Coastal California | Moon Travel Guides https://moon.com Trip Ideas, Itineraries, Maps & Area Experts Sat, 18 Nov 2017 00:01:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9 https://deathstar-650a.kxcdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/cropped-moon_logo_M-32x32.jpg Coastal California | Moon Travel Guides https://moon.com 32 32 125073523 Dog-Friendly Campsites on California Beaches https://moon.com/2017/07/dog-friendly-campsites-california-beaches/ https://moon.com/2017/07/dog-friendly-campsites-california-beaches/#respond Wed, 26 Jul 2017 18:03:53 +0000 https://moon.com?p=58316&preview=true&preview_id=58316 Summer fun in the sun wouldn’t be complete without man’s best friend! Each of these beautiful, dog-friendly campsites have beach access, so you and your pup can enjoy all that California beaches have to offer.

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Summer fun in the sun wouldn’t be complete without man’s best friend! Each of these beautiful, dog-friendly campsites have beach access, so you and your pup can enjoy all that California beaches have to offer. For details, directions, and even more pet-friendly campsites, pick up a copy of Moon California Camping and look for the easy-to-use dog icon to find hundreds more options for camping with pets. Moon Coastal California also has a “dog days” section that lists the best places for traveling and adventuring with dogs.

Sleeping golden retriever in front of a tent at a dog-friendly campsite

These beach camping adventures are sure to give your dog a good night’s sleep. Photo © chendongshan/iStock.

Dog-Friendly Beaches in Northern California

Gold Bluffs Beach (in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park)

Scenic Rating: 8/10
Region: Redwood Empire
Dog Policy: Leashed dogs are allowed in campground and on the beach, but not on trails

The campsites are in a sandy, exposed area with windbreaks; there’s a huge, expansive beach on one side and a backdrop of 100- to 200-foot cliffs on the other side. You can walk for miles at this beach, often without seeing another soul, and there is a great trail routed north through forest, with many hidden little waterfalls.

In addition, Fern Canyon Trail, one of the best 30-minute hikes in California, is at the end of Davison Road. Hikers walk along a stream in a narrow canyon, its vertical walls covered with magnificent ferns. Sturdy hikers can continue heading north on the Coastal Trail through its pristine woodlands and fantastic expanses of untouched beaches. However, note that dogs are not allowed on Redwood National and State Park trails. There are some herds of elk in the area, often right along the access road. These camps are rarely used in the winter because of the region’s heavy rain and winds. The expanse of beach here is awesome, covering 10 miles of huge, pristine ocean frontage.

Nearby Elk Prairie is another option for camping with dogs in Prairie Creek Redwoods. Though it is not directly on the beach, it has a scenic rating of 9/10 and is rated as one of the best campgrounds for families.

Clam Beach County Park (near McKinleyville)

Scenic Rating: 7/10
Region: Redwood Empire
Dog Policy: Dogs must be on leash in the campground, off leash areas may be available at the beach

Here awaits a beach that seems to stretch on forever, one of the great places to bring a date, a dog, your kids, or, hey, all three. While the campsites are a bit exposed, making winds out of the north a problem in the spring, the direct beach access largely makes up for it. The park gets its name from the fair clamming that is available, but you must come equipped with a clam gun or special clam shovel, and then be out when minus low tides arrive at daybreak. Most people just enjoy playing tag with the waves, taking long romantic walks, or throwing sticks for the dog.

Looking out Wrights Beach towards the hills and cliffs in the distance. Waves crash onto shore and onto a boulder close to the shoreline

Enticing and turbulent waters of Wrights Beach. Photo © Bill Williams, licensed CC BY.

Wrights Beach (in Sonoma Coast State Park)

Scenic Rating: 8/10
Region: Mendocino and Wine Country
Dog Policy: Leashed pets are permitted in the campground and on the beach

This park provides more than its share of heaven and hell. This state park campground is at the north end of a beach that stretches south for about a mile, yet to the north it is steep and rocky. The campsites are considered a premium because of their location next to the beach. Because the campsites are often full, a key plus is an overflow area available for self-contained vehicles. Sonoma Coast State Beach stretches from Bodega Head to Vista Trail for 17 miles, separated by rock bluffs and headlands that form a series of beaches. More than a dozen access points from the highway allow you to reach the beach.

There are many excellent side trips. The best is to the north, where you can explore dramatic Shell Beach (the turnoff is on the west side of Highway 1) or take Pomo Trail (the trailhead is on the east side of the highway, across from Shell Beach) up the adjacent foothills for sweeping views of the coast. That’s the heaven. Now for the hell: Dozens of people have drowned here. Wrights Beach is not for swimming; rip currents, heavy surf, and surprise rogue waves can make even playing in the surf dangerous. Many rescues are made each year. The bluffs and coastal rocks can also be unstable and unsafe for climbing. Got it? 1) Stay clear of the water. 2) Don’t climb the bluffs. Now it’s up to you to get it right.

Shot of the beach, where two people and their dogs stroll next to the shoreline. Fog and hills in the background a bit across the water.

Dogs enjoy a long walk on Carmel Beach. Photo © Stuart Thornton.

Carmel by the River RV Park (on the Carmel River)

Scenic Rating: 8/10
Region: Monterey and Big Sur
Dog Policy: Leashed pets are permitted at the campground, and nearby Carmel Beach (20 minute drive) and Garland Ranch Regional Park (9 minute drive) offer off-leash areas

Location, location, location. That’s what vacationers want. Well, this park is on the Carmel River, minutes away from Carmel, Cannery Row, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, golf courses, and the beach. One of the best California dog beaches is nearby Carmel Beach, where dogs abound and can roam leash-free. Carmel Valley’s Garland Ranch Regional Park is also one of the best places to hike with your dog, offering pet water fountains and off-leash areas. Hedges and flowers separate each site at this RV park.

Note: No tents are permitted here, so this is ideal for RV campers, but closeby Saddle Mountain Ranch RV Park and Campground offers 28 tent sites.

A dark golden retriever leaps out of the water with a wooden stick in its mouth

A special section of Huntington Beach is reserved for dogs and their owners. Photo © John Liu, licensed CC BY.

Dog-Friendly Beaches in Southern California

Bolsa Chica State Beach (near Huntington Beach)

Scenic Rating: 7/10
Region: Los Angeles and Vicinity
Dog Policy: Dogs are allowed at the campsites, but not on the state beach. However, they are allowed on several miles of paved coastal trails and the Huntington Dog Beach is a bit down the coast

This state beach extends three miles from Seal Beach to Huntington Beach City Pier. A bikeway connects it with Huntington State Beach, seven miles to the south. Across the road from Bolsa Chica is the 1,000-acre Bolsa Chica Ecological Preserve, managed by the Department of Fish and Game. The campground consists of basically a beachfront parking lot, but a popular one at that. A great little walk is available at the adjacent Bolsa Chica State Reserve, a 1.5-mile loop that provides an escape from the parking lot and entry into the 530-acre nature reserve, complete with egrets, pelicans, and many shorebirds. Lifeguard service is available during the summer.

This camp has a seven-day maximum stay during the summer and a 14-day maximum stay during the winter. Surf fishing is popular for perch, cabezon, small sharks, and croaker. There are also occasional runs of grunion, a small fish that spawns in hordes on the sandy beaches of Southern California.

San Elijo State Beach (in Cardiff by the Sea)

Scenic Rating: 9/10
Region: San Diego and Vicinity
Dog Policy: Leashed pets are permitted at the campground, but not in some areas of the beach. However, Del Mar City Beach is just down the coast and has a dog section that extends from 29th Street to Solana Beach

These are bluff-top campgrounds and about half the sites overlook the ocean. Swimming and surfing are good, with a reef nearby for snorkeling and diving. What more could you ask for? Well, for one thing, how about not so many trains? Yep, train tracks run nearby and the trains roll by several times a day. So much for tranquility.

Regardless, it is a beautiful beach just north of the small town of Cardiff by the Sea. Nearby San Elijo Lagoon at Solana Beach is an ecological preserve. Though this is near a developed area, there are numerous white egrets, as well as occasional herons and other marine birds. Reservations are usually required to get a spot between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend.

Aerial shot of the coast at Ocean Beach. There is a large sandy area and some wave breaks.

Ocean Beach has lots of room for dogs to run. Photo © Hasan Can Balcioglu/Dreamstime.

