Californian Cities, Lakes and Mountains A Leisurely Look
Give yourselves time to relax on this leisurely fly-drive holiday through California. Start in iconic San Francisco before collecting your car and driving over the Golden Gate Bridge into the wine producing area of Sonoma. From here it is up into the mountains for Lake Tahoe and Yosemite before returning to the coast to drive the Pacific Coastal Highway. Marvel at Big Sur, the aquarium in Monterey, the colourful cottages of Carmel and much more besides as you make your way south to Los Angeles
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.View full itinerary
So much to do and see it is hard to know where to start. Old favourites such as the cable cars and Alcatraz will always attract but there is also the new and enlarged Museum of Modern Art to be seen, Fisherman's Wharf to be marvelled at and possibly the best way of all is to take one of the myriad ferries that criss-cross the bay.
Where to stay in the city is always a big discussion point. Frontier America can offer some delightful buotique downtown hotels but it is also worth considering staying over the Golden Gate Bridge at Cavallo Point or at the Georgian Revival style Inn at the Presidio, also onca an army barracks.
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Time to collect your car and start the adventure by driving over the Golden Gate Bridge into the pretty community of Sausalito and on to Sonoma County. Sonoma and its neighbour Napa Valley produce much of California's renowned wine. Frontier America can arrange a wine-tasting tour for you allowing you to leave your car at your hotel - a wise precaution, perhaps. Sonoma is also full of surprises: do visit the Wildwood Farm where you will find 5 acres full of more than 200 Japanese Maples, Swede's Feeds for an extraordinary collection of pots and sculptures, the Californian Missins Museum or Sonoma Valley Airport where you can take a ride in a 1942 open cockpit biplane, a Boeing Stearman, or a WWII Warhawk.
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It is nearly 4 hours to your next stop at Lake Tahoe so you might want to consider stopping in Sacramento, the state capital, for lunch en route. You could even have lunch aboard one of the river cruises. Lake Tahoe is huge - it takes about 40 minutes to drive from north to south, and also forms the state boundary between California and Nevada. The northern part is arguably the more beautiful, and is certainly quieter. Where you stay will reflect your preference; there are beautiful properties in both. If you stay in South Lake Tahoe and fancy a flutter it is very simple to cross the state border to Nevada.
Wherever you stay, do be sure to visit the glorious Emerald Bay; the many ski resorts in the area offer all kinds of activities during the summer months including zip lines, gondola rides, mountain biking and, of course, just lovely leisurely walks.
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One of the many highlights of this holiday is bound to be Yosemite National Park. Renowned throughout the world for its scenery, you will not be disappointed. You will be staggered by the sheer size of El Capitan, which has attracted hard core climbers for decades; most of us will be happy to just stand and marvel. But this is just one of the many miraculous sights of the park - also home to three giant sequoia groves - the largest known trees on Earth. We have allowed three days but you might well want more by the time you have visited the Ansel Adams Gallery, hiked some of the paths and perhaps joined one of the Rangers for their very informative talks about the history and geology of the park.
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Time to say goodbye to the mountains and return to the coast. Yosemite to Monterey is a 3-4 hour drive. Monterey is an interesting town, known to many as the home of John Steinbeck. If you are a fan, do take the multi-sensory tour of the National Steinbeck Center, if not perhaps the aquarium is more to your taste. Whatever your tastes, Monterey is an interesting old fishing and canning town that is well worth spending two or three nights in the area of, be it in Monterey itself, Carmel just to the south or one of the ultra-luxurious resorts on Big Sur.
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One of the best drives in the world today as you drive south, and it is important to do it from north to south to get the best views of the Pacific coastline along the Pacific Coast Highway. We suggest a break of journey in or around Santa Barbara which will also give you time to explore Hearst Castle at San Simeon, the palatial estate of publisher William Randolph Hearst.
Santa Barbara itself is has a Spanish feel, reflecting the early European settlers to this part of the world. Explore the Old Mission Santa Barbara up in the hills or the delightful Santa Barbara Zoo, or just relax on the beach.
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The holiday finishes in Los Angeles where you can choose to stay on the beach at Santa Monica, in Hollywood or in Downtown LA. With so much to see and do around this iconic city, you will be spoiled for choice in how to spend your visit before flying home.
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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.
Yosemite National Park
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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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