Experience one of the most scenic fly-drive itineraries in the world!
The most popular part of the Pacific Coast Highway hugs the Californian coast from just below San Francisco to just short of Los Angeles. Along the way you'll encounter wilderness, wineries and some of the most dramatic coastal scenery in the USA. You'll finish in idyllic San Diego with a terrific year round climate and over 70 miles of pristine beaches.
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San Francisco is full of iconic images such as 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 San Francisco on foot, by cable car or the superb BART system. Explore places like Union Square, bike over the Golden Gate Bridge, mooch through China Town, Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf.
From San Fran, you can also explore the nearby rolling hills of California Wine Country.
Sonoma and Napa Valley are ideal day trips and for wine lovers we'd also recommend a trip on the Napa Valley Wine Train. Ask your Bon Voyage consultant to suggest the best excursions/options for your visit.
Distance: 126 miles
Leave the City on the Bay behind you as you head south. Few stretches of coastal road match the Pacific Coast Highway for scenic beauty. Forested mountains slope off the edge 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.
The famous 17-Mile Drive toll road winds along the Peninsula Coast from Pacific Grove to Carmel. There are over 20 scenic stops including the Lone Cypress Tree, the Restless Sea, Seal Rock and Spyglass Hill.
Arrive in Monterey, a beautiful seaside community, combining the charm of a small town with an endless variety activities. Your Bon Voyage consultant would be delighted to pre-book whale-watching, or electric bike tours in advance. Another must-do is the excellent Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Distance: 95 miles
Hit the road for Cambria via Big Sur - a rugged and breathtaking 90 mile stretch of coastline, which starts at Carmel and ends at San Simeon. A stop in the pretty town of Carmel is certainly worth a visit, Clint Eastwood was once the Mayor and is still a long time resident. In fact, Clint owns the Mission Ranch Hotel and Restaurant, so if you are travelling on Sunday, plan to pop in for brunch.
Enjoy an evening in Cambria and then a free day to spend on the beach, whale-watching or to take a tour of 'The Castle on the Hill', Hearst Castle.
Hearst Castle, set on 250,000 acres, is one of the most extravagant houses in the world. Once home to the publisher William Randolph Hearst, guests included Winston Churchill, Charlie Chaplin, Joan Crawford, Cary Grant and Charles Lindbergh.
Distance: 125 miles
Then it's on to your stop for two nights - Santa Barbara. Known as the American Riviera due to its Mediterranean climate, this sun drenched gem is nestled in sloping hills above the Pacific Ocean. Hire a bike and explore this historic town, have a picnic at one of the many vineyards, visit the Botanical Gardens, enjoy a sunset cruise or simply pull up a sun lounger and relax.
American Riviera Whale Watching
Santa Barbara is an excellent location for whale watching as its southern facing coast is sheltered behind the Channel Islands. 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 in this area. February to 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 and Orcas. All year long you have an excellent chance of seeing dolphins, porpoises, seals and sea lions.
Distance: 89 miles
This is the ideal base for those who prefer a laid-back beach experience to the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles. However, it is still easy access to Hollywood, Rodeo Drive and all the sights.
With Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm only a 40 minute drive away, you may also want to consider using Santa Monica as your base to visit these parks too.
Distance: 130 miles
San Diego County is blessed with over 70 miles of beaches and a near perfect year round climate.
California's oldest city has something for everyone. Many of the city's attractions are within a short distance of downtown or linked by the San Diego Trolley. Be sure to visit neighbourhoods such as Little Italy, East Village and the historic Gaslamp Quarter. This National Historic district is a step back in time. In fact, Wyatt Earp once ran a couple of saloons here and apparently his ghost is still a resident.
Surrounding downtown, Old Town State Historic Park is a tribute to 18th century days when San Diego was California's first Spanish Settlement. Another popular destination is the island of Coronado with it's uncrowded beaches and charming village backdrop. The young and the young at heart will want to take a trip to Legoland Resort, as well as San Diego Zoo, considered to be one of the top zoos in the USA.