Campland on the Bay (on Mission Bay)

Scenic Rating: 8/10
Region: San Diego and Vicinity
Dog Policy: Leashed dogs are allowed, with some restrictions. Though they are not allowed on the beach, there are designated Dog Walk Areas and nearby Ocean Beach, the “original dog beach,” allows dogs

This is one of the biggest campgrounds this side of the galaxy. The place has a prime location overlooking Kendall Frost Wildlife Preserve and is set on Mission Bay, a beautiful spot that’s a boater’s paradise with a private beach. Waterskiing, sailboarding, and ocean access for deep-sea fishing are preeminent. SeaWorld, just north of San Diego, offers a premium side trip. This campground is consistently rated one of San Diego’s best. There are more than 558 sites, and many facilities are available.


Find the best dog-friendly California campsites with beach access.


Excerpted from the 20th Edition of Moon California Camping.

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Three Great Road Trips from Monterey, California https://moon.com/2017/07/three-great-road-trips-from-monterey-california/ https://moon.com/2017/07/three-great-road-trips-from-monterey-california/#respond Wed, 19 Jul 2017 20:56:28 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=57652 Perched on the southern end of the Monterey Bay, Monterey is one of the California Central Coast’s most popular visitor destinations. Though there’s plenty to see in Monterey—including the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Monterey State Historic Park, sea otters, and more—the city is an ideal place to head out on a road trip to explore the Central Coast, whether it’s a day trip or an overnight excursion. Here are three ideas.

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Perched on the southern end of the Monterey Bay, Monterey is one of the California Central Coast’s most popular visitor destinations. Though there’s plenty to see in Monterey—including the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Monterey State Historic Park, sea otters, and more—the city is an ideal place to head out on a road trip to explore the Central Coast, whether it’s a day trip or an overnight excursion. Here are three ideas.

Santa Cruz

roller coaster and palm trees back the beach in Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Photo © Stuart Thornton.

Across the bay from Monterey, Santa Cruz has a distinctly different feel due to the youthful influence of the University of California, Santa Cruz and its vibrant surf culture. The drive from Monterey to Santa Cruz can range from 45 minutes to an hour depending on traffic. Just hop on CA-1 and head north to reach Santa Cruz.

Make your first stop at Steamer Lane Supply, a concession stand in Lighthouse Field State Beach right across from Steamer Lane, one of the beach town’s most popular surf breaks. With a tasty breakfast quesadilla and coffee from the eatery in hand, take in the waves peeling below at Steamer Lane and decide if you want to try and catch a few. The waves are best for intermediate to advanced surfers.

Beginners should head to the adjacent Cowell’s Beach, home to an easy rolling wave that is ideal for learners. Also, nearby is the Cowell’s Beach Surf Shop if you need to rent equipment or take a lesson.

After some time in the water, walk over to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk on Beach Street for a pulse quickening ride on the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster, which has been thrilling visitors since opening in 1924.

Awake from adrenaline, make the two-mile drive to Akira Sushi for lunch. The wonderful menu draws from both classic sushi ingredients (tuna, salmon, ginger) and items unusual in the typical sushi roll (skirt steak, Siracha, truffle salt).

Head to downtown Santa Cruz post-lunch to browse the local shops lining Pacific Avenue. Get a boost of caffeine from local Verve Coffee, which has expanded into Los Angeles, before browsing through vinyl at Streetlight Records or perusing paperbacks at Bookshop Santa Cruz, an independent bookstore that has been open for over 50 years.

Before sunset, drive 2 miles north of Santa Cruz on CA-1 to Wilder Ranch State Park. The 7,000-acre former dairy farm has 35 miles of paths including the Old Cove Landing Trail, which takes hikers out to the craggy coastline.

On your return trip to Monterey, detour off CA-1 onto the 41st Avenue Exit for dinner at Café Cruz. This longtime local favorite has all the right ingredients for a great meal: attentive service and great food at a reasonable price.

Or if you want to keep your Santa Cruz excursion going, consider getting a room at the moderately priced Seaway Inn on West Cliff Drive. This small motel is walking distance to Steamer Lane in case you want to paddle out again the next morning.

San Luis Obispo Coast

aerial shot of Morro Bay

Morro Bay State Park. Photo © modernschism/iStock.

The coastline of San Luis Obispo County offers an ideal mix of laidback oceanside towns, recreational opportunities, and California’s best version of a European castle, Hearst Castle in San Simeon. Be sure to make reservations for a castle tour before heading out. The drive to Hearst Castle from Monterey is two and a half hours long via CA-68 West, U.S. 101 South, CA-46 West, and CA-1 North.

There are several tours available at Hearst Castle, but the “Grand Rooms Tour” is recommended for first time visitors. The one hour long guided tour includes stops in the Billiards Room, Theater, and Neptune Pool.

Next up, explore the coastline within Harmony Headlands State Park. Drive 17 miles south of Hearst Castle on CA-1 and park on the western side of the roadway. The 784-acre park opened in 2003 and includes the 1.5 mile Headlands Trail, which wanders to a coastal marine terrace with a view of the undeveloped seashore.

With an appetite growing, head five miles south on CA-1 to the small town of Cayucos. Though located in a small building, Ruddell’s Smokehouse dishes up fish tacos with big flavor. The suggested order is either the smoked salmon or smoked albacore tacos, each served with chopped apples as a condiment.

Hop on CA-1 once again and head six miles south to Morro Bay to take in one of the Central Coast’s natural wonders: Morro Rock. One of the Nine Sisters, a chain of volcanic mountains in San Luis Obispo County, the 581-foot high rock towers over the scenic harbor of the fishing village.

To further explore Morro Bay, rent a kayak to paddle around the protected estuary, where you can spot sea lions, harbor seals, and 100 different bird species. Gear is available nearby at Kayak Horizons, or opt for a tour through Central Coast Outdoors.

End your day with fresh seafood at Tognazzini’s Dockside Restaurant right on Morro Bay’s harbor. The raw oysters or barbecued oysters in garlic butter are a great start to any meal.

Not feeling like driving back to Monterey? The Masterpiece Hotel in Morro Bay is decorated with reproductions of classic artworks and has a replica Roman style bath for soaking.

Inland Adventure

vineyards in Paso Robles

Paso Robles Vineyards. Photo © Stuart Thornton.

While the coastlines of Monterey and San Luis Obispo Counties get most of the attention, there’s a handful of worthy destinations inland along the Salinas Valley down to Paso Robles on U.S. 101. One of the best sights is the rocky wonderland of Pinnacles National Park, an hour’s drive from Monterey. The western entrance in Soledad offers a superb introduction to the park’s rock spires, caves, and oversized boulders. A suggested hike is the 4.3-mile-long Juniper Canyon Trail, which includes a steep and narrow section at its highest point.

Having earned a great lunch, travel 30 minutes south on U.S. 101 to King City. This sleepy agricultural city boosted its foodie cred with the opening of The Cork & Plough in 2015. Go hearty with the venison meatloaf sandwich or lighter with the shaved cauliflower salad.

Now properly sated, hit the road again for a 40-minute drive south on U.S. 101 to Mission San Miguel. This overlooked California mission has one of the best-preserved church interiors in the whole mission system along with being the site of a murderous rampage back in 1848.

Maybe it’s the fact that the padres of the Mission San Miguel made wine or just because you are thirsty continue another 10 miles down U.S. 101 to the booming wine region of Paso Robles. Recommended stops include Opolo Vineyards and the Eberle Winery. Visit pasowine.com for more information about the area’s wineries.

Soak up the wine with a meal at Artisan in downtown Paso Robles. This longtime favorite serves up wood fired pizzas, veggies, and meatier fare including slow braised pork.

If you are getting drowsy after such a full day, splurge for a night at the Hotel Cheval, an upscale boutique hotel. Another option is to secure a room at the Paso Robles Inn, where you can relax in a private tub filled with warm local mineral waters.


Need more California road trip ideas? Check out Moon California Road Trip.

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Plan a California Coast Road Trip (Including Detours for Big Sur) https://moon.com/2017/06/take-a-two-week-california-coast-road-trip/ https://moon.com/2017/06/take-a-two-week-california-coast-road-trip/#comments Thu, 01 Jun 2017 18:36:09 +0000 http://moon.com/?p=7027 A day-by-day California coast road trip accounting for detours and road closures along key sections of the PCH. This itinerary includes helpful travel maps and is flexible enough to start in San Diego, Los Angeles, or San Francisco. Only have two to four days? Each section can also be its own quick getaway.

