The Perfect Itinerary For A Long Weekend In Northern California!

As a very blessed mom of two small kids it is hard to get away for an extended period of time. My husband and I usually limit trips to 4 days so we do not put too much strain on our loving moms who volunteer to forgo sleep for 3 nights.

We decided to take our oldest who is currently 4 years old on a big girl trip to Northern California for my birthday this spring. Spring is an amazing time to go to California…unless you have an aversion to wildflowers and sea lions, but I mean who hates that?


I find that flying in SFO is the most economical for our budget and it is a great starting point for any trip north or south on Highway 1. This specific itinerary takes you from San Francisco to Big Sur and back all in 4 days!


Here is how we spent our trip:

  • Day 1: Golden Gate Bridge, Half Moon Bay, Wildflowers, Shark Fin Cove, & Monterey
  • Day 2: Monterey and Carmel (Hiking, wine tasting, beach time, sea lions, kayaking, and everything in between)
  • Day 3: Road Trip to Big Sur
  • Day 4: Redwood Trees then back to San Fran

Day 1 Details:

  • Tip: fly in early to make the most of your time in California and save on airline cost!
  • Stop at Baker’s Beach to get awesome views and photos of the Golden Gate Bridge
  • Head out to Half Moon Bay for lunch. We decided to have lunch at the world famous Sam’s Chowder House and of course had to try the lobster roll. This restaurant has fantastic outdoor seating with views of the harbor.
  • After lunch continue south on Highway 1 and enjoy the gorgeous views and wildflowers. In the spring months the fields are covered with yellow wildflowers. There are several spots you can pull over and take photos of them!


  • My favorite part of the day was Shark Fin Cove!IMG_E4418
    • Right as you come out of the city of Davenport you will see some railroad tracks and more than likely a few cars pulled over on the side of the road. Unfortunately there are no signs so if you see a large rock formation coming out of the water, you missed it and go back! 
    • There is a small hike down to get on the beach. I will tell you that I had just had surgery but was able to make it up and down just fine and so was our 4 year old. It is a little steep but such a short walk that it is managable.
    • Once you are down on the beach be sure to check out the cave! We were lucky enough to show up at low tide so we could walk in and out of the cave.
    • There are tide pools which are fun for kids to explore and even a little waterfall.
  • From Shark Fin cove head to Monterey ( FYI it is close to a 2 hour drive with traffic). (Side note: If you are starving you can always eat in Santa Cruz and explore the boardwalk). We decided to go get checked into our hotel and head to Cannery Row for dinner. My all time favorite restaurant in Monterey is The Fish Hopper! The food is fresh and delicious but nothing is better than the views and sitting right outside on the water with a crisp bottle of wine!


Day 2 Details: Monterey and Carmel Highlights

I tried to put together a list of things you can do in Monterey and Carmel. Obviously it would be hard to do everything on this list in one day so pick whatever would bring you the most joy! If you are going between the two towns make sure to take the 17 mile drive! It costs $10 but it is totally worth it!

  • Monterey Aquarium is really amazing. I have to admit I was not that excited about going, but my daughter was! There is so many great exhibits and things for all ages to enjoy. The living kelp exhibit was probably one of my favorites because it let you see what was happening in the ocean in Monterey Bay.  


  • I suggest finding lunch after the Aquarium either in Monterey or possibly Carmel. Both cities have great places to eat! We really like Schooners in the Monterey Plaza Hotel for lunch just because of the views. You can eat and watch the otters play in the water!

  • If you are kid free check out A Taste of Monterey for great views and wine tasting!  Another option is the Carmel Wine Pass which allows you to go to 10 out of 13 tasting rooms in Carmel for $100. 


  • Carmel is just a short drive from Monterey and a great place to explore or go to the beach. Unlike Monterey, Carmel has white sand beaches with large waves. The town reminds me of a fairytale village or a scene out of Shrek! We chose to spend our afternoon on the beach and then headed to the Cypress Inn for happy hour and appetizers before coming back to Monterey.


  • Another great option if you are in the Carmel area is to go explore Point Lobos . There are several easy hikes and great scenery!
  • Once we were back in Monterey we headed down to the jetty to see Sea Lions! They sleep on the rocks at the end of the jetty by the Monterey Plaza Hotel. You sometimes can see them sitting on rocks right by the sea wall as you walk down to the jetty. The best part is you can hear them “honking” from the beach!


  • Our last tip is to rent a kayak and get up close with the sea lions and otters! Unfortunately our daughter was not old enough to do the kayaks, but we have done them in the past and it is worth the money! Check out Adventures by the Sea to rent a kayak or even a SUP bike. We decided to rent the bike this time and road up and down the trail to Pacific Grove and of course took an ice cream break!

