California Road Trip: The Itinerary

This *might* be controversial but a California road trip had never been that high up on the agenda, but it just goes to show how wrong I can be. What an experience it was!

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Mojave Desert

The two weeks we spent driving around California (with a Nevada pit stop) were truly excellent and if you are considering road trip then I say, just do it, but don’t forget pack your stamina with you. It’s not a relaxing per se, we only had a maximum of two nights in any one place so it is very much living out of a suitcase, but if you, like me, go somewhere to explore and really get the most out of your chosen location then you will absolutely love this.

It is a real melting pot. There’s something for everyone and I defy you not to enjoy it. The scenery is diverse from coast, to deserts, to lush National Parks. In some places you are surrounded by skyscrapers and then others you cannot see a house for as far as your eye can see. Some places you can walk the length of in minutes. In others, like L.A., it would take days. I am a keen walker but I see why everyone drives there. It is vast!

San Francisco
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Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

I researched the route for an incredibly long time before settling on it. As I read about the State, received recommendations from friends and furiously studied by Lonely Plant, it hit me how many amazing things there are to do in The Golden State.

Finally, I settled on:


San Francisco – 2 nights

120 miles (2 hours)

Carmel-by-the-Sea – 1 night

(145 miles, 2 hours 20 (inland diversion))

Cambria – 1 night

(130 miles, 2 hours 10)

Santa Barbara – 2 nights

(90 miles, 1 hour 30) 

Los Angeles, West Hollywood – 2 nights

(175 miles, 2 hours 50)

Palm Springs/Joshua Tree National Park (via Newport Beach) – 2 nights

(230 miles, 3 hours 50)

Las Vegas & The Grand Canyon (Nevada, through the Mojave Desert) – 2 nights

*fly back to San Francisco*

(drive 60 miles, 1 hour) 

Yountville, Napa Valley – 2 nights

The driving times are approximate and are direct drives. However, there were very few places we drove to direct and instead we spent a lot of time stopping off. For example, when we left Carmel we drove the 18 Mile Drive and stopped in Monterey for lunch.

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Venice Beach, Los Angeles with my Barbie pink bike
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The itinerary worked for us although in hindsight I would change it by driving straight through to Santa Barbara from Carmel and missing out Cambria. I would have added that extra night to Santa Barbara or L.A., or add in a night in Newport Beach.

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Joshua Tree National Park

There are tens of places in California that I wish we had the time to visit; in no particular order: Yosemite National Park (in May there is a risk that the road through it is still closed and that would have meant one hell of a drive if we fell at this hurdle), Berkeley, Sequoia National Park, Big Sur (really very sadly the coastal road was closed due to a mudslide and it meant we had to do detour inland), Death Valley and Newport Beach (we stopped here for lunch on the way to LA and it was beautiful. Okay I admit it, I just wanted to see where The O.C. was filmed and maybe bump into Seth. But still).

I’l put a series of posts up about some of our favourite things places to go, restaurants to eat at and experiences.

I hope you’ll enjoy reading them and, if you’re planning a trip to California, they come in handy.

Katie x

The Grand Canyon
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Yountville, Napa Valley