We flew from Atlanta to Las Vegas and already completed our first day of driving – all the way from Las Vegas to Palm Springs, California. After spending the night, we wanted to continue west and get to the ocean. Here is the Day 1 post in case you missed it: USA West Coast Road Trip – Part 1
Day 2: Palm Springs, CA to Newport Beach, CA – 177 miles
Palm Springs is not only known for its hot springs, stylish hotels, golf courses and spas. It also has many fine examples of midcentury-modern architecture. We drove around town a bit to see some of the neighborhoods before heading out. We chose the “Palms to Pines Scenic Byway” to get us over the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto mountain range. Part way up the mountain we stopped at the Coachella Valley Vista Point lookout for some fabulous desert scenery looking back towards Palm Springs.
Once you get to the top of the mountain the scenery changes quite dramatically. Gone are the desert browns and you see green pines and fields. It is called Palms to Pines for a reason! We stayed on highway 74 via Valle Vista all the way to Lake Elsinore.
From Lake Elsinore, our plan was to go to Dana Point, from where we would take Highway 1 to Laguna Beach and our destination of Newport Beach. What we missed was a roadwork notice that blocked Ortega Highway, which was the quickest way to get from I-15 over the mountains to the coast. Once we got to the top of the mountain, Google maps suggested an alternate route, which took us on a “scenic” detour, but still couldn’t get us past the road closure. For a moment there we found ourselves in very sketchy surroundings.
Lake Elsinore was established on the shore of Lake Elsinore, a natural freshwater lake about 3000 acres in size. The lake itself has a long history of overflowing and flooding. After the last flood of 1980 that destroyed surrounding homes and businesses, measures have been taken to maintain the water supply at a consistent level. The lake itself hosted teams for Olympic training and high-speed boat racing in the 1920’s and was used to test seaplanes during World War II.
With no other options, we had to head back to Lake Elsinore and I-15 and take the much longer way around via Corona and Santa Ana. It made sense to adjust our plans at that time and rather go to Newport Beach instead of Dana Point. Heavy LA traffic made this part of the trip twice as long as expected and we finally arrived in Newport Beach in time for sunset views and dinner, after what ended up being another whole day of driving.
Newport Beach is known for its large, boat-filled harbor. There are two piers and an old-school amusement park with a Ferris wheel and ocean views. We spent our evening in the Newport Beach Pier area. The pier stretches far into the ocean and offers great views of the city and out into open water.
The beach itself was just amazing, I have to say. White sands, blue waters and clear skies. We picked up dinner from one of the small cafes and sat at an outside table to eat and people-watch. After dinner, we walked the beach and watched the sunset over the ocean. We wanted some more exercise so we walked up Ocean Front West, a pedestrian path, bordering properties and the beach. Residents were out on the beach or hanging out on patios and balconies enjoying the early evening breeze.
It was already dark when we turned around and headed back to our car to go find our hotel for the night.
Day 3: Newport Beach, CA – Burbank, CA – 70 miles
We left Newport Beach in the morning and made our way north on the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1). The road took us past Huntington Beach and the Los Angeles Airport into Long Beach. We continued and after passing Redondo Beach, we stopped in Hermosa Beach for lunch.
We got an outside table at American Junkie and enjoyed some refreshments and food while listening to live music and watching the beach crowd walk by. Pier Avenue is closed to regular traffic and pedestrians wander in and out of shops and restaurants on their way to the Hermosa Beach Pier or beach.
We too wandered over to the pier after lunch. You get awesome views from here.
Back on the road, our next stop was Venice Beach. I’ve heard so much about it before but nothing could prepare me for the vibe at this beach. Lots of young people and what looked like even maybe homeless people were out and about. Live music and colorful language left us with plenty to talk about. You can people-watch here for hours. It didn’t feel all too clean, especially since we had to use the public restrooms, so we left shortly after.
We were slowly making our way north and after spending a lot of time looking for parking, walked down to the Santa Monica Pier to see the official end of Route 66. Pieter couldn’t pass up the opportunity to embarrass Sidney and took off his shirt for some sun shortly after parking. It is so easy to embarrass a teenager these days! This area was much busier than any of the other piers. A huge crowd was browsing stores and buying tickets for the amusement rides. We stopped for funnel cake which was eaten right there sitting down on the sidewalk. Sidney also shopped for some t-shirts and gifts to take back home.
We headed northeast and followed Santa Monica Boulevard into Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive. You can’t pass Rodeo Drive without stopping, but we didn’t do any shopping here. I don’t think they have anything in my price range! Pieter spent an awfully long time staring at a watch in a window display making me very nervous. But he didn’t purchase anything in the end (and we know how tough that is for him).
We took the winding road up into the Hollywood Hills and then turned onto Mulholland Drive for some sightseeing. We were able to see downtown Los Angeles, the famous Hollywood sign and Burbank from here. Burbank is known as the “Media Captial of the World” and is home to the company headquarters or production facilities of Warner Bros. Entertainment, The Walt Disney Company, Nickelodeon Animation Studio and Cartoon Network Studios. Also interesting to note, is that Burbank Airport was the location of Lockheed’s Skunk Works which produced some of the most secret and technologically advanced airplanes for the US.
We had a booking at Coast Anabelle Hotel on Olive Avenue and were looking forward to a nice shower and sit-down dinner. After cleaning up and spending time in the Olive Bistro bar, we had dinner downstairs and called it a night.
Big day tomorrow! We have an early morning Warner Bros. Studio tour to catch!
Read more USA West Coast Road Trip – Part 3