There’s a certain mystique about hitting the open road. The charming notion of packing your bags and departing into the great unknown is a well-loved form of travel for many reasons. The spontaneity, the romance of freedom, the wind whipping through your hair, the ultimate optimistic desire to just explore. A road trip is just as romantic as it is classic.
California’s iconic sunshine, endless outdoor experiences and ever-changing landscapes is a dream come true. For the road tripping Dame Traveler, we’re here to declare that we believe The Golden State is the ultimate road trip destination.
So, pack your bags and sunglasses, roll the top down and let’s explore one of our favorite California road trip routes! Additionally, we love this collection of itineraries and photo diaries. Or for the most book loving traveler, check out this 50 Amazing Road Trips guide. It’s the perfect coffee table book to sift through!
Highway 1 From San Francisco To San Diego
The most classic of road trip routes – Highway 1 – is beloved for good reason. The iconic stops along this approximate 5 day, 583 mile stretch is the perfect itinerary for the California new-by or aficionado, alike. Think beach-y coastlines, surf culture, rugged mountains, wine country and some of the hippest West Coast cities all rolled up into one trip! Although you could probably squeeze this route into four days if you wanted, we’d suggest spreading it out a little more so you have more time to enjoy and explore outside of your car.
Day 1 – San Francisco
Start your California road trip of a lifetime in San Francisco. Famous for its many rolling hills, delicious eateries, progressive, trendy neighborhoods, the City by the Bay is an ultimate must-see while exploring Cali.
Some of our must see stops? The Golden Gate Bridge (of course), Alcatraz Island, Presidio neighborhood, Mission Dolores Park district, and the Ferry Building Marketplace. You can read more of our San Francisco favorites here!
Day 2 – Big Sur & Moro Bay
California’s iconic coastline, Big Sur, awaits road trippers with open arms. After a long stretch of driving north, you’ll be ready to hit the trails for a little bit. Luckily, this 90 mile long waterfront area is stocked with magical red wood forests and fog-laden beaches. (Be sure to stop at Bixby Bridge for a serious photo op!)
After enjoying some of the state’s epic natural wonders, hop in the car just a big longer and explore Moro Bay. It’s the perfect place for whale watching, noshing on some fresh sea food and exploring the “Gibraltar of the Pacific.”
Day 3 – Santa Barbara
Have a day to yourself in “The American Riviera” – simply because Santa Barbara’s architecture, temperate climate and big city treats can’t be overlooked. Santa Barbara is the quintessential dream come true for sun-lovers. So, if you’re a road tripper who needs some TL-Vitamin C therapy, this city is definitely a must stop destination on your trip.
Day 4 – Los Angeles
Of course, no quintessential California road trip would miss out on a day trip to the glamorous and cinematic Los Angeles. Famous for its film industry, you might see a celebrity or two if you’re lucky. Visit the beloved Walk Of Fame, Rodeo Drive, and the Griffith Observatory. But LA’s differing neighborhoods are really where it’s at – hipster Silver Lake, beachy Santa Monica, quieter Manhattan Beach, green Los Feliz, and swanky Beverly Hills (to name a few). Pick a couple that suits your travel style and explore… just be sure to plan ahead for lots of traffic!
P.S. If you’d like to extend your road trip a little longer, add a day in California’s wine country! And fear not. You don’t necessarily have to be a wine aficionado (although if you are, we have a list of destinations to add to your bucket list) to appreciate its beauty.
Day 5 – San Diego
End your journey in one of California’s waterfront charmer – San Diego! Enjoy the cities seemingly endless sunshine while you explore its charming neighborhoods like Little Italy, the East Village, North Park and Balboa Park (for a trip to see the beloved San Diego Zoo).
If you’d rather finish your road trip with a low key vibe, roll out a towel on the beach’s shoreline. Rent a paddle board or kayak, surf, or kick it with a fresh picnic. Ocean Beach, Mission Beach or Pacific Beach are great choices! Feeling a little more adventurous? Go check out La Jolla nearby or explore San Diego’s incredible shopping and sip on some of its up and coming craft breweries.
A Road Trip For All Types Of Travelers
Highway 1 really offers a varied glimpse at California’s wonders, doesn’t it? It’s a beloved stretch for wanderers for a reason. One of the things that really makes California unique is that its history and varied environments offers something special for everyone. Desert oddities? Check. Star-gazing and ghost towns? Check. National parks? Check. The eclectic adventurer will be delighted by its variety of road trip stops and itineraries.
California dreaming yet? Hope to see you out there on the open road, Dame Travelers!
Post sponsored by Visit California
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