California road trip

The Ultimate California Road Trip Route

When it comes to road trips in the US, certain routes becoming iconic vacations for seeing landmarks, visiting cities, and simply enjoying the open road. One state that is a surefire winner for hitting the wide open road is California. So we’ve rounded up the ultimate California road trip route for you to experience.

With key places to stop off along the way, make your way from the Sierra Nevada mountains to the suburbs of Los Angeles.

California Road Trip Route: Where to Stop Off

1. South Lake Tahoe

From skiing, snowboarding or tubing at Heavenly Mountain, to boating, kayaking or water skiing on the lake, to hiking at Rubicon Trail and taking in the 360-degree views, to fun and games at the many casinos in town, South Lake Tahoe really has something to offer everyone.


2. Sacramento

For those interested in visiting the impressive historic sites, definitely check out Old Sacramento State Historic Park. Fun fact: the buildings here were built at the beginning of the Gold Rush! With a growing art scene, beautiful hotels and a thriving food and bar scene, Sacramento is a must-visit.

File:Sacramento Capitol Building.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

3. San Francisco

San Francisco, and the entire Bay Area welcomes you with so much to see and do. Be sure to check out the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, Haight-Ashbury and the colourful Chinatown. They’re all brimming with great restaurants, the perfect Instagram photo-op, or a quaint little Airbnb to call home base.

San Francisco things to do

4. Morro Bay

Located halfway between Los Angeles and Sacramento, Morro Bay is a charming seaside village that perfectly sums up the vibe of the California coast. With landmarks like Morro Rock, Morro Bay State Park and Estuary Nature center, this quaint town is full of Instagram-worthy photo opportunities. Morro Bay is also well known for its oysters and fresh seafood.

5. Santa Maria

Wine tasting and gourmet bites to eat? We’re in! With over 30 tasting rooms and a dozen beaches in the Santa Maria Valley, this is the perfect pit stop. While famous for its wines and vineyards, Santa Maria is also famous for being somewhat of a hotspot for barbecue in California. The region also has scenic dunes, art galleries and antique stores.

California road trip

6. Ventura

Just south of Santa Barbara and north of Malibu lies the surf town of Ventura, which offers a relaxed, small-town beach vibe in a more affordable package than its pricey neighbours. The endless stretches of beaches offer prime surfing spots. P.S. a must-see just off the coast is the Channel Islands National Park and Marine Sanctuary, often called the ‘Galapagos of North America’.

California road trip

7. Pasadena

You might know Pasadena for the iconic Rose Bowl Parade on New Years’ Day or the setting for 1991 classic film Father of the Bride. But Pasadena is way more of a cultural and artistic center in Los Angeles than just a suburb! So it’s the perfect final stop to end your California road trip. Be sure to check out the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Gardens.

California road trip

Sarah Clayton-Lea

Co-founder of Big 7 Travel, Sarah created the company through her passion for championing the world's best food and travel experiences. Before her career in digital media, where she previously held roles such as Editor of Food&Wine Ireland, Sarah worked in the hospitality industry in Dublin and New York.

Contact [email protected]

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