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California Pet-Friendly Road Trip to Big Sur: Day 1 L.A. to Pismo Beach

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of California Pet-Friendly Road Trip to Big Sur Posts. Stay tuned for more posts and fun mobile photography experiments. – Jen

I’ve spent the past several years focusing on international travel, and the truth is it left me a little out of practice for traveling with a dog (or two) in tow. Back in August, my husband and I were dealt a blow when we lost Lola, our beloved 15 year old lab, and we were suddenly a one dog family. It dawned on me just how much of the world my younger dog, Scarlet, had yet to see.

Photo of Lola and Scarlet as a puppy by Virginia Lee Hunter for Docuvitae.

We needed a family moment and Scarlet had never been on a road trip. By the time Scarlet joined our family, Lola was 10 years old, had two bionic knees and swam regularly and was past the road trippin’ days of her furry youth.

So we decided to take a good old-fashioned California road trip to Big Sur, so Scarlet could get a glimpse of the greater world, and all three of us could enjoy the epic scenery of the Pacific Coast Highway.

Planning Our Route

When researching pet-friendly lodgings to plan out our route, it became clear that “Pet-Friendly” usually breaks down two different ways– Über high end or super low-rent (and often devoid of personality).

My first task in planning was finding appropriate lodging in Big Sur and then figure out our route. The Post Ranch Inn, where I stayed on my last trip to Big Sur, is gorgeous and totally special, but doesn’t allow pets. After some research, I was thrilled to discover the Big Sur Getaway’s Vintage 1974 Avion Trailer was indeed Pet-Friendly, and looked my kind of funky. I have always wanted to do the vintage trailer hotel thing and looked super cool and was reasonably priced. So now we had a destination and a plan: time to take Scarlet glamping!

Scarlet hits the road! (Mobile photography)

I knew we’d have great options in the Santa Barbara area because both the Four Seasons Santa Barbara and the San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito are pet friendly hotels–  Lola had stayed at both properties in her younger days and approved.

We needed a spot to overnight and break up the drive, and settled on the beach town of Pismo Beach, which I’ve always wanted to visit since I saw Bugs Bunny go there in The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie.

So we decided on a route of Los Angeles to Big Sur, via Pismo Beach and returning via Montecito’s fabulous San Ysidro Ranch.

Day One: Los Angeles to Pismo Beach

We decided to make our first overnight stop Pismo Beach, because the Seacrest Oceanfront Resort seemed to be offer both pet-friendly rooms and have more personality than a lot of the other options, and was geographically desirable, allowing us the the right amount of drive time to break up the haul of the drive. We’d never been to Pismo and I had heard good things about the beach town.

Pismo Beach

At the Seacrest, I was impressed with how much pet-friendly information they provided us upon checked-in, including a list of pet friendly restaurants and beaches in the area. Scarlet, however, was not as fond of the hotel as I was. We booked the least expensive pet-friendly room, which had had nice touches like a dog bed and bowl, and the hotel was pretty spotless.

Misty Morning in Pismo at the Seacrest

The rooftop firepit of the Seacrest Oceanfront Hotel in Pismo Beach

We ate dinner on the patio of Mo’s Barbeque in Pismo and found the town to be rather charming and indeed, pet-friendly. Scarlet even got a few friendly sniffs from a handsome lab also dining there. While Scarlet was a bit overwhelmed at the hotel– probably more a reflection about overwhelmed she was by all the stimulation, other dogs and their owners seemed to be having a blast at the Seacrest.

Coming up next… Day 2 Pismo to Big Sur.

Where we were four. Lola and Scarlet as a puppy with my husband Photo by Virginia Lee Hunter for Docuvitae.