North America

California Road Trip Part 2 – Carmel, Monterey & San Francisco

Welcome to part 2 of my California road trip travel diary. If you missed part one you can check it out here before you continue 🙂

Day 5 – Cambria to Carmel

  • Sunday 6th September 2015
  • Accommodation – Quail Lodge, Carmel Valley
  • Number of nights – 3

We got up early today at 6.30am and watched the ocean and the surfers from our window for a while before heading down for breakfast. I had a muffin and a fruit pot whilst Liam had another waffle!

We decided to go for a walk on the beach before we checked out. Surprisingly it was quite chilly out as it was still early so I was glad to have brought a cardigan & a scarf away with me.

Moonstone Beach Cambria California

We left around 10am to start our journey towards Carmel. Today was the Big Sur leg of the journey which is supposed to be the most scenic and breath-taking of the drive.

First stop was the Elephant Seal Beach, we watched them for a while and took some photos.

Elephant Seal Beach

Next stop, after a considerable drive through the windy roads, was at Ragged Point. I wanted to fill the car up with gas before we continued. I had heard gas stations were few and far between on the Big Sur drive so we wanted to be prepared.

Ragged Point Pacific Coast Highway

There are so many pull off points along the drive you literally can’t stop at all of them. We picked the ones we thought looked best for photos.

Along the way we met a nice couple who were doing the exact same journey as us and had been to the same places we had.

Pacific Coast Highway Scenic Stop

A place you must stop at is called McWay Cove and Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. People were parking along the road so it was chaos outside but there is an official car park which is $10 entry. We had to sit in a queue waiting for a space, it was one car in as one came out.

There is a short walk to the falls but it is absolutely breath-taking. You cannot get down onto the beach so it is untouched and unspoilt. There are other walks you can do but we had been driving for a long time and still had a way to go so after we had seen the falls we moved on.

McWay Cove and Falls

Next stop was the Bixby Bridge. It was extremely busy here and you had to park along the road, we crossed the bridge and parked on the other side. They were queuing from the other direction so we were lucky.

Bixby Bridge Big Sur California

At 3pm after about 5 hours on the road we arrived at our hotel. The rooms are actually cute little lodges situated around a golf course so it was very peaceful. The room was immaculate and quite large, we were here for 3 nights so we actually had a chance to sit and relax.

Quail Lodge Mini Golf

The first thing we did was play a round of mini golf which obviously I lost. Then we headed to the clubhouse in search of golf shoes for Liam. We didn’t have any luck so we sat at the bar in Edgars to have a few drinks.

A few turned into many and we ended up sitting here for a couple of hours. The barmaid Sue was so nice. We had some food and with our doggy bag Sue gave us a little freebie of desert to take back to the room.

Quail Lodge Golf Course Sunset

We got back around 7pm and ended up sitting outside our room for the rest of the evening and watching the sunset which was very pretty.


Day 6 – Carmel

  • Monday 7th September 2015
  • Accommodation – Quail Lodge, Carmel Valley
  • Number of nights – 3

Today was Labour Day so we didn’t plan on doing too much as everywhere was going to be busy. We had a lay in then ventured up to Carmel by the Sea around 12pm.

Pretty House at Carmel By The Sea

It was so busy we had to park quite far away and walk a long way to the beach. Obviously I had forgotten to bring my flip flops so we had a quick look then walked back up the (steep) hill to the shops. All the buildings were so pretty I found myself taking photos of lots of them!House at Carmel By The Sea

We found a little coffee shop had a lovely donut and strawberry smoothie. I finally purchased a hat from a cute little hat shop, which I’d been after since we arrived in America.

Shortly after we left as it was too busy for my liking. We just popped into CVS to grab some snacks and drinks for the room on the way back.

Donut Shop at Carmel By The Sea

When we arrived back at our room around 4pm we sat outside again with our snacks until sunset.


Day 7 – Carmel

  • Tuesday 8th September 2015
  • Accommodation – Quail Lodge, Carmel Valley
  • Number of nights – 3

We got up early today around 7.30am to have breakfast at the Lodge. I had a Waffle and a Danish with strawberries and maple syrup. I also managed to get my first English tea of the holiday which I was stupidly pleased about.

