Travel • May 3, 2017

Our California Family Road Trip: San Francisco to Santa Cruz to Monterey

After three amazing nights in San Francisco (which you can read all about here!), it was time to head off on our first proper drive of the trip. We were heading to Santa Cruz, a coastal town famous for it’s boardwalk and surfing, which was 76 miles and an approximate 1.5 hour car trip away. After Jon got his head around driving our affectionately named Mick the minivan we were soon off and excited about where our next leg of our journey would take us…



After spending the morning in San Francisco we arrived into Santa Cruz quite late in the afternoon and immediately checked into our hotel, the Best Western Seacliff Inn. Not actually situated in Santa Cruz itself but in a tiny nearby place called Aptos, it was absolutely perfect for a stopover. It had a pool, nice comfortable rooms and friendly staff, and was situated just off the freeway so it was easy and handy for getting back on the road again in the morning. We decided to head straight to the famous Santa Cruz Boardwalk– I was looking forward to seeing those iconic colourful rides that are constantly featured in so many publications, blogs and instagrams, plus the girls were so excited to be going, they absolutely love anything like that.

The boardwalk was brilliant. There were loads to do for kids and adults alike and you can buy tokens to use as you go, or a wristband that gives you unlimited rides throughout the day. If you were going to spend the day on the beach you could buy a wristband and come and go as you please, I wish we had time to  have spent all day there. Still we had a good few hours and we also managed to head down to the beautiful beach for sunset. As we were walking back to the car as the sun was setting the sky went that perfect combination of pink, orange and yellow that you see in the films, it was just stunning. We arrived back at our hotel and had our best nights sleep yet- I think the sea air must have tired us all out.


We woke up bright and early ready to try something a little different on suggestion of Visit California- we were off to do some apple juice tasting at Martinelli’s in nearby Watsonville. Founded in 1868, Martinelli’s provides a large range of different 100% pure juices, sparkling juices and organic juices. To two little juice fiends, the girls were so incredibly excited to be testing some out.

We had a great time testing them out and learning more about the company. The girls loved it and it made me really proud to see Mads chatting away and getting so involved with the ladies. I think it is really important to try and do different things when you are away that you wouldn’t necessarily do at home. The two ladies who were helping us were so nice and it was great to chat to them about living in California, the company itself and other stuff too. We came away with two little Martinelli gift boxes that the girls bought with their pocket money and a big bottle of our combined favourite juice- the unfiltered original apple juice, that the ladies kindly gave us. We glugged our way through it on the long car journey’s as we travelled down the coast.

Next up we decided to head off on a little detour to Capitola. One brilliant thing about being on instagram is that it is such a source of inspiration for me. A lady commented on one of my California posts and mentioned that we should go to Capitola so after having a quick google we decided we would head off there for the afternoon. Capitola is a tiny little quaint coastal village. There isn’t a whole great deal to do but I would definitely say it is worth a trip. There is a beautiful beach, and a little street with a few shops and restaurants.

        These little coloured beach houses were absolutely amazing, I could have taken photos of them all day. We played down on the beach for a while, the girls will never get bored of just running around on a beach and playing on the sand.

 We grabbed some pizza from a place called ‘Pizza my Heart’ and sat on a patch of grass in the centre of the village to eat them. It sounds weird but it was one of the highlights of our trip. It’s often the random little things that you will remember the most. The sun was beating down on my shoulders and I was sat back feeling so grateful that we were there doing something we had dreamed about for so long.

We soon hopped back into the car ready to head to our next destination- The Mystery Spot. I had read about the Mystery Spot in the California guidebook I had bought before hand and straight away I knew our eldest daughter would love it, she loves anything weird and spooky. Nestled deep in the forest, it’s definitely worth a quick stop (you would typically spend at the most a couple of hours here) if you are a fan of things a little odd and abnormal. Plus tickets aren’t too badly priced really- $8 for adults and cheaper for children.

But what is The Mystery Spot? Even after visiting I am not really entirely sure. It is basically a gravitational anomaly and  a circular area of effect around 150 feet or 46 meters in diameter. Within the Mystery Spot your perceptions of the laws of physics and gravity are questioned. It really was odd but good to go round with the tour guide if not a little tourist gimmicky. It was fun for a quick stop over on our way to our next destination- Monterey.


After a reasonably short journey of about 42 miles and 50 minutes drive, we arrived in our next destination Monterey. I had so many people commenting how much they enjoyed Monterey when they had done similar road trips and I can see why. Another little coastal town, with it’s Cannery Row a one time center of the sardine packing industry, it has a beautiful and rugged coastline. We headed straight to what arguably is one of the most famous attractions in the town- the Monterey Aquarium.

We had such a great time at the aquarium. Having been to aquariums in the past, the girls have never been hugely fussed by them. But I don’t know whether it is their current age, or just the fact that there was so much to do, but they absolutely loved our time there. The aquarium had so much to do and was already really interactive for children too- we all loved the jellyfish, the huge ocean wall and the girls loved the elements such as feeding a sea urchin. They were running around in such excitement from one thing to the next.

       After grabbing some dinner at Bubba Gumps again (second time this trip!) we headed for a walk down the coastal path, hoping to spot a sea lion or two. There was the most beautiful sunset as we were walking and we stopped to take some photos of us all. The photos of the four of us are probably some of my favourites of the trip. We all look so windswept but I can just see happiness radiating from us all, this trip really was such an amazing experience for us all and bought us even closer tougher as a family.

We finally checked into our hotel, the Hotel Pacific a little later on that evening. We were so lucky with all the hotels on our trip, they were all lovely and really family friendly, and this one was no exception. We had the family suite which was huge and perfect for larger families like ours. It was cosy with a big huge bed that was so inviting that myself, Jon and the girls all slept in it together, even though there were two other doubles in the room as well. That’s the thing about holidays, it’s about doing things you don’t do all the time at home. We ended up pretty much sleeping together every night after that and those moments are ones I will treasure forever.

We didn’t get to spend a great deal of time in Monterey, that is the problem with a road trip I guess, it is soon time to head off to the next destination, but what we did see of it we absolutely loved. We thought the Aquarium was fantastic and the coastline is beautiful. I’ve since become hooked on watching the show Big Little Lies as it is set in the town. After a great nights sleep it was soon time to get up and head off on the next destination on our trip… AVILA BEACH!


Here is a video of our time in Santa Cruz and Monterey…



Read our California Road Trip Part One blog post- Home to San Francisco.


To check out some more inspiration for travelling to California, check out Visit California. Thanks to them for helping us plan our trip. 

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