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What's your detour? ~ 4 U.S. Road Trips

To celebrate the launch of the latest editions of our US Best Trips series (and our new hub) we've pinned 4 of our favourite American road trips with some handy hints and tips. You'll also find a specially curated Spotify playlist for each trip, to help you better enjoy the open road. To win 1 of 3 full sets of US Best Trips books and have your detour featured on our board, follow the competition instructions below. ***COMPETITION NOW CLOSED***

71 Pins

Our third and final monthly winner for this competition: @Leticia! Her suggested detour (for our California Pacific Coast roadtrip) is Point Lobos State Reserve. "[I'd] love to see the amazing wildlife including birds, seals and whales." The dramatically rocky coastline here offers excellent tide-pooling. For further information on this site check out: www.lonelyplanet.... #lproadtrip

FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN! Pin the detour you recommend to one of your own public travel related boards with 25 words or less on why you chose it, and be sure to include the #LProadtrip hashtag. With the detour pins you do enter, try to make them easily drivable from the routes we've proposed, and don't forget to add the location. Click the image for TCs. Entries close soon (June 30, 2014)!

Detour for the California Pacific Coast Highway road #lproadtrip | Point Reyes | A rough-hewn beauty, Point Reyes National seashore lures marine mammals and birds, as well as scores of shipwrecks. Follow Sir Francis Drake Blvd west to the lighthouse. | Check out the 4 US roadtrips on our board and pin your own 'detour' with the #lproadtrip hashtag, for the chance to WIN a bundle of Lonely Planet Best Trips books! (Image by jar (on vacation)

Point Reyes National Seashore - South Beach

Our second monthly winner is @Elizabeth Lockhart Langston. Here's their detour they suggested (from our Route 66 trip) > 'The Lincoln Heritage Museum in Lincoln, IL is a great place for a road trip into our nations' history.' #lproadtrip | Lincoln Heritage Museum

Detour for the Florida Highway 1 #lproadtrip. | Biscayne National Park | A protected marine sanctuary harboring amazing tropical coral reef systems. Note: only accessible by water so you'll have to hop out of the car! :) | Check out the 4 proposed US roadtrips on our board and pin your own proposed 'detour' with the #lproadtrip hashtag, for the chance to WIN a bundle of Lonely Planet Best Trips books! (Image by Bruce Tuten via

Biscayne National Park

Detour for the USA Route 66 #lproadtrip. | Old Chain of Rocks Bridge in St Louis. | Open only to pedestrians and cyclists these days, the mile-long span over the Mississippi River has a 22-degree angled bend (the cause of many a crash, hence the ban on cars). | Check out the 4 proposed US roadtrips on our board and pin your own proposed 'detour' with the #lproadtrip hashtag, for the chance to WIN a bundle of Lonely Planet Best Trips books! (Image by Paul Sableman via

Old Chain of Rocks Bridge

Detour for the Hudson Valley / New York #lproadtrip | Bear Mountain State Park | The stupendous view from Bear Mountain’s peak (1305ft) takes in the Manhattan skyline on a clear day, and is well worth the detour | Check out the 4 proposed US roadtrips on our board and pin your own proposed 'detour' with the #lproadtrip hashtag, for the chance to WIN a bundle of Lonely Planet Best Trips books! (Image by Dave Overcash via

Bear Mountain State Park

A bit of inspiration from our Travel Quotes board -- to get you in the car, on the road, and out there exploring our 4 proposed routes. (Hat tip to the ultimate US roadtripper, Jack Kerouac, for the wise words!) #lproadtrip

  • Lonely Planet

    Hi @Irenna ♡. Apologies but right now we're not adding anyone further to that group board.

  • Lonely Planet

    Apologies, Irenna but we need to see some more quality travel pins from your end before we can add you to this board. Thanks!

