Madonna Inn

At the tail end of our trip, we stayed at the famous Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo. We had been camping for a couple of nights, so a real bed sounded soooo good. I’ve also long wanted to stay in the weird hotel, and this was the perfect opportunity.

Madonna InnI highly recommend you Google Image Search Madonna Inn, since every guest room (there’s over 100) is decorated differently, and I mean decorated. They are all themed and named accordingly, some with rock walls, rainbow carpet, and daisy wallpaper. Basically, they are all picture-perfect. We stayed in the “Indian room.”Madonna Inn

The hotel was built and built onto for a few years before being completed in the late 60s. It definitely feels like a trip back in time, except that the bathrooms and facilities are updated nicely. They have a great pool and hot tubs, and there is a steak house with insane decor on premises. There’s also a bar connected to the restaurant, and a cafe called the Copper Kettle. We really enjoyed the pool, had a drink at the old school bar while watching a band play in the restaurant, and ate breakfast at the Copper Kettle.

Madonna Inn

The dining is all fine here—nothing amazing and a bit over-priced—but we loved staying at the hotel. The atmosphere is fun and the staff is friendly. I’m sure we’ll be back to stay in as many rooms as we can.

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Madonna Inn

Big Sur

Our northernmost destination on our roadtrip was Big Sur. It’s long been on my list of places to see, and it was definitely worth the drive. The best and only way to see Big Sur coming from the south is to drive along the 1 north of San Simeon and stop whenever you like to enjoy the view or go on a hike. It’s a very windy road that largely hugs the coast, so it’s not for the faint of heart. But take your time and enjoy it—there are plenty of turn-offs, viewpoints, and trails to enjoy.

Our first stop was Ragged Point, which is where Big Sur begins at it’s southernmost point. It consists of a hotel, viewpoint, cafe, and expensive gas station (pro tip: fill up in Morro Bay or San Luis Obispo if you’re driving north. The gas is stupid expensive is Big Sur and few and far between). We parked and walked along the viewpoint, spotting a whale or two from the coast and watching for some time. It’s a great introduction to Big Sur and a chance to stretch your legs.

Big Sur

Another great stop is McWay Falls, which is in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Park near the entrance of the park (there’s a big state park sign) and walk across the 1 towards the coast. There is a very short and easy trail leading to viewpoints all around the falls, which drops directly into the ocean. There is also a trail or two that start across the street in the park, and afford great views and lots of redwoods.

Big Sur

We camped in Big Sur, and this was our tent plot. We were in a circle of beautiful redwood trees! Camping is a great way to experience the region, and fancier accommodations can get pretty expensive. Do your research and book early when it’s high season.

Big Sur

On our second day before starting the drive back down, we drove up a few miles to Bixby Bridge. Next trip I’d like to keep going north a bit and check out the Monterey area.

Big Sur

On our drive back down through Big Sur, we stopped at an unmarked trail that led us down to the coast, past a stream, through a tunnel, and to a couple of coves. Basically, you can’t go wrong stopping at any official trail. They all lead to something beautiful.

Big Sur

Redwoods! This is the view looking up from our tent site.

Big Sur One last view. Every view is beautiful in this part of the state, including inland, since there’s lovely forest, streams, and big beautiful trees. We saw whales a few times while just staring out at the ocean, and sometimes you can spot happy seals. We’ll be back, and you should check it out, too.

Big Sur

Hearst Castle

While on our road trip, we stopped at Hearst Castle. The famously decadent and ultimately unfinished property of William Randolph Hearst sits atop a hill and overlooks a dramatic coastline in San Simeon.

Hearst Castle

In order to visit Hearst Castle, you must park at the visitor center down the hill and purchase a tour or two (you can also book tours ahead on their site). We chose the Upstairs Suites Tour.

Hearst Castle

Every tour is 45 minutes to an hour, and includes a narrated ride up to the estate and back down (voiced by Alex Trebek, no less), and allows you to roam the grounds and view the pools at your leisure.

Hearst Castle

We saw several guest suites on our tour, along with Hearst’s room, office, and library. The library and office were especially worth seeing.

