Day 1: London – San Francisco
Fly from London for your same day flight to San Francisco. There’s no need to hire a car here as San Francisco is such a compact and walkable city, so make your way into the city centre to begin your Northern California experience. Stay 2 nights at the Holiday Inn Fisherman's Wharf (or similar).
Day 2: San Francisco
Spend a day taking in the sights of Frisco, from the notorious island prison of Alcatraz in the bay to the Victorian houses and wild parrots on Telegraph Hill. Take a walk around the myriad shops, galleries and museums along Fisherman’s Wharf and nearby Ghirardelli Square, or catch one of the city's iconic cable car to Union Square where you can shop until you drop. Elsewhere, you can take in a tour of Chinatown, take in the views from the famous Golden Gate Bridge or explore the collections at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, spanning more than 6,000 years of art.
Day 3: San Francisco – North Coast/ Mendocino (approx. 154 miles)
Your drive today takes you along the rugged coastline of Mendocino County with its picturesque beaches and villages. Take the Bodega Highway, winding through rural scenery to Bodega Bay, which was the backdrop for Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. Perhaps stop for lunch further up the coast in the cliff-top village of Jenner. Spend all the time you want to meandering along the Pacific Coast Highway until you arrive in Mendocino, a New England-style village, surrounded by ocean bluffs and bursting with art galleries, eclectic shops, B&Bs and beautiful photographic opportunities. Stay 1 night at the Baechtel Creek Inn & Spa (or similar).
Day 4: Fort Bragg – Eureka (approx. 143 miles)
Your drive today takes you along the rugged coastline of Mendocino County with its picturesque beaches and villages. Perhaps enjoy a morning coffee overlooking the rocky bluffs in Fort Bragg before hitting the road. Catch glimpses of the wild Lost Coast before snaking inland and heading along the Avenue of the Giants, a breathtaking 32 mile drive through the majestic redwoods to Eureka, your base for exploring Humboldt County. In the evening, visit Eureka’s historic Old Town district, home to tempting dinner options and great wine. Stay 1 night at Best Western Plus Bayshore Inn, Eureka (or similar).
Day 5: Eureka - Redding (approx. 147 miles)
Join Route 299 at Arcata and prepare for a stunning scenic drive through the pristine wilderness of Shasta-Trinity National Forest. Perhaps stop for lunch in the California Goldrush town of Weaverville where you can also visit the Weaverville Joss House, a Taoist temple built in 1874 by Chinese gold miners. Between Weaverville and Redding there are around 55 hairpin bends which take you down, through the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area to Redding, gateway to the Shasta Cascade region of northern California. Stay for 2 nights in Best Western Plus Hilltop Inn, Redding.
Day 6: Redding and the Shasta Cascade
The Shasta Cascade offers some of California’s best inland scenery which you can explore with your hire car, taking advantage of the many opportunities for outdoor pursuits in stunning surroundings. Sail or row on Whiskeytown or Shasta Lake, cycle along the Sacramento River National Recreational Trail or experience whitewater rafting on the Trinity River. You can also see volcanoes, mountain lakes and smoking fumaroles at Lassen Volcanic National Park or cascading waterfalls at McArthur Burney Falls State Park.
Day 7: Redding – Santa Rosa (approx. 193 miles)
Head down Route 5 today, into California wine country. Along the way, perhaps stop off for a couple of tastings at the Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville or visit historic Healdsburg, one of the region’s wine capitals. There’s plenty more to see once you arrive in Santa Rosa. Venture out onto the Sonoma Serengeti at Safari West, learn more about the art and culture of the region at the Sonoma County Museum or just kick back and relax with a glass of California red in the buzzing downtown area. Stay for 2 nights at Hotel Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel & Spa (or similar).
Day 8: Santa Rosa and California Wine Country (approx. 55 miles)
Santa Rosa is the gateway to Napa Valley and Sonoma, offering superb scenery, quality wines, fabulous cuisine and top-class spas to sample. Make sure to pay a visit to the pretty towns of Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga to see what all the fuss is about. Why not book a trip on the Napa Valley Wine Train, a scenic 3-hour gourmet-dining excursion aboard beautifully restored Pullman Dining and Lounge Cars, or for a bird’s eye view, take a hot-air balloon ride over the valley at sunset.
Day 9: Santa Rosa - San Francisco - London
Today, it’s back to San Francisco where you will drop off your car. You can choose to extend your trip and opt for a stay along Californian’s glorious coast, or make your way to the airport for your departure back to London.