We left around 9.45am to find the entrance to the 17-mile drive. Entrance is $10 but if you eat at a restaurant you can get this refunded.

Statue on the 17 Mile Drive

The drive took much longer than I expected there were various point to stop along the way, 21 in total.

17 Mile Drive Scenery

At 1pm we arrived at the final stop Pebble Beach Golf Course & Lodge. We had a quick look around then went for lunch overlooking the first tee. The food was the best so far, we both had roast chicken, chips and onion rings and it was yummy!

Pebble Beach Golf Club Shops

We left for Monterey around 2pm, parked up for $7 and walked to Cannery Row. We decided not to visit the aquarium as it was quite expensive. I have heard it is pretty good though so maybe next time.

Monterey Cannery Row

We had a wander around but there wasn’t much here of interest to us so we left and went on the hunt for sports shops. Liam was still looking for golf shoes again!

We ended up at a shopping outlet where I got some goodies from Gap and Liam got some new trainers. We got back to our room around 6pm and chilled out again after a long day.


Day 8 – Carmel to San Francisco

Today we left Carmel for San Francisco. I didn’t take many photos on this part of the drive so I assume it all looked the same as before! I did however get a photo of a sign showing Morrissey Boulevard which amused us as that is our married name.

Morrissey Road Sign San Francisco

We carried on following Highway 1 to Santa Cruz but when we arrived everything seemed to be shut which was a shame. I took over driving for a bit and off we went. We saw a cute looking lighthouse along the way, Pigeon Point Lighthouse, so we pulled over to have a look around.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse California

When we stopped it was a bright and sunny day but within 10 minutes a thick cold fog surrounded us, it was the strangest experience I’ve ever had. It was so thick you couldn’t see anything through it.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse in Fog Cailifornia

We continued on our way heading for Half Moon Bay. When we arrived we found out we had to pay to go into the car park and to see the beach so we decided against it. We did however find a road called Jenna Lane which I was so happy about!

Driving into the city is pretty amazing, you can see all the tall buildings in the distance getting closer and closer, a real contrast to the coast we had just spent a week exploring. The roads were very busy however so getting to our hotel took quite a while.

San Francisco Freeway

We arrived at our hotel around 3.30pm and went to check in. Parking was $52 per night, a major rip off!

To be honest this was my least favourite hotel of the whole trip. We didn’t get a room upgrade unfortunately. According to front desk they were completely full.

The room they initially gave us was tiny. It looked out onto a rooftop and the sheets were dirty. Hubby quickly complained and we managed to change rooms.

Quite funny as I thought they were full! The second room was twice the size and looked out onto the street.

Another downside of this hotel was the Wi-Fi which you could only use in the lobby unless you paid $15 a night.

We headed out to explore the area around 5pm and took a short walk to Pier 39. We decided to have dinner at Bubba Gumps again and we bagged a window seat with a view of Alcatraz Island which was nice.

Bubba Gumps Pier 39 San Francisco

At 7pm we headed back to the hotel as we had a very early start the next day. We were on the early bird trip to Alcatraz Island which left Pier 33 at 8.45am.


Day 9 – San Francisco

This morning we were up and out by about 8am so we could walk to Pier 33. Our ferry was the first of the day and left for Alcatraz at 8.45am.

You need to book these tickets in advance online and I would recommend doing the early bird tour as you will be the first visitors onto the island that day.

When we arrived on the Island we were gathered together for a park ranger talk before being set free to do as we pleased.

Alcatraz Island San Francisco

We took the audio tour of the prison which was really very interesting, it’s amazing to see. Before we left we visited the gift shop and bought a few items, my favourite being a mug with the quote “Regulation 21 – You are required to work at whatever you are told to do”.

Alcatraz Island Water Tower

We also got to meet prisoner #1259, William Baker as he was there doing a book signing that day. Liam purchased his book although I wasn’t too sure what to think about lining the pocket of a former criminal.

At 12.30pm we boarded a ferry back to the mainland. We spent 3 and half hours on the Island but you could easily stay for longer if you wanted.