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The ideal way to experience the California coast is to hit the road. Following this legendary road trip will take you through California’s bustling cosmopolitan cities, small beach towns, redwood forests, and sandy beaches. This itinerary has been updated to take into account detours caused by 2016’s stormy winter, which caused road closures and mudslides in some regions.

You can switch back and forth between the two routes depending on your pace and your interests. Highway 1 is generally more scenic; U.S. 101 is usually faster.For the most part, you’ll cover this stunning 850 miles by following the legendary Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) and U.S. 101. You can switch back and forth between the two routes depending on your pace and your interests. Highway 1 is generally more scenic; U.S. 101 is usually faster. A few diversions onto other routes are necessary to cover the entire coast (for example, you’ll be driving I-5 between San Diego and Los Angeles).

The day-by-day routes below begin in Southern California, but you can just as easily start in Central or Northern California, or reverse the route (from driving north to driving south) if that works better for you. Combine all three itineraries to make a 16-day tour of the coast. If you’re pressed for time, choose just one or two of the itineraries.

Northern California travel map

Northern California

Southern California travel map

Southern California

Five Days along the Southern California Coast

San Diego

Day 1

map of San Diego

San Diego

Easygoing San Diego is a great place to start any vacation. Upon arrival, orient yourself by driving to the top of Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial, a small mountain that has views of the entire city. After that, head down to La Jolla Cove to go kayaking or snorkeling; or just lie on the beach.

In the afternoon, visit Balboa Park, where you’ll spend most of your time at the San Diego Zoo. End your day with a craft beer at one of San Diego’s many breweries, like the giant Stone Brewing Co., followed by a meal in the Gaslamp Quarter. Try the historic Grant Grill or the nearby Café Chloe.

Day 2

The fastest way to reach the North County beach towns of Encinitas, Carlsbad, and Oceanside is to take I-5 north out of San Diego. To cruise along the coast, opt for North Coast Highway 101 (also called Camino del Mar, San Elijo Boulevard, and Carlsbad Boulevard as it travels from Torrey Pines State Beach to Oceanside). Make sure to stop for a surf or a swim since the ocean temperatures cool as you head up the coast.

Continue north on I-5 to visit Huntington Beach before turning off towards Long Beach for a nighttime ghost tour on The Queen Mary, an ocean liner that is now home to restaurants, a hotel, shops, and a museum. If you are daring enough, book a room for the night in the haunted ship.

Torrey Pines State Reserve. Photo © Chad McDermott/The Department of Creativity.

Torrey Pines State Reserve. Photo © Chad McDermott/The Department of Creativity.

Los Angeles

Day 3

map of Los Angeles

Los Angeles

Jump on I-405 to save some time and drive about 30 miles north, exiting towards Venice Beach. Park your vehicle and take a stroll along the Venice Boardwalk to take in the local wildlife that includes bodybuilders, street performers, and alternative-culture types. Without getting back on the highway, take the local roads paralleling the beach 10 minutes north to Santa Monica. Enjoy the amusement park rides of the Santa Monica Pier or just take a break on Santa Monica Beach. For dinner, get a taste of the Caribbean at Santa Monica’s casual but popular Cha Cha Chicken or backtrack to Venice for a hearty Italian meal at C&O Trattoria.

Day 4

Consider heading inland for a day of culture (and pop culture). For aesthetic stimulation, visit the world-famous Getty Center or the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Less rigorous on the mind is a walk down the star-studded Hollywood Walk of Fame and a stop at the historic TCL Chinese Theatre, where you can find the handprints of your favorite movie stars. End the day with a cocktail at Sunset Boulevard’s Rainbow Bar & Grill. There might even be a grizzled, past-his-prime rocker sitting in the booth next to you.

Get an amazing view of Los Angeles from the Getty Center.

Get an amazing view of Los Angeles from the Getty Center. Photo © Jon Bilous/123rf.

Day 5

Take the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) out of Santa Monica west as it heads away from sprawling Los Angeles and into Malibu. Stop at Malibu’s Surfriders Beach to watch the surfers compete for its famously peeling waves (or catch one yourself). After a morning outdoors, feed your mind with ancient art at The Getty Villa in Malibu. (Admission is free, but you’ll need to reserve a ticket in advance.) Finish the day by watching the sun slide into the Pacific from the outdoor deck of Neptune’s Net, while enjoying fresh seafood.

If you want to spend more time in the Los Angeles area, you can easily fill a couple of days enjoying Disneyland Resort.


Six Days along the Central California Coast

Santa Barbara and Ventura

Day 1

map of Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara

Wake up early and drive north on the scenic Pacific Coast Highway. Thirty-five miles from Malibu, at Oxnard, merge onto U.S. 101. Head north on U.S. 101 to Ventura and take the exit toward Ventura Harbor, where you can catch a boat out to Channel Islands National Park for a day of hiking, snorkeling, or kayaking on Santa Cruz Island or Anacapa Island. (Make boat reservations in advance.) Return to Ventura and eat dinner at one of its seafood restaurants, such as Lure Fish House or Spencer Makenzie’s Fish Company. Or have an Italian meal and cocktail at hip Café Fiore.

Day 2

Take U.S. 101 north just a half hour (28 miles) to Santa Barbara. Get a history fix at the Santa Barbara Mission, which might be the most beautiful of the 21 Spanish missions in California. Then taste some of Santa Barbara’s wines on the Urban Wine Trail, six tasting rooms on lower State Street, or head north for a day at palm-lined Refugio State Beach, 20 miles west of Santa Barbara on U.S. 101.

Mission Santa Barbara on a clear day.

Mission Santa Barbara was the tenth built of the California Missions. Photo © Dreamstime

If your schedule is flexible, you might consider another full day in Santa Barbara, another day of wine-tasting in nearby Santa Maria Valley, or a day on the Gaviota Coast. Whatever you do, stop at Santa Barbara’s State Street for a fine meal or cocktail at a restaurant like the local favorite Opal. Or head off State Street for superb Mexican food at La Super-Rica Taqueria.

Big Sur and the Central Coast

Day 3

Maps - Northern California 7e - Big Sur

Big Sur

Drive 1.75 hours (92 miles) north of Santa Barbara on U.S. 101 to San Luis Obispo’s Madonna Inn, where you can take in its kitschy decor during a restroom and stretch-the-legs break.

Outdoor enthusiasts will want to head off the highway and go west on Los Osos Valley Road just 20 minutes (12 miles) to Montana de Oro State Park, one of the state’s best coastal parks. Picnic at Spooner’s Cove or hike to the top of 1,347-foot-high Valencia Peak. Then head back to U.S. 101 North, but be sure to turn onto Highway 1 north to take in sunset over Morro Rock, known as the “Gibraltar of the Pacific.”

Another option is to drive an hour north (44 miles) to opulent Hearst Castle. Tours of this “ranch” built for newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst offer insight into the lifestyle of the rich and infamous. However you spend your day, end it with a meal in one of the Central Coast’s unassuming beach towns: Morro Bay, Cayucos or Cambria.

Day 4

Big Sur was one of the area’s hit hardest by winter’s storms in 2016, but this stunning section of coast is worth the extra effort to visit. A massive landslide in May 2017 has made travel into Big Sur from the south impossible. But the good news is that you can still experience 30 miles of the iconic coastline and a section of Highway 1 from Carmel down to the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge closure, where one of the roadway’s bridges had to be demolished after incurring major storm damage. A new bridge is scheduled to open in September 2017.

To reach Carmel from San Luis Obispo, which is a two-and-a-half-hour drive, take U.S. 101 North 118 miles and then take the Abbott Street exit towards Spreckels. After two miles, turn onto Harris Road, which becomes Spreckels Boulevard, and continue 1.5 miles until you drive onto CA-68 West. Go 17 miles on the two-lane roadway until you hit Highway 1. Opt for Highway 1 South towards Carmel and Big Sur. Maybe pop off the highway for a snack break at Carmel-by-the-Sea’s Carmel Belle, which serves up tasty and healthy sandwiches and salads.

Refreshed, it’s now time to take in the stunning scenery of Big Sur. The open northern section has many worthwhile sights and stops including Garrapata Beach, the Bixby Bridge, and the Point Sur Light Station, which is open for tours.

Warm weather meets coastal fog on the Bixby Bridge in Big Sur. Photo © Mariusz Blach/123rf.

Warm weather meets coastal fog on the Bixby Bridge in Big Sur. Photo © Mariusz Blach/123rf.

