Road Trip Pit Stops

Often when we travel, if there are a few of us, we’ll hire a car to get about. The flexibility it gives us is well worth the money and allows us to see things that are a little off the beaten track. It also means that if we see something interesting, we can just pull over and investigate – on a bus or a train that’s much harder to do!

This weeks post is dedicated to some of those little pit stops, sights and experiences we’ve had that were unplanned but added to our adventure.

Sea Lions on the Big Sur

Driving down the stunning coastline of the Big Sur, we spotted a group of sea lions hanging out on the beach. We pulled over for about half an hour, watching them from a safe distance.

Ghost Town Near Vegas

Much of the surrounding area of Vegas is rock, dust and highway. To break up our long and dry drive, we followed a road sign to a small ghost town – an abandoned town rising out of the dust. It was one of the smaller towns and I’d love to go back and check out one of the larger ones at some point.

Model Town Near Zion

Stopping for a much-needed loo break, we pulled into a store which had a large scale model town outside. It was certainly pulling in the visitors and the inside of the store was also really cool, with lots of interesting trinkets.

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara was one of our best finds. We needed somewhere to pull in to take a rest on a long trip from San Francisco to LA and Santa Barbara was it. It was beautiful and I could have stayed for so much longer. You can read more out our stop in Santa Barbara here.


Boulder was an interesting stop over. After a long day driving, we stopped at a hotel in Boulder before continuing our route the next day. With not much around, the stand out feature of Boulder was the sunset – although the Shining-esque hotel corridors were a big talking point – we spent the night listening out for echos of ‘Redrum’!!

Cliffs Overlooking San Francisco

This was one of the most beautiful pit stops I remember. Heading out of San Francisco, the winding roads stretching out before us, we pulled over to the side of the road to check out the views.

The cliff edges floated out into misty nothingness and it felt like we were standing above the clouds. We could hear the water below and glimpses of the stunning drops peaked through the clouds.

Where has been your best unscheduled pit stop?

An Unscheduled Road Trip: Santa Barbara

How I fell in love with Santa Barbara

I’m not going to lie, driving from Yosemite to LA is a fair distance and despite the curvaceously stunning coastlines of the Big Sur, there comes a point where you just have to pull over and take a break.

Twice we’ve stopped at Santa Barbara for a couple of hours to break up the drive and although it wasn’t on our list of places to visit, I have found that I’m completely in love with the place.

The view from the roof of the Court House in Santa Barbara

The first time we visited, I saw a grand total of a multi-story car park, a sandwich shop and the view from the top of the Court House. We were racing time to reach our next overnight stop and didn’t have much time to see the sites. This was a functional visit – loo break, food and a change of driver. The main reason for choosing Santa Barbara as our impromptu stop was because we googled interesting locations along our route and Santa Barbara was listed as a location for Michael Jackson’s house. This felt like an interesting adventure. We thought we might be able to see it from the rooftop of the County Court House – spoiler alert: we couldn’t. The view was lovely however and the Spanish colonial style architecture made it feel like we were in a little European town rather than in the USA. Despite the short visit, the bright streets and sun-drenched rooftops made a quick stop-off somewhere to remember.

Spanish style architecture seen from the roof of the Santa Barbara Court House

The second time we visited, we had a little more time and were able to explore further. We found the main street entirely by accident, twisting and turning through narrow, boutique-lined streets.

Heading up State Street, we came across the La Arcada Courtyard. It was here that I lost my heart. The centrepiece of the courtyard is a stone fountain, complete with an abundance of turtles lazily plodding onto the rocks in the summer sun. We sat by the edge of the fountain watching the light bounce off the water as the turtles clambered over the slick rocks and each other, jostling for position in the warmth.

The fountain in La Arcada Courtyard

Turtles basking in the hot sun in the centre of the fountain Peeling ourselves off the hot fountain edge, we wandered through the streets, stopping to marvel at statues, shops and tiled walkways. It felt like an art-lover’s paradise, with expression and passion everywhere you looked. The life-like statues (something that would usually creep me out) perfectly fit the activity on the streets and added to the bohemian atmosphere.

These realistic statues were everywhere and really added to the artsy vibe of Santa Barbara

Eventually the grumbles of our tummies won the argument with our brains and we agreed to head for lunch. We stopped at a little restaurant on the square and the food was incredible! It might have been the time on the road talking but I probably had the best salad ever at that little restaurant.

Winding streets in Santa Barbara

After lunch we headed down for a quick stroll on the beach to check out the sand sculptures. Walking along Stearns Wharf, the sun was reflecting off the water and it was a refreshing walk along the pier to burn off our food. I loved the close proximity of the beach to the shops and town centre and the whole place had a really chilled out, centred vibe.

Looking out from the Pier

We only had a short time in Santa Barbara but it was one of those places which makes ‘winging it’ on the road really pay off. It’s such a beautiful place and I’d love to spend more time there exploring, as I feel that it has much more to offer than we managed to see.

Where has been your best unscheduled stop? Has it lead to any unexpected adventures? We’d love to hear them in the comments!