick off a fun couple days in San Francisco.

We scored an awesome dog-friendly hotel a block from Pier 39. We walked countless miles over our two days and stuck to the tourist spots: Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Embarcadero, Ferry Building, Chinatown, the crookedest street, Union Square, and Golden Gate Park.


And what’s a trip to SF without Ghiradelli’s? I ate a delicious sundae and have been craving their marshmallow topping ever since!


Carmel by the Sea
We heard that Carmel was one of the most dog-friendly places in North America (thanks, Mary!), and it certainly lived up to its reputation.


Carmel is an upscale village with European architecture, art galleries aplenty, and a beautiful beach.

Everyone we met in Carmel, from store workers to people who wanted to meet Harold, was incredibly friendly. We loved to walk on the beach and take in the town.


Laguna Beach
We ended up spending 13 nights in Laguna Beach, seven our first stop and six on our second. It was our favourite stop.


We fell in love with the area. It had a small town feel, the beach was dog-friendly, the ocean was perfect to SUP, and there was amazing Mexican food! We both had fantastic runs here on the road, Crystal Cove State Beach, and the trails. (see my previous post about keeping fit on our holiday including a race in Del Mar.)

Del Mar
Del Mar is in San Diego County. We weren’t sure where to stay in the SD area, but Nicole gave us some great tips! We chose Del Mar because dogs are allowed on their beach any time of day, it has a nice laid-back vibe, and there was perfect surf. Kelly surfed there every day we were in town!


I also had a chance to meet Nicole! It was my first blogger meet up and I loved talking to her in real life.

Huntington Beach
We didn’t stay in Huntington but did spend two days there. It was a fun place and we had a blast cruising on the beach sidewalk.


Kelly also surfed; after all it is called Surf City USA for a reason!

Cruising California’s iconic highway
It was the first holiday since we backpacked in 2004 that we didn’t have a real itinerary or plans other than a date we wanted to be home. We booked hotels the day of or the night before and decided on our next destination a couple days before we moved along.


Santa Monica

While driving the 101, we’d pull over if we saw anything that caught our eye.


Mavericks on an extremely calm day!

I absolutely loved a driving holiday and would highly recommend the California Coast to anyone! It was nice to go in the off-season. It enabled us to book accommodations late notice, and we still had fantastic weather. (It only rained half a day throughout our entire trip and was hot in Southern California!)


A driving holiday also allowed us to take Harold, our dog. We love camping with him in summer, and have had him with us on various trips to British Columbia and a couple times in Oregon. It was wonderful to include him on our winter holiday this year.


My favourite thing about travelling with Harold is spending so much time outside. With him we generally get take out (Mexican!) and eat on the beach. We would time it right and caught dozens of gorgeous Pacific sunsets.


I must admit, we’ve talked about doing California again for next year’s winter getaway!

What’s your favourite road trip? Do you like to have a holiday planned out or play it by ear?

46 responses to “Highlights from our California Coast adventure

  1. WOW absolutely amazing and it really makes me miss CA and the west coast area. I only wish I could manage a 28 day adventure!

  2. Wow! David and I did a similar (though not extensive) trip last summer beginning at his sister’s place in Humbolt (Eureka) and ending in Monterey before we drove back to CO (via Vegas). I so wish we had done this together and our paths would have crossed on the dog beach near Carmel/Monterey! That was the highlight of the trip for me (along with finding a dog-friendly vineyard). I don’t know though, Harold sitting on Lassie’s star is pretty outstanding. So glad you had such a great time and I LOVE traveling without an itinerary 🙂

  3. What an AMAZING vacation!! One I would definitely LOVE!! My favorite road trip is to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho with a few amazing stops along the way (a hot spring in Montana, Bozeman (this was one of my FAVORITE stops), Missoula), a week in Coeur d’Alene (with a day in Spokane, Washington) and a stop in Colorado (up in the mountains north west of Fort Collins) on the way home. We were gone for about 3 weeks during June/July and it was great!! I definitely like a plan to know where we are staying, but while visiting different places, I prefer to be without an itinerary so we can do/see what we want and when we want.

  4. Your whole vacation sounds perfect!! I love that you didn’t really have a plan (other than when to go home) and just went with things as they came!! With the beach, all the hiking/walking, good food…..it all sounds like my kind of vacation!! So glad that you had such a great time!!

  5. So jealous that you could take 28 consecutive days for your winter holiday! That sounds absolutely amazing! So glad you had a great trip. SUP-ing in Laguna Beach would be right up my alley!

  6. So jealous of your most recent trip! Looks amazing! I love how you traveled with your pup… we love to travel with ours and treat him like he’s our child:) Also, I love the look of your blog:)

  7. That looks like such a fantastic trip! I really envy your ability to get away for that long. California is amazing…I fully intend to retire there!

  8. Runner Girl Eats

    Such a gorgeous trip! Glad you 3 had a great time. This is def a bucket list trip for me 🙂

  9. We drove the oregon and californian coast 2 years ago.. it is definitely an amazing trip! looks like you guys had fun!

  10. Sounds like a great trip! We sometimes play things by ear, and other times plan out each part of our trip.

  11. Wow! What an amazing trip and you recapped it very nicely! My husband and I did a Cali Coastal trip last year from SF-LA and it was amazing…the best trip I’ve ever been on actually!

  12. I’ve never been on a road trip yet, always scheduled trips to fly and stay but this has definitely inspired me to plan one in the future!