Immediately north of New York City, green becomes the dominant color and the vistas of the Hudson River and the mountains breathe life into your urban-weary body. The history of the region, home to the Hudson River School of painting in the 19th century and a retreat for Gilded Age industrialists, is preserved in the many grand estates, flowering gardens and picturesque villages. | CLICK THE IMAGE TO HEAR THE PLAYLIST #lproadtrip

Gaze at medieval tapestries, frescoes, carvings and gold treasures inside the Cloisters Museum & Gardens. This magnificent Metropolitan Museum annex, built to look like an old castle, is set in Fort Tryon Park overlooking the Hudson River, near the northern tip of Manhattan and not far from the George Washington Bridge. The extensive grounds contain more than 250 varieties of medieval herbs and flowers. In summer, concerts are held regularly.

Cloisters Museum & Gardens - Lonely Planet

Kykuit in Tarrytown is the Rockefeller family’s old European-style estate perched on a bluff high atop the Hudson River. The exterior is stately neoclassical revival while inside it’s more fine art gallery than summer home. Outside, the carefully sculpted gardens, dotted with modern art installations from the likes of Giacometti and Picasso, are a delight to wander through.

40 miles north of New York City is a pristine forest with miles of hiking trails, swimming and wilderness camping. Adjacent to Harriman State Park, Bear Mountain State Park offers great views from its 1305ft peak, with the Manhattan skyline looming beyond the river. In both parks there are several roads that snake past streams and secluded lakes with gorgeous vistas; you’ll spot shy, white-tailed deer, stately blue herons and – in the remotest regions – even a big cat or two.

Hudson River Valley's top experiences - Lonely Planet

Occupying one of the most breathtaking bends in the river is West Point US Military Academy. Prior to 1802, it was a strategic fort with a commanding position over a narrow stretch of the Hudson. Next to the Visitors Center is a fascinating museum (10:30am-4:15pm; free admission).

Lower Hudson Valley - Lonely Planet

In Mountainville, on the west side of the Hudson River, is an open-air museum. Originally a museum for painters, it soon began to acquire larger installations that were placed outside. There’s a small museum on site and plenty of picnic spots (besides vending machines, no food is sold here). Across the meadow is the Storm King Wall, Andy Goldsworthy’s famous structure.

Storm King Art Center

This once scruffy town is now on the map of art world cognoscenti because of the Dia: Beacon, former factory, now a major museum. Inside are big names on a big scale, including a whole room of Warhol paintings, and a huge space to house Richard Serra’s Torqued Ellipses. Main St has cafes, restaurants, galleries and Hudson Beach Glass (www.hudsonbeachgl...), a boutique gallery.

Dia Art Foundation - Sites

Hyde Park, north of Poughkeepsie, has long been associated with the Roosevelts, a prominent family since the 19th century. The estate of 1520 acres includes the Franklin D Roosevelt Library & Museum, which details achievements in FDR’s presidency; a visit usually includes a guided tour of Springwood, FDR’s lifelong home. Intimate details have been preserved, including his desk – left as it was the day before he died – and the elevator he used to hoist his polio-stricken body to the 2nd floor.

Hudson River Valley's top experiences - Lonely Planet

The chefs might all be students, but they know what they’re doing, and you can judge their efforts at any of the CIA restaurants: American Bounty for local, organic cooking; Ristorante Caterina de’ Medici for sophisticated Italian; Bocuse for contemporary French dining; St Andrew’s Café for farm-to-table fare; and the Apple Pie Bakery Café for elaborate pastries, the only place where no reservations are needed. Some restaurants have irregular closures so be sure to check before planning a visit.

Rhinebeck: Just 3 miles north of the charming small town of Rhinebeck is the Aerodrome Museum with a collection of pre-1930s planes and automobiles. There are air shows on weekends in the summer; the vintage aircrafts that take off at 2pm on Saturday and Sunday are reserved for a highly choreographed period dog-fight. If vicarious thrills aren’t enough you can don helmets and goggles and take an opencockpit 15-minute flight (per person $75) in a 1929 New Standard D-25 fourpassenger biplane.

Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome

Head east to the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts, another region of bucolic scenery, quaint towns and vibrant arts scenes. If you head east out of Hudson on Rte 23, you eventually come to Hillsdale and the Catamount Aerial Adventure Park. This is no ordinary zip line or ropes course but easily the most exciting and challenging one we’ve tried. No matter your strength or your capacity for tolerating heights, there’s a route earmarked for you (plus there’s skiing in the winter).

The Berkshires - Lonely Planet

Hudson is an attractive town with a hip, gay friendly community of artists, writers and performers who fled the city in the hope of creating more ‘sustainable’ lives. Warren St is lined with antique shops, high-end furniture stores, galleries, restaurants and cafes. Most of these urban refugees are happy to share their stories and chat – there’s a welcoming vibe despite the high sticker price for some of the goods. Be warned: overnight street parking rules are extremely poorly signposted.

Hudson River Valley's top experiences - Lonely Planet

Discover the freedom of the open road with New York & the Mid-Atlantic’s Best Trips. We’ve selected amazing road trips through New York & the Mid-Atlantic, from two-day escapes to week-long adventures, and packed them full of expert advice and inspirational suggestions. Whether you want to visit the National Mall, stroll through New York City’s Central Park or explore the New Jersey coastline, we’ve got the trip for you. | CLICK THROUGH AND ENTER THE PROMO CODE FOR 30% OFF THIS TITLE #lproadtrip

New York & the Mid-Atlantic Travel Guide - Lonely Planet Shop

America’s ‘Mother Road’ offers a time-warped journey from Chicago to LA past neon-lit diners, roadside attractions and drive-in movie theaters. It’s a lonely road - a ghost road - that appears for a stretch then disappears, gobbled up by the interstate. You know you’ve found it again when you see a 20ft lumberjack holding a hot dog. And that’s just Illinois – the first of eight states on the nostalgic, kitschy, slowpoke drive west. | CLICK THE IMAGE TO HEAR THE PLAYLIST #lproadtrip

Route 66 kicks off in downtown Chicago on Adams St just west of Michigan Ave. Before you snap the obligatory photo with the ‘Route 66 Begin’ sign (on the south side of Adams, FYI), spend some time exploring the Windy City. Wander through the Art Institute – literally steps from the Mother Road’s launching point – and browse Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks (a diner scene) and Grant Wood’s American Gothic (a farmer portrait) to set the scene for what you’ll see en route.

Art Institute of Chicago - Lonely Planet

Our first stop rises from the cornfields 60 miles south of Chicago. Leave I-55 at exit 241, and follow Hwy 44 south a short distance to Hwy 53, which rolls into the town of Wilmington. Here the Gemini Giant – a 28ft fiberglass spaceman – stands guard outside the Launching Pad Drive-In (810 E Baltimore St). The restaurant is now shuttered, but the humongous green rocket-holding statue remains a quintessential photo op.

Illinois - Lonely Planet

This is the Land of Lincoln, according to local license plates, and the best place to get your Honest Abe fix is Springfield, the state capital. Fans of the 16th president get weak-kneed at the holy trio of sights: Lincoln’s Tomb , the Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum and the Lincoln Home, all in or near downtown. Oh, and Springfield’s Route 66 claim to fame? It’s the birthplace of the corn dog (a cornmeal-battered, fried hot dog on a stick).

Springfield - Lonely Planet

Just over the border is St Louis, a can-do city that has launched westbound travelers for centuries. To ogle the city’s most iconic attraction, exit I-270 onto Riverview Dr and point your car south toward the 630ft-tall Gateway Arch, a graceful reminder of the city’s role in westward expansion. For up-close views of the stainless-steel span and the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial surrounding it, turn left onto Washington Ave from Tucker Blvd (12th St).

St Louis - Lonely Planet

Kitschy billboards have been touting Meramec Caverns for miles. The family-mobbed attraction and campground has lured road-trippers with its offbeat ads since 1933. From gold panning to riverboat rides, you’ll find a day’s worth of distractions, but don’t miss the historically and geologically engaging cave tour. Note to kitsch seekers: the restaurant and gift store are actually inside the mouth of the cave.

