Are you tired of being cooped up in the house? In many parts of the U.S., it’s been a rough winter. Right now, all I’m thinking about is a spring road trip. If you need a winter weather break sooner rather than later, drive this Southern California itinerary to satisfy your need for the open road.
Your Southern California spring road trip starts and ends in Los Angeles
Whether you’ve just arrived at LAX (rent a Toyota Venza for a roomy ride) or driven to town from who knows where, this spring road trip begins at Lowes Santa Monica Beach Hotel in Santa Monica. I don’t know about you, but I could use a room with an ocean view right about now…and a pool overlooking the blue Pacific…with a cute attendant bringing me a margarita or a glass of sauvignon blanc to accompany my gazpacho lunch. Although it’s probably too cold for swimming, unless you’re a die-hard who wears a wet suit and has a penchant for cold water, the ocean view is still good, especially at night when the ferris wheel lights up the sky on Santa Monica Pier. And while we’re playing tourist, let’s walk over to the pier for dinner at The Lobster Restaurant. I’m ordering the grilled lobster. How about you?
After a good night’s sleep, we’ll start our spring road trip to El Capitan Canyon in Santa Barbara County on a sunny southern California morning. From Lowes Santa Monica Beach Hotel, our itinerary follows Highway 1 as it hugs the coast on a curvy drive through Malibu. At Point Mugu State Park, it’s time to stretch our legs, take photos and enjoy the sandy beach that’s guarded by the jagged cliffs of Boney Mountains State Wilderness Area. With over 70 miles of hiking trails, it’s a shame that we can’t spend more time exploring, but we have a lunch date to keep in Santa Barbara.
A little north of Mugu State Park, our route turns inland to connect with Highway 101. Don’t worry, you’ll see those Pacific Ocean views again after Ventura. By the time we reach Santa Barbara, we’ll be hungry for lunch. Let’s drive over to Stearns Wharf for a seafood meal at The Harbor Restaurant. Although the water’s cold, we’ll ask for a table by one of the large windows to watch the sun as it sparkles on the Pacific Ocean. Wait, what’s that? A standup paddleboarder who doesn’t mind the cold water glides into our view.
After lunch, it’s a short drive to El Capitan Canyon, our headquarters for however many nights you choose. While it might be tempting to reserve one of the safari tents for a more off-the-beaten-path experience, I recommend staying in one of the cedar cabins in the Upper Meadow. Why? The safari tents are positioned very close together. Besides, the cabins include a mini kitchen for cooking breakfast and lunch (and maybe dinner). It’s a good thing we stopped at a grocery store in Santa Barbara for supplies. Of course the Canyon Market and Deli is available for those who don’t want to cook. And, with all of the fine dining in Santa Barabara, it’s worth a drive back to town for an evening meal.
If we’re lucky, the wildflowers will already be blooming on the hillsides, which means the hikes and bike rides will be extra special. Spring is a little too cool for ocean kayaking at Refugio State Park, but it’s also great place to walk. And we can’t be this close to wine country and not go for a ride through the vineyards. Sanford Winery is in a particularly stunning location in the Santa Rita Hills so drive by for a tasting, better yet, scheduled a winery tour.
Every California road trip that ends in Los Angeles needs a bit of glamor. We’ll complete our spring jaunt with a route that takes us back down Highway 101 past Thousand Oaks and onto the 405 and I-10 freeways to West Hollywood and the hip and happening SLS Hotel Beverly Hills. Wait until you see the lobby decorated completely in black and white—walls, carpet, furniture—and the red elevator area. If it’s a nice afternoon, we’ll hang out with the beautiful people at the rooftop pool. And, we’ll celebrate the end of a fun spring road trip with dinner at The Bazaar by José Andrés (it’s just a walk across the SLS Hotel’s outdoor lobby area). Foam topped martinis and tapas dinner anyone?
Planning a road trip in the California or other parts of the U.S.? Start with our USA Road Trip Travel Planning Resources.
Disclosure: Toyota U.S.A. provided this travel experience but the opinions are my own.
My article is part of the spring-themed blog carnival hosted at Traveling with Sweeney. Be sure to check out all the spring related posts, they’ll make you want to get up and go.