We were there in August, here's my thoughts:
Firstly, make sure you get a Sat-Nav with your rental car, driving around LA is nuts
Second, leave PLENTY of time for all the stops you'll want to make driving up Highway 1. It's amazing just pulling up, taking in the views and watching the whales out at sea
Third, you just have to stop here:
It is THE mosty tackiest place I think you'll find on your way up the coast. We ended up there after driving for a few hours and deciding to stop instead of another couple of hours to LA. You have to eat in the steakhouse which has the most awful deco, tacky and overpowering, we tried not to laugh at the bubblegum pink leather booths, all the gold sh1t (cherubs etc) and twee lights. We certainly stopped laughing when the food arrived, it was our most expensive family meal and definitely the worst - it wasn't awful it was just bland. The rooms are the best bit, they are all "themed". We went for the "antique car" room, which consisted of one wall of car wallpaper and some car tile things in the bathroom, check this out:
When you get there you pick your room from the postcard they have of all the interiors (just wait till you check out the "caveman room"
), you get to keep the postcard when you stay.
I suggest visiting Solvang. An old Danish settlement, it's before you get to San Luis Obispo (and the Madonna Inn), see here:
Next, Monteray. We stayed there overnight, on Cannery Row. That's if you make it that far after driving along Big Sur
After that, you need to stop at Santa Cruz (of the bike fame) and spend some time on the Board Walk. The roller coaster was in the film, "The Lost Boys", a small wooden coaster but big on fun. Just remember to hold out your hand to "high-5" everyone waiting to get on when you return to the start. The log flume ride is fun too
. See here:
Then you're in San Francisco, but make sure you drive along the "17 Mile Drive". I'm sure you've got a list of things to see in San Fran, just make sure you book your tickets for Alcatraz. We did the last tour of the evening, it won't be as busy, plus you get to see the city lit up on your way back. When there, can I suggest hiring a bike and cycling over the Golden Gate, then you can always get the ferry back from Sausalito. As soon as you cross the bridge you'll see the sign for Marin County.
One tip I'm glad I listened to, take a jersey/cardigan etc for San Francisco, the breeze can be FREEZING, even in summer. As mentioned, we were there in August and the wind was biting (we had to buy our son some long pants it was that cold). Oh, and try not to covet the couriers fixies, some lovely looking bikes. Not that I'd like to ride skinny's with all the tram tracks everywhere, just an accident waiting to happen if you ask me!
I'm not the least bit jealous
, I wish we were going again this year, we had a FANTASTIC time, definitely our BEST holiday! You won't be disappointed (just remember a Sat-Nav!)