Missouri - Lonely Planet

The tornado-prone state only holds 13 miles of Mother Road but there’s still a lot to see. Pass through mine-scarred Galena, where a rusty old truck inspired Pixar animators to create the character Mater in Cars. A few miles later, stop at Eisler Brothers Old Riverton Store and stock up on batteries, sandwiches and Route 66 memorabilia. Continue to Marsh Rainbow Arch Bridge, from where it’s 3 miles south to Baxter Springs, site of a Civil War massacre and numerous bank robberies.

Kansas - Lonely Planet

Flags from all eight Mother Road states fly high beside the memorabilia-filled Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton. This fun-loving treasure trove, run by the Oklahoma Historical Society, isn’t your typical mishmash of photos, clippings and knickknacks (though there is an artifact-filled Cabinet of Curios). Instead, it uses music and videos to dramatize six decades of Route 66 history. Last exhibit? A faux-but-fun drive-in theater.

Route 66 Museum - Lonely Planet

The sprawling grasslands of Texas and other western cattle states were once open range, where steers and cowboys could wander where they darn well pleased. That all changed in the 1880s when the devil’s rope – more commonly known as barbed wire – began dividing up the land into private parcels. This museum in the battered town of McLean has vast barbed-wire displays and a small but homey and idiosyncratic room devoted to Route 66. The detailed map of the road in Texas is a must.

Devil's Rope Museum - Lonely Planet

This cowboy town holds many Route 66 sites: the Big Texan Steak Ranch, the historic livestock auction and the San Jacinto District, which still has original Route 66 businesses. As for the Big Texan, this classic attraction opened in 1960. It moved to its current location when I-40 opened in 1971. The gimmick here is the ‘free 72oz steak’ offer – you have to eat this enormous portion plus a multitude of sides in under an hour, or you pay $72 for the meal. Less than 20% succeed.

Big Texan Steak Ranch - Lonely Planet

Tucumcari is home to one of the best preserved sections of Route 66 in the country. At night here, dozens of neon signs – relics of the town’s Route 66 heyday – cast a crazy rainbow-colored glow. Tucumcari’s Route 66 motoring legacy and other regional highlights are recorded on 35 murals in downtown and the surrounding area. Pick up a map for the murals at the chamber of commerce. The engaging Mesalands Dinosaur Museum showcases real dinosaur bones and has hands-on exhibits for kids.

Mesalands Dinosaur Museum - Lonely Planet

After 1936, Route 66 was realigned from its original path, which linked north through Santa Fe, to a direct line west into Albuquerque. Today, the city’s Central Ave follows the post-1937 route. Kelly’s Brewery, in trendy Nob Hill, was an art moderne gas station on the route, commissioned in 1939. West of I-25, look for the KiMo Theatre, an icon of pueblo deco architecture. For prehistoric designs, take exit 154 and drive north 3 miles to Petroglyph National Monument.

Albuquerque - Lonely Planet

New Mexico’s capital city is an oasis of art and culture lifted 7000ft above sea level, against the backdrop of the Sangre de Christo Mountains. It was on Route 66 until 1938, when a realignment left it by the wayside. It’s well worth the detour to see the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and to fork into uber-hot green chili dishes in the superb restaurants. See our Sante Fe walking tour for more to-dos. Route 66 follows the Old Pecos Trail (NM466) into town.

Santa Fe - Lonely Planet

The ‘trees’ of the Petrified Forest are fossilized 225-million-year-old logs; in essence, wood that has turned to stone. Two trails near the southern entrance provide the best access for close-ups of the petrified logs: the 0.6-mile Long Logs Trail, which has the largest concentration, and the 0.4-mile Giant Logs Trail, which sports the park’s largest log. The park, which straddles the I-40, has an entrance at exit 311 in the north and another off Hwy 180 in the south.