While the famous Nepenthe Restaurant is past the bridge closure and therefore inaccessible, there are a handful of Big Sur Valley restaurants open to the public, including the Ripplewood Café, the Fernwood Bar & Grill, the Big Sur Roadhouse, and the Big Sur River Inn, where you can dangle your legs in the Big Sur River while sipping a beer or cocktail from the bar.

There are also a handful of places to spend the night in the open section of Big Sur, including but not limited to the Fernwood Resort, Glen Oaks, the Big Sur River Inn, and 50 campsites within the recently reopened Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Or opt to helicopter into the closed section of Big Sur for a two-night stay at the Post Ranch Inn; the “Escape Through the Skies” package rates begin at $4,291.

Monterey Bay

Day 5

Maps - Northern California 7e - Monterey Bay

Monterey Bay

After waking up in Big Sur, head up CA-1 north for 21 miles to the Carmel’s Point Lobos State Reserve for a morning walk on the Cypress Grove Trail. Then drive a few miles north into Monterey to spend the afternoon at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Dine on fresh seafood at Pacific Grove’s Passionfish, Monterey’s Fish House in Monterey, or Phil’s Fish Market up Highway 1 in Moss Landing.

If you want to spend another day in this area, wander the galleries in Carmel-by-the-Sea, golf at Pebble Beach, or head inland to Carmel Valley for wine tasting.

Day 6

Getting to Santa Cruz is an easy 50-minute drive (44 miles) up Highway 1 from the Monterey Peninsula. The eclectic beach city is an ideal place for recreation whether you are surfing, stand up paddleboarding, or hiking redwood-filled Forest of Nisene Marks State Park or the coastal bluffs of Wilder Ranch State Park. Refuel with a healthy snack at The Picnic Basket before ending the day with thrill rides at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

If your adrenaline is still racing from the Boardwalk rides, calm down with a drink at Red Restaurant & Bar or The Crepe Place.

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is a classic stop on a California coast road trip.

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Photo © Ken Wolter/123rf.


Five Days along the Northern California Coast

San Francisco

Day 1

Maps - Northern California 7e - San Francisco Bay Area

San Francisco Bay Area

Wake up early for a drive on Highway 1 from Santa Cruz less than two hours (80 miles) to San Francisco. In the city, spend a few hours in the hands-on science museum The Exploratorium. As the sun goes down, make sure to head out for dinner, whether it’s seafood at the Tadich Grill, modern Vietnamese at The Slanted Door, or pizza at Tony’s Pizza Napoletena. If you still have energy, make sure to check out some of San Francisco’s vibrant nightlife or a concert at a venue like the Great American Music Hall.

Day 2

Head out on the San Francisco Bay to take a fascinating tour of the island prison Alcatraz. Or secure passage on a ferry to Angel Island, which has hiking trails that offer up some of the finest views of the city.

In the afternoon, shop the used clothing stores of Haight-Ashbury or the department stores of Union Square. Or browse the books at City Lights in North Beach.

You’ll quickly fall in love with San Francisco; you can easily extend your romance to three or four days if you have the time.

Cable car in San Francisco.

Cable car in San Francisco. Photo © vadimsto/123rf.

The North Coast

Day 3

Maps - Northern California 7e - Sonoma and Mendocino Coasts

Sonoma and Mendocino Coasts

Your journey north begins with a drive on U.S. 101 over San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Then after five miles turn off U.S. 101 to Highway 1 at Mill Valley. On the slow, over-four-hour drive up the coast (around 160 miles), make time to stop at places like the tiny but unique Sea Ranch Chapel, which is just feet off Highway 1, and take a hike on the stunning cliffside trails in the Point Arena-Stornetta Unit of the California Coastal National Monument.

End the day in the community of Mendocino with a view of the sunset at Mendocino Headlands State Park or a pint at the lively Patterson’s Pub or at the one-of-a-kind dive bar Dick’s Place.

Day 4

Drive Highway 1 north of Fort Bragg until the road turns inland to connect with U.S. 101 after about an hour of driving. Opt for the Avenue of the Giants, a 31-mile drive through redwoods by the Eel River. Even though it’s only 31 miles, the drive could take a few hours if you decide to get out of your car and ponder the trees.

Get back on U.S. 101 North and head an hour north (60 miles) to Eureka. Stop to wander the city’s Old Town and Waterfront. Taste some of the delicious oysters at the Humboldt Bay Provisions.

Continue on U.S. 101 another 10 minutes or so to charming Arcata. Wander through the redwoods of the Arcata Community Forest before sundown. Dine at one of the restaurants surrounding the lively Arcata Plaza. Then catch a live band or arthouse movie at The Miniplex in Richards’ Goat Tavern.

Fern Canyon is draped in bright green ferns. Photo © Igors Rusakovs/123rf.

Fern Canyon is draped in bright green ferns. Photo © Igors Rusakovs/123rf.

Day 5

Start your morning with a tasty crepe from Arcata’s Renata’s Creperie and Espresso before hitting U.S. 101 North on your final day. About 20 minutes north (15 miles), exit to the scenic coastal city of Trinidad. Have your camera handy for photos of Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse, Trinidad Head and Trinidad State Beach.

Another half hour up U.S. 101 (26 miles), turn onto Newton B. Drury Scenic Drive to explore Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. If you have the energy, drive out Davison Road to Gold Bluffs Beach, where Roosevelt elk roam the sands, and continue on the dirt drive to hike the one-mile round-trip Fern Canyon Trail, which passes through a steep canyon draped in bright green ferns.

Head back out to U.S. 101 to drive the 45 minutes (38 miles) to Crescent City, where you can get a hotel room and a full night’s sleep.


Updated from an excerpt from the Fifth Edition of Moon Coastal California.

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California’s Summer of Love 50th Anniversary Events https://moon.com/2017/05/californias-summer-of-love-50th-anniversary-events/ https://moon.com/2017/05/californias-summer-of-love-50th-anniversary-events/#respond Fri, 12 May 2017 18:51:40 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=56958 California is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love and the hippie counterculture movement in 2017 with these events up and down the coast.

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Fifty years ago, the Summer of Love became the pinnacle of the 1960s-hippie counterculture movement, changing popular culture, music, fashion, and art forever. California was the epicenter, and the musicians, artists, and activists that gathered in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury introduced flowery garments, psychedelic rock, political activism, and LSD to the greater world in the summer months of 1967.

hippie dress

An example of a flowery dress worn during the 1960s hippie counterculture movement. Photo courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Down the coast, the Monterey International Pop Festival was a critical component of the Summer of Love. The three-day concert held in the Monterey County Fairgrounds featured career-making performances by Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Otis Redding, while paving the way for future festivals like Woodstock.

Most local authorities at the time were not thrilled with the throngs of hippies. This year, however, several cities are fully embracing their countercultural past for the summer’s 50th anniversary. A wide variety of events will be commemorating the Summer of Love over the next few months, from major museum exhibits to a new Monterey International Pop Festival featuring acts like Jack Johnson, Norah Jones, Gary Clark Jr., Father John Misty, and more.

Organizers of a Summer of Love 2017 are still hoping to get a permit to put on a show in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park this September—but until then, embrace the peace, love, and rock and roll of 1967 with any one of these events from LA to the Bay.

San Francisco Bay Area

The de Young Museum’s “The Summer of Love Experience: Art, Fashion, and Rock & Roll” showcases 400 significant cultural artifacts from the Summer of Love in 10 galleries. There are mannequins decked out in period apparel, record sleeves, book covers, photographs, and poster art (including the original “Skeleton and Roses” Grateful Dead concert poster created by Stanley Mouse). A more immersive experience in the exhibit is a “liquid” light show commissioned by Bill Ham, that evokes the experience of attending a psychedelic rock show in 1967.

Details: de Young Museum’s “The Summer of Love Experience: Art, Fashion, and Rock & Roll,” April 8th—August 20th, 415/750-3600, adults $15, seniors $10, college students $6, children 17 and under free

Grateful Dead skeleton and roses poster

Original Grateful Dead concert poster designed by Stanley Mouse. Photo courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

The Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive’s “Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia” examines the architecture and design of the countercultural movement. This includes everything from quirky hand-built homes to Gary D. Anderson’s original design for the recycle symbol. Along with the exhibit, the museum will be hosting public talks, film screenings, and other events. Check out the museum website for a full schedule.

