3 Week Road Trip Along The California Coast For Great Sights

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Heading To California To Escape The Cold In Toronto

A big snow storm hit just before we left Toronto to start our 3 week road trip along the California coast. It was certainly great timing to leave.

We freaked out a little when we got an email saying our flight was cancelled. But then we read we were re-booked on another kind of plane. And then we sat at the gate for 90 minutes for one after another problem. Part of the issue was that it was so cold that they gave ground workers frequent breaks to go in and warm up! Yes, we were very happy to be leaving as the polar vortex hit Toronto.

It was much warmer on our stop in Vancouver. And was quite reasonable by the time we hit San Diego.

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Our road trip along the California coast started in San Diego. From there we headed to the desert and then to Temecula wine country. A long drive north took us to St Luis Obispo next to explore the California coast around Cambria. Monterey, Napa Valley and San Francisco finished up our 3 week California visit.

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We Started In San Diego

We had a lovely stay in the historic U.S. Grant Hotel on our stop in San Diego. This lovely hotel was a great place to relax after our travel. And to use as a base to walk around the city.

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One day we headed out and visited La Jolla. The sea lions entertained everyone who passed by. Our lunch stop at George’s At The Cove provided us with great food and a wonderful view.

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It was great to be back in San Diego on our 3 week road trip along the California coast.

We Found Rain And Snow In The Desert

It was so strange that our drive to and from the desert was in the rain. But it did mean we saw so much green countryside. On our visit to Palm Desert, we headed high to the Coachella Valley and Cahuilla Tewarnet viewpoints to get awesome panoramic views over the desert.

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A trip up on the Palm Desert Tramway gave us both stunning views of the variety of views that is California. And a walk in the snow. It was a fun outing for the day.

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The town of Palm Desert was a fun surprise too. Everywhere we looked we found art in the street.

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A trip to the desert gave us a different view on a road trip along the California coast.

Views Of Temecula

The skies were blue for our visit to Temecula. The clear skies brought crisp mornings. And hot air balloons in the sky. We wished we had booked a hot air balloon ride on our visit.

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The valleys of Temecula were all green from the rains. But in the distance we had the continual view of snow capped mountains. One day we chased them to get just the right spot for views.

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We enjoyed our first wine tasting in Temecula. We started with drinks at the South Coast Winery. And then spent an afternoon at the Leoness Cellars. We loved the chance to meet other travel bloggers and photographers. And were happy that the winery was patient as we all worked for the absolute perfect picture. We finished up at the Carter Estates Winery and learned a little more about sparkling wine production.

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Temecula Leoness Winery.jpg

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We had our first great wine tasting stop in Temecula on our road trip along the California coast. It was our introduction to the great vineyard views we found as we travelled.

San Luis Obispo Was A Great Base To Explore Cambria

After a long drive around Los Angeles, we settled into San Luis Obispo. With this as our base, we headed over to the sea for several day trips. We found colourful cows scattered around the county. Great sea views in Cambria. And the best sunsets at Pismo Beach.

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When we visited Cambria we found a new berry to love. Linn’s Restaurant specialized in serving olallieberries in every way. We started with healthy salads. But we could not resist the olallieberrie fudge sundae. And the tarts were good too.

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The drive from the coast along Hwy 46 (aka the Green Valley) was a delight. It almost felt like we had detoured to Ireland. Along the way we passed acres and acres of vineyards. We were sorry we missed the chance to taste the wines of Paso Robles.

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Our stay in San Luis Obispo provided a great base on our road trip along the California coast.

The Great Drive Up Hwy 1

Hwy 1 is also known as the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). It was such an amazing road to drive. But there are a few mandatory stops as you head north. Our first stop was at the amazing Hearst Castle. The views from high above the coast was stunning. The grounds were beautiful. And the inside of the Hearst Castle was an eclectic delight.

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The second stop we made was to see the elephant seals. We could hear them before we got to the edge. They lay side to side enjoying the sunshine. And barking to put on a show.

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The drive up the PCH is not for the faint of heart. The roads went up and down. And twisted and turned. All as they hugged the side of the hills. These stunning seaside views are the ones I always remember about California.

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California Shore.jpg

The drive up Hwy 1 (the PCH) is a great reason to road trip along the California coast.

On And Under The Seas In Monterey

Fisherman’s Wharf and Cannery Row provided the seafood and whale watching trips that bring you to Monterey. We were delighted to return to the Monterey Aquarium on this visit. We again enjoyed the jelly fish exhibit. But saw so much more on this visit.

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If the views below the sea were fascinating, the pounding surf kept our attention for hours. We drove along Pacific Grove and moved from spot to spot trying to catch the best view of the waves.

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Monterey Pacific Grove - Road Trip Along The California Coast.jpg

The views above and below the seas in Monterey were a fun stop on our road trip along the California coast. We could watch the coastal views in California for hours and hours.

