A Travellerspoint blog

If you’re going …

California day five

View California 1991 on ToonSarah's travel map.

... to San Francisco

Santa Cruz

We both agreed that there was no reason to stay in Salinas any longer than we had to, even for breakfast, so after filling up with gas we left the town behind us. A quick detour to Moss Landing revealed little worth stopping for, and certainly no likely-looking breakfast spot, so we carried on north up Highway 1.

Santa Cruz

Eventually, and rather hungrily, we turned off at Santa Cruz, which proved to be a lovely, laid-back seaside resort, still half asleep at this time of day. Near the car park we found the excellent Beach Street Café. It was small and friendly, and the home-cooked breakfast, complete with orange muffin, was just what we needed.

Fully recovered, and with Salinas just a distant memory, we went for a short walk on the beach and saw the famous Boardwalk, which like the rest of the town had not yet woken up.


In Santa Cruz

A little to the north of Santa Cruz the highway began to follow the coast more closely, and the views were beautiful, if not quite as dramatic as those of the Big Sur area. Many parts of the coastline here are preserved as state parks, and we stopped at one of these.

Año Nuevo State Reserve

Visitor permit

This reserve is famous for the elephant seals that use the beaches, and although the mating season was over we hoped we would be able to see some.

The warden explained that some had returned to the beach to moult and that we would be able to see them by walking through the dunes to the north. It proved to be a long walk and at times quite difficult in the soft sand, but when we finally emerged on to the beach the sight that greeted us was well worth all the effort.

The walk through the dunes


It was like walking into a scene in a David Attenborough documentary, with numerous seals just at the foot of the dunes. One pup had even strayed on to the path and we had to make a detour around him. Their eyes, especially the babies’, were huge, and where they had already moulted their skin gleamed like pewter.

Several helpful wardens here guided us to good viewing points and told us a little bit about what we were seeing – when they could be heard above the deafening barking of the seals!



The beach at Año Nuevo State Reserve

Eventually we had to leave this wonderful sight behind us and make our way back to the car, rather tired and very sandy.



Our next stop was at this little village about a mile inland. It was a sleepy place, little more than a crossroads, with a white wooden church that looked like it had been transplanted from New England, some pretty houses, a thrift store (charity shop) and a couple of general stores where we were able to buy excellent sandwiches. These we took back to the coast and stopped to eat at one of the beaches, Half Moon Bay.

Postcard of coastal scenery

After lunch we continued to follow the coast north on Highway 1, with more beautiful views of the sea. As we approached San Francisco we thought we were prepared for the road to get a little busier, especially when it met Interstate 280. However the shock when it changed from a small two-lane dual carriageway to one with six lanes each side (and us in one of the middle lanes) was considerable. We found ourselves surrounded by hundreds of other cars, all going faster than us, overtaking on both sides (as is allowed in the US) and all apparently knowing exactly where they were going – unlike us! Luckily a slightly larger scale map of the San Francisco area gave us some clues as to what the road might do and which lane we should be in, and we were swept into the city on the right route, passing some prettily painted suburban terraces.

Golden Gate Bridge

The road took us through the greenery of Golden Gate Park and out on to the famous bridge which was dramatic but, thanks to the traffic, somewhat hair-raising. On the far side of the bridge we turned off into the vista point parking area.

The views of the bridge were wonderful and we could also pick out various landmarks in the city (such as the Coit Tower) and in the bay below us (Alcatraz and Angel Island). The sun was shining and the temperature pleasantly warm, so we lingered for a while taking lots of photos.

Golden Gate Bridge

Hazy city view


Later we took the road that wound down to Sausalito, a pretty little town right on the bay with a relaxed seaside atmosphere. We strolled around the town, had a drink in an Italian café, and admired a slightly different view of the city across the bay.

In Sausalito

San Francisco

Eventually however it was time to tackle again the traffic on the bridge. This time we paid our $2 toll (payable southbound only) and crossed with the view in front of us. Safely across, we found Lombard Street and our room for the next two nights at the Marina Motel. Compared to the chain motels of the previous few nights it was very basic, but the location was convenient and the price, for a city centre, very low.

The Marina Motel, with our hire car parked beneath our room

Motel leaflet

Marina Motel at night

2017 comment: the Marina is still going strong and seems to be a little smarter these days. It still offers the convenience of onsite parking, which was the main reason we had chosen it.

In the evening we took the bus to the Italian quarter of North Beach. The sun was still bright at first, although it had turned quite cool, and we were able to take a few photos of the area. We saw the City Lights Bookshop, frequented by the Beat Generation poets such as Ginsberg, and we had a meal in an excellent Italian restaurant (with an Irish waitress) – wonderful fish, a good red wine, and superb cheesecake. Then we went for a drink in an atmospheric bar before catching the bus back to the Marina … and to bed.

Total miles for day: 134

Posted by ToonSarah 05:49 Tagged beaches bridges animals traffic road_trip views hotel california city seaside seals

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents


Are there Sea Lions there as well as Seals Sarah?

by Easymalc

There might be but I don't recall seeing any. Certainly we did see them both to the south of here, in Monterey, and to the north at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, so it seems likely.

by ToonSarah

The state reserve looked very much a must to visit when in the area. It was nice to see the golden gate again, I still have fond memories and I hope to do a road trip to the states again in the future but now with the virus, so much has been on hold and I hope to see a few other countries first ... sadly enough my list isn't getting shorter!

by Ils1976

I sympathise - nor is mine! And I have less time in front of me than you do in which to tick it off :(

by ToonSarah

I hope you get a change to see a lot of them Sarah, keep up the faith, that monster can't be here forever, or at least I hope so cuz I am getting tired of it! :)

by Ils1976

Comments on this blog entry are now closed to non-Travellerspoint members. You can still leave a comment if you are a member of Travellerspoint.