California Coast Fly Drive Holiday
Imagine the wind in your hair, the sun shining and the sea glittering. This is the California Coast. Rent an open-top Mustang and put the joy back into driving.
Along the road you will visit the iconic cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles.
You will also drive Big Sur and the renowned coastal Highway 101.Print this itinerary
Here's a day-by-day guide to your itinerary. Feel free to ask us to add other days or ideas and excursions by adding them to your wishlist, so we can give you the best price.
Depart the UK on your scheduled flight to San Francisco. San Francisco is the home of cable cars, Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz and any number of other well known names. It is also a delightful mix of cultures drawing as it does from both East and West. Do explore Chinatown which is well known, perhaps less well known is the Presidio, a park and former military base on the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula. Another worthwhile trip is to go across the Golden Gate bridge to Sausalito and return by ferry which affords great views of the bridge and the city.
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San Francisco to Carmel
This morning collect your hire car (why not spoil yourselves and rent a convertible?) in downtown before you head south towards Monterey and Carmel. Stop in Santa Cruz for lunch where you could visit America’s oldest theme park – the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. You can also watch the surfers and sea lions for which this area is renowned and ride an old steam train through the redwood forest. Onward to Monterey which you should visit even if you are staying in Carmel – made famous by John Steinbeck, Monterey is an old canning town and is now known for its restaurants, sea otters and the remarkable aquarium. You should also take the 17 mile drive which loops its way around the Monterey Peninsula through the Del Monte Forest, past Cypress Point and into Carmel.
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Carmel to Santa Barbara
The Pacific Coast Highway (or to use its official title Highway 1) is one of the most spectacular coastal drives anywhere in the world so you might want to split the day into two in which case you could stop in Pismo Beach for a night where we would recommend the Dolphin Bay Resort and Spa. En route, you should also visit Hearst Castle at San Simeon, the palatial estate of publisher William Randolph Hearst.
Silhouetted against the Santa Ynez Mountains and with a splendid beach, Santa Barbara has rather a Spanish feel with its many red tiled roofs. Enjoy a walk along the beach or explore the harbour where you will find Brophy’s Bar, one of Santa Barbara locals’ favourite restaurants. It is noisy and you will have to queue but the food is good.
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If you can tear yourself away from the beach we suggest you explore the hills behind Santa Barbara, places like Old Mission Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez, Los Olivos and surrounding communities. You could also visit the Channel Islands National Park, a string of five uninhabited islands home to a variety of unique animals and plants not found anywhere else on earth. From Santa Barbara Harbour, take a short boat trip (keep an eye out for dolphins, whales and seals) to enjoy a day of guided sea kayaking, hiking or snorkelling along this mystic coastline.Close
You can continue along Highway 101 and the coast through Malibu and Santa Monica but if you might like to venture inland and visit the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in the Simi Valley.
Your accommodation for the next two nights will be in the Beverly Hills or Hollywood area of Los Angeles.
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You are close to Rodeo Drive, so time for some serious shopping; you might like to visit the extensive collections of the J Paul Getty Museum or the new contemporary Broad Museum or maybe drive along Mulholland to get some great views of the city. You are also only about 5 minutes from Hollywood so whether you want to see some of the great mansions or a visit to Universal Studios you are well placedClose
Los Angeles to Long Beach and Orange County
Although it is only short distance to the beach it seems worth moving as getting around Los Angeles can be slow due to heavy traffic. Now it’s time for more relaxation on the beach. From Los Angeles, a short drive will take you to Long Beach, ‘Surf City – California’, Huntington Beach or if you prefer Newport Beach.
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Long Beach and Orange County
A “do nothing day”. Surf, or watch the surfers, laze in the sun, visit a spa, join a whale-watching cruise – the choice is yours. You are also only about 30 minutes from Anaheim so you might want to add in an extra day to visit Disneyland .Close
Long Beach and Orange County to San Diego
Your last drive of the holiday as you make your way south to La Jolla / San Diego. Allow time to include a stop at Laguna and Oceanside, where the sport is celebrated at the California Surf Museum or the Torrey Pines Natural Reserve.
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Time for some last minute shopping or sightseeing before returning your rental car in time for your overnight flight home.Close
This is a selection of hotels for this itinerary. Some areas have many more choices; please use the search function above if you wish to find an alternative hotel.
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We are here to make sure we tailor-make your holiday to suit your specific requirements and our friendly, knowledgeable staff are all ready to help.
Booking your holiday with us doesn't end when we send your confirmation out to you, either. Talk to us about adding excursions or room upgrades or even restaurant recommendations; we are here to offer advice all the way up to your departure date. Even when you have left the UK, we are still here to help. For example if your flight that we have booked is delayed or cancelled due to ash cloud, strike, etc, it is down to us to re-arrange your travel. We will do everything we can to make sure your holiday runs smoothly. And better still, we are fully bonded with ATOL and ABTA, so your money is completely protected.
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