Our journey up the Pacific Coast was took us from LA to San Fransisco, via Yosemite National Park over 5 days. Most travellers doing this run do a north to south trip so as to be driving on the ocean-side but in our planning stage, we had put San Fran at the pinnacle & wanted to end this element of the trip there, rather than the other way around. In any event, beach access from the northbound carriageway really wasn't a problem.
Whilst we could have done the drive in a day, we wouldn't have had any time to see sights along the way so we planned three stops prior to our "diversion" to Yosemite in Santa Barbara, St Louis Obispo & Monterey.
It was fascinating to see the change in the coast as we moved north, from beaches until we were heading towards Monterey where the coastline became much more rugged.
Beaches along this route were a mix of open ones, where you could just park up and wander along them; normally just you, the beach & the Pacific, mixed with those forming part of the California State Parks where one normally had to pay a parking fee, although your ticket was transferrable to any park that day.
A couple of particular stops that we had planned in from the outset were Hearst Castle and "Elephant Seal" beach, close by. Although more of a Spanish Hacienda in style, the castle, just north of San Simeon is incredibly impressive. Built over almost 30 years by publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst, it stands c1600 feet above sea level which gives a commanding view over the Pacific. The approach was designed in such a way that as you ascend, the castle keeps appearing & disappearing so adding to the magical feeling. Some of the many stats that our guide gave us during the tour was the current day value of build & fit out cost - each being around $1bn in current terms. Hearst was quite the socialite apparently & the list of visitors who dined at his table included presidents, foreign heads of state, and Charlie Chaplin!
The seal beach is signposted from the highway just north of the castle. This is a seasonal item since apparently the seals only go there in the Autumn for the adult males to shed their skins. As the Ranger told us, the mature males can weigh anything up to 2 tonnes!
If you plan this trip, the castle is well worth a visit, as is the beach if you're there at the right time of year.
When we first planned the trip, we booked your average hire car. Talking subsequently to someone who'd done the trip, his first question was if we'd booked a soft-top & strongly urged us to do so as we hadn't. After that conversation, we quickly realised that we probably wouldn't be doing the trip again so make the most of it and so we "upgraded" to the "beast" that you see in the gallery. The Mustang was a truly awesome car to drive - there's just something about the wind in your hair - but it was as good on the mountain roads of Yosemite where it coped with the switch-back and hair-pins bends exceptionally well! Never did get to the bottom of what engine size it had other than that it wasn't the 5lt version as, as you'll see it didn't have the large 5.0 badge on the body just behind the front wheels. There was an inordinate feeling of power driving it, although I didn't explore it's full potential!