Hey everyone! How’s it going today? I’ve had a lackluster week of workouts thus far so thought I would switch gears and toss in a travel-themed blog post that I have been dying to share with you!
This past August my sister, Allie, and I jetted off to spend a week on the West Coast. We had both always talked about visiting California and finally put our thoughts into action.
I had actually been to California when I was 17 for a school related trip. Our group had stayed in the Anaheim area and unfortunately didn’t have the chance to venture too far out of the city. Needless to say, I was left wanting more!
Allie and I decided to steer clear of anything too “touristy” and really wanted our week to be spent sightseeing, hiking, and exploring the beauty the northern coast has to offer.
We planned a seven night stay that included four nights in Santa Cruz, two nights in Napa Valley, and one night in San Francisco. Our game plan was to pick destinations that were scattered far enough apart to allow us to see as much as possible within our short duration.
Hopefully these suggestions will come in handy if you are planning a trip to California, or looking for some items to add to your bucket list! Let me know if you have any suggestions or recommendations in the comments section below – I would love to hear from you!
McWay Falls, Big Sur, CA
So technically Big Sur is located more within the Central California region but there was no way I could leave it off of my list of must-see’s!
Wow, just wow.
The sparkling turquoise waters, untouched sandy beach, rolling white waves, I can’t forget to mention the 80 foot waterfall that drops directly onto the beach! It is truly a scene out of a dream.
McWay Falls is located in Julia Pfieffer Burns State Park, right off Highway 1. From the parking lot on Highway 1, you can walk down a half-mile dirt path toward the ocean, then through a short tunnel under the highway to the overlook.
During the time Allie and I were visiting California, the Big Sur region was fighting the Soberanes Wildfire. It began in July due to an illegal campfire, spread at an uncontrollable rate, and took firefighters over three months to battle and reach 100% containment.
It was heartbreaking to see the devastation the wildfire had caused to not only the region, but to California residents as well. I remember getting the chance to speak with a firefighter at Nepenthe, a breathtaking cliff side restaurant in Big Sur, and the emotion on his face said it all. This was going to be a hard fight.
Due to the wildfire, all state parks in the region were closed. This threw a wrench into our plans of hiking the area and taking in the epic sights Big Sur has to offer. Because of this, we were only able to see McWay Falls from a distance. It was still everything we had dreamed it would be and Allie and I decided we will just have to plan another trip back to take it all in completely. 🙂
Napa Valley, CA
Amazing wine, kind people, beautiful weather… I’d live here if I could!
Here’s the kicker: Napa wasn’t even on our original itinerary!
After realizing that our adventures in Big Sur would be limited due to the wildfire, Allie and I decided to book a hotel and head north to Napa Valley to put on our drinkin’ pants and see what the wine country had to offer!
All of Napa was wonderful but I am especially thankful for our decision to book a tour with Platypus Wine Tours.
The entire experience with Platypus was amazing and I cannot recommend them enough. They specialize in touring smaller, charming back roads vineyards, historic wineries and family owned operations. Depending on where you are lodging in Napa, the bus can pick you up and drop you off right at your hotel – completely eliminating the need for any sort of driving!
The cost was $110 and that included tours to four wineries, a shared cheese platter after the first winery, a picnic lunch after the second, bottled water, and lots of laughs with new friends!
The tasting fees for the wineries are not included but I’d say they averaged from $15-20 per tasting. Some of the wineries even eliminated the fee if you purchased a bottle to take home!
One of my favorite wineries we stopped at was Tudal Winery in St. Helena. This was a beautiful, rustic, hidden gem of a winery that I instantly fell in love with. If you have the chance to stop here, I don’t think you’ll regret it!
Kirby Cove, Sausalito, CA
If you want a whole new perspective of the Golden Gate Bridge, look no further!
Kirby Cove was immediately placed at the top of my bucket list after my sister and I discovered photos of the infamous swing on Instagram.
The pathway that leads down to the shore can be tricky to find and Google Maps does NOT know it’s way around these parts!
For those looking to hike down to the swing, you will want to park your car near the pull-off at Battery Spencer. There is very limited parking here and it is a hot-spot for tourists so you may have to wait a minute to snag a spot.
Once parked, you will see a white gate to your right that looks like a glaring “DO NOT ENTER” obstacle. Don’t worry. Enter anyways. You will then hike the gravel covered, .8 of a mile-long trail to the cove and you will find the swing right on the beach!
Swing away, soak up the views and don’t forget to snap some pics. 🙂
Big Basin Redwood State Park, Santa Cruz County, CA
What a day! We traveled the short distance from Santa Cruz to visit Big Basin Redwood State Park in Boulder Creek for a hiking adventure. I say adventure because our anticipated casual 5 mile hike turned into a grueling 14 mile epic battle to survive.
Okay, okay. Slight exaggeration there but you get the idea. It was TOUGH.
You may be asking yourself why a near death experience (;)) made it on to my list, but trust me here.
When you’re walking among these giants in a land that feels nothing like you’ve ever known and then you look up, you won’t be likely to see the tops of the trees. It’s fascinating to realize there’s a hidden world in the canopy above.
Many of the Redwoods grow to be over 200 feet tall and the tallest soar to over 350 feet – higher than a 30 story skyscraper!
Just be sure to plan out your hiking route ahead of time (unlike us!) and go in prepared with plenty of water and snacks.
After making it out of the forest alive, our aching, hungry bodies were begging for two things. Lots of pizza. And lots of wine.
Carmel-By-The-Sea, Carmel, CA
I can now see why Carmel-By-The-Sea is rated “One of America’s Top Beach Towns.” If Carmel is not on your list of places to see, you will want to add it in for sure! Allie and I really enjoyed our day trip here -poking around the shops and boutiques, gobbling up a great lunch, and relaxing on the pristine beach.
The town is known for being very dog-friendly so you can bet we did a whole lot of oogling and petting while there, too!
We had a great lunch at Dametra Cafe, located on the corner of Ocean and Lincoln Ave. Dametra Cafe is a Mediterranean restaurant with such an authentic feel. The owner even put on an original song performance for the restaurant during the lunch hour! I highly recommend if you are looking for a unique place to grab a bite!
Finally, you will want to make sure to check out Carmel Beach and the famous snowy-white sand.
You can also stroll along the scenic Bluff Path which runs parallel to the Scenic Road just above Carmel Beach. The trail meanders through the shade of Monterey cypress and landscaped gardens to Carmel Point. There are several stairways along the way in case your itchin’ to get your toes in the sand!
And there ya have it – my top 5 places you must visit in Northern California! Writing up this blog post has me feeling quite nostalgic over here and I’m thinking another trip to the Golden State will have to make it’s way back on to my list of places to travel. 🙂
Have you traveled to California before? What are your must-see places?
Where is your favorite destination to travel to?