Leah Explores … Carmel

Carmel-by-the-sea is a small beach city in California, but what sets it apart from every other beach city in California (and lets face it, there are a lot) is that this place looks like something straight out of a fairy tale. The buildings are quaint and distinct, and there is a small town feel this idyllic beach city, I’ve looked at pictures and read all about it, but actually seeing it for myself was a whole other experience.. This place is both stunning and surreal. Post whale watching in Monterey my cousin and I drove 10 minutes south to Carmel-by-the-sea, for a stroll around the town, some lunch and some beach time. This tiny beach town is the perfect spot to visit for the afternoon as it’s small enough to navigate in just a few hours. That said, I think it would be absolutely amazing to go there for a mini break and just completely relax.

There are some super cute independent shops to look in as well as some more well known brands dotted throughout the main strip of town. I definitely recommend looking in Carmel Bay Company for some super cute gifts. There were so many places to eat at we felt a bit spoiled for choice, we settled on PortaBella restaurant which offered Mediterranean inspired cuisine, and had a delicious Croque Monsieur; a perfect spot for refuelling. Before we left we grabbed some yummy coffee from Carmel Coffee House. The Carmel Bakery looked full of deliciousness but I was so full after lunch I didn’t need any temptation. Whilst the town itself if cute, for me the beach was really the highlight. White sandy dunes lead into the Pacific Ocean and the views are just incredible. The weather wasn’t even that great whilst we were there but this place still took my breath away.

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I definitely suggest taking a trip to Carmel if you are in the area, just to see the beautiful city for yourself. As I’ve already said it’s a small place and there isn’t a ton to see and do, it has a more laid back pace to it, but that definitely works to it’s advantage. Have you been there? What’s your favourite thing to do? Favourite place to see? Let me kn0w in the comments. Happy exploring!

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Leah Explores … Wilder Ranch State Park

Wilder Ranch, was one of those places that unexpectedly took my breath away and will forever be one of the most beautiful places I accidentally stumbled upon. I actually can’t take any credit for discovering this stunning place, it’s all down to the friend of my cousin who recommended it as a great day out. We decided to take a risk and packed up a picnic, some supplies and the wagon to put the children in when they got fed up of walking, and set off for an adventure.

Located just north of Santa Cruz, Wilder Ranch State Park occupies 7000 acres of coastal ranch land. Formerly a working dairy ranch, there are still signs of the lands former purpose, as the farmhouse and  a lot of the old buildings have been restored as museums. But, in all honesty, if you are going to Wilder Ranch it’s all about the hiking, and surrounding yourself in the natural beauty of the area.

There are ample trails located around the park, which are (for the most part) flat and easily accessible by foot, bike and even horse. The trails hug the cliffs offering unspoiled views of the Pacific Ocean. We did a 2.5mile round hike that took us to ‘Fern Grotto’ a secluded cove, complete with caves and a beautiful sandy beach. For the few hours we were there only two other people came down, and (luckily for us) they only stayed for a few minutes. Definitely make sure that you pack for all situations on your trip. This place is pretty isolated and there are no gift shops around to grab some water or any other essentials you may need. Anyway, enough of my ramblings, because I could honestly go on about how awesome Wilder Ranch State Park is all day, but instead I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

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Leah Explores … The Monterey Canyon

After my stint in San Francisco I headed inland for a bit of a family catch up to see my cousin and her family, as well as to do a bit more exploring, in some lesser know places. My first stop along the way was to go whale watching in Monterey.

We went out with Monterey Bay Whale Watch on a trip which lasted around 4 hours. Fun fact, these were the group who took out Big Blue Live last year. The great thing about these guys is that they are marine biologists so they actually know what they are talking about, and what to look out for. The boat was pretty big, it held about 120 people, but they have a speaker system so that you don’t miss any of the information they give you, which can include sightings, species and geographical information. This is particularly helpful when they can tell you that a whale has been spotted, cue me speed walking to the front of the boat.

The crew on the boat were really helpful, walking around making sure that everyone was alright throughout the trip. A special shout out to my cousin who powered through the freezing temperatures with horrible seasickness, she was the real MVP! I would definitely recommend layering up, I had one four layers, and could have honestly done with four more, it was freezing out there. Also take some sea sickness tablets, it’s better safe than sorry. My cousin took them and was still really sick, so I dread to think what she would have been like if she didn’t.

The trip took us out over the Monterey Canyon which is a submarine canyon big enough to rival the Grand Canyon, therefore making it abundant in marine life. We were really lucky on out trip, we saw a Sealions, Dolphins, Mola Mola (Ocean Sunfish), Humpbacks, Orca’s and most spectacularly of all a Blue Whale. Sadly I was stood on the wrong side of the boat when the Humpbacks surfaced, and there was no breaching by any of the whales (of course with my luck there was later in the day) but it was still an amazing day. Being able to say that I have seen a Blue Whale is something that I never even dreamed off, and is definitely something I will treasure forever. Here are some of my photo’s from the trip. Enjoy!

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Mola Mola (Ocean Sunfish)
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Dolphins
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Blue Whale hump (the tiny black hump)
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Orca’s
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Orca’s

 

 

Leah Explores … Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

When I headed to Northern California one of the things on my to do list was to see the infamous Redwoods, and I was not disappointed. We headed into Felton, a small town in the Santa Cruz Mountains, which is home to the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park.

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The park itself is on the family friendly side, with picnic areas and a steam engine ride, as well as blacksmith demonstrations, arts and crafts and much more. I was visiting with my cousin and her two children who are three and five and it was a perfect day out. We started off with a picnic in one of the many shaded areas before heading over to the visitor center to learn more about the area. From here we headed out onto the ‘Loop Trail’ which is a 0.8mile (1.2km) flat loop that takes you through the heart of the redwoods. One particular highlight on our trip was spotting a doe and fawn grazing just off the trail, completely unfazed by all the people mere feet away. Along the trail there was a tree which had been hollowed out by a fire, the tree was still so big that we were able to fit four of us inside with plenty of room to spare,  as well as seeing ‘The Giant’ a redwood that is 17ft wide and 270ft tall, it really helped to put into perspective just how big these giants are.

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I would definitely recommend a day trip to Felton if you are in the vicinity, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park was a fantastic day out. I’m so glad that I got to see these trees up close, to truly see how magnificent they are, and to tick one more thing off the ever growing bucket list.

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