California has a lot offer from beaches to mountains and deserts, we wanted to see it all! With only two weeks up our sleeve we had to make the most of road trippin through Cali. We started and ended in LA (see our LA guide here) and did as much as we could in-between. Here is our guide on some of the best places to stop, dine, stay and play.
Malibu Farm Restaurant
Beginning and end of Malibu Pier
This place is a not to miss on your way out of LA. There is a cafe and Restaurant, opt for the restaurant which is at the beginning of the pier. I was a bit hesitant at first as it is in a pretty touristy location but the food is amazing! Fresh and healthy farm to table cuisine and you are right on the water. Very likely to spot a celeb here as well.
22706 Pacific Coast Hwy
If you are looking for something fancy then this California sushi fare is what you are after. I have only actually been to the Nobu in Vegas but coming from the same owner there is no doubt the food is die for especially with its prime beachfront location. Be prepared to drop a pretty penny here though!
The Goodland - A Kimpton Hotel
5650 Calle Real, Goleta
This recently renovated hotel has everything you could want, pool, yoga, amazing restaurant, fireplace and record players in every room. The only downfall is that it is about a 10minute drive to State Street which is the main drag down in Santa Barbara.
131 Anacapa St, Santa Barbara
The newest hotspot in Santa Barbara, this restaurant is in a beautiful rustic setting just off of State Street. Using seasonal and local ingredients this place is not to miss!
750 Hearst Castle Road, San Siemon
Talk about random. This castle is literally in the middle of nowhere. The castle was owned by the newspaper magnet Randolph Hearst and was built between 1919 and 1947. It is a spectacular site to see and also a nice way to stretch the legs before the long haul through the PCH. Make sure to book your tickets in advance because during summer months they sell out quickly.
Vista Point, San Siemon
The northern elephant seals are the second largest seals in the world. Along the coast you can see thousands of seals as the come to shore to molt, give birth or mat.
This is an 80 foot waterfall that runs all year round. It used to run directly into the ocean but in 1985 there was a landslide that altered the cove. It is a stunning place to see and if you are not into hiking this waterfall is just right off the highway. I suggest parking on the side road otherwise the parking for the park cost $20.
Big Sur Roadhouse
47080 CA-1, Big Sur
If you around Big Sur for breakfast or lunch this place does seasonal, locally sourced Californian cuisine. Unfortunately it was closed when we were there but it looks epic.
Big Sur Bakery
47540 CA-1, Big Sur
This place was recommended to us by everyone! They do wood fired pizza and farm to table food in a rustic setting. Unfortunately we had an epic fail and didn't time it right and we missed the 3pm lunch cut off and the 5pm dinner start. Noted, make sure you plan accordingly so you don't miss out on an epic meal here!
Just past Big Sur you will drive over the famous Bixby bridge where everyone stops to take photos. It is very picturesque place and to avoid the crowds pull over to the opposite side of the bridge where all the cars are (right side if you are driving from LA). No one pulls over there and you will get a clear shot of the bridge and the ocean. We actually thought this view was better than the lookout point where everyone was taking photos!
Carmel by the Sea
Carmel By the sea is a beautiful seaside village. Unfortunately when we were there it was very cold so we didn't get to actually enjoy the stunning beach. Regardless the sunset was pretty special and just walking around this cute little town made you feel like you were straight off a movie set. Speaking of movies...Clint Eastwood used to be the mayor of this town and he has a restaurant and hotel.
Ocean Ave & Lincoln Street, Carmel by the Sea
Great mediterranean restaurant with massive portion sizes, so big we actually had to share our meal. This place is really cute, good food and great vibe. Definitely make a booking as it was packed even during the off season. The played music towards the end of the night and got all the ladies up to dance, even the mayor of the town was dining there.
Mission Ranch Restaurant
26270 Dolores Ave, Carmel by the Sea
If you are in the mood for something a bit more upscale, head to Mission Ranch, Clint Eastwood's restaurant. It is a refurbished farmhouse serving fresh american fare.
Santa Cruz Boardwalk
400 Beach street, Santa Cruz
Not far from Carmel is the famous beach town of Santa Cruz. Unfortunately we only time to pass through but had to stop at the boardwalk. It was a chance for me to relive a bit of my childhood and a chance for Benny to see a typically american seaside amusement park.
Napa Valley and Sonoma Wine Country
Napa and Sonoma are massive. We really under estimated how big each area was and how much time you would need for wine tasting. We only had a weekend so we chose to stay in Sonoma town which was great location to shops and restaurants. We did most of our wine tasting around Sonoma as well but prepare well as wineries can be pretty spread out and traffic can eat up your time.
Airbnb and Flipkey
Book your accommodation early. We left it to a couple of weeks before our trip and most accommodation was booked up. Hotels were pretty pricey and because we had a big group we wanted to all be together. There wasn't much stock left on Airbnb so we turned to Flip Key (Tripadvisors version of Airbnb) and we found a stunning cottage right in the heart of Sonoma town.
There are several different options for wine tasting across the region you can self drive, take the Napa Wine Train, go on a wine tour or hire a limo to take you to your choice of wineries. We did the latter. You can typically find good deals on Groupon or Living Social for Limo deals but again we waited to long so booked one direct. This was perfect for our group size of 7. We got to choose which wineries we wanted to go to, how long we wanted to the tour for and we brought our own nibbles to set up our lunch to maximise tasting time. Some of our favourite wineries were Little Vinyards Family Winery, Hall Wines, Chateau St Jean and Madrone.
Long Meadow Ranch & Farmsted
738 Main Street, St Helena
If a long lunch and farm-to-table experience is your thing then this place should be number one on your list. Amazing food, service and wine. Not to mention the fit out and farm is stunning.
6480 Washington Street, Yountville
Beautiful contemporary restaurant. Upscale cuisine from an acclaimed chef but super ritzy. Everything we ate was amazing.
The Girl and the Fig
110 W Spain Street, Sonoma
This french restaurant came highly recommend by many repeat visitors to this area. Unfortunately we ran out of time and didn't get a chance to try it. If you are into french country fair and fine wines then try and make time for this place!
691 Broadway, Sonoma
If you are a bit over wine and in need of beer, check out this Tavern. Decent american cuisine but the best part about this place is the large beer garden and out door fire pits. Perfect place to cosy up and listen to the live music they have every night.
Continue onto part two.
click here to see our google maps of all recommendations for our Cali trip!