Petrified Forest National Park - Lonely Planet

Since the veins of ore ran dry in 1942, Oatman has reinvented itself as a movie set and Wild West tourist trap, complete with staged gun fights (1:30pm and 3:30pm daily) and gift stores named Fast Fanny’s Place and the Classy Ass. Speaking of asses, there are plenty of them (the four-legged kind, that is). They descend from those left by the early miners. Squeezed among the shops is the Oatman Hotel (no longer renting rooms) where Clark Gable and Carole Lombard spent their wedding night in 1939.

Oatman, Arizona - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The USA’s original transnational highway was established in 1912, more than a decade before Route 66 first ran through here. Only a few landmarks interrupt the horizon, including Roy’s Motel & Cafe (, a landmark Route 66 watering hole. The motel is abandoned, but the gas station and cafe are occasionally open. It’s east of Amboy Crater. You can hike to the top, but it’s best to avoid the midday sun – the 1.5-mile hike doesn't have a stitch of shade.

Exit the interstate onto Main St, which runs through Barstow, a railroad settlement and historic crossroads. Follow 1st St north across the Mojave River over a trestle bridge to the 1911 Harvey House nicknamed ‘Casa del Desierto’, designed by Western architect Mary Colter. Next to a small railroad museum is the Route 66 ‘Mother Road’ Museum, displaying black-and-white historical photographs and odds and ends of everyday life in the early 20th century. Back in the day, it was also a Harvey House.

Barstow - Lonely Planet

This is the end of the line: Route 66 reaches its finish, over 2400 miles from its starting point in Chicago, on an ocean bluff in Palisades Park. Celebrate on Santa Monica Pier, where you can ride a 1920s carousel featured in The Sting, gently touch tide-pool critters at the aquarium, and soak up a sunset atop the solar-powered Ferris wheel at Pacific Park. Year-round carnival rides include the West Coast’s only oceanfront steel roller coaster – a thrilling ride to end this classic trip.

Santa Monica Pier - Lonely Planet

Discover the freedom of the open road with USA’s Best Trips. Whether you want to explore the Pacific Coast Highways, Route 66 or the Rocky Mountains, we’ve got the trip for you. | CLICK THROUGH AND ENTER THE PROMO CODE FOR 30% OFF THIS TITLE #lproadtrip

Lonely Planet USA's Best Trips Travel Guide - Lonely Planet Shop

Drive the length of Florida all the way along the east coast and you’ll get a sampling of everything we love about the Sunshine State. You’ll find the oldest permanent settlement in the United States, family-friendly attractions, the Latin flavor of Miami and – oh, yeah – miles and miles of beaches traveling right along beside you, inviting you to stop as often as you want. | CLICK THE IMAGE TO HEAR THE PLAYLIST #lproadtrip

Florida HWY 1 Road Trip ~ by Lonely Planet

Founded by the Spanish in 1565, St Augustine is the oldest permanent settlement in the US. Tourists flock here to stroll the ancient streets, and horse-drawn carriages clip-clop past townsfolk dressed in period costume. It’s definitely tourist-centric, with tons of museums, tours and attractions vying for your attention. Start with the Spanish Quarter Museum, a recreation of 18th-century St Augustine, and don't miss the Lightner Museum.

St Augustine - Lonely Planet

Miami Beach dazzles at every turn. It has some of the best beaches in the country, with white sand and warm, blue-green water, and it’s world-famous for its people-watching. Then there’s the deco. Miami Beach has the largest concentration of deco anywhere in the world, with approximately 1200 buildings lining the streets around Ocean Dr and Collins Ave -- tours can be arranged at the Art Deco Welcome Centre. Running alongside the beach, Ocean Av is lined with cafes.

Miami - Lonely Planet

Miami moves to a different rhythm from anywhere else in the USA, with pastel-hued, subtropical beauty and Latin sexiness at every turn. Just west of downtown on Calle Ocho (8th St), you’ll find Little Havana, the most prominent community of Cuban Americans in the US. One of the best times to come is the last Friday of the month during Viernes Culturales (www.viernescultur...), a street fair showcasing Latino artists and musicians.