Details: Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive’s “Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia,” February 8th-May 21st, 510/642-0808, adults $12, students and seniors $10

designer of the recycle symbol

Gary D. Anderson is the designer of the original recycle symbol. Photo courtesy of the Gary D. Anderson collection.

Organized by Grateful Dead biographer Dennis McNally, the California Historical Society’s “On the Road to the Summer of Love” looks at the cultural happenings that preceded the Summer of Love. It begins by casting its gaze at the Beat Generation in the Bay Area during the 1950s, and goes beyond the Summer of Love to when two members of the Grateful Dead were arrested in a drug bust in October 1967. Unique artifacts on display include a framed sheet of LSD and a rare photo of Janis Joplin performing as a little-known folkie before becoming a rock legend.

Details: California Historical Society’s “On the Road to the Summer of Love,” May 12th-September 10th, 415/357-1848, adults $5, children free

hippie modernism protest poster

A protest poster shows a rendition of a militarized American flag. Photo © Lincoln Cushing/Docs Populi Archive.

Jim Marshall is known as a pioneer in rock and roll photography. Located in San Francisco City Hall—which goes to show how mainstream the counterculture has become—“Jim Marshall’s 1967” features photos of Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and more.

Details: San Francisco City Hall’s “Jim Marshall’s 1967,” April 24th-June 17th, 415/554-4000, free

The GLBT History Museum’s “Lavender-Tinted Glasses: A Groovy Gay Look at The Summer of Love” looks at the movement through the lenses of queer figures that played prominent roles, including Janis Joplin, poet Allen Ginsberg, filmmaker Kenneth Anger, and philosopher Gavin Arthur.

Details: GLBT History Museum’s “Lavender-Tinted Glasses: A Groovy Gay Look at The Summer of Love,” April 7th-September 29th, 415/621-1107, adults $5, students $3

Magic Bus’s “Summer of Love 50th Anniversary Tour” is a bus tour in a vehicle that is described as a traveling movie theater and light show. The two-and-a-half-hour excursion includes stops at North Beach’s City Lights Bookstore and in Haight-Ashbury, the real focal point of the Summer of Love.

Details: Magic Bus’s “Summer of Love 50th Anniversary Tour,” May 1st-September 15th Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 10:30am and 1:30pm, 855/969-6244, adults $70, students $65

Hang out in the go-to haunts of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, the Grateful Dead, and Joni Mitchell on the 12-block Haight-Ashbury Flower Power Walking Tour.

Details: Haight-Ashbury Flower Power Walking Tour, Tuesdays and Saturdays 10:30am, Fridays 2pm, adults $20, children under nine years old free

crowd of people aat the Monterey Pop Festival

The Monterey Pop Festival crowd in 1967. Photo © Elaine Mayes.

Monterey

The big Summer of Love event in Monterey is without a doubt the Monterey International Pop Festival 50th Anniversary Concert. In the same venue as the groundbreaking 1967 music festival, the three-day event includes performances by Jack Johnson, Norah Jones, and Gary Clark Jr., along with Phil Lesh and Eric Burdon & The Animals, alumni of the original fest. With original organizer Lou Adler onboard, the concert will also showcase historic memorabilia.

Details: Monterey International Pop Festival 50, June 16th-18th, $295-695/three-day tickets

Monterey’s Golden State Theatre will be screening documentary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker’s Monterey Pop: a concert film with superb footage of performances from the Monterey Pop Festival. The screening will be accompanied by a talk by photographer Tom Gundelfinger O’Neal about shooting photos at the iconic event.

Details: Golden State Theatre’s Monterey Pop Screening, May 12th, 831/649-1070, $16

Missed the Golden State screening? Not to worry—catch the remastered cut at Monterey’s Osio Theater on June 16th ($10)!

The Monterey Museum of Art’s “Who Shot Monterey Pop! Photographs from the 1967 Music Festival” showcases images from the festival from seven photographers. There will be a handful of accompanying events including a roundtable talk with the exhibit’s photographers on June 15th.

Details: Monterey Museum of Art, June 2nd-September 18th, 831/3720-5477, adults $10, students and children under 18 free

Janis Joplin singing

Janis Joplin at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. Photo © Elaine Mayes.

The hyper intimate Gallery Exposed in Carmel will fill its small space with photos of rock photographer Tom O’Neal during its exhibit “Tom Gundelfinger O’Neal: From Monterey Pop to Déjà Vu and Beyond.”

Details: Gallery Exposed, June 13th-August 25th, 831/238-0127, free

The West End Celebration is a music and arts festival that has been going on in the small community of Sand City for 16 years. This year, there’s a definite Summer of Love focus, with free performances by 1960s acts David LaFlamme of It’s a Beautiful Day and Big Brother & The Holding Company.

Details: West End Celebration, August 25th-27th, free

Even the Monterey Regional Airport is getting in on the Summer of Love fun with its “Feeling Groovy” exhibit, showing artifacts that help visitors step back in time to 1960s Monterey.

Details: Monterey Regional Airport, January-December, 831/648-7000, free

Los Angeles

The Grammy Museum in Los Angeles is celebrating the anniversary of the Summer of Love with two exhibits. “Jim Marshall’s 1967” displays photos taken in 1967 by the rock photographer, while “Monterey International Pop Festival: Music, Love, and Flowers, 1967” takes a look at the iconic music festival.

Details: Grammy Museum, “Jim Marshall’s 1967” March 10th-May 14th, “Monterey International Pop Festival: Music, Love, and Flowers, 1967” May 11th-October 22nd, 213/765-6800, adults $12.95, seniors and students $11.95, children 6-17 $10.95

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Seeing California Wildflowers in 2017’s Super Bloom https://moon.com/2017/03/california-wildflowers-super-bloom/ https://moon.com/2017/03/california-wildflowers-super-bloom/#respond Mon, 27 Mar 2017 23:11:37 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=54743 After years of drought, followed by the coldest, wettest, and longest winter in over 30 years, California is finally ready for spring. And what a spring it will be. It is predicted to be a “super bloom,” a term dreamed up not by clever PR boosters, but by park rangers and biologists who know their flora.

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After years of drought, followed by the coldest, wettest, and longest winter in over 30 years, California is finally ready for spring. And what a spring it will be. It is predicted to be a “super bloom,” a term dreamed up not by clever PR boosters, but by park rangers and biologists who know their flora.

California’s wildflower season begins in mid-March on the floors of Southern California’s vast deserts, and moves north through its great valleys, coastal plains, woodland foothills, and culminates high in its mountain meadows in late July. Anza Borrego Desert State Park is the first stop on a wildflower tour. For just a few weeks, the park is awash in tufts of purple, yellow, white, and gold, when lilies, poppies, primrose, agave, and even the prickly barrel cactus, burst into color. Stretch your legs in the desert garden outside the visitor center, explore the brilliant Borrego Palm Canyon, or prepare to have your breath taken away by the Carrizo Badlands Overlook awash in lavender, lilies, and creosote.

Yellow and purple wildflowers blooming in California.

A variety of California wildflowers bloom in Anza Borrego State Park. Photo © Sumikophoto/123rf.

The color continues north to nearby Joshua Tree National Park, where blooms send out their tender shoots as early as February at the lower elevations, and can keep blooming until April or even June higher up. In March, the southern Cottonwood Visitor Center is the place to go for striking displays of Arizona lupine’s purple spikes, flowering ocotillo, and the hummingbird favorite, churparosa. In the northern reaches of the park, yucca, teddy bear cholla, and Joshua trees are just beginning their bloom. Look for these near the west entrance of the park, and along the Cholla Cactus Garden Nature Trail.

April is when the California poppy unfurls its deep orange petals in earnest. While found in nearly every corner of the state, there is no match for the plunging slopes of Big Sur when it comes to seeing California’s most famous flower. March through May, Big Sur’s grassland becomes a lush blanket of green, gold, and lavender (thanks to another favorite, lupine). Take the Soberanes Point and Calla Lilly Canyon trails at Garrapata State Park, just seven miles south of Carmel, to soak up the scenery.

Poppies and lupine cover the hillside.

Wildflowers bloom along the California coast near Big Sur. Photo © Kan Khampanya/123rf.

If you’re visiting the north coast, the quaint village of Mendocino is the perfect backdrop to the surrounding wildflower studded bluffs. The Mendocino Headlands State Park is just steps away from the town’s wooden boardwalks, and is filled with poppies, lupine, seaside dailies, Mendocino paintbrush, and coastal buckwheat. It’s also not a bad spot to witness migrating whales.

