So the final leg of our big USA adventure – a drive down the beautiful Pacific Coast, via Big Sur and into Santa Barbara.
We departed Monterey mid morning after grabbing a quick breakfast and hitting the road for one of the most scenic parts of the California Coast. The drive is definitely not one you should rush – I was constantly saying pull over I want to just stop and look. I actually would have liked to have taken longer and stayed one night on the coast so we could do more exploring as there is so much to be seen in this part of the world however we needed to get to our accomodation in Santa Barbara.
As well as our numerous stops along the coast to take photos and admire the beauty we also stopped at San Simeon for lunch. We had hoped to visit Hearst Castle which is on the hill overlooking San Simeon, however most tours were booked out and the only one left was at 4pm and we needed to continue on our journey. After leaving San Simeon we stopped to visit the elephant seals which you can find on the beach about 10 minutes south. It is an amazing site to see the seals playing and enjoying life – at certain times in the year this beach is so packed with seals that you can’t see the sand! So amazing!
Finally we arrived in Santa Barbara around 5pm – we loved Santa Barbara – such a pretty sea side town. We ate dinner at a casual cafe on the water, with a beautiful sandy beach out the front – it reminded us a lot of home. We only had the one night here which was just not enough for us to explore and just hang out so if we go back again we definitely would stay the extra night or so.
Our final morning in the US was spent having a delicious breakfast in the main street of Santa Barbara followed by a look around the shops and then a walk on the lovely Pier. We hit the road back to LA around 1pm which took us along the final stretch of the coast via Malibu and back to Santa Monica where it all began. We stopped at our favourite Mexican for an early dinner before a quick drive back through some of the stunning streets of Beverley Hills and back to the airport for our late night flight! We seemed to cram a lot into our last few days which seem to rush by all to fast.
So there is the final leg of our great US adventure. So much fun – a trip I would highly recommend for anyone wanting a great family holiday.
Here are the final few photos to show of our last few days. I do have a video but sadly I can’t get it to load into vimeo so it will have to wait for now. I hope you have enjoyed hearing about our trip and of course I am always happy to share any other info about places we stayed and things we did.
After 4 fantastic days in San Francisco we headed south down the coast to the beautiful town of Monteray where we were staying for the next two nights. Monteray is a charming little sea side village that is well known for it aquarium, fisheries and sea life
On recommendation from a friend we stayed at The Intercontinental on Cannery Row. The location was fantastic and our room was just wonderful. It was spacious (which was lovely after San Fran) and like all Intercontinental properties it was beautifully presented and maintained.
We ate in some of the lovely restaurants along Cannery Row where we could watch the sea otters playing in the water out the front. Cannery Row does have a lot of very touristy shops but it was fun and relaxed.
On our second day we took the drive 15 minutes further south to Carmel which is the most beautiful village with loads of lovely shops and restaurants. We spent some time walking along Carmel Beach and the wandered the shops, stopping for lunch. We visited the Mission church and once again enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere.
This area is home to some prime real estate so we took a drive around the area to see the wonderful homes. You can see a few in my little video below.
We headed back to Monteray for the afternoon and hired a Surrey Bike that the 5 of us could take a ride on – loads of fun and reminded me of muscles I haven’t used in a while!
We had a lovely relaxing two days in Monteray and Carmel – again the weather was cooler like San Francisco so we were pleased to have our jackets in this part of the world.
Here are my favourite snaps plus our video showing this very pretty part of the world.
Time to head back to the big city after a wonderful few days soaking up the warm fresh air of Yosemite National Park. Our next stop is San Francisco which was a 4 hour drive from our hotel at Fish Camp. This was my second trip to San Fran but there was a big 27 year gap in between each visit so it was time to rediscover the city again.
We decided to stay down at Fisherman’s Wharf on this trip as we were in town for 4th of July celebrations and this meant we would be near the fireworks over the bay. Our hotel was called the Zephyr Hotel and was quite a hip and happening place in a fabulous location right across the road from Pier 39 and all the touristy things on the Bay. They had some amazing games and entertainment for the kids on the ground floor however it was however the smallest room we encountered on our trip which meant for an interesting 4 days living like sardines in a can!! The room was clean and had an amazing view straight out to Alcatraz but the size was just not great for a family of 5. We had even emailed numerous times before we left Australia confirming that we wanted a particular room that was a little larger but this of course was not noted on anything.