Miami - Lonely Planet

Fort Lauderdale Beach isn’t the spring-break destination it once was, although you can still find outposts of beach-bummin’ bars and motels in between the swanky boutique hotels and multimillion-dollar yachts. Few visitors venture far inland except maybe to dine and shop along Las Olas Blvd; most spend the bulk of their time on the coast, frolicking at the water’s edge. The promenade – a wide, brick, palm-tree-dotted pathway swooping along the beach – is a magnet for runners and cyclists.

Fort Lauderdale - Lonely Planet

While Palm Beach has the money, West Palm Beach has the largest art museum in Florida, the Norton Museum of Art. The Nessel Wing features a colorful crowd-pleaser: a ceiling made from nearly 700 pieces of handblown glass by Dale Chihuly. Across the street, the Ann Norton Sculpture Garden is a real West Palm gem. Come evening, if you’re not sure what you’re in the mood for, head to CityPlace, a massive outdoor shopping and entertainment center.

West Palm Beach - Lonely Planet

History and nature give way to money and culture as you reach the southern part of the coast, and Palm Beach looks every inch the playground for the rich and famous that it is. But fear not: the rest of us can stroll along the beach – kept pleasantly seaweed-free by the town – ogle the massive gated compounds on A1A or window-shop in uber-ritzy Worth Ave, all for free. The best reason to stop here is Flagler Museum, housed in the spectacular, Beauxart-styled Whitehall Mansion.

Palm Beach - Lonely Planet

The Space Coast’s main claim to fame (other than being the setting for the iconic 1960s TV series I Dream of Jeannie) is being the real-life home to the Kennedy Space Center and its massive visitor complex. Once a working spaceflight facility, Kennedy Space Center is shifting from a living museum to a historical one since the end of NASA’s space shuttle program in 2011.

These 24 miles of pristine, windswept beaches comprise the longest stretch of undeveloped beach on Florida’s east coast. On the north end is familyfriendly Apollo Beach, which shines in a class of its own with gentle surf and miles of solitude. On the south end, Playalinda Beach is surfer central. Just west of (and including) the beach, the 140,000-acre Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is an unspoiled oasis for birds and wildlife.

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge - Lonely Planet

What’s a beach road trip without a good lighthouse? About 10 miles south of Daytona Beach is the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse & Museum. Stop by for a photo op with the handsome red-brick tower built in 1887, then climb the 203 steps to the top for great views of the surrounding beaches. A handful of historical buildings comprise the museum portion of your tour, including the lightkeeper’s house and the Lens House, where there’s a collection of Fresnel Lenses.

Ponce Inlet Lighthouse & Museum - Lonely Planet

With typical Floridian hype, Daytona Beach bills itself as ‘The World’s Most Famous Beach.’ But its fame is less about quality than the size of the parties this expansive beach has witnessed during spring break, SpeedWeeks and motorcycle events when half a million bikers roar into town. One Daytona title no one disputes is ‘Birthplace of NASCAR,’ which started here in 1947. Its origins go back as far as 1902 to drag races held on the beach’s hard-packed sands. NASCAR is the main event here.

Daytona Beach - Lonely Planet

By now you’ve seen firsthand that the Florida coast isn’t all about fun in the sun; it also has a rich history that goes back hundreds of years. History buffs will enjoy a visit to this tiny Spanish fort built in 1742. Its purpose? To guard Matanzas Inlet – a waterway leading straight up to St Augustine – from British invasion. On the lovely (and free!) boat ride over, park rangers narrate the fort’s history and explain the gruesome origins of the name.

Fort Matanzas National Monument - Lonely Planet

With its high-rises, freeways and chain hotels, Jacksonville is a bit of a departure from our coastal theme, but it offers lots of dining options, and its restored historic districts are worth a wander. Check out the Five Points and San Marco neighborhoods; both are charming, walkable areas lined with bistros, boutiques and bars. It’s also a good chance to work in a little culture at the Cummer Museum of Art, which has a genuinely excellent collection of American and European paintings.

