Cali Coastline: Pismo Beach, Monterey, Carmel & The Big Sur

Happy Birthday to Milly! Feb 14th: coincidentally, the birth date of my beloved and St Valentines’ Day. Suffice to say that she didn’t get anything to open though, but she did get some of the most wonderful views on the whole trip. A glorious sunrise and an equally immense sunset. 

We start the day in Pismo Beach. We got to the motel quite late the previous evening so there was no exploring to be done then, apart from a brief walk to the local 7eleven for some grub. But we got up super early, like 5:30am super early, and took a two minute drive down to the shore to welcome in the Sun.



Not one for being mushy but it was fucking beautiful. There was a decent sized pier which a few of the locals were fishing off so we took a stroll along it and watched the early morning surfers more or less risk their lives in the rough surf until the current bun had shown its face. The pictures speak for themselves I think. Can’t think if we’ve watched the sunrise on the trip yet – probably not because Milly likes her sleep and I dare not disturb it – but we will be making the effort to do it again!

From there we headed back to the motel for our complimentery breakfast, which was this make-it-yourself waffle machine mix and iron, which was amazing (although I think I was more excited by the making process rather than the food itself). Milly was not happy with the sexist Motel Manager though; he insinuated (in jest) that I was bringing an animal to the motel with me and that it was Milly’s duty make me a coffee in the morning (he clearly hasn’t tasted Milly’s coffee has he?). 

Sick ass waffle machine. Gonna buy one back home

Pismo Beach has like a huge, deep stretch of beach (i’m going to say it’s like a mile deep), which you drive quads and buggies on. We found our way to a rental centre a few miles down the road to enquire about renting a tandem buggy so Mill could have a birthday treat. Unfortunately they had to cross a creek to get to the part of the beach where you can drive over the dunes and due to the recent rain they’ve had on the Central Coast, the creek was too big to ford, so we couldn’t have a go 😦 Significantly cheaper however was the ability to drive your own 4×4 on the beach before the creek and given we have a massive SUV with multiple 4×4 settings we thought it good to give it a go. 

Mill hasn’t been able drive in The States because she lost her driving licence in Thailand so she was super happy when I gave up the reigns and let her have a drive of The Beast on the beach. She was limited to a mile long stretch and 15mph, but she seems happy enough with that which was nice. 


After all the driving excitement we needed to calm down so we headed to The Cracked Crab, a wonderful crab restaurant in the centre of Pismo which was advised to us by The Botanical Gardens Manager back in Santa Barbara. The food was lovely (crab cake stack) and the service was loud and smiley, but it was a tad expensive for what you got; not as plentiful as I’ve come to expect from a US eatery! 

We then went for a walk around some of the local shops and purchased some sweets, salt water taffey, for the journey. There was a guy in the sweet shop who kept on pronouncing the work caramel as coromel  which was confusing but we managed to order some moreish chocolate and coconut haystack. We devoured our sugar laden goods at the local park called The Dinosaur Caves, which had some fun looking equipment and a very impressive coastline and view over the ocean. 


On the road again as we now had a good 2.5 hour drive north up to Monterey. Rather guttingly the coastal highway (Highway 1) which is supposed to be an amazing drive, with some of the best views in America, was closed a couple of miles north of Pismo Beach, due to mudslides. The road which we did take, the 101, was still quite scenic and we made good time getting to Monterey. 

I think you need a bit of money to live in Monterey as it was plush as polish. It’s a place with a great number of amazing views and scenic reserves, some of which I’ll tell you about. Firstly, we made it to the motel after a few wrong turns here and there (my co-pilot had gone on strike). It was a quaint motel in some lovely wooded area and the motel manager was nice and overly helpful – although I did note that they didn’t have a waffle iron like the place in Pismo Beach. 

We headed down to one of the local landmarks, 17 Mile Drive, which is a 17 Mile Drive along the coast and has a number of stop off points along the way where you can take photos, picnic stare at the amazing views across the Pacific abyss or admire the mansions belonging to the rich (and possibly famous) which sit a bit further back off the coast. After a few miles we pulled over and ate some dinner (meatballs and pasta salad) al fresco style and listened to the sea crash against the rocks. 


A bit further down are a couple of view points called Bird Rock and Seal Rock. Bird Rock because there’s flocks of gulls which call it home and Seal Rock because families of seals inhabit it, although to be honest it looked like the birds had overtaken the Seal one too. The place as a whole, the area covering 17 Mile Drive is a sort of privately owned estate which is owned and maintained by a company called Pebble Beach Company, a company owned by Clint Eastwood and Arnold Palmer. 

We followed the windy but awesome road around the cliffs and beaches and took in the sights of Ghost Tree (a old white tree) and Lone Cyprus (a sole Cyprus tree which juts out on a plinth of rock overlooking the ocean) and once we’d had our fill of Pacific Ocean coastal views we headed back to the motel to make our plans for forthcoming days. 

As I mentioned earlier, the drive up north along the coastal highway of Highway 1 from Pismo Beach to Monterey had been shut off due to mudslides. This was annoying because there are a number of national parks and monuments along the coast road, one of them being Big Sur. You could however get to it by traveling south down the coast road from Monterey. 

We set off after a satisfactory breakfast at the motel and headed down the quite stunning coast road, stopping off here and there to take in the views. Just past Carmel, which is the town after Monterey and one we visited on our way back up the coast, are a couple of magnificent bridges which straddle creeks in between the cliff faces. We managed to see a condor whilst we had pulled over – a huge black bird with a yellow bill which are common to the area. 


Further down the road we got to the Big Sur National Park where the warden told us the bad news that the entire area was more or less on lockdown and a no-go area. Rubbish! We still made the most of what we got to see and pulled over to get some more fantastic shots of the coast line. We even managed to see some whales off-shore playing about in the Pacific sunshine – this we were very giddy about and Milly almost brought on a bout of early incontinence in her excitement. 

Fearing the whales had now moved on, we too moved on, further north into the lavish town of Carmel. Apparently Clint Eastwood is like the mayor of the town or something and resides there. He also owns half of the place and a fancy ranch there which we pulled in at – it wasn’t that special in all honesty. We tried knocking on for him but alas he wasn’t able to play out. The small town itself is very upmarket; Milly was oogleing all the properties and I had to bring her back down to earth, reminding her that we live in a small terrace in rainy Marple.


A brief vid around Carmel

After grabbing a bite in Carmel, we jumped into The Beast (me driving this time) and said goodbye to the picturesque coast which had been our home for the past couple of days and headed up-state to Silicon Valley – home to some of the world’s biggest companies.

Author: millyandherminder

A little blog created by Palmer and Hildage about their adventure around the globe. Welcome to one and all. Apart from mushroom lovers, you are not welcome.... but you can read on if your heart so desires.

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