Pacific Coast Highway. Synonymous with bucket list. At least, our bucket list. After all, Highway 1 is one of the most iconic drives in national, if not international, travel. When Aaron decided to attend Cal Poly, we were first and foremost incredibly proud (who wouldn’t be?), but we were also incredibly excited to get to visit and check out his new digs.
Originally named the Roosevelt Highway, Pacific Coast Highway was built to link the coastline between Mexico and Canada, allowing quicker access to the local beach towns. San Luis Obispo, the home of Cal Poly is situated pretty much dead center between Los Angeles and San Francisco, making it the perfect location to explore this epic stretch of highway.
With five days to travel and a lot of ground to cover, we knew we had a full itinerary. Planning our trip with the first flight into LA and the red eye out of San Francisco let us capitalize on as much travel time as possible. We also had to plan a nice balance of exploration and rest so Dre wouldn’t get fatigued and could enjoy the whole trip.
What we managed was packing enough into five days to fill two blogs and four videos along with finding that happy balance that allowed us all to get exactly what we were looking for! So come on along for part one of our journey.
Click on the link below to check out video number one of the visit!
The Malibu Pier
Malibu. Blue sky, perfect waves, famous celebrities… The name alone is legendary so stopping here was a must. We landed in LA by 7:30
and figured Malibu was the perfect place to stop and grab some breakfast. We were right! Blue sky and perfect waves were in abundance, which made up for not seeing any famous names out for a breakfast stroll.
It was a quick trip, but time well spent. If you’re ever in the area for breakfast, the Malibu Pier is the place to stop.
The pier itself was handicapped accessible, with parking close and easy. So close that Dre decided to use his cane rather than the scooter. The view both out over the ocean and up to the hills makes it pretty clear why Malibu became such a favorite spot for the Hollywood elite to settle.
Quick fun fact, the Malibu stretch of highway was the last section of the PCH to open. Opposed by a local rancher who didn’t want the highway running through her land, it took a Supreme Court ruling in 1923 to uphold the appropriation of land by the county for the highway.
Checking out the view while enjoying an incredible breakfast at The Malibu Farm, the restaurant built on the pier, made this one of the best breakfast stops in recent memory. The menu is stocked with fresh, local goods, fresh squeezed mint lemonade, and hearty, healthy servings all served at a reasonable price. Bellies full and spirits happy, we bid adieu to Malibu and headed on our way.
Heading up the Coast
There’s something about ocean meeting mountains that simply can’t be relayed through pictures or videos. The crash of waves slamming into land. The spray of mist off the rocks. Salt water mixed with fresh air. The cry of seagulls in the air. The pictures are beautiful, but real life is flat out breath taking. I was ready to stop pretty much every few miles for another photo opp. Renee was a good sport and hopped out to snap pics with me, and Dre did a good job of balancing the actual number of stops and drive time.
A little history here – in its infant stages, the highway was a primitive road that would often disappear under high tide. Seeing the narrow strip of road cutting between the waves and rocks first hand, I can’t imagine driving up the original version. Definitely wouldn’t want to be anywhere near the original road if tide was coming in any time soon. What happens if the car breaks down?
Even when we cut inland the drive was gorgeous. We took the drive after some pretty serious rain, which had greened up the California farmlands something fierce. Strawberry fields, fruit orchards, and crops galore made the rolling hills green and gorgeous. It gave the coastline a run for its money when it came to view. Vendors sold strawberries on the side of the road and vineyards speckled the hillsides, making for a nice stretch of drive before we cut back out to the coastline and hit our next major coastal town.
Santa Barbara is everything it’s advertised to be. Spanish tiled roofs over stucco buildings. Palm trees lining deep blue ocean. The perfect sized beach town to offer plenty to do without being overwhelming. Granted we were there on a Thursday, but we were pretty stoked to find two hour free beach front street parking right next to the pier. There is parking right on the pier as well, but with Dre’s scooter the street parking was quick and easy.
