While Waiting for California to Open Back Up, We’re Planning a Much-Needed Road Trip Up the Coast

Coasting along.

  • Category
    Travel
  • Written by
    Darren Elms

Do you remember the first time you drove up the California coast? Mine was in the back seat of a yellow VW bug with my godparents. I remember salty morning air seeping through the windows as we passed through Ventura and navigated the 101 toward Mussel Shoals, Highway 1 and beyond.

Sure, I had seen the ocean before—many times—but not like this. Highways that trickled down into single-lane small towns. Rocky peaks towering like floating castles in the surf. Hairpin turns with only a small railing separating your vehicle from the edge of the world. I was hooked.

After spending the last several weeks very close to home, I’m ready to explore my favorite coast again. From the South Bay to San Francisco, this quick and easy road trip meets all my criteria: no planes, no hurry and plenty of fresh air. Whether you commit to a leg or take up the whole journey, I hope to see you on the road.

South Bay to Santa Barbara


The quickest segment of the tour is a straight shot up the 101 in (ideally) less than two hours. At the historic San Ysidro Ranch, we’re dropping in to indulge our all our physical senses. Eucalyptus, orange blossoms and magnolias perfume 500 acres of colorful gardens, charming bungalows and unspoiled nature in the Montecito foothills. Each of the private cottages comes individually decorated and equipped with a fireplace or stove, a deck and hot tub. JFK and Jackie’s honeymoon hideaway joins 40 other accommodations available for booking.

Check Out: Stonehouse Restaurant. A 19th-century citrus packinghouse-turned-dining experience that serves regional cuisine and ingredients harvested by the chef’s private garden.

Don’t Miss: The Spa. Sanctuary and serenity to ease away stress and bring you out of hibernation.

Santa Barbara to Central Coast


If Santa Barbara was about awakening the body, the Central Coast is here to awaken your soul. Oceanpoint Ranch in quaint Cambria offers a rustic retreat just steps from the ocean. Known for a quiet and relaxed vibe, this stop along the heart of the coast affords you a moment to pause and breathe in beauty. Roll out your mat for yoga at Leffingwell Landing or get lost in thought on a sunset stroll down Moonstone Beach.

Check Out: The Pacific Coast Wine Trail. The ranch provides the perfect starting point for wine tasting at the region’s wonderful local wineries, including personal favorite Stolo Family Vineyards.

Don’t Miss: Stepladder Ranch & Creamery. This gem tucked in the hills off Highway 1 makes small-batch cheeses with milk from their herd of LaMancha goats—some even agreeable to petting.

Above: Hotel Drisco

Central Coast to San Francisco


Now that you’ve serviced both body and soul, let’s give some love to your mind. One of my favorite places to flex those cultural muscles is magical San Francisco. A recent discovery, Hotel Drisco may be my new go-to for overnights in the City by the Bay. While most SF hotels congregate downtown or by Fisherman’s Wharf, Drisco sits perched in Pacific Heights with Edwardian elegance. This standout location also makes for easy jaunts down to the Marina or the Presidio.

Check Out: The Presidio Social Club. Housed in 1903 barracks, this fun spot for brunch or dinner hearkens to the Presidio’s military past with plenty of San Francisco specialties.

Don’t Miss: Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving at the de Young Museum. With its March opening delayed, this upcoming exhibition features the personal items of the iconic Mexican artist, on view for the first time on the West Coast.

San Ysidro Ranch

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