Hearst Castle

The home is decorated in a Spanish style with priceless art, doors, lamps, ceiling panels, and more, and there are 360 degree views.

Hearst Castle

The outdoor Neptune pool was drained due to the drought, but was still impressive.

Hearst Castle

Likewise, all fountains were turned off. The property has several smaller structures with guest suites in addition to the “big house.” It once had the largest private zoo in the country, and you can still spot zebras on the land (we saw them a couple of miles up the road when we left).

Hearst Castle

The indoor Roman pool is filled, and is perhaps the best part of the property available for viewing. It’s beautifully tied and throws around light in a really magical way.

Hearst Castle

Baileyana and Wolff Wineries

We spent some time in San Luis Obispo and stopped at a couple of local wineries. Both had some great wines on offer, and super chill outdoor areas for enjoying the scenery.

Baileyana Winery is the kind of place you could spend an entire afternoon. The winery was started by the matriarch of the Niven family, and the tasting room offers up their entire line of wines. Most are made from the grapes growing on the land surrounding the tasting room, while some grapes are sourced from Paso Robles.

baileyana winery

The tasting room is a converted historic school house and totally adorable. They sell their wines, offer tastings and glasses, and sell a few other wine-related items. A tasting is in the $10 range, they are happy for you to share, and the fee is waived if you buy a wine bottle or two. We took home a bottle of Gruner Veltliner and the dessert version of the same varietal.

baileyana winery

There are a couple of huge bocci courts and plenty of seating in a quiet setting. The view isn’t bad, either. It’s a great place to enjoy a packed lunch and a glass or two.

baileyana winery

Next door is Wolff Vineyards. A long driveway takes you up past the family house to the tasting room, situated in the middle of acres and acres of grapes.

wolff winery

It’s a beautiful property with an abundance of outdoor seating. We brought our lunch along and set up shop outside, and a kindly employee came out to greet us and brought our tasting straight to the table, even though we were the only ones out there. We very much enjoyed sitting outside and sipping their line-up of wines in such a relaxed setting. The family dog sat next to us for much of our visit.

wolff winery

The staff was knowledgeable but extremely approachable, and the $10 tasting fee is waived if you buy a single bottle. They don’t rush you out, and it’s not the kind of place you want to rush away from. We brought home a bottle of Chardonnay, which they dry farm—a rarity, and eco-friendly. It also produces a delicious wine. We could have easily walked away with any of their bottles, since we enjoyed them all.

wolff winery

Baileyana and Wolff Wineries

Morro Bay

I’m sorry for the radio silence as of late. Work got unexpectedly busy and then we had a short but much-needed vacation, but now I’m determined to get back into posting on the reg. I had such a great time on our road trip, I thought I’d share some of my favorite places and fun stuff we did.

Morro Bay Morro Bay is about a 3 1/2 hour drive from Los Angeles or San Francisco, and, as its name implies, it’s a beautiful bay on the Pacific Ocean. It attracts some tourists, but it’s not an overrun resort town. The inns are small, the activities are nature-filled, and the wildlife abundant. Morro Bay

We camped at the state park campground on the south end of the bay, just a block from the water. While there, we rented a tandem kayak and paddled around in the bay, getting great looks at lounging sea otters and rowdy seals. The prices at Kayak Horizons were reasonable, we called ahead for tide info which they happily provided, and their dock is right on the bay for easy in-and-out.Morro Bay

We ate lunch at one of the bay-side seafood restaurants before checking out the giant Morro rock and walking along the beach. It can be pretty windy on the water, so we didn’t stay for long, but lots of people were surfing some good waves that day. The rock is covered in birds, and we saw pelicans skimming the water.Morro Bay

We set up camp and walked up to the nearby Natural History Museum to take in the view. Morro Bay also has boating trips, a tiny aquarium, hiking, and all the amenities you’ll need (groceries, shops, etc). Especially since it’s a relatively easy drive and near San Luis Obispo (more on that later), we’ll definitely be back.

Morro Bay

Morro Bay