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San Francisco to Los Angeles drive

Thursday, December 6, 2007

California's Pacific Coast Drive is considered to be one of the great drives in the world. It meanders through classic American towns, past spectacular beaches, thick woodlands and magnificent scenery.

A non-stop drive would take around 11 hours, but if you have the time, it is highly recommended you take it slowly and really enjoy what's on offer.

Just a couple of hours south of San Francisco is the City of Monterey. While Spanish and Mexican history is spread throughout California, nowhere is it more evident than in Monterey. It is delightful to wander around beautifully restored adobe buildings and the historic quarter. Monterey has a good maritime museum, aquarium, Fisherman's Wharf and Cannery Row.

Resident painters and authors began arriving in the late 1800s and left a rich history. John Steinbeck, Henry Miller and Robert Louis Stevenson were inspired there.

Steinbeck captured Monterey in his writings when it was the sardine capital of the world. Twenty-five years later, though, people go there for its pleasurable tourism, hotels, restaurants, shops, history and renovated cannery buildings.

Its location on Monterey Bay made it a boom town for fishing, with Chinese families crossing the Pacific in junks for the rich bounty. It's not unusual to hear the sounds of seals coming from Monterey Bay.

Pebble Beach is a small private coastal unincorporated community in Monterey County, known for its mansions and golf, with seven public and private courses. It costs around $15 to enter the gated community, and that is rewarded by scenic viewpoints and a look at the famous 250-year-old lone cypress tree.

The 17-mile drive finishes in Carmel-by-the-Sea and Big Sur, another beauty, begins.

Since the turn of the last century, Carmel has been a mecca for artists, writers, actors and playwrights, intent on creating an intellectual and cultural oasis. The bohemian founders fought to maintain its outdoor mystique and small-town appeal and their efforts are in evidence today. The residential district has no footpaths or traffic lights and the beach is free of commercial development. Except on a very limited basis, there is no mail delivery and homes are known by name and have no addresses. City Councils were dominated by artists and the town has had several mayors of that ilk, including actor-director Clint Eastwood.

San Simeon is home to the extraordinary Hearst Castle, the creation of media magnate William Randolph Hearst. Building began on the 102,000-hectare site and took 30 years to complete. Named La Cuesta Encantada — The Enchanted Hill — its 165 rooms epitomised extravagance with 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms and 19 sitting rooms. There were three guesthouses, three pools, tennis courts, movie theatre, airfield and a huge exotic zoo, topped off with 51 hectares of cultivated gardens.

The main house is modelled on a 16th century Spanish cathedral, and the outdoor pool features an ancient Roman temple front, transported from Europe and reconstructed. In fact, the entire estate was created by truckloads of art, antiques, sculptures, rugs and even entire ceilings from Europe and Egypt. A massive wine cellar, consisting of two rooms with double vault iron doors, was separated from the rest of the basement area via fire proof walls.

Invitations to Hearst Castle were highly coveted during its heyday in the 1920's and 30's. The Hollywood and political elite arrived by private aircraft, chauffeured automobile or aboard the Hearst-owned train car. The likes of Winston Churchill, Calvin Coolidge, Charles Lindbergh, Cary Grant, Charlie Chaplin and the Marx Brothers were on the A-list.

Not quite as flash as Hearst Castle, but certainly a wonderful place to stay, is the family-owned and operated Best Western Cavalier Oceanfront Resort. It has just ninety rooms, an outdoor heated pool and spa and a restaurant, bar and lounge. A great feature is a fire pit surrounded by comfortable chairs and overlooking the ocean.

At the door, 275 metres of coastline give ideal viewing of migrating gray whales, California sea otters and loads of other coastal wildlife. Some of California's finest vineyards are nearby and there are charming restaurants in the area.


The west cost of the United States.


Best Western Cavalier Resort in San Simeon rooms start at around $125.

Hearst Castle tours start at around $25.50 for adults and $13 for children.

DriveAway Holidays car hire starts at $68 a day. Valid from April 1, 2007.

Air New Zealand has return flights to San Francisco.

Fares from;
  • Sydney, $1769
  • Melbourne, $1852
  • Brisbane, $1854
  • Adelaide, $2070
  • Perth, $2255
  • Darwin, $2294

Valid for travel between February 15 and March 31 and November 1 and December 9, 2007. Subject to availability.

Prices quoted are correct at February 15, 2007.

More information

Best Western Cavalier Resort
9415 Hearst Drive
San Simeon
California 93452
Ph: 0011 1 805 927-4688
Fax: 0011 1 805 927-6472

Hearst Castle
750 Hearst Castle Road
San Simeon
CA 93452-9741
Ph: 0011 1 805 927 2020

DriveAway Holidays
Level 2, 157 Walker Street
North Sydney
NSW 2060
Ph: 1300 363 500
Fax: (02) 9929 4655

Air New Zealand
Ph: 132 476

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