A road-trip down the Coast Highway 1, offers spectacular scenery with sheer cliffs dropping into deserted beaches, whilst verdant hills, hot springs, sprawling vineyards and vast forests thick with giant redwoods lie just a little further afield.
The hippyish Santa Cruz and historic Monterey offer delightful stopovers between San Francisco and Big Sur, the stretch of rugged shoreline that offers hiking and camping opportunities amongst the breathtaking views. Meanwhile, the century-old Hearst Castle is a fascinating stop to explore the opulent complex of mansions built by newspaper-magnate William Randolph Hurst which both bewitches and bemuses visitors with its extravagance and ambition.
Further south, drive through endless acres of wineries and citrus groves as you enter California’s agricultural heartland, the King’s Highway (El Camino Real), passing beside quaint Colonial missions dating back to the time when Spanish explorers and Franciscan clergy ruled the roost. The college town of San Luis Obispo is flanked by stunning volcanic mountains and yet more of California’s delightful golden sands.