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Our love for overlanding was born, nurtured and multiplied during a 4x4 overland safari trip to Kenya for our honeymoon in 2017. Our guide and dear friend, Peter, has shown us how to be fearless when it comes to being outdoors. A year later, the stars aligned - we gave up our corporate jobs on the East Coast and... Read more

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© 2019 by Alexa & Dmitri

Big Sur 

4 day California road trip itinerary

An overland trip from San Francisco to Santa Barbara via Santa Cruz and Big Sur along the Pacific Coast Highway.

Duration

4 days, 3 nights

Start / End

San Francisco

Travel time

713mi, 14hrs 15min

What you will do

"The Greatest Meeting of Land and Sea"- Big Sur is known as one of the most stunning places in the world. This itinerary combines off-roading in Big Sur with urban exploration in Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo. Camping right on the Pacific Ocean on Pismo Beach is a unique California experience not to be missed. 

Accomodations

Beach camping

Campground

Activities

4x4 offroad driving

Hiking

Where you will go

Itinerary

Pacific Grove & 17 Mile Drive

17 Mile Drive is one of the most stunning drives in the world - pay $10.50 to enter and get a helpful brochure listing all the 17 stops. It's a place to take your time and enjoy the magnificent views.

Day 1 - Activity 1

Carmel-by-the Sea

Carmel is famous for a couple of things: Clint Eastwood is an esteemed former mayor, there are no parking meters and streetlights, most houses have names instead of addresses and all the trees are registered. Stop by the Carmel Mission, founded in 1770 by Father Junipero Serra.

Day 1 - Activity 2

Pacific Coast Highway

The Pacific Coast Highway that connects Monterrey and San Louis Obispo is possibly the most iconic and recognizable drives in the world.

 

 

Day 1 - Activity 3

Overnight stay above clouds in Big Sur

Take a gravel road and climb to Prewitt Ridge Campground for some of the most breathtaking views of the California Pacific Coast. The sunset from this spot is worth the drive up here.

Day 1 - Activity 4

San Luis Obispo

SLO lucked out with the scenery - set among rolling hills and ancient volcanic overtoppings, those lush green hills will take your breath away. Many of cities' houses and commercial buildings were erected in the 1800s and have been carefully preserved by the locals. One of the most prominent sites is Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa. Try to visit SLO on a Thursday night - the town comes alive with Thursday Night activities and Farmers' Market. Proximity to the Los Padres National Forest allows for dispersed camping - overlander's dream.

Day 2 - Activity 1

Camp overnight on the beach

Ever dreamed of camping RIGHT on the beach? At Oceano Dunes, you can! $10 will buy you an overnight stay on the beach. Watch an epic sunset and fall asleep to the sound of the waves. There are 1000 spots available... and they fill up quickly.

Day 2 - Activity 2

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is known as one of the most beautiful communities on the Pacific Coast - and rightfully so. If you're into the Spanish Colonial style, you're going to love it here - the city has ensured that all buildings are built in one style. Santa Barbara hosts Old Spanish Days Fiesta - an annual celebration and a historic parade. Stop by Handlebar Coffee Roasters. 

Day 3 - Activity 1

Camp overnight in Los Padres NF

Located only 20 min away from Santa Barbara are some of the most stunning sunsets - overlooking Lake Cachuma.

Day 3 - Activity 2

Santa Cruz - Boardwalk

Santa Cruz needs little introduction - known as the mecca for its chill vibe, an expansive surfer community and friendly people. Mile-long Santa Cruz Main Beach is probably area's main attraction for getting a tan, swimming and people-watching. Check out the Santa Cruz Boardwalk - founded in 1907, it's California's oldest surviving amusement park. Stop by Humble Sea Brewing for a drink or Hula's Grill for a meal. 

Day 4 - Activity 1

Notes

  • Campsite pre-booking is recommended

  • Off-road driving experience is recommended

  • Camp fire permits required - they can be obtained online before the trip for free