Wildflowers in Wine Country? You bet. The bucolic fields of the Sonoma Valley become even more beautiful when filled with poppies, lupine, forget-me-nots, buttercups, fuschia, Mariposa lilies, and yarrow. Just a stroll from Sonoma’s historic plaza, the Sonoma Overlook Trail winds three miles through grass and oak woodland, and is the ideal spot for a wildflower-filled picnic. If that’s not enough, consider booking a guided tour at the Bouverie Preserve outside Glen Ellen, home to 350 species of flowering plants and 130 species of birds.

A field of lupine in Napa.

Lupine blooming in wine country. Photo © Elizabeth Linhart Veneman.

Summer travelers need not despair. As California’s grassland turns from green to gold, the wildflowers head for the hills. With its 1100-foot range in elevation, Yosemite is in bloom nearly all year round. Starting in March on the valley floor, find clover, pine violets, evening primrose, and dogwood. At higher elevations starting in May, look for snow plant, columbine, monkshood, shooting stars, and rein orchids. Up Tioga Pass around Tuolumne Meadows, the show starts in late June with lilies, paintbrush, mountain dandelion, red heather, and fireweed, and continues into July when the late bloomers of Alpine paintbrush, wallflower, and mountain monkeyflower get their chance.

Whether you plan a trip to the desert, to the coast, or to the mountains, as a first time visitor or seasoned native, this is the year to see the Golden State sparkle.

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Three Days in San Francisco https://moon.com/2016/11/three-days-san-francisco/ https://moon.com/2016/11/three-days-san-francisco/#respond Sun, 20 Nov 2016 14:58:33 +0000 http://moon.com/?p=36698 Three days are perfect for a whirlwind romance with San Francisco. This travel itinerary tells you where to eat and play, plus a side trip to Muir Woods National Monument.

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Travel Itinerary - Three Days in San Francisco

Three days are perfect for a whirlwind romance with the city of San Francisco. Here’s where to eat and play, plus a site trip to Muir Woods National Monument.

Day 1

Start your day with breakfast at the Ferry Building. Grab a latte at Blue Bottle Café or graze from one of the many on-site vendors before taking a two-mile stroll along the Embarcadero to Fisherman’s Wharf. Then circle back to Pier 33 and hop on a (booked in advance) ferry to Alcatraz to tour the former island prison. Back on land, walk west on Bay Street for about six blocks, then board the Powell-Mason cable car at the intersection of Bay and Taylor Streets. Hop off for some window shopping and lunch at Union Square.

In the afternoon, head to the Sunset District to explore verdant Golden Gate Park. The fabulous de Young Museum is directly across from the California Academy of Sciences. Art lovers and science geeks can part ways here or squeeze in a trip to enjoy both! Near Golden Gate Park, visit the Haight, the hippie enclave made famous in the 1960s. Enjoy the finely crafted cocktails and nibbles at Alembic or head back downtown to splurge on dinner at Farallon. End the day with martinis at the swank Top of the Mark.

View of downtown San Francisco. Photo © Lunamarina/Dreamstime

View of downtown San Francisco. Photo © Lunamarina/Dreamstime

Day 2

North Beach is home to Mama’s on Washington Square, whose specialty “m’omelettes” have made this joint a local favorite for decades. After brunch, stop in at City Lights, the legendary Beat Generation bookstore, then enjoy an old-school cappuccino at Caffé Trieste. Climb to the top of Coit Tower to catch a great view of the city skyline—look west to find crooked Lombard Street.

Spend the afternoon in the hip Mission District. Order an authentic Mission burrito at La Taqueria or sweets from Tartine Bakery. History buffs should visit 18th-century Mission Dolores. End your stay in the Mission with thin-crust pizzas and classic cocktails at Beretta.

Day 3

Get an early start for breakfast at popular Dottie’s True Blue Café. Afterward, spend a few hours discovering the world of science at the Exploratorium, or, if the weather cooperates, explore The Presidio and take a hike along Crissy Field. Stop for coffee and a snack at Warming Hut Bookstore & Café, then it’s off to the ultimate San Francisco photo op, the Golden Gate Bridge.

A spotted owl in Muir Woods National Monument. Photo © Raferrier/Dreamstime

A spotted owl in Muir Woods National Monument. Photo © Raferrier/Dreamstime

Muir Woods National Monument Side Trip

Extend the love affair with a side trip to wander the redwoods in Marin. Muir Woods National Monument is home to acres of staggeringly beautiful redwood forest just north of San Francisco. The Muir Woods Visitors Center is a great place to begin your exploration. Hike the Main Trail, a paved boardwalk through the beautiful redwoods. Pick up a self-guided trail leaflet at the visitors center and follow the interpretive numbers along the way to learn about the flora and fauna of this unique ecosystem.

Fill up on a hearty lunch of British comfort food at The Pelican Inn. Dark wood and a long trestle table give a proper Old English feel to the dimly lit dining room. It’s just a short walk from the restaurant to lovely Muir Beach, perfect for wildlife-watching and beachcombing. End the day with oysters and drinks at the Farley Bar at Cavallo Point Lodge. Snag a blanket and a seat on the porch to watch the fog roll in over the Golden Gate Bridge.

Travel map of San Francisco

San Francisco

 


Excerpted from the Seventh Edition of Moon Northern California.

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What to See in Carmel-by-the-Sea https://moon.com/2016/08/what-to-see-carmel-by-the-sea/ https://moon.com/2016/08/what-to-see-carmel-by-the-sea/#respond Fri, 26 Aug 2016 12:39:37 +0000 http://moon.com/?p=37411 Plan a trip to Carmel, a town full of sparkling beaches, winding streets with neither sidewalks nor streetlights, friendly shops, and quaint restaurants.

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Carmel’s landscape is divided into three distinct parts: Carmel-by-the-Sea, Carmel Valley, and the Carmel Highlands. The village of Carmel-by-the-Sea sits above white sand beaches, nestled in a forest of pine and cypress. The streets are filled with storybook cottages, art galleries, and stately old hotels. The yin to its yang is Carmel Valley, the long east-west valley carved by the Carmel River. Here, forest gives way to sunbaked land, and tasting rooms replace galleries. There are plenty of outdoor activities to take advantage of the perfect weather, and the wineries and restaurants clustered in tiny Carmel Valley Village offer the ideal repose. Both Carmel-by-the-Sea and Carmel Valley residents love dogs. Your pooch is welcome at many establishments, and a number of stores and restaurants offer doggie treats and keep fresh water outside for the canine set.

Carmel River State Beach. Photo © Snovitsky/Dreamstime.

Carmel River State Beach. Photo © Snovitsky/Dreamstime.

Beginning as an artist colony in the early 20th century, the picturesque cove drew artists, painters, writers, and dancers, who built cheap cottages and pursued their art.About five miles south of town on the way to Big Sur, the Carmel Highlands stand perched above the rich Carmel Bay. The jewel of this area is the splendid Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. Farther south, several upscale resorts take full advantage of the views.

When most Californians talk about Carmel, they mean Carmel-by-the-Sea. Beginning as an artist colony in the early 20th century, the picturesque cove drew artists, painters, writers, and dancers, who built cheap cottages and pursued their art. Outdoor theater, literary salons, and scores of paintings characterized Carmel in its heyday. But now the secret is out, and the hamlet is not so cheap anymore. Crowds have replaced artists, and many galleries hawk standard seascapes in place of truly inspired work. However, Carmel remains a magical place. Sparkling beaches, winding streets with neither sidewalks nor streetlights, friendly shops, and quaint restaurants still make the mood and are capable of moving even the most hardened cynic.

If you are wondering where the business gets done in Carmel, banks, office buildings, and large supermarkets sit at what locals call the “mouth of the valley.” At the intersection of Carmel Valley Road, Rio Road, and Highway 1 are two major developments, the Barnyard and the Crossroads. These have additional shops, restaurants, and cafés, should the abundance in town not be enough.

What to See in Carmel

Sights in Carmel include Mission Carmel, Father Junípero Serra’s personal favorite.

Mission Carmel was Father Junípero Serra’s personal favorite among his California mission churches. Photo © Mariusz Jurgielewicz/123rf.

Carmel Mission

The Carmel Mission (3080 Rio Rd., 831/624-1271, 9:30am-7pm daily, adults $6.50, seniors $4, children 7-18 $2, children under 7 free), formally called the San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission, was Father Junípero Serra’s personal favorite among his California mission churches. He lived, worked, and eventually died here, and visitors today can see a replica of his cell. A working Catholic parish remains part of the complex, so be respectful when taking the self-guided tour.

