Two girls, a hire car and the opportunity to explore California’s most amazing coastline while checking into the most Insta-perfect hotels and restaurants the area has to offer. I was invited as a guest by Visit California as part of an influencer exchange with Gwen Lane @thelagirl to experience life like a Royal in honour of the recent Royal Wedding. This was the trip of a lifetime and I’m so excited to share my travel itinerary with you!
Firstly, let’s talk about the flight, I have never flown Premium Economy with Air New Zealand before but will 100% be doing all I can to fly with them again, my legs have never had so much room, armrests, a leg rest, extendable foot support and let’s just say this.. they have Crosstown Donuts for snacks, I think I watched two movies before falling into a deep sleep on my feather-down cushion!
We touched down at LAX at 8 pm and hopped into our car to check into our hotel, the Crowne Plaza Ventura Beach where we both jumped into our beds and promptly fell asleep, I know, rock’n’roll! Jetlag had us up bright and early so we popped down for the breakfast buffet before heading to Avis to collect our Car Rental and drive it to Arroyo Verde Park, Ventura for a little post-breakfast hike. The wildflowers and scenery were just beautiful! We couldn’t believe it had all been under fire just five months previous, it was wonderful to see the area coming back to life after such devastation. After getting more than a little sweaty on our hike (and stroking all the dogs) we drove to the beach for Yoga with Ventura Pop Up Yoga at the Marina Park, Ventura. My friend Harri had never tried Yoga before and it was the perfect intro, especially under the sun with the sea splashing alongside us. With two workouts complete we were excited for brunch so headed to Cajun Kitchen, Ventura, to sample the local delights, my favourite was 100% the beignets (“bin-yays” delicious bite-size French-style doughnuts topped with powdered sugar) honesty, they were bits of sugary heaven.
After brunch we drove thirty minutes to Lotusland in Montecito which has been named one of the ten best gardens in the world! I grew up with a garden and have always appreciated the hard work that goes into keeping them looking so beautiful, so it was incredibly inspiring to be able to walk around the 37-acre estate, learning about Madame Walska and the rare plants that she had helped find a home here. The tour was around two hours but it actually flew by and we loved how our guide didn’t make us feel out of depth or silly for not being the keenest of gardeners.
At 3 pm we were in need of a cocktail or two so jumped into the car and checked into the Belmond El Encanto, Santa Barbara, our favourite hotel of the entire trip. We were greeted with big smiles as we arrived and the most beautiful villa-type room for us both to enjoy. The hummus by the bed was my favourite thing! We popped on some fresh clothes and took a look around before hopping on the shuttle to the harbour for a two hour Sunset Sail along the beautiful Santa Barbara coastline on the Double Dolphin, a 50-foot catamaran courtesy of the Santa Barbara Sailing Center. The trip was beautiful, with music, drinks and a lot of smiles we watched the sun go down under a huge blanket and put the world to rights, it was the perfect ending to our first full day.
Breakfast is always my favourite time of day so I was excited to see what the Belmond El Encanto had on offer. They certainly didn’t disappoint and I went all out and had two courses! We spent the morning relaxing by their beautiful heated pool before checking out to drive to Biddle Ranch Vineyard, San Luis Obispo, for a picnic and an afternoon of tasting their local wines. My best friend Harri works in the wine industry so it was lovely to learn from her as we put our lips to the test over five of their delicious wines. I just wish I could have taken them all home in my suitcase!
Wine tasting over we drove to the Granada Hotel and Bistro, San Luis Obispo, with Persian rugs, and hardwood floors, this 17 room hotel felt like something out of a movie. We quickly changed out of our wine clothes and into something a little more comfortable for our evening hike at Reservoir Canyon, just a seven minute drive from our hotel and a 5.35-mile trip, it was the perfect way to stretch our legs. We took some snacks and made our way to the top, stopping to see the beautiful waterfall and play on the swing! Unfortunately, we lost our car keys on top of the hike (when my bag ripped) and didn’t realise until we got all the way down to the bottom, so a big thank you to Avis Car Rental for sorting everything out so quickly! Food at the Granada was delicious, I devoured a cod dish and my friend had the most amazing looking burger!
The next morning we decided to try Nourish, a health food cafe literally next door to the hotel, if you’re heading that way make sure you order one of their smoothies or the oatmeal, I could have had three bowls, it was that good!
All packed up we embarked on our longest drive yet of four hours along the coastline to Big Sur and our home for the next two nights, the Ventana Inn, Big Sur. You can camp, glamp or stay in the hotel at this amazing resort. Luckily for us, we were putting their glamping to the test! We spent the day lazing by the pool and trying yet more wines at their complimentary guest wine tasting before getting dressed up to eat dinner at The Sur House and sample the chef’s tasting menu. We left with the biggest food babies you’ve ever seen, not to mention some new favourite cocktail recipes to recreate once home.
Once back at our tent we were in pure glamping luxury, electric blankets, smores kit, hot water, plug sockets and the most premium bathhouse. We had the most amazing evening roasting marshmallows under the stars, listening to music, I couldn’t recommend it more! Tip: the mornings and evenings in California can be a little chilly so pack something a little warmer that you can just throw on over your clothes.
The following morning we walked up to the hotel from our tent and devoured the breakfast, I chose several sides as everything sounded too good to miss and Harri when for the Ventana Breakfast which I have to admit, I’m totally going back for! We decided to jump back into our car and take in some of the sites, starting with the iconic McWay Falls. An 80-foot waterfall that flows year-round from McWay Creek in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, it’s just one of two Waterfalls in California that cascade directly into the ocean and is truly breathtaking. After trying to find a way to get closer to the falls but failing miserably we took a 12 minute drive to Pfeiffer Beach, which boasts beautiful purple sand! Unfortunately, the tide was in and it was such a windy day that I couldn’t capture a photo for you guys but it was beautiful to behold.
We were kindly invited for lunch at the infamous Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur. Known for romance and relaxation, it is the ultimate honeymoon escape. With 39 rooms, some facing the ocean, and tree-houses overlooking the mountain, we spent our entire time with our jaws dropped. I’m not going to lie, we spent most of our day switching between the two infinity pools and then the rest of the time devouring their delicious lunch menu and fun cocktails. The chocolate cheesecake is to die for! That night we enjoyed a shower in our Ventana Bathhouse with its heated floor before heading out of the resort for the most amazing dinner at Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn. A quirky restaurant with the best atmosphere and a menu we just couldn’t pick one thing from, so in true best friend style we chose two dishes and shared them. If you’re heading here make sure you try the risotto and the paella!
We spent our final night under the stars, buzzing about our trip and looking at photos of the Royal Wedding online. I feel so grateful for this experience and the opportunity to truly live #LikeARoyal in California, thank you to everyone who hosted us, it’s a trip we’ll never forget and I truly hope you recreate some of this itinerary and enjoy it for yourselves!