This last week my husband planned an amazing little road trip up the coast to Carmel. We were attending a wedding up there and instead of just jumping on a plane and spending a couple of days there, we opted for a week long road trip that would take us from our home here in San Diego up to our old coastal beach town in Ventura, the valleys of Santa Ynez, to Pismo Beach, then Carmel and Monterrey Bay before heading back but not without a pop over to Morro Bay to see a dear friend and an overnight in Solvang. Whew! It was quite the trip and I’m so glad we did it – in our “red Mini” no less!
When planning such a trip that will be made up of multiple days in a car with both a toddler and a dog, it’s so important to include places to stop off along the way. Especially for Grey, who is quite the busy boy these days. So, along our various routes we kept eyes peeled for playgrounds and opportunities for us all to use the bathroom and stretch our legs. Here is part one of our trip and a few highlights of our favorite places to explore, play, and eat around town at our different destinations!
Malibu Bluffs Park
24250 Pacific Coast Highway
Opens at 8am
This park has a great playground and space for pups to run and play. It’s right across from Pepperdine University and after about a 2-3 hour drive from San Diego we were ready to make our first pit stop – and Malibu, could there be a more gorgeous place to stop?! Aside from the playground you can enjoy a little whale watching (if you’re lucky!), go for a scenic stroll, or simply use their clean bathrooms and prep for the next leg of the trip.
After spending some time getting those wiggles out we were ready to hop back in the Mini and began our way along our favorite way to drive North which is taking the PCH, or Pacific Coast Highway. It’s less traffic (except through downtown Malibu near the pier) and the views are just gorgeous!
42505 Pacific Coast Highway
We stopped off at Neptune’s Net (you know, the iconic fish restaurant featured in Point Break, Fast & Furious, and even where Jax and Brittany got engaged – for my Vanderpump Rules fans out there) for a little lunch. We have always loved this place because it’s no frills, great seafood, and the beer is always the perfect way to rest and recover on any road trip. Plus, you’ll almost always see bikers, exotic cars, and surfers as it’s a local favorite. Afterward, we continued up a few miles to our old stomping grounds of Ventura!
When we first moved from Virginia (and my hometown) to California back in 2014, it was in Ventura that we landed our heads and created a home together as newlyweds. In 2016 we welcomed our son here and in those four years we found it difficult to consider living anywhere else. We quickly fell in love with the beach, the laid back lifestyle, and the power of just taking a stroll along the promenade or grabbing fish tacos at the pier. Even though we would eventually find our home in San Diego, having this opportunity to come back for a few days and visit with our friends was what we needed.
We enjoyed staying beachfront, eating at our old favorites like The Cajun Kitchen Cafe and Pete’s Breakfast House (as seen on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives) for breakfast or Rice by Mama, a Thai place that has a serious reputation amongst our group of friends. It was nice to live like a Venturian once more and spend time out by the pool and just catching up on life with the people who have been such an important part of our lives.
After enjoying two days (and a little sunburn later) in Ventura we packed up our Mini and were off once more – this time up to Santa Ynez Valley for some wine!
Buttonwood Farm & Winery
1500 Alamo Pintado Road, Solvang
When we made it to the Santa Ynez, Solvang, Los Olivos area we were excited to visit a number of our favorite wineries that we used prior to moving. Buttonwood Winery has become a summer favorite of ours because of their Syrah and Grenache Rose are among the best we’ve ever had. They always tend to sell out, so having this opportunity to buy a few bottles was the best. Plus, nothing is better than a rose on a hot summer day – especially after being in the car for a few hours.
After hanging out and wandering along their grounds and farm we made our way to where we’d be lodging for the night….
…a little slice of heaven on earth…also known as the Santa Ynez Inn.
Santa Ynez Inn
3627 Sagunto Street, Santa Ynez
Photos will never truly do the Santa Ynez Inn any justice. I could not recommend a bed and breakfast more for those looking for a romantic, peaceful, and enjoyable stay while in Santa Ynez. We first visited here about a year ago when my husband’s family came out to visit for Greyson’s 2nd birthday. We were still in Ventura at the time and wine tasting was a convenient hour or so drive. I love the history of the building, the luxury, and that bathtub! It was a shame we only had one night there because I could stay for weeks if given the chance.
1110 Faraday Street, Santa Ynez
For dinner we walked around the corner to a little restaurant called SY Kitchen. We’ve gone there a number of times over the years and is often a go-to for us whenever we would spend the day in Los Olivos for wine tasting. Their menu is full of artisan dishes that are made from local, seasonal, and sustainable ingredients and their cocktails are top-notch.
That’s a wrap for part one of our trip! Next up I’m excited to share our time in Pismo Beach, Carmel and Monterrey, as well as our overnight stay in Solvang before we hit the road home.