August 17, 2022

‘I discovered my inner Gwyneth on a week-long road trip through California’

I’d always wanted to cruise down America’s famous Highway 1 – who hasn’t watched Big Little Lies or read Kerouac and dreamt of a travel/" 1378 target="_blank">California road trip? And after two years of not being able to travel overseas, 2022 felt like the time to do it.

The trouble was, where to start? Technically Highway 1 runs 650 miles from Dana north to Legget, and if you’re thinking ‘where?’ you’re probably like me and more interested in the bit linking San Francisco to Los Angeles with famous spots like Monterey, Santa Barbara and Big Sur in-between.

Amanda Statham

A friend’s top tip helped: travel north to south, ensuring the coast and amazing views are always on your right without a lane of traffic in-between. With this in mind, I flew into San Francisco with my friend Cathy and we spent two days sightseeing and recovering from the ten-hour flight and eight-hour time difference before picking up our hire car (a fancy Toyota Corolla).

So what’s the driving really like?

Spoiler: the most nail-biting bit of the entire 381-mile drive was getting out of the hire centre and off San Fran’s vertiginous, busy roads in an automatic car on the wrong (right) side of the road. The rest is epic, trust me. America’s highways actually tend to be wide, open and have several lanes, so driving outside of cities proved to be pretty chilled, plus we shared the driving.

highway 1 in big sur, calif, on wednesday, aug 8, 2018

Mason Trinca @VisitCalifornia

The moment we popped our play list on (it included 2pac’s travel/" 1378 target="_blank">California Love and the theme tune to The OC, obvs), crossed San Fran’s Golden Gate Bridge and hit the (surprisingly empty) highway, we relaxed. It was only the Big Sur section where things got crazy curvaceous and we needed to slow things down to 20mph for a few miles to handle the road’s twists and turns, but it’s totally doable and the views are incredible – stop at Nepenthe for the best lunch-with-a-view of your life.

Much chance for health & fitness?

Pretty much the whole trip was an opportunity to channel my inner Californian Goop goddess. Unmissable moments included hiking into Armstrong Redwoods National Park to see the towering trees (the tallest living thing on the planet) – a great opp for a spot of tree-hugging and forest bathing.

Amanda Statham

A free sunrise yoga and meditation class on the white sand beach at Vespara Resort in Pismo was the sort of holiday experience that stays with you long after your get back to the grey UK and hiring bikes and peddling along the coast at Monterey was idyllic, stopping at protected beaches to watch just-born baby seal pups shuffle on the sand.

Further south, Santa Barbara was a dream place for a nature and health kick, from green smoothies in the Santa Barbara Public Market to a run along the beach front and a sunset boat trip spotting sea lions (and whales and basking sharks if you’re lucky) in the harbour where surfers bobbed around waiting to catch the next wave.

See any stars?

Plenty, while gazing at the sky around a fire pit at Ventana Big Sur, a luxe mountainside restaurant and hotel where guests like Taylor Swift and Anna Hendrick escape La La Land to relax high above the ocean.


If you mean the Hollywood variety, then no. However pretty much every stretch of this road feels like you’re in a movie tbh, like crossing iconic Bixby Bridge and tucking into clam chowder at Paluca Trattoria in Monterey, where Reece and co hang out in Big Little Lies. And we couldn’t resist a quick cruise around Montecito just outside Santa Barbara – it’s Meghan and Prince Harry’s new hood, but sadly there was no glimpse of the errant royals out on a stroll with neighbour Oprah.

Did you go wild in LA?

We’d actually been dreading hitting LA as the traffic is notoriously bad. However our trusty SatNav guided us along unfeasibly beautiful mountainside roads lined with mansions, including Mulholland Drive, before dropping us down into West Hollywood, where we arrived at The Edition hotel and celebrated with a glass (ok bottle) of bubbly by the pool before hitting famous WeHo vegan restaurant Gracias Madre, so only about as wild as you’d expect Gwyneth to go. Our journey took seven days (though you can do it non-stop in less than seven hours!), but I wish we’d had longer.

gracias madre california vegan restaurant

Amanda Statham

And where do I stay?

Break up the journey with stop-offs in cute roadside motels like Glen Oaks in Big Sur, where we stayed in wood cabins surrounded by giant redwoods, and Lavender Inn by the Sea in Santa Barbara, which had a pool and free daily happy hour at 5pm in reception.

  • What: A week cruising down travel/" 1378 target="_blank">California’s iconic Highway One
  • Where: The west coast of America
  • How much: Car hire and flights from £1001, including BA flights to San Fran and back from LA, and seven-day car hire. For accommodation options see

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