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American road

California: The perfect road trip for first-timers

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13 August 2019 by Patrick Griffin

I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to California multiple times and it’s the state’s sheer diversity that keeps me coming back for more. Put simply, it’s got everything, from superb cities to national-park wonders. So, without further ado, this is my recommended route for first-timers.


I’d suggest starting your trip in San Francisco – a true world city. Alcatraz, Victorian architecture and its famous food scene await. Indeed, there are more restaurants and farmers’ markets per capita here than anywhere else in North America. My top tip? Make like a local and indulge with the best Mezcal menu in town at Presidio Social Club before getting out of the city for some gorgeous coastal walks and golden sands. My favourites include Ocean Beach and the Coastal Trail’s views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Inspired? I've put together a bookable itinerary:

California road trip itinerary

View from the shore of San Fran's Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge

From here, hop over the bays to drive into wine country. Napa Valley’s acres upon acres of rolling vineyards are served by both boutique and big-name estates, offering some truly world-class wines. I particularly like the region’s first fine-dining establishment, Auberge du Soleil, where gourmet delicacies come paired with superlative varietals and gorgeous views.

Vineyard in Napa, California
Napa vineyard

Then, continuing through sweeping plains, head on to the World-Heritage-listed Yosemite National Park. Here, over 800 miles of hiking trails criss-cross forested cliffs, plunging waterfalls and flower-filled meadows. It really is a natural jewel, and a complete contrast to my next recommended stop – Death Valley. As its name suggests, it’s a lunar landscape of shifting dunes and gaping canyons, animated only by the likes of kangaroo rats and mountain lions.

Car driving through Death Valley
Death Valley

It’s then well worth hopping over the state line into Nevada and Las Vegas. Between the neon strip, ultra-luxury hotels and glitzy casinos, it really does live up to every expectation and is somewhere everyone should visit at least once. The same goes for the Grand Canyon, my final recommended port of call. It’s one of nature’s great spectacles and a fitting end to your road trip. 

California road trip itinerary

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Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California, USA

California Classic - USA West Coast

14-day tailor-made self-drive from £1,845 pp incl. flights

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Discover the beauty of Yosemite National Park, austere Death Valley, the bright lights of Vegas, spectacular Grand Canyon and everything in between on this curated road trip.

Monument Valley, Arizona

Highlights of Arizona & the Grand Canyon

14-day tailor-made self-drive from £2,580 pp incl. flights

This unforgettable itinerary will see you discover the awe-inspiring landscapes of Arizona as you self-drive emblematic desert highways to reach the likes of Monument Valley, Sedona and the spectacular Grand Canyon.

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At Wexas, we specialise in bespoke travel experiences. Our itineraries are just samples of what we can arrange, and can be changed depending on your precise needs, finances and ideas by our experienced destination specialists.

Contact one of our consultants on 020 7590 0610 to discuss how we can tailor your holiday.

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