An Amazing Wine Tasting Experience In The Napa Valley Area

We had three days to visit Napa and to taste test the wines of the Napa Valley Area. It was great to visit with friends in Napa. We started in Green Valley at GV Wineries. Then we visited 4 wineries in one day – Keller Estates, Domaine Carneros, Clif Family Winery and Luna Vineyards. We taste tested many great wines.

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We saw some beautiful wineries. And we enjoyed exploring Napa when we weren’t wine tasting. There was so much art around the town and in the vineyards. Great markets offered food and drink. And iconic views were everywhere.

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It was great to visit with friends in Napa. And to taste test our way around the various wine regions around the Napa Valley on our road trip along the California coast.

Up And Down The Hills Of San Francisco

Our stop in San Francisco let us travel up and down the hills. We ventured low to the waterfront to enjoy Fisherman’s Wharf and the sea lions.

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When we walked up the hills of San Francisco, we visited the Cable Car Museum and the Grace Cathedral. From that point, we went higher up to the Top of the Mark to watch the sun set and the moon rise. City views are definitely one of the reasons to visit California.

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San Francisco Grace Cathedral.jpg

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And no trip is complete without riding the cable cars up and down the hills of San Francisco. It was a great final stop on our road trip along the California coast.

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We Loved Our 3 Week Road Trip Along The California Coast

We do love our road trips. One year we drove from Toronto to Vancouver through the U.S. After 4 months in Vancouver in the fall, we headed back though the snow to Toronto.

It was 5 years since we last visited California. We could not believe it had been so long since we last travelled around California.

But our 3 week road trip along the California coast reminded us how much we loved the varied sights of California. We saw green valleys, dry deserts, snow on the heights and the most amazing sea shore views. Stops for wine tasting in Temecula and Napa Valley gave us great winery experiences. City stops in San Diego and San Francisco provided another perspective. We were sad when we got our last view of San Francisco out the airplane window.

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Every stop on our road trip along the California coast was just so different. And there were so many reasons why we need to visit again soon.

Have you done a road trip along the California coast? What was your favourite stop?

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About TravelAtWill 748 Articles
Travel blogger and photographer! Scuba diving, luxury cruising, chocoholic, sea and sunshine addicts, camera attached and just generally curious! Join us on our adventures!


  1. Well it looked like you’ve hit the best of the California road trip including the mountains, ocean and those fantastic wine country visits. What’s not to like?

    • Noel, we certainly did see the wide range to things that California has to offer. We did Yosemite on a previous trip, so that ticks another bucket list. Certainly a place we will return to again and again. Linda

    • What an epic road trip! I’ve been to many of these places as I live in California, but never within a three-week time period. Must have been amazing! You know, I’ve been here almost 30 years and just saw Monterey for the first time last week. California has so much to offer.

  2. Vineyards, a desert, and a coastline with stunning beaches all in one road trip. And then to end it all in San Francisco. You certainly made the best of your 3-week California road trip! What a lovely itinerary.

  3. Wow that’s quite the California roadtrip! I’ve done bits of this before (San Francisco to LA for example), but we missed out on the wineries, so an excuse to go back and do those!

    • Katie, We have been to California a few times. And every trip adds more interesting things to see and do. And there are always great reasons to go back to discover more. Hope you get to return. Linda

  4. You planned a wonderful trip! I live in San Diego, so I’ve followed your route many times. After reading your post and seeing your photos, I want to do this exact trip! It’s been years since I’ve been to Hearst Castle / SLO / Cambria.

  5. I had no idea you could get both snow and desert in the same trip in CA! That plus 4 wineries in a day is super impressive! You guys can withstand anything. 🙂

  6. Well done! I love seeing my home state through other’s eyes. You hit touristy and not so places. Loved seeing Cambria and a bit of Hearst Castle. Looks like you were blessed as well with beautiful weather too.

  7. I live in California and tend to take it for granted, this was a good reminder of how blessed I am. Looks like you hit all the great spots. I didn’t realize there was so much art in the streets of Palm Desert, I will have to go check it out.

  8. Those sealions! So cute! This is such a lovely route! I wouldnt drive up the PCH though. I get really nervous. I would hand over the wheel to my husband. The Green Valley really does look like Ireland! And wine tasting is never a bad idea.

    • Shruti, It is a good thing that driving on twisty roads don’t bother me. But there were some great spots to pull over for a view too. Well worth the drive. So many things to see and do if you visit California. Linda

  9. California is great for a road trip – so varied. I did this trip the other way around, i.e. from north to San Diego; and – believe it or not – I did it on public transport; yes, it is possible! By the way, I love Monterrey – best aquarium ever!

    • We actually looked at doing large parts of this trip on public transport. But since we went inland at the start, it was long days to get back to the coast. So we just kept going with the car. Love California! Linda

  10. Having grown up in Nevada and explored California my entire life, I would say you almost saw everything the state has to offer. The only thing you missed was up north there is the Redwoods and the Lost Coast. Not bad for a three week road trip!

