California Coast Fly- Drive
One of the most iconic fly-drive itineraries in the world, Highway 1 hugs the scenic Californian coast from just below San Francisco to just short of Los Angeles. Along the way you'll encounter wilderness, wildlife, quaint California towns, lively seaside resorts, vineyards and whales...
- Alcatraz Island
- Hearst Castle
- Whale watching
- Hollywood and the beaches of Los Angeles
- Universal Studios
- Olde Town San Diego
- Day trip to Mexico
- Santa Barbara and The American Rivieria
- San Francisco
- Famous 17 Mile Drive and Monterey
- Whale watching (in-season)
Price per person includes:
- Return flights to San Francisco and home from San Diego
- Airport taxes
- 13 nights accommodation in sought after locations
- 10 days mid-size car hire. (convertibles are available for a supplement)
- A personalised road book with North America travel tips and a day to day driving itinerary with local area information.
Ideal time to visit: Year Round
Prices are based on low season travel. Easter, Christmas and summer holiday prices available upon request - just give us a ring or email with your preferred dates of travel.
Days 1 - 3 San Francisco
Fly into San Francisco International Airport and take either the Super Shuttle or a taxi to your hotel. (We do not recommend car hire whilst in San Francisco, car parking is expensive)
San Francisco is full of iconic images- those little cable cars climbing halfway to the stars, the scarlet slash of the Golden Gate Bridge, the dragon-adorned gateway to Chinatown, and the sombre, island-sited Alcatraz, once a formidable prison, now a tourist attraction.
Discover the attractions of this beautiful city en foot, by cable car or the superb BART system. See places like Union Square, The Presidio, Golden Gate Bridge, China Town, Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf.
Want an enjoyable day out of the city too? Explore the nearby rolling hills of California Wine Country, Napa Valley, where famed wineries welcome you for tours and tastings. Established in 1828, this fertile area is considered the premier wine growing region in the United States. Visit the giant redwood trees of Muir Woods or experience the stunning scenery of Yosemite National Park.
We can pre book city tours & excursions, Bay Dinner Cruises and The Wine Train in advance for you.
Day 3 - 4 San Francisco to Monterey
Distance: 126 miles
Leave the City on the Bay behind you as you drive south on the start of your California fly drive itinerary.
Few stretches of coastal road anywhere in the world can match the Pacific Coast Highway-also known as Highway 1-for scenic beauty. Forested mountains slope off the edge of the North American continent into azure water; great jagged rocks jut out of the crashing surf like breaching whales; and hilltops are crowned with picturesque towns, spectacular mansions and old mission churches dating back to Spanish colonial days.
En route to Monterey you'll encounter the famous "17-Mile Drive" toll road along the Peninsula Coast from Pacific Grove to Carmel which boasts magnificent seaside scenery. There are over 20 stops on this Drive from the trademark Lone Cypress Tree to the Restless Sea, from the Seal Rock to Spanish Bay and Spyglass Hill.
Your stop for this evening is Monterey; this beautiful California seaside community combines all the charm of small town America with an endless variety of recreational and cultural activities. Monterey's rich history, the saga of California's Mission Trail, historic Fisherman's Wharf and Cannery Row, 20 world-class golf courses, the world's best aquarium, a unique variety of shops and galleries and a spectacular assortment of parks and natural areas all combine to make a perfect stay on this peninsular.
Day 4 Monterey to Cambria
Distance: 95 miles
Today drive the iconic Highway 1 to Cambria via Big Sur, a rugged and breathtakingly stunning 90 mile stretch of coastline, which starts at Carmel and ends at San Simeon.
En route the town of Carmel is certainly worth a visit, Clint Eastwood was once the Mayor of this California beachside storybook village.
Plan to arrive early evening into Cambria as you have the following day either on the beach or exploring.
Day 5 Cambria
Today you can visit Hearst Castle, this hilltop castle, set on 250,000 acres, is one of the most extravagant houses in the world. Once home to the publisher William Randolph Hearst who held here court to such guests as Winston Churchill, Charlie Chaplin, Joan Crawford, Cary Grant and Charles Lindbergh. Take one of the many tours available of this outrageous and fascinating home known locally as the "Enchanted Hill".
Whale watching on Big Sur
On your drive be sure to look out for the Grey Whales which can be seen from the highway turnouts in Big Sur from December through April. December to early February the California Gray Whales are migrating south. Beginning in February you begin seeing whales migrating back to Alaska with their newborn babies by their sides. There is sometimes what appears to be an overlap in migration patterns with some whales still heading south while others are moving north. On their northern migration they swim close to the Californian shore, with their babies on the shore side. It has been said this is to protect them from attacks from Great White Sharks. This is often when the best viewing can take place because they are moving more slowly because of their young calves and also they are swimming against the current.
Another spectacular site on your fly drive itinerary is watching them as they migrate south. Occasionally the water is filled with spouts going off one after another, looking like a long line of steam locomotives spouting out in the ocean.
The entire population of Gray Whales migrates past the Big Sur coastline twice a year. Once when going south to the lagoons of Mexico (late fall-early winter) and once again when returning to Alaska (late winter-early spring). Bring your binoculars and enjoy this spectacular site from the many roadside turnouts, restaurants, and cafes.