As we had 4 days in San Francisco we decided that the best way to get around and see the city would be to do the hop on hop off double decker bus! There were plenty of bus sightseeing companies to chose from and they are a great way to get some history of the city. We picked City Sightseeing and to be honest we think this particular company was the one that seemed to have the least number of buses. Once we were on board all was great but the minute you get off to explore an area you would at times be left waiting well over an hour or two before the next bus would turn up. My advice would be to ask people waiting at the bus stops if they were finding the busses regular before you decide which tour company to go with!
San Fran is a big and interesting city with so much to see – we probably could have easily driven to everywhere but we were unsure of exactly what do see and do first and we didn’t want the hassle of parking which seemed to be expensive (parking in out hotel cost us $55 a night!) so I am glad we did the bus tour so we could see all the places of interest. One thing is for sure of SF though – the weather! It was COLD! After the high temperatures we had for the previous two weeks the drop down to 17 degrees while in SF was a shock to the system! We were told that the one item that the tourist shops sell more of in the city are sweat shirts and jackets – they certainly are not good at summer but I guess that is what adds to the charm!
My favourite things to see and do in San Francisco were:-
The Golden Gate Bridge
A walk and lunch in the Haight District
An afternoon at Sausalito
The morning on Alcatraz Island
Visiting the Painted Ladies and other Full House sites
Lunch in Chinatown
Shopping in Union Square
A vist to Lombard St
Here are some of my favourite photos from our time in San Francisco
After 3 fantastic days we started our long journey to Yosemite National Park – definitely my favourite of the scenic parts from our trip.
After spending the morning making the most of our Las Vegas pad, which included time at the pool and some lunch we finally departed at around 1.30pm – quite late for the fact that we had a long drive ahead – longer than we had predicted!
The drive from Vegas to our hotel which was just on the outskirts of Yosemite National Park in a place called Fish Camp took us 8 hours, so with a petrol and food stop along the way it meant we arrived at our hotel at 10pm – a big big day! Our hotel was Tenaya Lodge and we had a deluxe room with 2 queen beds and a roll away. The room was like your traditional style room so really only room to walk around the beds but was it was a really lovely hotel that I would recommend. They had a couple of restaurants and a little snack shop, 2 pools (indoor and outdoor) and loads of extra things for the kids to do. We did archery one day but there were also mountain bikes for hire and a rock climbing wall.
After a good nights sleep we were up bright and early the next morning for day one of our trip into the park! Yosemite National Park is a huge place and the drive from the main entrance to the main floor of the park is a good hour. The drive is beautiful though and we saw a number of deer on the way!
The first major tourist stop while driving in is called Tunnel View. After traveling through a long tunnel you arrive to some magical scenery and your first glimpse at the postcard perfect Yosemite!
June was a brilliant time to visit as all the waterfalls are still in full flow! By September most have dried up until after the winter. Some proved to be a welcome relief after hiking to the bottom and being sprayed by the cool water! Once in the main part of the park we stopped regularly in the car to see the scenery. The road is easy to travel along with plenty of places to stop. We did a few hikes and and had lunch in one of the cafe’s The other cool thing we did see was a bear! He was just wandering through the forest – the rangers were close by keep tabs on him so he didn’t come near the tourists!
Here are some of my favourite photos from day 1
On day 2 we took a different drive into the park. This time we headed to Glacier Point where we could view everything from up above! Again this was spectacular and so worth the trip. The drive was not as long as day one and the walk once in was short and easy.
On our final day as we left the park we headed to an area that had the giant sequoia trees. The size of these trees is really incredible. We did a bush walk on a marked trail that gave the age and history of the giant trees which was fascinating. I must say our time in this part of California was one of my favourites and a must if you there in summer or spring. We had three nights at Tenaya lodge and for our family this was perfect!
Time for the bright lights and scorching heat of Las Vegas – one of our favourite stops on our trip!