Alcatraz Island San Francisco

Feeling a bit hungry we headed to Pier 39. We had chocolate filled crepes for lunch, before hiring bikes from a company called Blazing Saddles.

We set off on our bikes around 3pm. I was slightly uncomfortable at first of riding on the road with all the traffic but I soon got used to it. They were clearly used to cyclists being on the road.

Bike Riding the Golden Gate Bridge

We headed off on the route we had been given towards the Golden Gate Bridge. The plan was to ride across the bridge to Sausalito and catch the ferry back to Pier 41.

Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco

Riding over the bridge was an experience! It was rather chilly up there! There were also plenty of cyclists who wanted to ride must faster than I was comfortable with. I was glad to get over the bridge and onto the other side where there was a short cycle ride to the town of Sausalito.

Views from Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco

It looked so pretty and we would have loved to spend more time exploring. We had to catch the last ferry back so we just joined the rather long bike queue straight away.

This was around 5pm so it had taken us around 2 hours to complete the cycle over the bridge from Fisherman’s Wharf. It was about 5.45pm when we were finally on the ferry, you wouldn’t believe the amount of people who were crossing back over with their bikes! You had to stack the bikes all together and try to remember which one was yours.

Bikes on the Sausalito Ferry to San Francisco

Once we made it back to dry land we dropped our bikes back off at the shop before exploring the shops. We had decided in our wisdom to buy car licence plates of all the states we had visited on our travels. New York proved difficult to find in California!

For some reason we decided to go for dinner at the Rainforest Cafe. I’m not sure why we did this. The last time we had visited a Rainforest Cafe we didn’t really enjoy it, the food was luke warm. I enjoyed the mash which was a change from chips but the burger was not great.

Rainforest Cafe San Francisco

Day 10 – San Francisco

Today we had a bit of a lay in as we were pretty tired. We headed to the cable car turntable in Fisherman’s Wharf around 10.45am to catch a ride on one of the iconic cable cars.

At the top of Lombard Street we jumped off so we could admire this peculiar road. We walked down to the bottom to take some photos then jumped on another Cable Car to Union Square.

Lombard Street San Francisco

We walked around the shops for a while. I was feeling a bit chilly in my shorts and wanted some trousers to wear but I didn’t find any and gave up.

We headed into Westfield Shopping Centre to find somewhere to eat lunch. We decided on Panda Express which is the most amazing Chinese takeaway ever, it needs to be brought to the UK!

In the afternoon we headed to Coit Tower. The walk was very tiring as the streets are so steep but eventually we made it.

Roads in San Francisco

There was a very annoying lady who worked there who kept telling people off. You must not lean against the metal barrier and you must take your backpacks off in case they touch the walls. This just made me want to leave as she was being ridiculous.

Coit Tower San Francisco

Eventually it was our turn to go up in the lift. The view of the city was good and I took some photos but we only stayed up there for about 10 minutes.

View of San Francisco from Coit Tower

We got the bus back to Fisherman’s wharf as we had to get ready for the baseball game tonight. There wasn’t time for dinner so we got changed and I put on my new cosy jacket I had bought earlier from Abercrombie & Fitch.

The plan was to catch the bus to the AT&T Park. We sat at the bus stop and waited, and waited, and waited. The bus was about 20 minutes late! We then got stuck in traffic as well!

When we were within running distance of the stadium the bus driver pulled over and let everyone jump off so we wasn’t late.

Thankfully we did just make it in time and took our seats for the night. I wasn’t too interested in the game (San Francisco Giants vs. San Diego Padres) as I didn’t really understand the rules. However, whilst we were there I had the world’s best hot chocolate, sweet kettle corn and free Wi-Fi!

It was quite chilly so I would definitely recommend wrapping up warm in the evenings in San Francisco.

Baseball Game San Francisco

The game ended around 3 hours later at 10pm and we jumped on the bus back to Fisherman’s Wharf.

We were planning on getting some dinner but when we arrived it was eerily quiet out and deserted. Most places were already shut. We ended up grabbing McDonald’s takeaway to eat back in our room.

 Continue on the journey with me:


Pin it for later?

California Road Trip Part Two

Previous Post Next Post

You Might Also Like