Day 3: Check out our blog post: Monterey to Big Sur: A Dream Drive for all the tips and details of a drive to Big Sur!


Day 4: Henry Cowell Red Wood State Park

This was by far one of the most unexpected highlights of our trip. Our map originally took us to a smaller park entrance that looked closed. Luckily we saw a sign that gave us directions to the “big trees.” I mean why would I want to go see little redwoods? To save you some time here is what you need to put in your GPS to see these beauties:

101 Big Trees Park Rd. Felton, CA 95018


The park has a $10 entry fee so make sure you bring a little cash. There is about a mile walking trail through the redwoods with marked signs. You get a map that gives you facts about the different signs so you can give yourself a self-guided tour of the forrest. Pack a light jacket because it as cold in the trees!

After the park (which takes about an hour to walk through slowly) we got back in our car and headed back up Highway 1 to San Fran. I know it sounds silly with all the great food in Northern California but we ended up stopping at the Taco Bell for lunch in Pacifica. It was right on the water and we watched over 100 surfers in the water riding the waves before heading to SFO to fly back go reality.

I hope you find our itinerary helpful to planning your Northern California getaway! There is so much to do but it is amazing how much you can accomplish and see in just 4 days!

Monterey to Big Sur: A Dream Drive on Highway 1

I have done the drive from Monterey to Big Sur 5-6 times and every time it takes my breath away. The beauty of the rolling green hills going into the bright blue crashing waves is just something you have to see to believe.


I recommend leaving by about 8 or 9 am in the morning from Monterey. Stop and grab breakfast and coffee in town. Tidal Coffee at The Monterey Plaza has great lattes and breakfast burritos and street parking is easy in the early morning hours. Of course there is a Starbucks on Cannery Row too for all of my Starbucks lovers out there!

I recommend driving through Pacific Grove towards the 17 Mile Drive. Right after you pass the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Welcome to Pacific Grove sign there is a beautiful little beach behind a fence. In the spring you will see seals and their babies down on the beach! (It is hard to see in the photo below but some of those “rocks” are actually seals on the beach)


The 17 mile drive is beautiful! There is a $10 gate entrance fee but it is well worth it! The 17 mile drive will drop you out in Carmel. Carmel is just fabulous…there is really no other way to describe it. The funny thing is the temperature is usually cooler in Carmel than Monterey and they are not that far apart. I know you will be tempted to stop in Carmel but keep on going down Hwy 1 because this itinerary will bring you back to Carmel in time for happy hour!


The first planned stop on our drive down Highway 1 is Pfeiffer Beach. (Pro tip: put directions in your phone before you leave Carmel…service tends to come and go as you get closer to Big Sur). I would recommend taking your time and pulling over to take photos as you make the drive towards Pfeiffer Beach. There are plenty of turn outs along the road.


Pfeiffer Beach is known as the purple sand beach and I am not joking the sand is seriously purple in places. As a TCU girl I just had to go see this beach. I will warn you the beach is hard to find and there are not any obvious signs on Highway 1. You will pass a large wood sign on the right that says Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and right up the road you will see a grouping of mailboxes on the right. The actual address is 9101 Sycamore Canyon Road but you can drive right by it before you see the street sign. The road down to the beach is almost one lane and windy so go slowly. The park entrance fee is $5 but there is a parking lot and there are restrooms too which is great if you are traveling with kids. Take some time and explore the beach. Sometimes there are surfers to watch!


Your main goal is to make it to Nepenthe by 11:30am when it opens (It gets crowded and parking can be tricky. If you get there around the time they open you should not have any problem and get a table with a good view!). This is by far the highlight for me of the drive to Big Sur. This tree house inspired restaurant has the best views and great wine. I highly recommend the Pinot Noir from Gary’s Vineyard and the cheese plate. Ask the waiters about the history of Nepenthe because they have a great story. I have bought a cookbook from their gift shop just so I can read more about their story.


After Nepenthe I like to go see McWay Falls located at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. You might be lucky and score a parking shot on the road but if not there is paid parking lot with a trail to the falls too. It is an easy walk from the parking lot up the trail to see the water falls.

Usually after Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park I like to head back to Carmel. There are other water falls at the Limekiln State Park and hot springs at another park that require a pretty long hike to get to further down on highway 1 if you want keep the adventure going. I on the other hand am ready for wine and beach… so Carmel it is!


I recommend on the way back up Highway 1 to stop at the River Inn. They have a  beautiful river running behind the inn and a cute general store to grab something to drink or a snack.

