Western Trips

Friday, April 6, 2012

California Trips / A Fun Road Trip to the California Coast

When it comes to California trips, there's a lot to choose from and one of the best things about visiting the San Francisco Bay area are the added tourist destinations within a days drive from the city. The city itself surely has it's share of interesting vacation stops and when your stay in San Francisco allows you to explore more of northern California, a western road trip to the California coast from the Bay Area is a fun addition to your road trip agenda.

san francisco california
San Francisco California
This particular article showcases some beautiful and historic west coast tours within an easy days drive south of the Bay Area and are quite scenic California trips.. Depending on where you start out from, a road trip down to Monterey or Carmel is anywhere from ninety minutes to a few hours one way. This allows a leisurely drive with enough time to enjoy some great sites along the way and, after spending the night, another leisurely drive back to the Bay Area with plenty of time to make stops on your return. There are many fine hotels in Monterey and the surrounding area at at all price ranges.

Two of the most visited west coast destinations on the California coast south of San Francisco are Monterey and Carmel. Both seaside communities are picture perfect and a great place to take pictures as well. In addition to the scenery and excellent restaurants are several very interesting historic sites. This area of California is very historic particularly in regards to the Spanish colonization of what was then referred to as Alta California. In fact, for many years Monterey was the seat of the Spanish California government. A Monterey vacation has plenty to offer.

pebble beach california
Pebble Beach Golf Course
A very good stop to add to you road trip planner is the Spanish mission San Juan Bautista. The mission is located in the town of San Juan Bautista just a few miles off of US Hwy 101 and about 33 miles northeast of Monterey. It's a good stop on your drive down from the Bay Area. In addition to the mission itself are several historic structures including an old hotel and livery stable. The Spanish mission system built by the Franciscans was a key part of Spanish colonization. It's very scenic and directly on the old Spanish Mission Trail. The following link will give you a lot more information on this historic site as well as photos. Mission San Juan Bautista.

Another excellent stop to consider is the Steinbeck Center located in Salinas California, just a short drive east of Monterey. The Steinbeck Center honors the writing and career of John Steinbeck who grew up in Salinas and spent a good deal of time in Monterey. One of Steinbeck's most popular novels of course was The Grapes of Wrath. The following link tells more about the Steinbeck Center with photos. The Steinbeck Center.

Further on down the coast is Carmel-By-The-Sea. Carmel happens to be the site of California's second Spanish mission built, the first being in San Diego. The Carmel Mission was first erected in Monterey in 1770 and then rebuilt in Carmel a short time later under the direction of Father Junipero Serra. This mission as well as the one in San Juan Bautista are still conducting mass. The Carmel Mission is named San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo. The mission in Carmel is on the National Register of Historic Places and is also a National Historic Landmark. The Carmel Mission serves as a place of worship and also hosts concerts, art exhibits, lectures and many other community events. For more information on the Carmel Mission along with photos see our article San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo.

carmel california beach
Carmel California Beach
There are many fun things to do in Monterey including a visit to Fisherman's Wharf and, if time permits, a whale watching boat ride. The Pacific Ocean off the Monterey and Carmel coasts is home to one of the richest marine life sanctuaries in the entire world. The sea floor canyons are very deep and this attracts a large variety of marine life and as a result is one of the west coast's best locations for whale watching.

On this same topic, Monterey is home to the world renown Monterey Bay Aquarium. I've visited this museum several times and enjoyed each and every visit. The museum was established in 1984 and is on the site of a former sardine factory on Monterey's Cannery Row. The Monterey Bay Aquarium can easily fill a half day of your visit.

Another fun drive while visiting the Monterey Peninsula is the 17 Mile Drive. The drive goes through Pacific grove and Pebble Beach and as you can imagine a great place for photos. The 17 Mile Drive will take you right past the Pebble Beach Golf Course which has to be one of the most beautiful golf settings in the world. You can begin the 17 Mile Drive at the Pacific Grove gate and exit at the Carmel gate to the south. It's one of the most leisurely and scenic drives you can take.

One stop on your way south from the San Francisco area, a bit out of the way perhaps but well worth it, is Moss Landing. Moss Landing is about 15 miles north of Monterey and is home to the very popular Phil's Fish Market. Great fresh seafood and it's right on the ocean. The most visible land mark that will help you find Moss Landing is the power plant. Near the power plant smoke stacks is Moss Landing Road. If coming from the north make a right hand turn. If from Monterey then turn left. Drive over the bridge and you'll see Phil's on the left hand side. Phil's Fish Market has been featured on the Food Network and is well worth the stop. Weather permitting there is both indoor and outdoor seating.

(Article and photos copyright Western Trips)

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