    • Chris, This was a return trip for us to California. We did more on the northern coast included the redwoods on our last trip. I will need to look up the Lost Coast. That sounds interesting. We will definitely be back to see more. Linda

  11. Temecula looks absolutely beautiful. I had no idea you could go hot air ballooning there. Such a great trip

    • Nicole, We loved the variety of things to see and do in the spots we stopped in California. We wish we had booked a hot air balloon ride in Temecula. Next time! Linda

    • Debra, We did indeed have a fun trip. We loved the funky street art in Palm Springs. Our hotel changed out the art regularly. So they may do that with street art too. But I am sure you will find interesting pieces. Linda

  12. this trip looks AMMMAZING!! I have always wanted to do a road trip like that!! closest I got was my mom and i in ’89 when i was a little girl drove from California to las Vegas and stopped in Utah, Arizona and Wyoming – it was awesome – palm desert looks so beautiful I’d love to visit there too!

  13. OMG! Its crazy how the weather is totally different in each city! Good to know that you managed to escape the cold. Ground workers were given breaks to go in & warm up? That’s crazy cold weather….
    The view from George’s at the cove is spectacular. Good to know the weather was a bit better here to have your lunch sitting outside.
    Palm desert sounds like a fun place. Esp., as I love street art, it sounds perfect. As a wine lover, I wouldn’t miss Temencula as well!

  14. I was just thinking today how lucky I am for living in Souther California! I can’t imagine the cold you endure in Toronto if airport workers need to be given breaks to warm up. The itinerary you chose for your 3 weeks road trip is absolutely spectacular. So many great spots to visit and so varied: from coastal towns to inland wineries like Napa and Temecula. In the 30 years I’ve been living here I never visited Temecula, so you made me curious about it. Maybe I should do some wine tasting there one of these days.

    • Anda, We do love California. It had been a few years since we last visited. So it was great to head along the coast. So much variety. We were happy we made the stop in Temecula. Linda

  15. We visited Canada in January one year and it was SO COLD!! This is definitely my dream road trip through California. I think the Palm Desert Tramway and Napa Valley would be my favorite.

  16. OMG, I can’t believe how many things you guys did in 3 weeks. And I am so glad you got into the hills of SLO, we were just there, and it blew us away, those green rolling hills are magic! Now the hard question….how many bottles of wine did you bring home in your luggage? Hhahahahah

    • Mike, We did a lot of wine tasting trips in 2019. So we had to limit what we brought back. A bit 🙂 It was an amazing trip in California. Excited to be heading back in December. Linda

  17. This is timely since we’re flying to California in 2 weeks to spend Christmas with my family.

    This road trip is so wonderful. I hope we can have enough time to follow this route. I am pretty sure that the kids would love to see the sea lions and the view is just wonderful. I have been dying to see the Hearst Castle too.

    Thank you for sharing this. You just made me really excited on our trip.

    • Clarice, I just love when our blog posts are timely for people planning a trip. We loved all the spots in California. And your kids will love it too. Hope you have an awesome time. Linda

  18. as a food blogger also, I would love to get the chance to try that olallieberry which I have never heard of before. What a fantastic trip – You got to experience so much different weather and experiences. Those sea lions are too cute for words. The hot air balloons look cool also. Thanks for the heads up to make sure I book one in advance when I make it out there!

    • Mireille, We were introduced to olallieberry by another travel blogger. So we are happy to pass it on to you. We loved our whole California trip. There was just so much variety. We are excited we are heading back in December. Linda

  19. I did a Californian road trip awhile back too to escape the Canadian cold and loved it. This brings back great memories although I wish we explored further south in San Diego. (We started our trip from Laguna Beach/LA.) Temecula definitely looks like a lush paradise and those hot air balloons! Would defs love to get on a ride like that someday. Super jealous you got to experience Hearst Castle too. We didn’t have time and didn’t know you could only take their tour buses to go up. Seems like I gotta do another road trip along the coast again!

    • Jas, I am glad you enjoyed our blog post on our California adventure. There is just so much to see and do. Definitely worth planning another road trip along the coast. Hope if gets on your travel plans. Linda

  20. Wow what a comprehensive itinerary for west coast as you have covered all types of nature forms in one road trip. It is good you started your journey from San Deigo which is really a beautiful city and then headed towards desert. It must be unique to see snow and rain both in desert. I am drooling over the photo of views Of Temecula taken by your. It really looks perfect place for me. Green valley with rolling green hills are truly picturesque. Saving your post for my reference to do this road trip.

    • Yukti, It was such a great trip in California. It made us remember how much we love the west coast. So much variety in every stop. Hope you get to do this one day. Linda

  21. What an epic road trip. You have covered a lot on this trip. sea lions are super amazing. The valleys of Temecula looks similar to a valley named Mechuka in India. It’s absolutely stunning. I would like to follow your itinerary whenever I plan one. Loved reading about it.

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