Drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco on this scenic route that takes you to the two biggest west coast cities and everything in between. Experience the laid back culture of California by stopping in small surf towns and artist-run villages. Feast and drink your way through endless restaurants and bars. This road trip driving time is around 7-8 hours and perfect for just about anyone.
Start: Los Angeles
Finish: San Francisco
Duration: 3 Days (742 km)
Please note: Due to numerous natural causes in early 2017, parts of Highway 1 are currently closed, however, most access has now been restored. Even though you can't currently drive the full stretch of Highway 1, the detour (which takes about 30 minutes more than the original route) is filled with scenic views, incredible wine, and historic attractions worthy of exploring. Click here for more information.
Day 1: Los Angeles to Santa Barbara
155km - 1.5hrs
Start your west coast adventure by leaving Los Angeles
via the US-101 N. On the way, stop at the sea-side town of Ventura for a laidback lunch with pacific-coastal views. Besides lunch you could catch a wave, do a spot of shopping or visit a local gallery and chat with an artist or two. In the afternoon continue on the 101 to Santa Barbara where you'll be spending the night. Santa Barbara
is home to Spanish colonial-style buildings, upscale boutiques and fine-dining restaurants; giving it a distinct atmosphere of both history and luxury.
We Recommend: Visit the nearby town of Solvang, a Danish-style village that enjoys good wine.
Shores of Santa Barbara
Day 2: Santa Barbara to Carmel
387km - 2hrs
Wake up early for a big day of driving, sight-seeing and fun. Continue on the 101, driving north to San Luis Obispo. It'll take about 1 ½ hours to drive to San Luis Obispo and you'll experience great views of the ocean along the way. San Luis Obispo
marks the half-way point between LA and San Francisco and is known for being a romantic spot, with wine tasting and trail rides. Whether you have lunch here or just have a stop-over, you'll be sure to enjoy yourself.
Continue on from San Luis Obispo via Highway 1 to San Simeon, where you'll be visiting the splendid Hearst Castle. This stately home is truly a sight to be seen, with 56 bedrooms, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, a private movie theatre and over 127 acres of gardens. In its heyday, media mogul William Hearst would invite the rich and famous from San Francisco and Hollywood to come mingle in a very 'Great Gatsby' style; with weekend long parties and escapades. We recommend booking tickets to Hearst Castle in advance as it can get quite busy. For more information, click here
Hop back into the car and connect back to the 101 which will take you to the picturesque town of Carmel-by-the-Sea. Founded just over 100 years ago, this charming village is full of artists and free-spirits. You'll see charming fairy-tale buildings, restaurants and boutique stores lining the streets. It's no wonder that celebrities have called this place home over the years; including Clint Eastwood who was the mayor for 2 years in the 80's. Stay the night in one of the locally-owned hotels or B&Bs. Fun fact: There are no chain restaurants in Carmel, making every dining experience truly unique.
We Recommend: Carmel has many hidden laneways and spots to explore, ask a local for their favourites.
Entrance to Hearst Castle
Day 3: Carmel to San Francisco
200km - 2hrs
Say goodbye to Carmel and head for San Francisco
today, taking the Highway 1. This route takes slightly longer than the 101 N; however you'll get amazing views of the Pacific Coast. It will also take you past towering Redwoods, and you may even be lucky enough to spot elephant seals lounging on the beach.
Once in San Francisco feel free to drop off the car, San Francisco is known as being an excellent walking city. If the hills are too much, hop on a bus or cable car. As there is so much to see and do in this vibrant and bustling city, we suggest going on one of the many interesting and entertaining tours available.
For a fantastic day-long excursion filled with both intriguing history and yummy food, book the Ferry Building Food Tour and Alcatraz Excursion
. The Ferry Building is a historic landmark in San Francisco and was renovated a few years back. It's now a gorgeous mecca for foodies, and houses artisans of all kinds. Alcatraz Island was home to a federal prison from 1934-1963, keeping infamous convicts such as Al Capone under lock and key. When visiting the island, you can expect a tour of the cell house where the prisoners would have been kept. We hear it's one of America's most haunted spots, so prepare yourself for a chance encounter.
If shopping is more your style, San Francisco definitely has you covered with a plethora of options to get your fashion fix. For a large range of brands, Westfield San Francisco Centre is the place to be. If you're in search of international designers, head up-town to Union Square; where you'll find the big wigs - think Prada and Hermes. If you want a more unique shopping experience, stroll along the streets of Haight-Ashbury. In the 60s, this district was also a 'hippie-hub' and you can still find shops from that era dotted between high-end vintage clothing stores and exclusive boutiques.
San Francisco is an incredibly culturally-diverse city with over 45% of the population speaking another language apart from English at home. Its impressive Chinatown and Japantown are some of the largest and best in the USA. Make sure to stop by the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory in Chinatown to see where this famous treat was invented.
At night, San Francisco comes alive with a true sense of enjoyment. Explore the best joints with a bar crawl or try your hand at a cocktail making class. Maybe a late-night art gallery viewing, or a theatre performance? Whatever you feel like, this city has the answer.
We Recommend: If you're planning to use the Muni transit system, we recommend buying a visitor passport, which will allow you to ride Muni buses, light rail and cable cars as much as you want. A 1-Day visitor passport costs $21.
Alcatraz Island with San Francisco in the background
If you're ready to book car hire in the USA, give us a call on 1300 656 601 or simply book online today!