Soft-top rolled down and sing-a-long tunes turned up, we hope you enjoy Lizzie’s guide to planning the ultimate road trip around the palm studded golden state of California.
Known for: Celebrity haunts, film fanatics, musical talent, fashionistas, green-juice, yoga bunnies and boutique retreats.
Stay at: Viceroy, Santa Monica
Inside Info: The buzzing metropolis of Los Angeles is a sprawling jungle of fun and excitement, sure to ignite the senses and lift the soul. Especially at the start of your holiday, I always recommend basing yourself in Santa Monica. Although it’s a little way (by taxi or train) into downtown and West Hollywood, it gives you the opportunity to escape the city at the end of the day and wind down by the beach.
Known for: Art Deco architecture, the San Andreas fault, blazing hot sunshine, quirky hotels, world-class cuisine.
Stay at: Parker Palm Springs
Inside info: Have a few days car free in LA, then pick up your wheels and head to Palm Springs which, true to its name, is a palm lined oasis in the Coachella Valley. Palm Springs is in the desert and therefore likely to be hot hot hot, so pack your swimmers, make sure your never too far from a swimming pool and soak up some Californian sun!
Driving details: 130 miles. Around 3hrs traffic dependent.
Curveball: Stop at Joshua Tree National Park en route or during your stay in Palm Springs.
Known for: Towering peaks, rugged landscapes, impressive wildlife, staggering views, rock-climbing and outdoor pursuits.
Stay at: Tenaya Lodge
Inside Info: Yosemite Valley floor, where you will see the almighty El Capitan and Half Dome rock features, receives over 5,000 visitors a day in the summer. If you are flexible on your travel dates, I highly recommend visiting out of peak season or if July/August are your only months, stay slightly further away from the valley floor, popping in early morning or early evening to escape the crowds.
Drive time: 390 miles. Around 7hrs traffic dependent.
Curveball: This would be the time to incorporate the hazy heat of Death Valley or magnificent mountains of Mammoth Lakes.
Known for: Wine, wine, wine, wine, cider, craft-beer, farm to table food, local artisan business, rolling countryside and… wine
Stay at: Carneros Resort & Spa
Inside Info: Napa Valley is a real-life film set. Cycling from vineyard to vineyard, you’ll feel like a movie star…and so you should! I always recommend planning a few days wine tasting and a few days exploring both Napa and its neighbouring county Sonoma, which has a more family owned and run vibe, ancient redwood forests and an incredibly beautiful yet relatively unexplored coastline.
Drive time: 212 miles. Around 5hrs traffic dependent.
Curveball: Depending on what time of year you are visiting, you could head north to fit in a visit to Lake Tahoe en route to wine country.
Known for: The golden gate bridge, Alcatraz, sea fog (notably in Fog-ust/August), clam chowder and hippy culture.
Stay at: Hotel Zetta
Inside Info: San Francisco has got to be one of my favourite cities in the world. It’s waterfront location and hilly tundra give it a small and intimate feel with all the energy of a large global city. Packed with creative industry and exploding with innovation, use the charming hop-on-hop-off tram system to explore San Fran’s highlights from start to finish.
Drive time: 55 miles. Around 2hrs traffic dependent.
Curveball: On your way into San Francisco, stop off at the charming town of Sausalito for lunch OR bike there during your stay.
Known for: Creative culture, artisan brands, rugged coastlines, hidden beaches, community living and road trips!
Stay at: Post Ranch Inn
Inside Info: When I say Big Sur, this stop is really to explore the Pacific Highway coastline stretching south, from San Francisco to LA. This is the classic Californian road-trip route… the part where you need the soft-top roof, sing-a-long playlist, and not a care in the world. Make sure you stop in the chocolate box town of Carmel and gain a little insight into Big Sur’s end-of-the-road hippy past.
Drive time: 148 miles. Around 3.5hrs traffic dependent.
Curveball: If you’ve got a penchant for golf, this is the time to squeeze in a round at one of the many world-class courses en route.
Known for: Terracotta rooftops, white wash walls, rooftop-pools, awesome surf, epic food, charming people.
Stay at: Belmond El Encanto
Inside Info: Santa Barbara is one of California’s hidden gems. Known by all but so often overlooked as a key part of any road-trip. This Portuguese inspired ocean-front town is truly magical, and the perfect place to end the ultimate road trip in California. Head to the funk-zone for a mouth-watering meal at The Lark, followed by a craft-brewery tasting room tour. By day wander the streets or hang out by the water, visit neighbouring vineyards or soak up some last-minute sunshine before heading home.
Drive time: 195 miles. Around 4hrs traffic dependent.
Curveball: If you’ve got the luxury of time. Squeeze in a night in Los Olivos and explore the inland region of Santa Ynez.
From Santa Barbara to Los Angeles airport it’s around three hours, perhaps a little longer if you stop for lunch or coffee at Malibu Farm on Malibu Pier. Depending on the time of your flight, you may choose to spend your final night where you started, in Santa Monica or downtown LA.