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Alexis's California Road Trip

Author: Charlotte Boswell
Alexis’s California Road Trip

Alexis Palmer, Senior Travel Consultant at Pettitts Travel, recently travelled to California with her family to embark on an iconic coastal road trip between San Francisco and Orange County via Highway 1. Here are Alexis’s top six highlights and experiences from her California road trip.

1 San Francisco

San Francisco
Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco is one of America’s most cosmopolitan and diverse cities boasting picturesque hills, beautiful Victorian architecture, bustling wharves and world-class restaurants, museums and galleries. We enjoyed a three-hour private tour of the city being driven around in a soft top Mini Cooper. This was a fantastic experience getting to see the city’s most iconic landmarks and districts as well as learning of the history of San Francisco. One of the most memorable moments was driving under and over the incredible Golden Gate Bridge – it really is as impressive as the photos! It was also wonderful to drive through the city’s diverse neighbourhoods; our favourites included Little Italy in North Beach, the colourful lanterns and pagodas of Chinatown, twisting Lombard Street in Fisherman’s Wharf and the iconic ‘Painted Ladies’ pastel houses of Fillmore.

2 Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island
Alcatraz Island

Our second day in San Francisco saw us take the ferry over to Alcatraz Island from Pier 33. We enjoyed fantastic clear blue skies on the ride over as well as spectacular views of the city’s skyline. Over the decades, Alcatraz has served as a military prison and a maximum-security penitentiary. Our highlights at Alcatraz were seeing the former cellblocks as well as learning of its fascinating history – did you know Al Capone played the banjo in the prison’s inmate band?! Visit Pier 39 before or after a visit to Alcatraz which is located in the famous district of Fisherman’s Wharf. Here you can enjoy a hearty bowl of clam chowder whilst watching the Californian sea lions sunbathe on the marina’s docks.

3 Highway 1

Highway 1
Bixby Creek Bridge

Highway 1 is a major driving route that runs along the Pacific coast in California and is dotted with quaint seaside towns and spectacular viewpoints. After picking up our rental car in San Francisco we joined Highway 1 and drove south to Carmel, stopping en route at some wonderful places including Santa Cruz, California’s quintessential beach town and surf capital, and Monterey which is home to charming Cannery Row and Fisherman’s Wharf where you can spot sea lion, seal and dolphin in the bay. We continued to 17-mile drive on the Monterey Peninsula which hugs the Pacific coastline and passes huge mansions, golf courses and the most beautiful scenery and viewpoints – there are so many photo opportunities! After spending the evening in Carmel-by-the-Sea – a very quaint and picturesque beach city – we continued to San Simeon and Morro Bay before arriving at the wonderful Pismo Beach where we spent the night.

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4 Santa Monica

Santa Monica
Santa Monica Pier

Set on the oceanfront, Santa Monica is Los Angeles’ beach city which boasts world-class dining, bustling beaches and the world-famous pier. We stayed in Santa Monica for three nights which provided the perfect base for exploring LA and the surrounding area. One of our highlights was the Santa Monica pier, one of the oldest wooden piers in the US home to a small amusement park, local events and the iconic Ferris Wheel. The Santa Monica pier is framed by the glistening Pacific Ocean on one side and tall swaying palms on the other and is a great place to spend a few hours. We also enjoyed a bike ride to Venice Beach, as well as watching the sunset from our hotel balcony and enjoying the area’s bustling restaurants.

5 Hollywood & Beverly Hills

Hollywood & Beverly Hills
Hollywood Hills

During our time in Santa Monica, we enjoyed an afternoon exploring the famous neighbourhoods of Hollywood and Beverley Hills. Starting the guided tour off at Rodeo Drive, we were in awe at the glitz and glamour of what is supposedly one of the most expensive streets in the world. We continued to the high-profile area of Bel Air which sits in the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains. We were amazed by the sheer size of homes in Bel Air, many of which were elaborately decorated for Halloween. After passing the iconic Beverly Hills Hotel, a favourite celebrity hangout, we enjoyed lunch at a local farmers’ market before finishing the tour at Hollywood Walk of Fame where over 2,700 stars are embedded in the sidewalks acting as monuments to prominent members of the entertainment industry.

6 Newport Beach

Newport Beach
Newport Beach

Just under one hour’s drive from LA, Newport Beach is the quintessential Orange County city. It is known for it’s large harbour filled with boats of all shapes and sizes, two famous piers as well as a lovely sandy beach perfect for swimming. During our time in Newport, we took a small electric boat out around the harbour passing luxurious yachts and sunbathing sea lions, it really was a wonderful experience. We also enjoyed a stroll down Balboa Pier admiring all the beautiful beachfront properties. Picturesque Balboa Island is also worth a visit, even if it only for their famous frozen banana desserts, or a morning paddleboard session in the harbour.

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