    • You should most definitely plan one soon! They’re even better than flying sometimes because you don’t have to worry about air travel and all the complications that can come with it!

  13. I love a good road trip, and your’s sounds amazing with lots of happy memories! I love planning by air and taking each day as it comes when on holiday – something to do with a greater sense of freedom.

  14. What an INCREDIBLE trip! Thank you for sharing! So glad you had a blast! Driving (er, cycling) the Cali coast is on my bucket list… this makes me wanna do it TODAY! 🙂

    • Wouldn’t it be amazing to cycle the coast?! When we were on the Redwood Highway I kept dreaming of cycling it! You’d have to do it in a shoulder season so the highways wouldn’t be so crazy!
      I’ll be the support vehicle when you do it 🙂

  15. This sounds sooo fun! I would love to do this some day…I will contact you when we get serious about it! And I love how you brought Harold with! Laguna Beach was one of my favorite spots in Cali too.

  16. What an epic vacation! That lassie photo is funny! The sunset is gorgeous! I miss the ocean.
    Often our trips have stuff planned out. But lately I’ve preferred to go with the flow and not have a plan. We did that in Ireland – would just find a BnB wherever we stopped. Freeing!

  17. LOL at Harold on the Lassie star!! So funny! Glad you had such a great trip. It sounds amazing. You’re so lucky to be able to get away for that long!

  18. Abby 28 days?! WOW. I knew it was a long time but that is amazing! Looks like a completely awesome time!

  19. So so glad you enjoyed! Carmel is heavenly! And Harold looked mighty happy!

  20. Your trip sounds IDEAL! My husband and I would love every minute of it. Our road trips tend to be to the western isles of Scotland. The best one we did was our ‘Anniversication’ where, just in time for our first wedding anniversary, we went camping on a small island with great beaches and surf, then back to the mainland and north for another night of camping in what looked like Middle Earth, then through the Highlands and whisky country, staying in a nice hotel to celebrate the actual day we got married. That was the best road trip we’ve had so far 🙂

  21. It was so great meeting you too! I’m so glad you had such an amazing trip and I definitely recommend coming back next year! 🙂 this post makes me just want to take a staycation or at very least do a weekend getaway in Laguna since I’ve only been there a few times!

  22. What a great vacation!! I remember when you guys went to Asia last year and I was so jealous. I think that I was just as jealous reading this re-cap! 🙂 I love California and I have been to all of those places. No wonder people want to live there. The weather is awesome (almost) all of the time. The beach is fantastic. People are friendly (I think because of the great weather)!!
    I think my favorite road trip was in New Zealand. We were there for a month and it was so much fun! We had a “loose” game plan for that trip but we changed things up here and there depending on recommendations! 🙂

  23. This post made me miss California SO MUCH. I moved back east from there in 2008 and haven’t been back since. I don’t blame you at all for loving Laguna Beach. It is AWESOME! I love all the pictures. What a spectacular journey you guys had!

  24. What an amazing trip – glad that CA was such a great place for you all. It does have lots to offer. I’ve lived here for over 10 years and still have a huge bucket list of activities and places to do/visit.
    We’ve loved traveling with our dogs and have gone up and down CA and all the way north to Bellingham and as far east as Texas. This summer, I’m doing CdA and we’ll head to Banff after that, then Seattle, and then Colorado. Lots of zig-zagging, but it will be worth it and we’ll be in a beautiful part of the world.

    • If I lived on the coast, I think I’d always stay cationThis summer will be an awesome road trip! If you have any questions about Banff or want any recommendations, let me know! We go there once in a while, and my husband lived there before, too.

  25. if you go next year, can i come along? i promise just to squeeze in your suitcase! gah i love the ocean!

  26. Looks like your pup enjoyed your travels too. What an adventure! My favorite trips are always to Colorado, I love my mountains.

  27. It sounds like you guys had a fabulous time! You got some great pictures, too! We had three amazing road trip is particular. First we took a northerly trip from Virginia to Utah when we drove out there for grad school. Our second road trip was from Utah north to Oregon and then down the coast to California and then back home, our final big trip was a two weeker from Utah back to Virginia two years later when we took a more southerly trip home to Virginia. Your recap brought back a lot of fun memories!

    It’s no secret that I just love Harold, so of course I loved the picture of him with Lassie’s star. What a cute idea! 🙂

  28. You got some pretty great weather 🙂 It’s funny, I want to say that I love road trips, but I am not really sure that I do. I used to do a lot with my mom, back and forth to college and I think I remember loving them because I loved spending one on one time with my mom and we would stop driving at like 5, get some dinner take out, bring it back to our hotel and watch movies all night! Now I live too far away to drive to her, but that doesn’t mean we cannot plan something in the future!

  29. This looks like my dream vacation! I want to go to Washington and Oregon so badly adn we are hoping to get to San Fran this summer.

    Did you have to wait in line to take the picture in front of the Vegas sign? When we went there, there was a crazy long line!

  30. Pingback: Eat Sleep Ride: a book review | Change of Pace

  31. runnerbydefault

    Thanks for sharing. What an amazing trip!! I love the action shot of Harold running. So cute! I loved our California road trip. I can’t wait to do it again. Where did you stay in Laguna Beach? I can’t remember the name of the hotel we stayed at years ago but it was right on the main road. Last year, my friend and I took a road trip from Seattle to Forks, Washington (Home of the Twilight movies). We had so much fun just seeing new things.

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