tretching 900 miles up the Pacific Coast of the United States, California offers a plethora of experiences that transport you to another world: from the giant redwoods of Yosemite, to the glitz and glamour of West Hollywood, and the scarcely-believable ocean views along Big Sur. The best way to explore this diverse and stunning landscape? On the open road.
Travelling by four wheels offers unbounded freedom and a way for you to have complete control over what you do with your time, whether that’s lying back and drinking in the views or seeking out secret haunts to sample local delicacies. From Little Miss Sunshine to Thelma & Louise, there is a reason why films have drawn on America’s vast landscape as a way to discover things we never knew about ourselves.
Embark on a journey that will test your mettle, provide thrilling vistas and offer up experiences that will open a new chapter of adventure. This is a personal trip, a journey that can be crafted around you and the things you’ve missed most. Whether that’s the sound of the ocean, the calming backdrop of a forest or the buzz of a city, take this time to nurture personal connections with people from different cultures. Reclaim your freedom and buckle up: your California road trip awaits.
Sunsets, stardom and scenic views: Los Angeles
Speaking of epic movies, Los Angeles is the home to stars of film, music and all things golden, and if you’re travelling south to north it’s a place that is sure to ignite your spirit of adventure. The sprawling metropolis is a vast space to navigate, with everything from the famous Sunset Strip that has welcomed some of the world’s biggest bands, from The Doors to Guns N’ Roses, to the literary Hollywood haunts frequented by writers such as Dorothy Parker and F Scott Fitzgerald.
However, try diverting from the hustle and bustle of the city to uncover a different perspective. A private hiking tour up to the iconic Hollywood sign will open up breathtaking views over LA and Burbank and open up your eyes to the journey that awaits. Time it as dusk falls so you can marvel at the sparkle of the buildings below.
Stay here for: Awe-inspiring views of tinseltown. Exude Hollywood glamour by the rooftop pool at The London West Hollywood at Beverly Hills in a cabana with a signature Pink Lady cocktail. Afterwards, retire to one of the suites, the largest in LA no less, and enjoy an indulgent soak in the spa-like tub without a care in the world.
The path less travelled: Big Sur
After you’ve had your fill of stardom, it’s time to head away from the city and onto the magnificent Pacific coastal roads of Big Sur. On the tarmac, with no ties, recapture the sense of freedom that you might have lost in the confines of the city. A drive along California’s Highway 1 will bring you closer and closer to this heavily-preserved stretch of coastline. Enjoy it at your own pace and in your own time – with only your heart’s desires leading the way.
As you take in some of the last unspoiled places in America, you can bring the storytelling to life with a tour of Hearst Castle. The national landmark, built by publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst and architect Julia Morgan, is home to 127 acres of gardens and terraces. Bowers of magenta bougainvillea, sweet-smelling hyacinths, and rhododendrons offer a sensory overload, with colours, scents and sights coming into sharp focus. Unlock the secrets here with a private tour, and discover the stars who used to steal away for an illicit rendezvous amongst the flora.
Stay here for: An escape from reality. Peace and healing are central to Post Ranch Inn, which sits on a clifftop overlooking the Pacific. There’s no television or phone signal – instead, yoga, meditation and a telescope to look into the crystal-clear skies of Big Sur, a freeing and exhilarating view of pure oblivion that’s hard to beat.
Inland wonders: Yosemite National Park
After Big Sur, meander through Carmel and Monterey and head inland from one natural wonder to the next. Yosemite National Park will ignite childish wonder with its ancient, towering sequoias and titanic granite cliffs, such as the world-renowned El Capitan and Half Dome. The park is another world, a place to truly escape the monotony of recent times and find pleasure in the simple, powerful forces of nature. Experience this at its height by throwing yourself down the rapids with a white water rafting excursion. Feel the exhilarating bumps as you hurtle down the water, and listen to the rush and bubble of water as you navigate the river.
Stay here for: The royal treatment. The Yosemite has been the home of presidents and royalty since 1920, soak up the grandeur of the Ahwahnee banquet hall with 30 foot high ceilings and massive windows to take in the surrounding views.
San Fran delights: San Francisco
Next up, San Francisco: it’s easy to recognise from the classic silhouette of the Golden Gate Bridge and steep, rolling streets populated by traditional streetcars, but discover a new side to the city with an evening tour of the notoriously inescapable Alcatraz. Satisfy your hunger for drama with a thrilling evening inside the prison, discovering ghost stories, tall tales of escape plans and hidden messages.
Stay here for: Location, location, location. Fairmont San Francisco transforms small moments into lasting memories with views of the City and the Bay from high atop Nob Hill, a place that has exuded romance and spectacle since the Golden Age of cinema.
Wine country: Sonoma Valley
It would be remiss to visit California without taking in some of the state’s most celebrated produce: a visit to Wine Country is a fascinating experience that will leave your tastebuds tingling. Steer clear of the well-trodden paths of Napa Valley and embrace the laid-back lifestyle of Sonoma Valley. This region is twice the size of Napa and contains over 425 wineries. Live without obligations as you hike past towering redwood trees and meander through small towns to be rewarded with a glass of a full-bodied vintage curated to your tastes and made with the love of local experts.
Stay here for: Dishes bursting with flavour. The family-run Farmhouse Inn celebrates local produce with tastings run by winemakers and a menu that includes ingredients from master cheesemakers and skilled pâtissiers.