Finally poured through all of the photos from our road trip along the California coast from Point Reyes to Ojai last week! It really is the best drive, and was the very best week just hanging the three of us! We had our hiccups for sure but all-in-all couldn’t have asked for a better toddler-friendly family summer vacay. Road trips never go quite as expected but that’s part of why we love the adventure. Also, I’m someone who loves spontaneity and a not super planned out vacay (in fact I rarely ever get my act together until we’re at our destination to organize much of anything)… so long story short, we’re all about the road trips with random stops to see friends along the way, and a loose itinerary. Also, we weren’t sure how the longer stretches of the drive would go with Rex now as an active 20 month year old but he was such a trooper. So much so that we told him to be careful, we will be taking him along on many more seeing as though he didn’t mind being in the car for as much as he was.
As mentioned, I got to borrow this cute MINI Countryman for the drive (and actually the entire month of August!!). I drove a MINI for years so I’ve been loving life zipping around in one again. They’re just too fun to drive, and especially down the coast! It’s hands down my favorite drive. We’re pretty spoiled in California and can sometimes forget how breathtakingly beautiful this state is which is why T and I love driving her roads as much as possible.
Breaking everything down in the post below (warning, it’s a long one), from our route from Point Reyes to Ojai (and back), road tripping with a toddler, additional things we love about the MINI and more. Also, if you missed my road trip playlist you may want to tune into that one while reading this post. I also shared my packing list here.
Our Route and Stops Along the Way |
Point Reyes to Ojai | We had a few last minute itinerary changes which re-routed our original course… so we ended up kicking things off last minute in the Point Reyes area. Not the most direct route down south from Sacramento, but we just love that area and I had been craving those romantic foggy mornings and oyster shucking so this was the perfect excuse to get back there. After a weekend in Point Reyes, we broke up our drive with one night in Carmel before heading to our main destination: Ojai. On the way back up north at the end of the week we stopped off in Santa Barbara for a beach picnic with our friends (Sam of Could I Have That?). We were going to play it by ear whether or not we could make the drive all the way home and ended up crashing in Carmel again to give Rex a break from the car. Which was a good decision!
I highly recommend driving highway 1 all the way down the coast if you have the time. We unfortunately didn’t take the 1 the entire way because we didn’t want to push our luck with Rex but if you do have the time, driving the coast without a strict timeframe so you can stop along the way and take in the views is the way to go! The beaches in northern California are cooler than the southern beaches, less populated, and in my opinion, more magical! We discovered a number of almost vacant beaches during our week which was quite the treat!
Tip | Carmel is always a great middle point when driving along the coast as there are so many little hotels that you can usually always guarantee a last minute room. Our go-to hotels in Carmel are the Cypress Inn, Pine Inn, and now the newer Hotel Carmel. (I will say though, December is our favorite time to go to Carmel, when it’s less touristy.). It’s also the perfect spot to stop and hike Big Sur before carrying on down / up the coast. Other great mid-way spots for stopping when driving along the coast: Pismo Beach, San Louis Obispo, Morro Bay, and Cambria.
Stops We Missed But Want to Head to Next | As recommended from my girlfriend Sam: Los Alamos. Los Olivos (was recommended in my IG comments as a cute spot along the drive and we drove through but just didn’t have time to stop unfortunately). Joshua Tree (if going all the way down to the desert, still have yet to go!).
Spying leopard sharks down below our dock. No joke I was about to go grab my swimsuit and jump off before Tanner saw that little guy below and warned me. Yikes! But I mean… how about this view? We had our own private dock to enjoy with coffee in hand in the mornings, and wine in hand in the evenings.
Collecting shells (and rocks) for me. Sweetest!
Some of the best oysters I’ve ever had at Hog Island Oysters. I wanted to shuck my own but this worked out better since we had Rex with us. Such a great little spot to grab lunch with a view.
The cooler temps means we made a fire each night and cozied up to read Rex’s bedtime stories. Also meant that I got to pull out my fall knits!
So worth the hike! We had the beach to ourselves.
Road Tripping with a Toddler | Snacks, snacks, snacks! But seriously… since Rex takes really long afternoon naps we tried to mainly drive during those times which worked out well for us. We only had to pull out the iPad a couple of times during the longer stretches and a lot of my friends tipped me off to wrap up cheap little gifts and activities to give him throughout the drive when he got antsy. And this totally worked for us! He got so excited over the silliest things I picked up in dollar bins before the trip. We also tried to really tire him out in the mornings with plenty of beach walking, hiking, and activities so the drive would be a welcome rest.
All Things MINI | We really put the miles on this baby this week… over 1100! Tanner drove most of the way and even as a truck guy, he’ll admit he’s quite the MINI fan. I mean I think everyone can agree they’re a super fun car to drive! This particular MINI Countryman we’ve been borrowing this month is a hybrid (both gas and electric) which meant we spent very little on gas considering how far we went (under $80 for the entire week, we couldn’t believe it!). We weren’t sure how much we’d be able to plug it in along our route but were pretty impressed with how far the electric charge got us when we did have an outlet. Neither one of us had really driven a hybrid before and were geeking out over the electric driving mode and the gas mileage. Tanner especially, I kept telling him he should be MINI’s spokesperson. Ha!
I sold my MINI when I was pregnant for something a bit bigger but after driving the Countryman I’ve realized there’s plenty of room for the carseat and all of the baby stuff I was concerned about. I’m now kicking myself that I didn’t check out the Countryman before purchasing something else because I’m just such MINI girl.
We lucked out with incredible pink sky moments throughout the entire week. From our dock to every evening in Ojai, and our pizza beach dinner on the way home in Carmel.
Ojai | I just love this town so much! It was the main spot I wanted to go and so we rented a house there. We went back and forth regarding whether to get a house or a hotel room but ultimately the house was the way to go with Rex. At this age it was just so nice having extra space for him to play, eat, sleep… and to be able to make meals. I made sure to still book a massage and enjoy the pool over at the Ojai Valley Inn and Spa though while in town. We also randomly had friends in town staying at the spa so we crashed their pool party as well one night. Once Rex is a little older we will be staying here as a family again for sure!
Our Airbnb house was actually in Meiners Oaks, not technically Ojai, but just a few minutes outside of the main town. I loved exploring this new-to-me area and more of Ojai on this trip. We could walk to the popular vegetarian cafe and Mexican restaurant: Farmer and the Cook, and picked up groceries. It was the perfect location for us!
Also much to Rex’s enjoyment, the Airbnb had a cabinet full of toys that he of course discovered right away.
Santa Barbara–Miramar Beach | Originally we had planned to spend a weekend in SB to give us more time with friends so this quick beach day wasn’t quite the SB fix I had hoped for but at least I got to squeeze my girlfriend Sam! It was actually quite the tease actually and made me check my calendar to see when I can snag some time to get down here again asap.
Covered in sand and stickers was how we rolled this week.
Carmel at Sunset | We happened to drive into Carmel from Santa Barbara right before sunset which meant pizza on the beach! Tanner’s genius plan. We called in our fave: La Bicyclette and threw down our blankets just in time. Two beach meals in one day (sandwiches earlier on the beach in SB), was the perfect end to our trip. Also as toddler-friendly as dining goes!
He was SO happy! Melted my heart.
Thank you so much to MINI for letting us borrow the cutest ride for our drive down the coast!