Day 6 - 8 Cambria to Santa Barbara
Distance: 125 miles
Continue your fly drive holiday on through this scenic region with a stop for lunch in Solvang, a picturesque, unique town founded by Danish immigrants in 1911.
This quaint village complete with horse drawn carriages and tree lined streets, is situated in the Santa Ynez Valley and is surround by wonderful wineries. Shoppers will love the clothes boutiques & eclectic gift stores. Whilst here sample authentic Danish cuisine in one of the many speciality eateries.
Drive onwards to Santa Barbara, and an area known as the “American Riviera" Lush. Sun drenched and nestled in the gently sloping hills above the Pacific Ocean, Santa Barbara is known for its Moorish architecture, colourful history and exceptional beauty. Fringed with palm-lined beaches and backing onto sumptuous rolling country side filled with award winning vineyards, it's no wonder why many Americans head here for their own California holidays.
Hire a bike and explore this historic town, ride a horse along the beach, have a picnic at one of the many vineyards, visit the Botanical Gardens, enjoy at sunset cruise...or simply pull up a sun lounger and relax on the beach!
American Riviera Whale Watching
Santa Barbara is in an excellent location for whale watching. The city is on a southern facing coast and sheltered behind the Channel Islands. It offers fabulous opportunities to witness the migration of the gray whales, as well as spot other species of the large marine mammals.
Over 27 different types of whales and dolphins inhabit the Santa Barbara Channel at various times of the year, making these waters one of the best whale watching areas in the world.
There are two windows of opportunity to see whales around Santa Barbara. During February, March and early April you can see California Grey Whales. From May to September you can see Blue Whales, Minke Whales and Humpback Whales. Occasionally, you can see Right Whales or Orcas. All season long you have an excellent chance of seeing dolphins, porpoises, seals and sea lions.
Day 9 - 10 Santa Barbara to Santa Monica
Distance: 89 miles
Santa Monica is where Los Angeles meets the beach and is the next stop on your California fly drive adventure.
Santa Monica is perfect for those of you who don't want the city hustle and bustle of Los Angeles but want a laid-back beach resort but still with easy access to Hollywood, Rodeo Drive, Manns Chinese Theatre, The Stars Walk of Fame and Universal Studios.
Whilst in Santa Monica hire bikes or roller blades to explore this area and adjoining Venice and the famous Muscle Beach; book a surfing lesson; wander round the beach stalls selling their funky wares or stroll famous Santa Monica Pier and soak in the atmosphere of this cool California resort.
A few blocks from the beach lies Third Street Promenade, a car-free area filled with malls and quirky shops with an abundance of al fresco dining venues - perfect for celeb spotting!
Day 11 Santa Monica to Long Beach
Distance: 29 miles
Leave behind Santa Monica and drive on for an overnight stay on the Queen Mary.
This grand ocean liner is a timeless art-deco masterpiece, the focal point of Long Beach harbour and can be your floating hotel while in Southern California. The original staterooms span three decks and each uniquely appointed cabin is rich in wood panelling and original artwork.
Discover the magic and history of the ship, launched on the Clyde in 1934, on a self-guided ship walk tour or the behind-the-scenes guided tour. On board there are three harbour-view restaurants, three cocktail lounges and live entertainment and dancing in the Art Deco Observation Bar on the Promenade Deck. Special events and exhibits are scheduled throughout the year.
If you’re looking to infuse a little romance into your relationship or simply want something fun to do, a stones throw away from the Queen Mary are the Long Beach Gondolas.
They will take you on a gentle 50-minute cruise through the interesting waterways of Naples Island in Alamitos Bay.
Salami, cheese, and bread are provided for you along with your very own gondolier to serenade you. Consider bringing a bottle of champagne along – it makes for a much more intimate experience! Cheesy, we know, but great fun in the California sun!
Day 12 - 13 Long Beach to San Diego
Distance: 110 miles
Leave behind Long Beach and head for San Diego.
San Diego County blessed with over 70 miles of beaches and year round near perfect climate, California's second largest city and the States' oldest offers something for simply everyone.
Many of the city's attractions are within a short distance of the downtown lively bayfront area or are linked by the light rail San Diego Trolley, which even travels to the Mexican border.
Be sure to visit its lively neighbourhoods such as Little Italy, East Village and the historic Gaslamp Quarter, a National Historic district featuring brick side walks, gaslights and Victorian style buildings. Wyatt Earp once ran a couple of saloons here, and his ghost may still haunt this dynamic hub of 90 plus restaurants, 40 bars and 100 retail shops.
Surrounding downtown are two distinctively different areas. Old Town State Historic Park is a tribute to 18th century days when San Diego was California's first Spanish Settlement. All around are eateries selling Mexican food and crafts. Nearby is the spacious Balbao Park, resplendent with Spanish Colonial Revival-style building. Many have been converted into museums, such as the San Diego Museum of Art.
SeaWorld San Diego is a must. Here you can watch dolphins, killer whales; sea lions and otters perform in high energy water shows.
Another key tourist destination is the island of Coronado, here there are wide, sandy uncrowded beaches and a charming village. Visit the famous historic Del Coronado Hotel, the location for Monroes'
Some Like it Hot
Want to extend this California fly drive, or shorten it? Maybe fly onto the Hawaiian Islands afterwards? Call Bon Voyage to discuss the options available to you.