The Ultimate California Family Road Trip

No other state offers more geographical diversity than sun-kissed California and this family road trip covers the full range, from the plunging waterfalls of Yosemite to the jaw-dropping coastal landscapes of Big Sur. Full of family-friendly experiences; you’ll fly-fish in alpine lakes, kayak crystal clear coves, encounter LA’s skateboarding culture and cruise the city’s boulevards in a classic convertible. By night, you’ll rest your head in authentic, luxury hotels and lodges, where you’ll get a true taste of the relaxed California lifestyle.

San Francisco

Day 1 – 3

San Francisco’s steep hills and bay-front location offer incredible views at every turn. It can easily be explored on foot, by cable car or ferry. Its history and being on the forefront of all things technology creates a great mix of old and new, tradition and innovation. Great cultural diversity and being home to the largest Chinese enclave outside of Asia, makes San Francisco a dynamic, exciting, multi faceted and welcoming city.

Arriving in the Bay area, you will head north towards the Presidio. Your stay in a historic boutique hotel will plant you firmly in the heart of the park and offers rare views of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco Bay, and city skyline.

Get your bearings with some family-friendly fun as you zip along the waterfront in nippy two-seater tricycles and later hop on and off the cable car, exploring the hills, neighborhoods and streets of San Francisco, or cycle across the bridge under your own steam.

Don’t miss the family must-sees: The Exploratorium offers experiences for children of all ages and the Golden Gate Park is home to the striking De Young Museum and the terrific California Academy of Sciences, where the rainforest exhibit is one of the undisputed highlights. 

That afternoon up the adrenaline levels as you set out on the San Francisco Bay aboard a high-powered private RIB. With your captain narrating the route, you’ll cruise along the waterfront and cross under the Golden Gate Bridge, returning to the dock as the sun dips behind the skyline setting the city aglow.  

Yosemite National Park

Day 4-6

Leaving the coast for the peaks of the Sierras, you’ll cross California’s vast agricultural Central Valley.  As you start climbing the foothills, you’ll pass small towns offering a window into California’s Gold Rush past.  

Start your family adventures in Yosemite Valley, the heart of the park, with a private naturalist guide. Marvel at the sheer faces of Half Dome and El Capitan, hike to waterfalls dropping over valley walls and take in the panoramic vistas from Glacier Point. Get off the beaten path the following day and head to the high country, spending the day hiking to alpine lakes, fly-fishing and swimming in crystal clear waters. Your guide will teach you how to tie a fly and provide instructions and gear for the whole family. Back at the lodge, end your day roasting s’mores around the campfire and scanning the starry skies through a telescope.

Carmel & Monterey Bay

Day 7 & 8

This morning your California family road trip moves from the Sierra Nevada to the Pacific. Life in these parts revolves around the ocean and its diverse sea life, whether it’s fresh seafood to be consumed, scientific research at the incredible Monterey Aquarium or marine biologists studying the species of the bay. Luckily, you’ll get to experience it all –  you’ll go behind the scenes, feeding the fish and tending to animals at the Aquarium, before spending time out on the water with your captain and marine biologist, observing whales, dolphins and sea life in the Monterey Bay.

Morro Bay

Day 9 & 10

Your California road trip will continue south along Highway 1, one of the most beautiful drives in the country. The Santa Lucia Mountains rise precipitously from the Pacific Ocean as the road twists its way around verdant headlands and pretty bays. Each corner reveals another breathtaking view and, with a little help, you’ll know the hidden spots to pull over and soak it all up.  

Approaching Morro Bay, you’ll notice the prominent  Morro Rock in the middle of the bay. The remnant of an extinct volcano is a protected State Preserve, connected to the shore by a causeway. Watch seals linger and play at the base, and birds nesting in the rock cavities. You’ll spend the night at a family-run inn right on the water and will literally be ‘sitting on the dock on the bay’. The next morning you’ll rise early and together with your guide you’ll explore the bay and shores in kayaks. While gliding across the calm waters, be sure to keep an eye out for wildlife, birds and seals.

Santa Barbara

Day 11-13

Turning inland, you’ll travel through small farm towns with historic ‘Main Streets’ and chef-driven eateries, taking advantage of the region’s bountiful agriculture.  You’ll summit the San Marcos Pass before descending towards Santa Barbara and the glistening Pacific beyond. Take a late afternoon stroll on the beach or cool off with a dip in the ocean front pool.

Early the next morning, a ferry will take you to one of California’s best kept secrets, the Channel Islands National Park. This group of unpopulated and highly protected islands are a National Marine Sanctuary and home to an incredible diversity of marine life. Keep your eyes peeled on the ride over, as the Santa Barbara Channel is a summer feeding ground for blue and humpback whales. When you land, you’ll meet your naturalist paddle guide and together you’ll navigate the crystal clear waters, exploring sea caves and observing the incredible diversity of marine life. For the bird enthusiast,  the archipelago is also home to cormorants, gulls and dive-bombing California brown pelicans, as well as the peregrine falcon – the world’s fastest flying bird. These magical islands sit a mere 30 miles off the coast – yet feel like a world away.

Los Angeles

Day 14-16

Surfing is one of  Southern California’s favorite pastimes and there is no better start to a summer’s morning in California. Your private instructor will teach you the basics on land, before moving into the water trying to catch and ride some waves. 

End your family road trip in L.A., the quintessential Californian city of sun, fun and convertibles. Home to glitz and glamour, Hollywood stars and fancy boulevards. Cruise this sunny movie capitol in style, driving an open-top classic car of a bygone era, taking you back in time while taking in the sights along the famed Sunset Strip and Mulholland Drive. 

Later, you’ll take a deep dive into a very different side of LA culture as you spend time with a local skateboarder and professional instructor. Learn about L.A.’s role as a backdrop to the sport’s defining moments; from its birth here in the 50s to the Z-Boys and Tony Hawk. Beginners will give the board a try and pros in the family can drop-in at a local ramp.

No trip to Los Angeles is complete without a studio visit. Experience Universal Studios with a guide, granting VIP perks, express access, front row seats and avoiding the crowds.

From The Magazine

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