Jacksonville - Lonely Planet

History runs deep at Fort George Island Cultural State Park. Enormous shell middens date the island’s habitation by Native Americans to over 5000 years ago. In 1736 British General James Oglethorpe built a fort in the area, though it’s long since vanished and its exact location is uncertain. In the 1920s flappers flocked to the ritzy Ribault Club for Gatsby-esque bashes with lawn bowling and yachting. Today it houses the island’s visitor center, which can provide you with a CD tour of the area.

Fort George Island Cultural State Park - Lonely Planet

Just 13 miles south of the Georgia border is Amelia Island, a glorious barrier island with the mossdraped charm of the Deep South. Vacationers have been flocking here since the 1890s, when Henry Flagler’s railroad converted the area into a playground for the rich. The legacy of that golden era remains visible today in Amelia’s central town of Fernandina Beach, with 50 blocks of historic buildings, Victorian B&Bs, and restaurants housed in converted fishing cottages.

Amelia Island - Lonely Planet

Discover the freedom of the open road with Florida & the South’s Best Trips. Whether you want to explore the Great Smoky Mountains, taste the best of Georgia BBQ or visit Disney World, we’ve got the trip for you. | CLICK THROUGH AND ENTER THE PROMO CODE FOR 30% OFF THIS TITLE #lproadtrip

Make your escape from California’s tangled, traffic-jammed freeways and cruise in the slow lane. Once you get rolling, it’ll be almost painful to leave the ocean behind for too long. Officially, only the short, sun-loving stretch of Hwy 1 through Orange and Los Angeles Counties can legally call itself the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). But never mind that technicality, because equally bewitching ribbons of Hwy 1 and Hwy 101 await. | CLICK THE IMAGE TO HEAR THE PLAYLIST #lproadtrip

California PCH Road Trip ~ by Lonely Planet

At the bottom of the state map, the pretty peninsula beach town of Coronado is connected to the San Diego mainland by the white-sand beaches of the Silver Strand. If you’ve seen Marilyn Monroe cavort in Some Like It Hot, you’ll recognize the Hotel Del Coronado, which has hosted US presidents, celebrities and royalty, including Edward VIII who gave up his throne to marry a Coronado divorcée. Wander the turreted palace’s labyrinthine corridors, then quaff tropical cocktails at Babcock & Story Bar.

San Diego - Lonely Planet

Apart from glamorous beaches where famous TV shows and movies have been filmed, you can still uncover the beach culture of yesteryear here in off-the-beaten-path spots like San Clemente. Home to living surfing legends, top-notch surfboard companies and Surfer magazine, this may be the last place in the OC where you can authentically live the surf lifestyle. Ride your own board or swim at the city’s main beach beside San Clemente Pier.

San Clemente Pier - Lonely Planet

In Long Beach, the biggest stars are the Queen Mary, a grand (and allegedly haunted) British ocean liner permanently moored here, and the giant Aquarium of the Pacific, a high-tech romp through an underwater world in which sharks dart and jellyfish float. Often overlooked, the Long Beach Museum of Art focuses on California modernism and mixed media inside a 20th-century mansion by the ocean, while the urban Museum of Latin American Art shows off contemporary south-of-the-border art.

Leaving traffic-jammed LA behind, Hwy 1 breezes northwest of Santa Monica to Malibu. You’ll feel like a movie star walking around on the public beaches, backing against gated compounds owned by Hollywood celebs. Motoring further west along the coast, where the Santa Monica Mountains plunge into the sea, take time out for a frolic on Malibu’s mega-popular beaches like sandy Point Dume, Zuma or Leo Carrillo.

Getty Villa - Lonely Planet

Seaside Santa Barbara has almost perfect weather and a string of idyllic beaches, where surfers, kite flyers, dog walkers and surfers mingle. Get a close-up of the city’s iconic Mediterranean-style architecture along State St downtown or from the county courthouse, its tower rising above the red-tiled rooftops. Gaze south toward the busy harborfront and Stearns Wharf ( or north to the historic Spanish mission church.