So our journey began after leaving the Grand Canyon on a Sunday morning. It happened to be Indiana’s birthday this day as well so we had a quick present giving ceremony in our room before we hit the road. We headed straight out of Tusayan back down the highway we first arrived on and made our first stop for breakfast at the town of Williams which is a great traditional spot on Route 66 – lots of old time nostalgia to look at which I thought was very cool!
We then continued back along the freeway to visit the Hoover Dam. The temperatures once again were scorching and in the high 40’s so we our visit was short but just enough to see the amazing engineering feat that the dam is. To get a sense of how high the water needed to be to open the dam gates was quite impressive and again to see the layers of the earth and marvel at just how long it has taken to create what we now see.
After a few more hours driving we arrived in the hustling and bustling Las Vegas and headed straight to our hotel, The Cosmopolitan which was right in the centre of The Las Vegas Boulevarde Strip.
From the very moment you arrive you get the sense of glitz and glam – the kids were suitably impressed to say the least. We arrived right on 4pm which proved to make life busier as this is check in time for all guests! I failed to read the notes our travel agent had made on our itinerary saying that we had special lounge check-in which would get us around the crowds so we lined up with what seemed to be hundreds of other people and an hour later we made it to the check in desk (will not forget to check the itinerary again!).
The size and number of guests that these hotels accomodate is quite amazing but we were pretty excited with the room we were given which was a 2 bedroom suite on the 54th floor (there are 60 floors in total) with sweeping views of the entire city. Out one side we were looking over the Bellagio Hotel and it’s beautiful fountain. In another direction we looked to the Sands Hotel and the mountains surrounding Las Vegas and to the other side we could see the hotels and airport on the other end of the strip – yes our suite was that big that it took up the entire end of the building! Spoilt indeed – we kind of didn’t want to leave and go back to sharing one room.
The added bonuses that came with the room were also pretty good – a $100 spa credit plus a choice of complimentary daily buffet breakfast for two or a $75 daily room service credit! I used the spa voucher and put it towards a fantastic massage – the massage was $160 (plus that tip – oh that tip which I still don’t understand!!!) but it was pretty special and an experience in itself! We used our $75 room service credit to order lunch for all of us each day.
The weather was around 44 degrees each day during our stay so we made the most of using this time to relax by the pool each morning before heading back to the room for our special room service lunch – we did feel like we were living the life!
One afternoon we took a trip to the Vegas North outlet shopping centre. I wasn’t that impressed as we have great shopping here in Australia now so there was not a lot that we couldn’t get here and the prices were not really that great for what is essentially old stock. Our dollar is not super fantastic at the moment so really we weren’t gaining much. We did pick up some clothes for the kids and a few other things that caught our eye but nothing to write home about!
We had 3 nights in Vegas and each was spent a little different. Our first evening was Indi’s birthday so we stayed in our hotel and had dinner at Holsteins at the The Cosmopolitan – they made her feel extra special and went out of their way to help us celebrate her birthday – such fun and a great meal for all of us! On our second night we went for a walk along the strip to look a the other hotels and shops – it was still so hot and with the distance between each hotel being a reasonable walk we probably didn’t achieve that much but we still had fun. The highlight of the evening was a visit to the Tiffany Store where the staff treated the girls beautifully and offered to show them and allow them to try on lots of jewellery. We didn’t purchase this time but I am sure it has planted a seed!
On our last evening we went to a show that I had booked prior to leaving Australia. Our choice was Cirque Du Soleil’s “O” which was just out of this world! I would highly recommend it to anyone – we were all mesmerised. Having never been to a Cirque performance before, the excitement of seeing this one in Vegas was wonderful!
The other highlight of our time in Vegas was how the hotel spoilt our birthday girl by delivering the most impressive birthday cake to our room. As I have spent many years in the party industry I know how much time and effort, not to mention cost goes into creating these beautiful cakes, so when they delivered one to us free of charge I was gob smacked – so special!
We had a wonderful few days in Vegas and used it as some down time after a really busy week and a half of sightseeing, walking and driving. It gave us a refresh for the next part of our journey and the luxury of the hotel made it just that much more special!
As always here is our short movie of all we got up to in Las Vegas.