After you arrive back in Carmel I would suggest going to the beach. It has beautiful white sand and large crashing waves! Parking in Carmel by the beach is usually pretty easy. There are always so many dogs running and playing on the beach. Spend sometime people watching and enjoying the sound of the waves if that makes you happy. Afterwards stroll through town and look in all the unique shops. I recommend you end your day at the Cypress Inn for happy hour. They have a cute courtyard with heaters. Order some wine and an appetizer. If you want my daughter’s advice order the french fries with lots of ketchup haha!


I hope you love the drive from Monterey to Big Sur as much as we do! Let me know if you have any suggestions for us to try next time we are in Northern California, we would love to hear from you!


An Afternoon in Healdsburg, CA


Everyone knows of Napa Valley and Sonoma in Northern California. They are both gorgeous and fun place to visit. I was shocked to learn that Sonoma County is over 1700 square miles and goes all the way out to the Pacific Ocean. Naturally I was intrigued to go visit other parts of Sonoma County…I mean what is not to love about Northern California’s largest wine region coupled with a beach?

We landed at San Francisco Airport on a Sunday morning and instead of heading into Sonoma or Napa for lunch we decided to go try somewhere new and ended up in Healdsburg. I could not have loved this town more. If you looked up “cute small town USA with amazing weather” in the dictionary I am sure there would be a picture of Healdsburg next to it. We were able to easily find parking even on a busy Sunday afternoon. The entire town is walkable! Look up on the town’s website before you go and find out what events they have going on. We were lucky enough to be there on a day when there was a farmers market and a dog costume contest in the square.

Our first stop was The Shed. It is a beautiful open air market and cafe. They have options to dine in or pick pre-made items from the deli counter and head out for a picnic. I have heard rumors it is closing at the end of 2018 so double check before you go. I hope the rumors are not true because it was a great experience to walk around and shop in this cute marketplace.


After shopping at The Shed we strolled around the town looking for a good place to eat lunch. There are so many options it was hard to choose so we went with fate… IMG_E1063

Out of our 4 day trip to Northern California, Barrels, Brews, and Bites was the best food we had the entire trip. We split truffle fries and a sampling of tacos. The best part was the mimosa flight! We had a great table right on the street by the town square where we could people watch. We saw some pretty interesting sites and oh so many dogs. I don’t think there is a town in Northern California that doesn’t like dogs!


We spent the last little bit of our time in Healdsburg walking around town and enjoying the weather. We stopped in Oakville Grocery and picked up some local wine to take with us to our hotel. There are also several wine tasting bars in town to try too. Wine tasting, food, shopping, and perfect weather…I mean what more would you want on a Sunday afternoon? We loved Healdsburg and would love to hear what you do when you go there too!


Perfect Day in Philo


IMG_E1462 (1)I was ecstatic to finally cross Mendocino off of my bucket list. My husband and I have frequented San Francisco and surrounding areas for years, but never made it quite that far north. In all my research of things to do in the area this little town called Philo kept popping up in blogs and travel books. So on a whim one morning we decided to go see what all the fuss was about. From our VRBO house in Fort Bragg we took Highway 1 to Highway 128.

Highway 128 was a beautiful surprise, it took us through the Navarro Redwood Forest. It was like a scene out of a movie. The small 2 lane winding road through massive towering trees is indescribable. There was a light fog that morning as we went through the forest that just made it feel magical. The road is almost deserted so it made pulling off easy. We found trees large enough to walk through and just stood in awe as we looked up at the towering giants. You know the trees are going to be big, but seeing your 6 foot husband look small in comparison is just crazy!IMG_E1409Seriously, if you are ever in the area you need to do the drive and leave time to explore the forest.  Trees are not my thing a much as the ocean, but it is an experience and day I will never forget!

IMG_E1480After we exited the Redwoods we entered Anderson Valley wine county! Our first stop of the day was Lula Cellars. We met two of the nicest women at Lula’s. They were both so knowledgeable about the area and of course the wine. There is a $5 tasting fee that is waived if you buy a bottle…I promise you will end up buying  a bottle. All 5 of the wines we tasted were delicious and it was hard to pick just one to take home. Lula’s is a beautiful piece of property and is pet friendly! You will not be disappointed for stopping here.


After Lula we headed over to Husch Winery. The tasting room is a converted pony barn and just beautiful. They have over 22 wines and you get to pick several of them to try in the tasting. I love their Sauvignon Blanc, it is the perfect wine for an afternoon sitting on the beach.