The Carmel Mission has a small memorial museum in a building off the second courtyard, but exhibits run through many of the buildings, showing a small slice of the lives of the 18th- and 19th-century friars. The highlight of the complex is the church, with its gilded altar front, its shrine to the Virgin Mary, the grave of Father Serra, and ancillary chapel dedicated to the memory of Father Serra. Round out your visit by walking out to the gardens to admire the flowers and fountains and to read the grave markers in the small cemetery.

Poet Robinson Jeffers' Tor House and garden in Carmel, California.

Poet Robinson Jeffers’ Tor House and garden in Carmel, California. Photo © Harvey Barrison, Flickr/CC-BY-Sa.

Tor House

When poet Robinson Jeffers began hauling great granite boulders up from the beach to this spot in 1919, Carmel was young and Carmel Point was a barren and treeless outcropping. Jeffers named the family home he built Tor House (26304 Ocean View Ave., 831/624-1813, tours hourly 10am-3pm Fri.-Sat., adults $10, students 12 and over $5, children under 12 not permitted) for its rocky location. A year later he began construction on Hawk Tower, named for a hawk that he saw daily as he built the Irish-style stone structure. It was here where Jeffers wrote his most enduring work. Filled with celebrations of nature’s truths and denunciation of man’s many follies, Jeffers in his time was known as “the dark prince of poetry,” and later hailed as one of America’s earliest environmental poets.

Since then, Carmel has grown up, as have the towering cypress trees on Carmel Point, but Tor House remains, as if preserved in amber. Two days a week, visitors can tour the stone cottage and tower, stroll the lush English garden, and imagine what it was like to live here surrounded only by the forest and the pounding surf, before electricity (installed in 1949), during the innocent and dark romance of this poetic era.

Carmel Beach

The mile-long Carmel Beach (Ocean Ave. and Scenic Rd., 831/620-2000, 6am-10pm daily) lies at the foot of Ocean Avenue and is known for its sparkly white sand that squeaks beneath your feet. Its aqua-blue waters teem with life, including sea otters, dolphins, surfers, and body boarders. There is a price for the beauty, though, as the beach is often windy and rarely offers a goose-pimple-free day of sunbathing. Dogs and small bonfires are allowed on the beach south of 10th Avenue. You can park at a relatively large lot at the base of Ocean Avenue or along the one-way Scenic Road, which also has a pleasant footpath above the beach to catch the views without getting your shoes sandy.

Carmel River State Beach

Around the point from Carmel Beach is Carmel River State Beach (Scenic Rd. and Carmelo St., 831/649-2836, sunrise-sunset daily, free). Sheltered from the wind and with stellar views of Point Lobos, this is a favorite with families. Cutting though the beach is the Carmel River, which makes a tidy lagoon, home to a diverse community of shore birds and perfect for kids to wade and swim in its warm water. The beach is less well known than the popular Carmel Beach, making it the less crowded option on the rare hot and sunny day.

Maps - Monterey Carmel 5ed - Carmel

Travel map of Carmel


Excerpted from the Seventh Edition of Moon Northern California.

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California Coast Road Trip: Visiting Santa Cruz https://moon.com/2016/08/california-coast-road-trip-visiting-santa-cruz/ https://moon.com/2016/08/california-coast-road-trip-visiting-santa-cruz/#respond Sun, 21 Aug 2016 11:11:51 +0000 http://moon.com/?p=41506 The seacoast city of Santa Cruz, with its ultra-liberal culture, redwood-clad university, and general sense of funky fun, prides itself on keeping things weird. Here's what to see and do in Santa Cruz, California.

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The seacoast city of Santa Cruz, with its ultra-liberal culture, redwood-clad university, and general sense of funky fun, prides itself on keeping things weird. The beach and the Boardwalk are its prime attractions. Hit the surf and soak up the sun!

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Photo © Ken Wolter/123rf.

What to See in Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

The traditional carousel actually has a brass ring to grab.The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk (400 Beach St., 831/423-5590, 11am-10pm Sun.-Thurs., 11am-11pm Fri.-Sat., ride hours vary by season, rides closed weekdays in winter, parking $15), or just “the Boardwalk” as it’s called by the locals, has a rare appeal that beckons to young children, teenagers, and adults of all ages.

The amusement park rambles along each side of the south end of the Boardwalk; entry is free, but you must buy either per-ride tickets ($3-6) or an unlimited-rides wristband ($33). The Great Dipper boasts a history as the oldest wooden roller coaster in the state, still giving riders a thrill after all this time. In summer, a log ride cools down guests hot from hours of tromping around. The Boardwalk also offers several toddler and little-kid rides.

At the other end of the Boardwalk, avid gamesters choose between the lure of prizes from the traditional midway games and the large arcade. Throw baseballs at things, try your arm at skeeball, or take a pass at classic or newer video games. The traditional carousel actually has a brass ring to grab.

After you’ve worn yourself out playing games and riding rides, you can take the stairs down to the broad, sandy beach below the Boardwalk. It’s a great place to flop down and sun yourself, or brave a dip in the cool Pacific surf. Granted, it gets crowded in the summertime.

Looking for something tasty to munch on or a drink to cool you off? You can definitely find it at the Boardwalk. An old-fashioned candy shop sells sweets to the sweet, while the snack stands offer corn dogs, burgers, fries, lemonade, and other generally unhealthy traditional carnival food.

The Santa Cruz Surfing Museum. Photo © Jon Bilous/Dollar Photo Club.

The Santa Cruz Surfing Museum. Photo © Jon Bilous/Dollar Photo Club.

Santa Cruz Surfing Museum

West of the Boardwalk, on Lighthouse Field State Beach, is the world’s first surfing museum. Housed in the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse, the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum (Lighthouse Point, West Cliff Dr., 831/420-6289, 10am-5pm Wed.-Mon. July 4-Labor Day, noon-4pm Thurs.-Mon. rest of the year) relates the history of surfing through a collection of surfboards from different times and other ephemera of surf culture.

Seymour Marine Discovery Center

“Ms. Blue,” one of the largest blue whale skeletons, rests across from Seymour Marine Discovery Center (100 Shaffer Rd., 831/459-3800, 10am-5pm Tues.-Sun., $8 adults, $6 children), where tours and exhibits let you dive into the latest ocean discoveries and where shark-petting is encouraged.

Santa Cruz Arts and Entertainment

An eclectic city of art and entertainment, Santa Cruz’s diversity gives it that uniquely captivating edge. Watch a Shakespearian production at the Sinsheimer-Stanley Festival Glen (UCSC Theater Arts Center, 1156 High St., 831/459-2159, $36-48 adults, $16 children under 18), an unforgettable venue set in a grove of massive redwoods beneath the starry sky.

Feel like a good movie and popcorn? Nickelodeon Theatre (210 Lincoln St., 831/426-7500, $10.50 general, $8 matinee) shows all the major blockbuster films, including a variety of foreign and indie productions. Don’t pass up the snack bar’s award-winning organic popcorn and locally made treats.

One of the oldest museums in the state of California, the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History (1305 East Cliff Dr., 831/420-6115, 10am-5pm Tues.-Sat., $4 adults, free children under 18) is where Ohlone Native American artifacts are preserved and visitors can learn about local flora and fauna. In the heart of downtown, Museum of Art & History (705 Front St., 831/429-1964, 11am-5pm Tues.-Sun., $5 adults, $3 students and seniors) is a small facility with three floors of galleries, changing exhibits, and a gift shop.

Santa Cruz has a couple fantastic entertainment venues that feature class-act musicians. At Kuumbwa Jazz Center (320 Cedar St., 831/427-2227, $23 and up), local talent and internationally acclaimed jazz acts play to a packed house in a concert setting with food and drinks available. Moe’s Alley (1535 Commercial Way, 831/479-1854, up to $20) offers live performances from jazz and blues to reggae and salsa in a laid-back scene.

Events in Santa Cruz

The second-largest gathering of “Woodies” in the world, Woodies on the Wharf (late June, free), features over 200 vintage and classic station wagons, and celebrates these beauties with music, food, prizes, and good old fashioned fun.

It just wouldn’t be right if Santa Cruz wasn’t host to some of the most recognized surf contests, such as the O’Neill Coldwater Classic (Steamer Ln., late Oct., free), an event that draws international boarders to Steamer Ln., a popular surfing spot in the West Cliff. SCLU Longboard Invitational (free) rounds up nearly 200 longboarders from across the state each Memorial Day weekend to compete in the longest-running longboard surf contest. Hang out with the best surfers around, get some sun, and see who will win the title!

