Touring California in a RV
Hiring a campervan and touring Californ-ia has been at the top of my holiday bucket list for years! So, when I got hitched and needed a honeymoon, there was only one place I’d… I mean we’d, be heading…
We were away for a total of 14 nights, 5 of which were spent in a Minnie Winnie; a delightful 32ft, 6 birth Eclipse RV, which came complete with bedroom, bathroom, shower, fridge, Microwave, TV and DVD player.
We hired our campervan from Apollo and picked it up from their San Francisco branch after spending a few days in the city.
Apollo have depots across America; they know their stuff about RVs and I couldn’t recommend them enough. They were great.
We filled in the relevant forms, were given the grand tour and shown essentials, then left to our own devices to hit the road. We had a rough idea of the route we wanted to take from San Francisco to LA so set out on the 1016 mile journey via, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite National Park, Monterey, Camel-by-the-sea, Pismo Beach and Malibu.
Our first and most important stop was to fill up… the fridge. 5 minutes from the depot you’ll find a Foodmaxx; a supermarket that’s a lot cheaper than Walmart. Food, booze and loo roil on board we headed for the Freeway on route to Lake Tahoe.
RV TIP – The only loo roll you’re allowed is the Marine stuff, single ply tissue paper.
Freeways in America can be very daunting, in fact they are pretty crazy; there are no rules about undertaking, everyone likes to use their horn and lanes appear from nowhere. Don’t worry too much about getting beeped at, we even got the finger on a few occasions.
RV TIP- The freeway – the first lane is for exiting and entering. Once on move over and stay there.
San Francisco to Lake Tahoe
- 204 miles
- 4h 34min
- Campsite: Tahoe Valley RV Resort & Campground
- $54 per night, full hook up
We headed up to Lake Tahoe, a popular destination in winter for skiers or campers in summer. We visited in April so there wasn’t much going on, but it’d be great for families in summer.
After a short stay in Lake Tahoe we headed off to a place I have always wanted to go – Yosemite National Park baby!
Lake Tahoe to Yosemite National Park
- 5h 47min
- Campsite: Lower Pines Campground
- $23per night, no hook up
The journey between Lake Tahoe and Yosemite is SPECTACULAR, but not one for the faint hearted. You climb as high as 10000ft, along winding roads, tampering on the edge of sheer cliff faces. I can’t tell you how many cross-words me and Andy had about getting too close to the edge.
RV TIP – Book your campsites in advanced, especially in summer. Yosemite campsites book up fast, you will need to book at least 3 months in advanced in winter and up to 6 months in advanced for spring and summer.
If you hire a campervan in California you NEED to go to Yosemite, it is amazing. No photos do it justice, you need to see it with your own eyes!
The campsites in Yosemite Valley are everything you would expect them to be; tall trees, picnic tables logs and fire pit. There are no hook-ups in the valley and there are time restrictions on the use of generators.
TIP – Buy your firewood from the shops on site. There are strict rules on transferring wood between parks.
Yosemite is not only popular with humans, it is a playground for black bears too. When you arrive you need to remove EVERYTHING that has a scent from your RV and place them in the bear safe boxes.
TIP – make sure you fuel up before you reach Yosemite – fuel prices in the park are steep!
The drive out of Yosemite is just as amazing as the way in, so make sure you take advantage of the viewing points along route. I wish we had spent more time in Yosemite but the risk of flooding in the valley sent us on our way to Monterey.
Yosemite to Monterey
- 199 miles
- 4h 49min
- Campsite: Monterey Fairground RV Park
- $55 per night, full hook up
Monterey is a fishing town and whale watching hotspot, and made famous by an fantastic aquarium. If like me, you were a fan of the TV show Big Little Lies you might recognise Monterey and the infamous coffee shop.
If you looove seafood, you will looove the restaurants around Monterey. For good seafood, great atmosphere and panoramic views of the harbour you need to visit Domenico’s On The Wharf.
RV tip – To get out and about without your RV, download Lifty app. This is similar to Uber but the drivers are locals and students who happily give you tips and recommendations about the area.
The next day we packed up and aimed for Pismo Beach via the picturesque town of Carmel- by-the-sea. It was so hot and busy in Camel and parking the RV was a bit of a nightmare. The car parks only cater for vehicles under 20ft and ours was 30. Eventually we parked on a side street which turned out to be a restricted area and we narrowly avoided a ticket… ooops!
If we did it again, we would park up in Monterey and get a taxi as it’s only a 10 minute drive.
Camel-By-The-Sea to Pismo Beach
- 192 miles
- 4h 21min
- Campsite: Pacific Dunes Rach and RV park
- $54 per night, full hook up
We didn’t see much of Pismo Beach to be honest but it looked lovely. From Pismo we headed out down the cost along highway one towards LA via Malibu.
On route to Malibu we stopped at Santa Barbra for an ice cream and a glass of vino. Santa Barbra is beautiful! The beach is amazing and the harbour is very glam. I only wish we were here longer but we had some miles to cover.
Pismo Beach to Malibu
- 148 miles
- 4h 32min
- Campsite: Malibu Beach RV Park
- $68 per night, full hook up
Malibu is blummin’ gorgeous! I got a little bit giddy on the way in looking up celebrity houses on Google to see if I could spot them from the road.
Malibu to be expensive, we picked up a coffee and a smoothie from a shop and it cost us $24!!! Och.
Our campsite however was super special, we paid a little extra to get a sea view and I’m so glad we did. Our last night was amazing; we sat on our picnic bench, eating hotdogs, drinking beer, and watching whales off the coast – heavenly
Considering a campervan or RV holiday?
If you’re thinking about a campervan or RV holiday the only thing i would say is… DO IT!
I could write all day about how amazing this holiday was but you really need to go and experience this sort of thing for yourself.
We had an incredible time and will go back! You see and experience so much more than a usual point to point or fly and flop holiday.