Ever wanted to walk in the footsteps of Hollywood legends or flex with fellow fitness buffs on Muscle Beach? Hugging the rugged cliffs and golden-sand beaches of the scene-stealing Pacific coastline, California is a raucous jumble of graffiti-tinged urban sprawls, evergreen national parks, and charming seaside towns. Discover a blend of old-meets-new, where 1940s icons rub shoulders with hipster hotspots, rust-hued bridges reveal themselves beneath sunny skies and you’re just as likely to see a surfer riding some waves as you are a sea lion catching a few rays. What are you waiting for? Make your California dreams a reality with this once-in-a-lifetime trip.
Golden Gate greetings
Flanked by majestic redwoods, a yacht-studded bay and acres of pretty parkland lies the jewel in Northern California’s crown, San Francisco. Nicknamed the Golden Gate City, after the world-famous landmark that took four years to perfect, this fog-carpeted metropolis is so much more than what you see on the postcards. A riot of colour, culture and culinary masterpieces, San Francisco dazzles with its collection of eclectic neighbourhoods, each more vibrant than the last. Climb the dizzy heights of upscale Nob Hill, embrace 1960s flower power at hippie haven Haight Ashbury or wander along the bustling boardwalk of Pier 39, stopping to spy hordes of sea lions chattering on the decks below. In the mood for thrills? Hitch a ride on a classic cable car and feel the wind in your hair as you whizz down zig-zag hillsides. Don’t leave without sampling some homemade clam chowder, served piping hot in a crusty sourdough bowl.
Waves and wildlife on the central coast
Often overlooked in favour of its SoCal sister, California’s central coast, your next port of call, deserves a place of its own in the spotlight. From the mysterious cliff tops of Big Sur to the chocolate box boutiques of Carmel, there are more photo-worthy pit stops in this region than you can shake an avocado at (you’ll find plenty of them here too, they’re a local delicacy). With a handful of national parks to its name and 350 miles of endlessly idyllic coastline, it’s little surprise this untapped area of natural beauty is home to hundreds of species of wildlife from sea otters to sharks. Be sure to visit Monterey Bay to see local marine life up close at the outstanding aquarium. When you’ve had your nature fix, spend sun-soaked hours strolling along the iconic Santa Cruz boardwalk or waxing down a surfboard and trying your hand at catching some waves.
Hollywood Hills and urban sands
Tinseltown. La La Land. The City of Angels. Whatever you call it, you can’t deny that Los Angeles oozes its own special blend of magic. Whether soaking up old school Hollywood glitz and glamour in Beverly Hills or rubbing shoulders with lycra-clad locals on a hike through the canyons, you can’t help but feel part of the action here. When you’re not celeb-spotting in Chateau Marmont, hitting the designer shops of Rodeo Drive or stargazing at The Griffith Observatory, you’ll find a decidedly edgier side to L.A in trendy Venice Beach.
Cycle along the promenade in a pastel-hued cruiser, browse the shelves of paperbacks in the treasure-trove like Small World Books or admire the street art, boutiques and upscale eateries of Abbot Kinney Boulevard, named ‘America’s Coolest Street’ for a reason. It’s here you’ll find the neighbourhood’s best kept secret, the Venice Canals, a network of criss-cross waterways hemmed in by lavish waterside homes. Worked up an appetite? You’ll find a crop of dining options serving up freshly grilled seafood and all-American bites in nearby Santa Monica.