Location: California, Nevada
Distance: 2,117 kilometres
As one of the largest states in the US, California beckons with an intriguing mix of cities and beautiful scenery. It blurs the line between world renowned opulence and natural splendour, creating an endlessly fascinating landscape that is best explored behind the wheel. Take to the roads and traverse some of the Golden State's most famous stops as you rack up memories and unforgettable experiences.
- Napa Valley is located two hours north of San Francisco, making it a perfect day trip for those that love food and wine. Known for its top wineries, it is also famous for its welcoming atmosphere and beautiful setting.
- San Luis Obispo is a small city on California's Central Coast. Known as one of the friendliest cities in the US, it calls to active travellers that enjoy a bit of adventure. Hiking, horseback riding, surfing and kayaking are all available as are antique stores, galleries and day spas.
- En route to Malibu, a stop at Solvang is worth considering as this quaint village is known for its boutiques and fabulous bakeries.
- Las Vegas isn't far from the Grand Canyon, which can easily be reached by a half day helicopter tour.
- The San Diego Zoo is located in Balboa Park. This famous California zoo is home to more than 3,700 animals.
Days 1, 2 & 3 – San Francisco
Once you arrive in San Francisco, you're free to enjoy this fascinating city for the first days of your journey. The city welcomes exploration, offering up a diverse selection of world famous landmarks as well as local, hidden delights. Charming neighbourhoods, such as Chinatown, Embarcadero and the Japan Center, greet you at every turn with their elegant architecture, or sample the eclectic dining scene through these vibrant locations. Alcatraz looms off the coast, housing the infamous prison.
You'll certainly have enough time to escape the city to Napa Valley where famed California wineries welcome you for tours and tastings. Established in 1828, this fertile area is considered the premier wine growing region in the United States.
Day 4 – San Francisco to Monterey/Carmel
Day four will see you hitting the road, driving 126 miles (202kms) south to Monterey, which is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in the US. Stroll along Fisherman's Wharf and Cannery Row. The latter was made famous by John Steinbeck's novel of the same name. The city of Carmel will not be outdone in terms of scenic beauty, with the 17-Mile Drive toll road along the Peninsula Coast from Pacific Grove to Carmel boasting magnificent seaside scenery. Visit Carmel Mission, founded n 1770.
Day 5 – Monterey/Carmel to California Central Coast to San Simeon
One of the most scenic drives of your journey, day five will see you tackling 246 miles (394kms) along the California coast through the Big Sur peninsula. Make time to visit Hearst Castle or to take a hike along one of the many well maintained trails near Pfeiffer State Beach.
Day 6 – San Simeon to Solvang to Malibu to Los Angeles
Drive down the coast 208 miles passing through San Luis Obispo – dubbed the happiest place in the US – en route to Solvang. This latter unique town was founded by Danish immigrants, and offers a quaint village atmosphere in the Santa Ynez valley. It is surrounded by local wineries and is famous for its bakeries and specialty shops. On the road again, drive by Malibu and Santa Monica to Los Angeles. If time permits, a stop at Universal Studios is worth considering for a fun break for the entire family.
Day 7 – Los Angeles
The day is yours to spend at your leisure in the 'City of Angels'. While Los Angeles offers ample opportunity for exploration, the original Disneyland theme park is great for a full day of fun. Known as one of the top tourist attractions in Southern California, it attracts millions of visitors from all over the world and offers pleasures for young and old alike. Or, simply spend the day discovering Los Angeles, including Hollywood and Beverly Hills.
Day 8 – Los Angeles to Las Vegas
Get behind the wheel for a 208 mile (450km) excursion through the Mojave Desert to Las Vegas. The ghost town of Calico is a worthy stop to explore this former mining town. Then it's on to the glittering Entertainment Capital of the World, Las Vegas. Once an oasis on the route to California, Las Vegas began as a Mormon settlement and boomed fleetingly during the silver rush. Today, Las Vegas is one of the great gambling capitals of the world, with 24-hour entertainment and world-class dining.
Day 9 – Las Vegas (optional Grand Canyon side trip)
Spend a full day in Las Vegas with plenty to keep you entertained. Marvel at the glitz and opulence of the famed Strip, or get out of town to discover some of the region's natural splendour. It's only a short drive to Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam, or hop aboard a flight to the Grand Canyon. One of the great natural wonders of the world, this landmark is unsurpassed in form, glowing colour and geological significance. It is 277 miles (445kms) long, averages 10 miles (16kms) in width and runs 5,700 feet (1,737m) deep.
Day 10 – Las Vegas to San Diego
Drive 336 miles (538kms) south past Lake Elsinore to the picturesque town of Temecula. Enjoy famed rolling hills and vineyards on your way to San Diego. This popular California city is known for its year-round sparkling weather and relaxed living.
Day 11 – San Diego
Enjoy day 11 discovering San Diego. The city is home to such attractions such as Balboa Park, Old Town, SeaWorld (the largest park in the world devoted to marine life), Coronado Beach, the San Diego Zoo and Seaport Village.
Day 12 – San Diego to Los Angeles
Drive the final 124 miles (199kms) to Los Angeles for your departure.