After tasting wine in the morning we decided to go in search of some food. We stumbled across The Apple Farm. This cute self-serve apple stand is a must do in Philo. They literally have a cash box that you add up what you buy and leave cash. They have a wide assortment of apples and pears. We bought some different kinds to take back to our house and try with our Lula Wine. That was probably my favorite part of the day, sitting on the back porch of our VRBO rental looking at the sun set over the Pacific Ocean with a great glass of wine and some pears, apples, and cheese.

I hope if you visit Philo you love it as much as we did. My only advice is to make your trip to Philo on the weekend. The wineries are open during the week and not super crowded, but most of the restaurants are only open Thursday – Sunday. We have heard great things about Stone and Embers for pizza or The Bewildered Pig. Whether you have a full day or a just a few hours you can find things to enjoy and remember in Philo!

8 Hours in Catalina


Catalina has always been on my bucket list! I am a sucker for the west coast and frequent California often. There are so many fantastic beaches in southern California it is hard to prioritize which ones to visit on short weekend getaways. In my opinion Catalina is a must see!

So you may be asking yourself, why only 8 hours in Catalina? Well my husband and I like to get away every year around our anniversary in September. Since we have two toddlers our trips are often limited to 3 fabulous kid free days and nights. With limited time we didn’t think we would have time to spend the night in Catalina and still beach hop down Highway 1 so we dedicated one full day to go see this beautiful island in the Pacific.

We read many articles that it is best to pre-purchase ferry tickets because in peak seasons they can sell out. We were staying in Laguna and ended up taking a ferry out of Long Beach on the Catalina Express. The drive to Long Beach took a little over an hour from Laguna. What I didn’t realize at the time was there is a different ferry company in Newport which would have been a lot closer: Catalina Tours. Make sure to see which ferry is closer to you before booking. With that being said the Catalina Express was great! It took around an hour to get from Long Beach to Catalina. It was a smooth boat ride over the beautiful deep blue Pacific waters and as an added bonus we even saw some dolphins!


There are some great photo opts as the ferry approaches Catalina. You can see the majority of Avalon as you pull into port! I recommend getting to the port a little early to load the ferry so you can get a great seat by the window.


I think one of my favorite parts about Catalina is the size. It is not overly large so you can walk around easily. There were massive lines to rent golf carts to tour the island with so we skipped the line and walked straight over to Luau Larry’s for a drink…yes it was barely 11am but when on an island kid free you drink!

Luau Larry’s  is known for their drink called the Wiki Wacker. With a tag line like “One Wiki Wacker and you will leave here with your Wiki Wacked!” We had no choice but to order two. Best part about the wiki wacker… you get this awesome hat! I mean who would not want to wear this hat all day?!


In addition the Wiki Wacker I opted to try the island’s official drink: Buffalo Milk. It is a mix of milk, banana, and liquor. I mean when in Catalina you have to try the signature drink right?


The island kind of has an obsession with buffalos from the signature buffalo milk drink to brightly painted bison statues around Catalina. Apparently buffalo were brought over to Catalina for a movie shoot about 100 years ago and left on the island…if you ask me they have a pretty awesome place to live! I know there are tours on the island where you can see the bison for yourself if that is your cup of tea. Here is a highly rated company to try: Catalina Jeep Tour. Since my husband and I are more beach bums than safari people so we opted for the Descanso Beach Club instead.


It was about a 5 minute walk from Luau Larry’s to the beach club (again one of the reasons I love Catalina is you can walk everywhere! No hassle with driving and looking for/paying for parking…plus you can drink and not need a designated driver…ok maybe you will need a designated time keeper to make sure you get back to your return ferry on time!)

The beach club is beautiful. There is a great outdoor covered tiki bar and dining area. SERIOUSLY NO JOKE… BEST TUNA POKE BOWL I HAVE EVER HAD! I would go back to Catalina just to eat this dish again!


After a great bite to eat we took our towels down to the beach and people watched. If you are not a fan of sitting the sand they have great chairs and cabanas for rent. Check out pricing here: Beach Club Rentals. The bar played great music and we sat and drank mojitos for most of the afternoon. I tried to get into the water, but being a Texas girl it was too cold for me. I love the sound of the ocean so as long as I can see it and hear it I am a happy camper.

We spent most of our day enjoying local bars, food, and the beach. If you are looking for other fun activities to add to your itinerary try a few of these options:

Most of these options are 1 hour to 4 hour durations and can fit perfectly within your 8 hour time constraint!


We absolutely loved our time on this island. You feel like you are in Europe or somewhere exotic…not just an hour off the coast of California. We will definitely go back perhaps with more time. There are some cool camping options that would be fun to experience…I mean what could be more beautiful then going to sleep and waking up on an island the pacific ocean?

I hope you love exploring Catalina as much as we did!