Mountains, surf and sunset treasures
Aye, flexibility and freedom are master ingredients to an epic road trip, so we threw caution to the wind for our honeymoon and with minimal planning set off for the coast of California.
Our treasure hunt for towering forests, ocean sunsets and surf vibes started in San Fransisco and ended in LA. In advance, we booked an Airbnb in San Fran, a campsite in Yosemite which books up in high-season, and a four-wheeled vessel named ‘Windswept’.
We booked the Maverick Escape Campervan which we’d recommend five hundred percent. Each van is painted by a unique artist in jazzy colours and is kitted out with curtains, a double bed, solar-powered fridge, storage and a sink. We slept like babies every night and despite her hench size, was pretty easy to drive even on the wrong side of the road.
- Navigation: We navigated our path offline by downloading the full map of California on Maps.Me. The van did come with a big map book too.
- Campsites: We used the WikiCamps USA app to choose stopovers as we voyaged, which allows you to find campsites, view their amenities and contact details.
- Fuel: Petrol/gas was expensive and we spent around $350USD in three weeks (ouch and sorry planet).
Five road trip destinations
1. San Fransisco
San Fran is poppin’. Culture bursts like a bag of popped skittles, the food is HUGE and the locals are as weird and wonderful as those in Alice’s wonderland. Our highlights included a ferry trip to the island of Alcatraz Prison (wedding gift from Laura and Rob thank you!), eating a face size burger, chips n’ slaw in Castro’s Hamburger Mary’s (the bill was served in a glittery stiletto!) and drinking in an Irish bar until 2am with strangers. The lowlight was getting spat on – note to self – don’t smile at a grumpy homeless man who doesn’t need your pity. I’ll be writing a full San Fran blog with all the finer details and how we totted up over 80,000 steps in three days.
2. Yosemite National Park
The drive from San Fran into Yosemite Valley is spectacular. I kept hawking “wow look at that view”, “wow there’s snow caps!”, “shit look at all them big trees!” – while Lewy’s eyes stayed glued straight ahead navigating the hairpin bends. How did he not ask me to shut up?
We were privileged to have two full days hiking, picnicking and camping in the National Park with our hearty friends Ali and Claire, who have rather cute addictions to hummus and peanut butter. I’ll be writing another full blog about our two-day Yosemite adventure soon – bear with.
3. The Big Sur
I took my first turn at driving from Yosemite to the Big Sur (BS). As we waved goodbye to Ali and Claire I saw them crack up in stitches seeing me so small behind the wheel. After a few hours driving through bountiful farmland, we made it onto the world famous ‘Route 1’ Californian coastal highway and made our way down through the Big Sur.
The Big Sur is a big green blob on the map and is largely undeveloped, protected land. The coastal road twists and turns, sandwiched between giant misty green hills and the cliff-hugging Pacific Ocean. Following our tourist information map and with Incubus blaring, we stopped off at protected seal pup beaches, whale watching stations, freshwater creeks and wildflowers meadows teaming with squirrels and chipmunks. Hello hay fever.
Although the BS only takes half a day to drive in total, if you have the luxury of time try camping halfway down in the almighty Redwood Forest at Fernwood Campground. We slept in the van under the towering trees as rain pelleted down on the van roof. We still managed to sleep thanks to some red wine.
4. San Clemente
Our most southern destination was in search of surf at San Clemente, just North of San Diego. With its cute windy streets, whitewashed villa style bungalows, singing wind chimes, hippie cafes, rickety pier, long beaches, and cool surfers, we knew we’d found our booty.
Lewy hired a board from Stewart’s Surf Boards and we camped at San Clemente State Beach campground. Lewy surfed three times a day rolling from bed to beach and we explored surrounding surf spots like world-famous Trestles. In one beach car park we met an Ozzy/Kiwi couple sat in deck chairs, after Lewy had a good wave bashing, we too pulled up some deck chairs and made a hot cuppa from the back of the van. We nattered for hours before inviting Ben and Abby to park up at our campsite for an evening sunset and wine around the campfire. We had a hoot! A great reminder of how traveling introduces you to such fabulous people.
As the sun went down on our final night in California, we tucked into an extravagant meal on the pier at Fisherman’s Restaurant. With ocean waves lapping beneath us, orange skies above us and surrounded by silhouetted surfers riding the first good waves in weeks, we cheersed our goblets and thanked our lucky stars for all our treasures.
5. The OC through to LA
From San Clemente, we had one full day (2 to 3 hours in distance) to go North back up the winding Route 1, through Orange County (big up the OC and the Coopers!), to LA International Airport (LAX). We drove through all the classic OC suburbs like Laguna Beach and Long Beach and time permitting we’d have picked Huntington Beach to stay overnight.
Instead we chose Huntington Beach as a lunch stop but spent far too long on the pier watching world-class surfers catching six-foot waves. Now on the run we quickly purchased some surf gear from one of the very hip surf shops, munching a bagel before working our way through through LA traffic to drop off the van (sad) and hop in a ten-minute Uber to LAX.
I don’t surf. But I feel like a cooler person now that I own a tie-dye surf towel and a giant flag that says SUN SUN SUN. Mementos for years to come from our great honeymoon adventure in search of Californian mountains, surf and sunsets.
I hope I’ve inspired you to add California to your bucket list and if it’s already in the pipeline, you can follow our treasure trail to find your own booty. Just remember to leave yourself wide open for maximum adventure! Thank you to everyone who made our trip even more memorable especially Dave, Casey, The Coopers, The Griffiths, and Ben and Abby.