After an amazing 5 days in San Francisco, Sonoma, and Yosemite , Josh and I were continuing our California Road Trip, by heading South toward the beach! It’s amazing how in California you can be in the mountains one day and at the beach the next!  Our plan was to leave Yosemite and drive to Santa Barbara, but we decided to stop in Pismo Beach along the way.  Pismo Beach is a cute little touristy beach town.  We didn’t get to stay long, but we were able to have lunch outside in the beautiful weather and take a short walk along the pier.

Pismo Beach

After lunch we hopped back in the car for the rest of the drive to Santa Barbara.  During our trip, California was battling several wildfires across the state.  As we approached Santa Barbara we started to see smoke everywhere.  At some points all we could see out of each window was smoke!


Despite the smoke we made it to our hotel in Santa Barbara and got checked in.  Santa Barbara is a beautiful city! The whole town feels very clean and it is beautifully situated on the beach with the Santa Ynez Mountains for a backdrop. Not only was the town really scenic, the weather was incredible! I knew we were really going to enjoy our time here! We got off to a good start with Thai massages that Josh had scheduled for us ahead of time. He knew we would be really sore from hiking, and it was my birthday, so a massage was the perfect treat! After our massages, we got ready and went out for my birthday dinner.  We found a great restaurant called Toma, where we enjoyed some wine and hearty Italian food! It was one of the best Italian meals I’ve ever had! Since it was my birthday, we decided to venture out on the town after dinner to have a few drinks.  We ended up going to one or two bars before giving into our sleepiness and going back to the hotel.

The next morning we woke up to another day of perfect weather and lots of sunshine, so we decided to get some food by the water.  We found a trendy spot right on the beach where we enjoyed mimosas and savory brunch fare outside. After soaking in the beautiful scenery in Santa Barbara for just a little while longer, we set out on the famous Highway 1 toward Santa Monica.

Santa Barbara

As part of the planning process for this road trip, we talked about driving along Highway 1 for at least some part of the trip.  We knew the more scenic parts were up North, but we also heard that driving through the Malibu area would be beautiful as well. Ultimately we decided that we would just drive along Highway 1 from Santa Barbara to Santa Monica to save time.  Oh the irony….The section of Highway 1 that we drove on was stop-and-go traffic pretty much the entire time! I almost got out of the car to walk to a gas station to go to the bathroom! At least there were some nice views along the way, including lots of very expensive houses to marvel at.

Highway 1

After hours of traffic, we finally made it to our AirBnb in Venice Beach.  We dropped our bags off, freshened up, and took an Uber to the Venice Beach Boardwalk.  The boardwalk was quite interesting; there were ton’s of homeless people, lots of street artists, and a hefty amount of tourists.  I didn’t really find it all that enjoyable, but it was definitely some good people watching.  We walked the boardwalk all the way to Santa Monica where we enjoyed the famous view of the Santa Monica Pier before getting some mediocre pizza at a nearby restaurant.

On our last morning we had a really yummy brunch at 26 Beach for one last hoorah before going to the airport…And just like that, our California Road Trip was over.

Although I enjoyed every experience, the second half of the trip just didn’t compare to the first half.  I know if we ever made the move to California, we would be Northern Californians for sure!


Santa Barbara, and Venice Beach Tips and Recommendations

  • Santa Barbara is absolutely beautiful! There is a reason it is one of the most expensive cities to live in! If you visit, be sure to spend some time walking around all of the outdoor shops.  Santa Barbara is also known for having really great food and wine.  They have a number of wineries nearby, so its a good place to get in some more wine tastings.  There are also a few different food and drink walking tours that take you to tastings at some of the cities best restaurants.
  • Highway 1 between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles is nice, but if you’re in any kind of a hurry, try to avoid it! Traffic can get very backed up in this area!
  • If your planning a California Road Trip similar to ours, I would skip the Venice Beach part and spend more time in one of the other areas.  Although it was nice to have seen the famous boardwalk and all of its oddities, there wasn’t much to do beyond people watching.


What are your favorite beach towns in California? Comment below and share why you love your favorite coastal cities.