Day 1 & 2 of our California road trip, we based ourselves in Scotts Valley, because on the map it looked like it was close to Santa Cruz, Monterey and Carmel-By-The-Sea. It wasn’t close enough to the last two and we weren’t impressed with Santa Cruz. In hindsight the night we landed, we should have driven onto Monterey or somewhere closer to Carmel-By-The-Sea, but when searching for accommodation these two areas were expensive so Scotts Valley seemed the right choice at the time. Not helped either by the delayed British Airways flight and the Avis car rental stuff up (You can read all about that experience here).

Santa Cruz boardwalk and fairground
Santa Cruz boardwalk and fairground

Santa Cruz was cooking hot when we arrived, in the upper thirties celsius or mid nineties fahrenheit, just what the doctor ordered. It had a lovely golden white beach with little waves, a so-so boardwalk and fun fair, and a long pier jutting out into the sea, but that was about it. Nothing there impressed us including the $10 car park across the road from the boardwalk. Did we miss something?

Santa Cruz beach and pier
Santa Cruz beach and pier

Further up the coast on route 1 was the city of Monterey Bay, famous for its Aquarium, Cannery Row and Fishermans Wharf.

We enjoyed a lovely walk along the harbour eyeing out all the boats & yachts parked up and had a wonderful seafood lunch at one of the restaurants on the wharf, while watching the many otters, sea lions, jelly fish and various sea birds including some very large Pelicans.

Monterey Bay Fisherman's Wharf
Monterey Bay Fisherman’s Wharf

En route to Carmel-By-The-Sea we drove the famous 17 mile drive, which wound through the Pacific Grove and Pebble Beach area. It took us through a wind-sculpted forest of cypress trees to a rocky coastline dotted with some of the most envy-inducing homes on the planet. The houses must be worth millions of dollars and most of them looked empty, which was even more sickening because they were probably holiday homes.

There were a couple of stunning golf courses, the Pebble Beach being the most famous. There were also wonderful views of the ocean. The road ran metres from the rocks, which had many sand squirrels, quite an odd animal to see running in and out the rocks and boulders so close to the ocean.

There was a stretch of road between Santa Cruz and Monterey Bay that was quite dull to drive. Flat and straight and it ran through swamps, fields of vegetables & fruit, a smelly salt pan and a city literally built in the sand dunes. It was not what we expected to see along the famous route 1 highway.

Carmel-By-The-Sea is a beautiful small beach village with abundance of clothing shops, restaurants, art galleries, sweet shops and streets with no names and beautiful beaches with golden sea sand.

We got there quite late in the evening around 7:15 pm and noticed hoards of people heading down to the sea. We thought there must be something going on, so parked up and followed them to a lovely stretch of sand dune overlooking the beach. Everyone was just mulling about waiting for the sun to set and the sun didn’t disappoint. The sea was still and the bright red sun looked amazing sinking into the sea. The sky was a mix of colours. It was really beautiful and the perfect way to end the day.

Our next post will cover day 3 of our road trip to Big Sur.