Known as the Golden State, California’s variety makes it one of America’s most rewarding states to visit; there’s a lot more to it than stunning beaches and the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles. National parks range from misty redwood forests in the north to sweeping deserts in the south while the viticulture of Napa Valley sets the tone for a state obsessed with fine food and drink.
Best seen from that age-old tradition – the all-American road trip – California is home to some of America’s best known self drives, including the finish line of the iconic Route 66. After spotting celebrities in Los Angeles’ Hollywood Hills and Venice beach, head along Highway 1 to Big Sur. This twisting, cliff hugging 100-mile route of sea, mountains and rocky coves was described by novelist Robert Louis Stevenson as ‘the greatest meeting of land and sea in the world’. From here, head onwards to San Francisco, home to the emblematic Golden Gate Bridge, intriguing neighbourhoods such as Haight-Ashbury and sea views dominated by the former prison, Alcatraz. An hour north takes you to those famous wine regions, but if luxe Napa towns don't take your fancy, neighbouring Sonoma is a larger – and some say more laid-back – version, where wild, beach-lined roads lead to sweeping valleys home to wineries guaranteed to delight even the most seasoned oenophile.
With palm trees and year-round sun, you’d be forgiven for spending all your time on the coast, but be sure to head inland too. Here you’ll find rolling farmlands, which produce most of the fresh produce America consumes, along with some of the most sought after wines in the world. You’ll also come across the gemstone lakes and subalpine wilderness of the World Heritage-listed Yosemite National Park, criss-crossed by hundreds of mountain trails.