Our California Family Road Trip: Monterey to Avila Beach to Ventura Beach
In my last post of our incredible family road trip to California we had left Monterey and were heading down the coast of California towards Avila Beach, one of the longest stretches of our trip at 150 miles and just over 2 and a half hours. However we decided that rather than see this long drive as a hassle or a means to an end, we would use it to our advantage and take in some of the beautiful sights on route.
MONDAY 3RD APRIL 2017
We had heard about the 17 mile drive in a few of the guide books and websites we had been reading before our trip, with most people saying that it was beautiful but with some saying that it was a bit of a tourist gimmick. The privately managed roadway (there is a fee to drive, but it was about ten dollars so not much at all), winds between Pacific Grove and Pebble Beach, and takes you past a rocky coastline dotted with some of the most beautiful homes you could imagine. We were constantly playing the ‘I’d like to live in that one game.’ It is definitely worth planning the 17 mile drive into your itinerary.
There were so many different places to stop off along the way, the girls loved Pebble Beach and we played on the soft sand for ages.
A photo with good old Mick the Minivan, we hired him from Hertz before we went and he was so practical for all the miles that we did. Although we did feel like a little bit like taxi drivers, the automatic sliding doors were so handy when parking next to big old American cars!
There has been some bad weather in California over the winter time and as such one of their big bridges in shut, it collapsed and meant that one of their big routes along the coast is not in use and roads are closed. However we decided to take a detour to see Bixby Bridge, as it was somewhere we had seen so much of in magazines and videos over the years. It was only about half an hour away and although we got there at had to turn back round and go another route towards Avila Beach. It was most definitely worth it though. Look at these views.
Our whole trip was full of pinch me moments, but there are a few that really stick out as defining memories to me and standing up there looking at the view is one of them. I think it is something that will stay with me for the rest of my life. This is a trip that I had been wanting to do since I was little, before we had children we just never got round to it as we couldn’t afford it for one reason or another, but when I dreamed of doing it I would never have imagined I would have three little children by my side (or just out of shot in the car as we were worried about how high up it was- we got the girls out one of time to take a photo with them!) We spent half an hour or so there taking in the view before it was time to head to Avila Beach.
Our first impressions of Avila Beach as we arrived and had a quick drive around was that it was as lot smaller than the other places we had visited on the trip so far. It is literally just off Highway 1, so perfect for a stopover or a longer stay. And we left feeling like we wished we could have stayed there longer. We arrived late afternoon and checked into our hotel, the Avila Lighthouse Suites which turned out to be one of our favourite hotels of our trip. We had a great suite overlooking the ocean, and there was a pool and plenty of activities to keep the kids entertained. We were all pretty shattered by this point, so headed out to find some dinner- we found the Custom House restaurant, which judging by how busy it was, was a favourite of many, and enjoyed a delicious meal of flatbreads, pasta and burgers. There was literally one row of shops and restaurants in Avila, which you could walk to from our hotel, and it made a welcome change from having to get in the car to go anywhere. Then it was back to our room for a well needed night’s sleep.
TUESDAY 4th APRIL 2017
We awoke the next morning to the sun streaming in through the shutters in our room. After heading to breakfast, which was basic but good (plus you could make your own waffles with pre made batter which you put in a waffle machine- the girls thought this was the best thing ever), we decided to take advantage of having a beautiful beach right on our doorstep by heading out to enjoy the first golden light of the day.
These swings on the beach were literally seconds from our hotel.
We then decided to have a paddle in the water by the pier, which turned into pretty much go into the sea up to your waist fully clothed. I sat back on the sand and watched the girls shrieking and laughing with joy. Again it was such a special moment and one of my favourites of the trip (It wasn’t so funny when they started getting grumpy because they hated their sandy wet clothes afterwards though).
A lot of people have asked us how the children coped with going such a long way and doing such long drives in between each destination. I must admit it was something that I had been quite worried about before we travelled, but bar the odd tired meltdown, on the whole they were absolutely brilliant. Out of any trip we have ever been on, they thrived on the quality time with us and were on the whole so well behaved and brilliantly. We actually found the long car journey’s helped us all get a bit of down time, have a nap etc. Likewise for that reason rather than rush on to our next destination, we decided to spend the morning relaxing in the pool at Avila Beach, something which we hadn’t done the entire time we were there. We all thrived on having a slow chilled out start to the day.
It was soon time to head on to our next destination however- Ventura. A couple of hours car journey was perfect timing to have a well earned rest after all that swimming.
By the time we arrived in Ventura it was late afternoon so we wasted no time in checking into our hotel, the Holiday Inn Express Ventura Harbour. With the clue being in the name, it was indeed in a beautiful part of town- Ventura Harbour. We headed straight out to have a look around and found that firstly Ventura Harbour was large and secondly that Ventura Harbour Village was really beautiful- a little area of shops and restaurants overlooking the water. We decided to have dinner at Margarita Villa, a Mexican restaurant with an outside terrace overlooking the harbour and water. As a family Mexican food is by far our favourite food but we have yet to find a restaurant we like in the UK, so we were excited to be eating here. The food was delicious, bar the fact we filled up on tortilla chips with delicious homemade salsa before we even got our main courses. However my enchiladas were absolute perfection. Then it was time for a little sweet treat at a place next door called Coastal Cone, which had over 40 flavours of ice cream, meaning my girls and myself were in our absolute element as we are a family of ice cream fiends. I definitely recommend checking out both if you visit Ventura as they were both fantastic.
We ended a pretty much perfect afternoon with a trip to the beach with our ice creams to watch the sun go down. I took so many photos here that I couldn’t resist sharing them all, it was beautiful watching the sky change from pink to deep orange. We stayed over an hour and it was absolutely stunning.
This boy was obsessed with eating sand on holiday- the girls never did this so it certainly was an interesting experience!
So many photos of Jon throwing him in the air, but I just absolutely adore them.
WEDNESDAY 5th APRIL 2017
The next morning we had another lazy couple of hours in our hotel room, before deciding to make a move and head straight to the next destination on our trip. But first it was time to have one last run around the harbour and take in that beautiful view. I love these photos of the girls, I think they really show their little characters off. They truly had such a wonderful trip and I can honestly say it was one of the best things we have ever done together as a family.
Ventura was such a beautiful place for a quick stop over, again we wish we had been able to stay for longer. But it was time to head to our next destination and one that we had been excited about for so long… LOS ANGELES!
Here is a video I made of our time travelling along 17 Mile Drive, and also at Avila Beach and Ventura…
To check out some more inspiration for travelling to California, check out Visit California. Thanks to them for helping us plan our trip.