If it’s music and food you enjoy, the Mole & Mariachi Festival (144 School St., 831/429-1840, free) livens up downtown Santa Cruz with musical acts, local food, and family-friendly activities.

Every November is a celebration of sea glass, art, and ocean stewardship at Santa Cruz Sea Glass & Ocean Art Festival (400 Beach St., 831/332-7188, free). November also hosts the Santa Cruz Film Festival (Del Mar and Rio Theaters), which showcases a collection of independent films from all over the world.

Jump on board the Santa Cruz Holiday Lights Train (400 Beach St., 831/335-4484, 5pm-8pm late Fri.-Sat. Nov.-Dec., $28 adults, $22 children) and sip hot cider as you go a-caroling for holiday fun Victorian-style. The train departs from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

The premier way to see the best art in Santa Cruz, Open Studios Art Tour (831/475-9600 ext. 17) displays the works of more than 300 artists during the first three weekends in October. An events guide ($10) and the Open Studios Art Tour iTunes app ($5) are handy tools that provide a glimpse of an artist’s work and exhibit location.

Maps - Northern California 7e - Santa Cruz and Vicinity

Santa Cruz and Vicinity


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip.

The post California Coast Road Trip: Visiting Santa Cruz appeared first on Moon Travel Guides.

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PCH Road Trip: Visiting Venice Beach https://moon.com/2016/08/pch-road-trip-visiting-venice-beach/ https://moon.com/2016/08/pch-road-trip-visiting-venice-beach/#respond Mon, 15 Aug 2016 11:01:16 +0000 http://moon.com/?p=41695 You’ll witness every zany walk of life at Venice Beach: Street performers, oiled-up body builders, psychics, preachers, and self-proclaimed freaks.

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Ever wondered what it would be like to visit another planet? Go to Venice Beach. You’ll witness every walk of life: Zany street performers, oiled-up body builders, psychics, preachers, and self-proclaimed freaks all make an appearance at the 2.5-mile-long boardwalk. It’s the best people-watching in the world!

Shark-headed surf sculpture at Venice Beach.

The beachfront counterculture at Venice Beach is unmatched in the bizarre and strange. Photo © Robert B. Moffatt, Flickr/CC-BY-SA.

Aside from the usual freaks, you’ll find cafés, souvenir shops, and recreational activities.The beachfront counterculture here is unmatched in the bizarre and strange; not even Ripley’s Believe It or Not! comes close. After an afternoon on the boardwalk, nothing will surprise you. Not convinced? For $5 you can see “One-Eyed Jack,” the cyclops chihuahua, a two-headed turtle, and “Itty and Bitty,” the two-headed kitty. Live shows feature fire-eaters and appearances by “Larry the Wolf Boy,” who’s listed in the Guinness Book of World Records. All this and more is part of Ray Todd’s “Venice Beach Freakshow” (909 Ocean Front Walk), which has gained a huge following. “Freakshow” even has its own televised spot on AMC.

Pump iron at iconic Muscle Beach.

Do you even lift, bro? Pump iron at iconic Muscle Beach. Photo © Fabio Formaggio/123rf.

If you’re approached by a giant (about 6’3”) wearing spring-loaded shoes and a black shirt imprinted with a capital “V,” don’t run away! His name is Jeffrey Solomon. In the 1960s, he walked his pet tiger on a 50-foot chain down Rose Avenue. Today, he walks tourists (minus the chain), while giving fascinating accounts of Venice past and present, including little-known facts like how an amusement park became a part of the underwater ecosystem. His Venice Beach Walking Tours (310/433-8453, $40-60) are worth the cost just for the interesting characters Solomon introduces you to along the way.

Aside from the usual freaks, you’ll find cafés, souvenir shops, and recreational activities. For $4 you can pump iron at Muscle Beach. At 10:30am on Saturdays, take a free yoga class on the beach. There’s also an outdoor roller rink and skate park.

The best time to visit is in the summer, mid-morning through the late afternoon. At night, the Venice Beach Boardwalk can feel more like Creep Show, with the crowd morphing from eccentric to spooky.

Travel map of Greater Los Angeles

Greater Los Angeles


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip.

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Trip Planning: California’s Central Coast https://moon.com/2016/08/trip-planning-californias-central-coast/ https://moon.com/2016/08/trip-planning-californias-central-coast/#respond Sat, 13 Aug 2016 13:11:14 +0000 http://moon.com/?p=41504 Helpful tips on planning a trip along California's central coast, including how to get there, route advice, where to stay, and how to spend your time.

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Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip: Plan a Visit to California's Central Coast

On California’s central coast, rolling green hillsides and towering redwoods descend to hidden coves, and sea arches and the far-reaching coastline seems to extend into infinity.

It’s easy to run yourself ragged trying to see and do everything. Instead, pick what interests you the most…CA-1 twists along the wild, rugged coast from the boardwalk and bohemia hub of Santa Cruz to Monterey, with its rich marinelife and renowned aquarium. The stunning stretch from Carmel to Big Sur boasts views of the Pacific bounded by jagged coastline and rock formations. The 320-foot concrete arch of the Bixby Bridge provides the perfect photo opportunity at its scenic overlook turnoff. Less than two hours south lie the blubbery elephant seals of Piedras Blancas and the grandiose Hearst Castle.

From here, CA-1 and US-101 engage a dance of merges and splits through farmlands that flourish from the cool climate, producing a bounty of crops, especially strawberries, artichokes, and, most recently, wine grapes. Put on the wine maps by the 2004 film Sideways, this wine country now competes with the best of them, with over 40,000 acres of grape-bearing vines.

Ferris Wheel in Santa Cruz. Photo © B. Bourdages/Dollar Photo Club.

Ferris Wheel in Santa Cruz. Photo © B. Bourdages/Dollar Photo Club.

Planning Your Time on California’s Central Coast

Plan five days to a week to explore the Central Coast. It’s easy to run yourself ragged trying to see and do everything. Instead, pick what interests you the most and leave everything else as an opportunity for an enhanced travel experience, if time allows.

Towns all along the coastline offer lodging, food, and fuel. Cities such as Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura offer more options, but smaller beach towns and resorts such as Carmel, Cambria, Morro Bay, and Pismo Beach may be more charming. Scenic Big Sur offers an interesting mix of campgrounds and upscale resorts.

It is just under 75 miles south from San Francisco to Santa Cruz via US-101, and 95 miles north from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara via US-101. If you plan to follow US-101 to California’s Highway 1 (CA-1), the drive will prove much more scenic but longer.

Carmel River State Beach. Photo © Snovitsky/Dreamstime.

Carmel River State Beach. Photo © Snovitsky/Dreamstime.

Getting There

Car

The Central Coast is accessible by car via the scenic, two-lane CA-1, which winds along the entire stretch of the coastline.

US-101 is the primary highway that connects San Jose, Salinas, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, Santa Maria, Santa Barbara, Ventura, and on southward. Built along the railroad corridor, the highway at times runs parallel to CA-1, specifically through Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties.

Much of CA-1 is a two-lane road with winding turns around the coast. Some stretches are fairly isolated and it is always wise to make sure your tank is full before getting back on the road.

Air

Coastal international airports to access the Central Coast region from the south include Los Angeles International Airport (1 World Way, 310/646-5252).

The major Northern California airport is San Francisco International Airport (650/821-8211), on San Francisco Bay about 15 miles south of the city center.

Regional air service includes Monterey Regional Airport (200 Fred Kane Dr. #200, 831/648-7000), San Luis Obispo Airport (901 Airport Dr., 805/781-5205), and Santa Barbara Municipal Airport (500 Fowler Rd., 805/683-4011).

Train

Amtrak (800/872-7245, $135 and up) offers service on the Coast Starlight to Seattle, Portland, Sacramento, Oakland, and Los Angeles. The Pacific Surfliner provides service from San Luis Obispo to Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and San Diego. International visitors can buy an unlimited travel USA Rail Pass, good for 15, 30, or 45 days.


Maps - Northern California 7e - Central Coast

Central Coast

Maps - Northern California 7e - Monterey Bay

Monterey Bay

Travel map of Big Sur

Big Sur



Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip.

The post Trip Planning: California’s Central Coast appeared first on Moon Travel Guides.

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