Santa Barbara - Lonely Planet

Hilltop Hearst Castle is California’s most famous monument to wealth and ambition. William Randolph Hearst, the early-20th-century newspaper magnate, entertained Hollywood stars and royalty at this fantasy estate furnished with European antiques, accented by shimmering pools and surrounded by flowering gardens. Try to make tour reservations in advance, especially for living-history evening programs during the Christmas holiday season.

Central Coast - Lonely Planet

As Big Sur loosens its condor’s talons on the coastal highway, Hwy 1 rolls gently downhill towards Monterey Bay. The fishing community of Monterey is the heart of Steinbeck country, and although Cannery Row today is touristy claptrap, it’s worth strolling down to step inside the mesmerizing Monterey Bay Aquarium, inhabiting a converted sardine cannery on the shores of a national marine sanctuary. All kinds of aquatic denizens swim in giant tanks here, from sea stars to pot-bellied seahorses.

Monterey - Lonely Planet

Here, the flower power of the 1960s lives on, and bumper stickers on surfboard-laden woodies shout, ‘Keep Santa Cruz weird.’ Next to the ocean, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk has a glorious old-school Americana vibe and a 1911 Looff carousel. Its fun-for-all atmosphere is punctuated by squeals from nervous nellies on the stomach-turning Giant Dipper, a 1920s wooden roller coaster that’s a national historic landmark, as seen in the vampire cult-classic movie The Lost Boys.

Santa Cruz - Lonely Planet

Gridlock may shock your system after hundreds of lazy miles of wide-open, rolling coast. But don’t despair. Hwy 1 runs straight through the city’s biggest, most breathable green space: Golden Gate Park. You could easily spend all day in the conservatory of flowers, arboretum and botanical gardens. Then follow Hwy 1 north over the Golden Gate Bridge. Guarding the entry to San Francisco Bay, this iconic bridge is named after the straits it spans, not for its ‘International Orange’ paint job.

San Francisco - Lonely Planet

Hwy 1 twists and turns past the Sonoma Coast’s state parks packed with hiking trails, sand dunes and beaches. At Sea Ranch, don’t let exclusive-looking vacation homes prevent you from following public-access trailhead signs and staircases down to empty beaches and across ocean bluffs. Further north, guarding an unbelievably windy point since 1908, Point Arena Lighthouse is the only lighthouse in California where you can actually climb to the top.

Point Arena - Lonely Planet

Looking more like Cape Cod than California, the quaint maritime town of Mendocino has white picket fences surrounding New England–style cottages with blooming gardens and redwood-built water towers. Its dramatic headlands jutting into the Pacific, this yesteryear timber town and shipping port was ‘discovered’ by artists and bohemians in the 1950s and has served as a scenic backdrop in over 50 movies.

Fort Bragg - Lonely Planet

Hwy 101 trundles alongside Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge, a major stopover for migratory birds on the Pacific Flyway. Next comes the sleepy railroad town of Eureka. As you wander downtown, view the ornate Carson Mansion (143 M St), built in the 1880s by a timber baron and adorned with dizzying Victorian turrets, towers, gables and gingerbread details.

Eureka - Lonely Planet

At last, you’ll reach Redwood National & State Parks. Get oriented to the tallest trees on earth at the coastal Thoman H Kuchel Visitor Center, just south of Orick. Then commune with the coastal giants on their own mossy turf inside Lady Bird Johnson Grove or the majestic Tall Trees Grove (free drive-and-hike permit required).

Discover the freedom of the open road with California’s Best Trips. Whether you want to explore landmark national parks, taste wines in vine-strewn valleys or visit Gold Rush towns, we’ve got the trip for you. | CLICK THROUGH AND ENTER THE PROMO CODE FOR 30% OFF THIS TITLE #lproadtrip

Californias Best Trips Lonely Planet Travel Guide