This tailor-made self-drive covers the highlights of California in style. You'll begin in San Francisco, where panoramic views of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge provide the backdrop to everything from boat cruises in the bay to watching seals at Pier 39. Drive along dramatic cliffside highways to the Sonoma Coast, where you'll have the chance to explore spectacular coastal trails. Then, moving inland to Napa Valley, rolling vineyards and historic estates set the scene for some of North America's finest wines – perhaps you'll board the wine tram for a truly unique experience. Nights spent among the ancient sequoias at Yosemite, and between the mountains at the vineyards at Carmel, round off this spectacular holiday in style. Tie it all together with luxury accommodation stays.
On arrival at the airport complimentary lounge access awaits. Board your day flight to San Francisco, and on arrival, check in to your wharf-front accommodation. Over the next three days, get to know this bohemian city on foot, or perhaps book a city tour to ensure you don't miss the highlights. Take a wander along Fisherman's Wharf to spot sea lions lazing in the sun, head to Ghirardelli Square for spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge and some world-famous chocolate, or visit the Maritime National Historic Park to get up close to historic ships and watercraft. A boat cruise to Alcatraz reveals eerie cellblocks where you can listen to recordings of former prisoners and guards. You can also take a ferry over to Sausalito, just past the Golden Gate Bridge, a charming artisanal town overlooking the bay. Come evening, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from – head back to Fisherman's Wharf for the best waterfront views.
Stay: The Argonaut (Superior)
Today you'll collect your hire car and hit the open road towards the spectacular Sonoma Coast. Covering more than 55 miles of dramatic Pacific coastline, and dotted with hundreds of wineries, it's an incredibly scenic route featuring one of California's most beautiful stretches of coastal highway. From your base at Timber Cove, perhaps visit the Russian River or Green Valley wine regions for tastings and vineyard tours, or drive further north to Mendocino and take in the cliffside trails and beaches of Mendocino Headlands State Park. In fact, all around you are opportunities to get out into nature – there's hiking, fishing, kayaking, and horseback riding on offer in the many state parks near your resort, and the local beaches are perfect for refreshing ocean dips.
Stay: Timber Cove (Deluxe)
Today you'll drive inland to yet another world-famous wine region – Napa Valley. From your luxurious resort, surrounded by rolling vineyards and picturesque countryside, there's plenty to fill the next two days with. Adrenaline seekers might like to try white-water rafting or a thrilling hot air balloon ride, while local museums and art galleries showcase a different side to the region. A journey on the wine tram is highly recommended; you'll enjoy lunch or dinner onboard as well as tasting award-winning local varietals at several wineries along the way. Indulge in spa treatments and gourmet dinners on your return to the hotel.
Stay: Carneros Resort (Deluxe)
Drive further inland today towards Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada mountains. You'll spend the next two days immersed in nature at your rustic lodge accommodation, nestled among 22 acres of wooded land. Head into Yosemite itself for gentle walks among ancient sequoia trees and gushing waterfalls – Bridalveil Fall is a highlight – and along the base of El Capitan and Half Dome, sheer granite cliffs that tower over the park. There's plenty of wildlife to spot, including black bears, mule deer, bobcats, mountain lions, foxes, and bighorn sheep. And, in Yosemite Village, there are quaint shops and restaurants, the Yosemite Museum and the Ansel Adams Gallery to explore.
Stay: Evergreen Lodge (Superior)
Head back to the coast today to Carmel, an upscale town along the world-renowned Pacific Coast Highway. As well as the museums at the historic Carmel Mission, it's known for the fairytale cottages of its quaint village centre. At Carmel River State Beach, spot pelicans and kingfishers along the shore; while nearby Point Lobos State Reserve is a fantastic whale-watching location between December and April. And, there's yet more wine tasting to be done in the surrounding countryside – your hotel is nestled right between the mountains and the vineyards. A trip extension to Big Sur is also highly recommended – this rugged stretch coastline is one of the most stunning sections of State Route 1.
Stay: Carmel Valley Ranch (Deluxe)
Today you'll drop your hire car at San Francisco Airport and board your flight home to the UK, arriving on day 13.
"This is a favourite itinerary of mine, covering everything from world-class wineries to the sun-soaked Californian coast. Alongside hiking, vineyard tours and boat cruises, you'll stay in some truly luxurious properties. There's even a city stay in San Francisco – this holiday has it all."
Low Season from: £4,505 pp
High Season from: £6,720 pp