Its about 120 miles from San Diego to Los Angeles, a drive that is definitely do-able in a day (or less) but we found two days to be a good stretch of time to cover the coast between the two cities at a pace that worked for the little guy.
Day 6 – San Diego to Huntington Beach
We picked up our rental car near our hotel and managed to get on the road just after 11 am with the plan to drive to La Jolla. Even though it was the Sunday of the long weekend, traffic wasn’t too bad on the highway but we hit some major traffic jams in La Jolla as everyone tried to find parking near the water. Eventually we were able to get out of the traffic snarl and found a free spot just a 10 minute walk from the water. I wish we’d had the foresight to just park far away to start with but live and learn.
Once we’d found parking, we packed up baby in the carrier and headed down to see the famous La Jolla Cove. It was pretty packed along the walk way but we enjoyed the views and spotted a ton of seals/sea lions out enjoying the day.
It was well past lunch time by this point so we stopped at the nearby Whole Foods for some salad from the salad bar and headed out to find a beach to eat it on. This turned into a bit of frustrating task since we didn’t want to pay the full day use fee ($20) to park at any of the state beaches when we only planned to spend an hour. Finally we hit upon San Elijo State Park which happens to have a ton of free parking along the highway. It was a bit gloomy down by the water but nice to take a break from driving.
After an hour or so we got back on the road to make the final drive to our destination for the evening just outside of Huntington Beach. We’d planned to take the long route along the coast but head inland to save time. Once at the hotel we just grabbed takeout for dinner and had an easy evening.
Day 7 – Huntington Beach to LA
We didn’t really have a plan for the day (other than to make it to LA by evening) but thought we’d maybe backtrack a bit and drive some of the coast we’d missed the night before. However, within 10 minutes of being in the car the little guy started screaming unconsolably and we decided to lay off the driving and spend the day lounging at Huntington Beach.
It was early enough that we were able to grab street parking in Huntington Beach ($1.75/hr) and walk just a block to the Huntington State Beach. We walked out onto the pier for an overview of the beach and then found ourselves a spot to set up and relax for a while. At no point did I ever think it was warm enough for an ocean swim but there were lots of people out enjoying the beach and water.
After our beach time it was time to hit the road for the last hour or so to LA. Baby S still wasn’t in the mood for driving so somewhere on the freeway I clambered into the backseat but couldn’t do anything to calm the screaming until we got to our hotel and he was freed from his car seat. Our roughest travel moment to date and it took everyone a while before we felt like we could face going out to explore.
We were staying in Marina del Rey so it was only about a mile to the beach. Once everyone had recovered we headed down there to see the famous Venice Beach. I liked walking out onto the pier (we spotted dolphins!) but found the boardwalk too much. We stayed long enough to eat some burgers and then headed home for the evening.
Day 8 – Venice Beach and Santa Monica Pier
We started our day fairly late with a walk around Marina del Rey – which was almost too quiet of a place – and then an early lunch. On our walk we talked about all the things we could do with a day in LA but in the end decided to kept simple and just explore the nearby area by walking from Venice Beach to Santa Monica Pier.
It’s a decently long walk (3 miles from pier to pier plus an extra mile from out hotel each way) and not super exciting. If biking it had been an option I think that would have been more enjoyable but walking was ok.
On the way there we followed the boardwalk (which is much quieter on a week day) but is pretty far from the beach and ocean. It was a bit of a cloudy day which meant we didn’t get burnt but also leant everything a bit of a gloomy look.
At the pier we took a nursing/snack/play break before heading back.
We walked most of the return trip along the sand by the ocean. It had gotten quite chilly by this point so the beach was pretty empty. There were a few surfers and we did spot some more dolphins.
We were both pretty tired after all the walking (my tracker said 34,000 steps!) but after a brief refresh at the hotel we headed back to the beach to meet Jon’s boss and his wife for dinner. It ended up being one of our later nights (although nothing is really late now that we’ve got the baby -late means an 9 pm return to our hotel) and after all our walking we were pretty tired so we just watched some TV and headed to bed.
Some final thoughts on LA and Huntington Beach
- Huntington Beach State Park was a lovely place to hang out – even on a super busy day we had space to ourselves
- We certainly didn’t explore LA very much – this is mostly due to the fact that I sort of forgot we’d be in LA during the trip so didn’t bother to do any research
- I also feel that we didn’t give LA a fair chance (it was probably our least favourite stop on the trip) – the weather wasn’t great and we were tired. Maybe some day we’ll return and try again
Up next: A little bit of Denmark in Solvang…