The Santa Barbara pier was one of the larger piers that we came across. Restaurants and shops make for a fun tourist stroll. If you’re so inclined you can rent a rod and do a little deep sea fishing at the end of the pier as well.
Back at the beach there’s a beautiful waterfront bike path, which was one of the longer and more accessible beach front paths that we saw along our “small town” stops. We opted to cruise up into town to check out a little more of Santa Barbara. The town had wide and smooth side walks that were easy for Dre to navigate in the scooter.
There was also a light rail station and accessible bus stops. If we would have wanted to pay and had the time, we could have rented a mini two seater car and cruised around. Our stop was short and we didn’t get to explore everything, but our initial accessibility rating of Santa Barbara is right up there at the top. Add to that the charm and beauty of the city and the coastline, we’d definitely say if you’re in the area, make it a stop.
The central California section of our trip landed us at Pismo Beach, a quick fifteen-minute drive from the Cal Poly campus and a nice place to set up shop for a couple of nights. Pismo is a beautiful beach and a quaint little beach town.
We were fortunate enough to have booked ourselves into a handicapped room at the Cottage Inn By the Sea. This is a gorgeous accommodation right on the cliffs. While there is not handicap access to the beach from the property itself, there is a gorgeous garden area right on the cliffs that has one of the most spectacular sunset views ever. Cozy chairs and firepits are the perfect touch. The pool and hot tub also have handicap accommodations and lifts for patrons to get in and out. The handicap room we booked was quiet, roomy, and well equipped for Dre. 10 out of 10 when it comes to accommodations here!
Admittedly, the town of Pismo itself didn’t have the most to offer in the way of handicap accessibility, but it certainly was doable. It had a nice pier with accessible sidewalks. Again, we were incredibly happy with the quality and quantity of food given the price. Right off the pier, which was easily accessible to Dre with his cane, we had a beautiful ocean front lunch at Wooly’s. It’s counter service, bar style seafood, so be prepared to get your own food to the table. Again, the quantity and quality for the price and view were spot on.
For dinner we hit up The Cracked Crab, because, it’s California, and we wanted great authentic seafood! With a couple of appetizers, the steamed bucket was more than enough for the four of us. We each got our own bib, mallot, and crab crackers (ok, I’m not sure what they’re called, but they crack crabs) and we were set. It even filled up Aaron, who’s a college kid used to college food, so you know things are good if you’re keeping that crew happy.
Morro Bay and Avila Beach
We rounded out the central California section of our trip with a day exploring Morro Bay and Avila Beach. Morro Bay is a quaint little old school surfing town. Raging waves with wild beaches surround the famous Morro Rock, while the town itself is a quieter, sleepier version of its coastline. Situated on the bay, it’s nicely protected from the waves. There were plenty of places to rent a kayak or find another water sport activity had we been there closer to summer season. Again, parking was street side and free and the sidewalks were smooth with easily accessible curbs. There were also plenty of ramps to get in and out of the businesses. At the end of town an accessible bike path led to a coastline walk through a park.
Click on the video link below to see our trip through Morro Bay and Avila Beach
A sun filled afternoon at Avila Beach was the perfect way to finish off the central coast. We cruised along the wide, beach front promenade for the length of the store front area. Just at the entrance to the pier a ramp leads down to the beach itself and Dre was able to park his scooter at the end. The beach itself was one of our favorites, wide and beautiful with plenty of space and soft sand.
An accessible sidewalk and path gave us a quick stop at Avila Wine and Roasting Company. Local owner Manny Luiz knew pretty much everything there is about the local vineyards and his mom made us feel like a member of the family by the time we left. Let’s just say, we now know that the Avila stop for the local school bus has been the troublemaking section since she was a kid.
Spending our two nights in Pismo to explore the local area and relax was the perfect way to enjoy this section of the California coast and get us set up for the last leg of our trip. A nice transition from the popular beaches of southern California into the rugged coastline of central California, we found Pismo and the surrounding area to be a nice punctuation mark to our drive further north.
Join us on our next blog entry for our exploration as we moved further north up the coast to finish up our trip!