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Adventures & Sunsets

14 Southern California Road Trips – Scenic Drive Ideas

Posted on Last updated: July 2, 2022

There are tons of scenic drives in Southern California . White sand beaches, rugged coastal cliffs, impressive desert landscapes, stunning blue lakes, and charming oceanside cities and towns are all great options for perfect Southern California road trips .

These Golden State road trips are about more than the destinations. You can drive a scenic highway and spend a few nights exploring multiple places along the route, or choose one big city to take day trips from, which works just as well.

Whether you’re staying in hotels or Airbnbs along the way, or you’ve rented a campervan and have decided to live the van life for a short while, Southern California road trips are the perfect escape for any kind of traveler.

Scenic drives in southern california road trip ideas

RELATED : If you are looking outside of SoCal check out my comprehensive and ultimate California road trip itinerary (2+ weeks) organized in order based on my personal experiences! Or if you love unique stays, check out the most unique places to stay in California here.

Heading up to Northern California? Don’t miss some Northern California scenic drives as well – beautiful road trips are all over this state!

1. Pacific Coast Highway

PCH road trip stops on Highway 1 Road Trip california coast big sur cliff views pacific coast highway road

Make your way up scenic route 1 on the Pacific Coast Highway for one of the best Southern California road trips. Spend a few days or take a whole week to drive up the coast from Southern California to San Francisco starting in Los Angeles or even farther south in Dana Point or San Diego.

There are several places to stop and explore along your road trip – I even wrote a comprehensive post about PCH hidden-gem road trip stops here .

Start your trip by checking out a famous Orange County attraction like Disneyland or coastal town like Laguna Beach . PCH actually starts in my beautiful hometown of Dana Point , which has lots of beaches and views. Then head up to LA, Malibu, and Santa Barbara and explore downtown.

As you continue north along the California coastline there are many natural wonders to visit. Stop in Palos Verdes on the coast of LA for some remote beaches. See the elephant seals at San Simeon. In the Monterey area stop by Pebble Beach and spend the day golfing. Or as you continue north check out the Bixby Bridge and famous rugged cliffs at Big Sur. Spend a night in Carmel by the Sea and explore the quaint shops and dining downtown.

Prepare for roadside pull-offs to enjoy the stunning scenery and don’t miss some of the beautiful state parks like Big Basin to see the California Redwood trees. There are also some lovely small beach towns in California only accessible via a PCH road trip.

2. San Francisco

san francisco street view california

End your Pacific Coast Highway road trip in the Golden City! Stop by Fisherman’s Wharf to dine, shop, and check out the famous sea lions at Pier 39. Grab a bread bowl at Boudin Bakery for some tasty sourdough bread. Spend some time exploring Golden Gate Park and end your day at Ocean Beach for a San Francisco sunset over the Pacific Ocean.

Spend another day driving across the Golden Gate Bridge. Enjoy impressive views of the city from the Marin Headlands. There are mountain biking and hiking trails in the headlands as well as many drivable viewpoints throughout this area. Then wind your way down to Sausilito, a cute town across the bay.

If you still want to head north after a visit to the city, take a drive up to Napa Valley. It’s only about an hour and a half north and is home to some of the most well-known California wineries. Hop on a hot air balloon ride to experience beautiful views of the wine region. Check out more SF fun facts or SF quotes for instagram.

3. Yosemite National Park

yosemite national park road trip

Gigantic granite cliffs, mighty waterfalls, and plentiful wildlife all make up the beautiful park of Yosemite. Driving here from the south will be a bit long, but it will surely be a Southern California scenic drive once you get off the long-and-straight 5 freeway!

Check out some of the most famous rock formations in California; Half Dome, and El Capitan. Explore the high country, swim in an alpine lake, and look out for black bears, mule deer, and stellar jays; there’s a way for everyone to enjoy their road trip to Yosemite. Check out my article about where to stay and what to do in Yosemite in winter – also applicable all year round.

The U-shaped valley is a great spot to take an easy stroll through some meadows and look at the granite towering over you, or it’s a spot to start a challenging hike out of the valley up to the rim of the park.

Camp in the park or reserve a lodge or hotel to explore the beautiful area and visit at any time of year. The spring is famous for waterfalls and the summer for its full access. It’s one of the best places in California to visit for fall foliage , and the winter presents picturesque snowy landscapes.

4. Rim of the World Scenic Byway

rim of the world scenic byway southern california road trips

One of the most scenic southern California road trips is the 110 mile Rim of the World Scenic Byway. Head east from any Southern California city and find yourself cruising along the cliffs of the San Bernardino Mountains.

The byway starts on Highway 138 at Cajon Pass between the San Gabriel Mountains and San Bernardino Mountains. Always have your camera ready for impressive views at the pull-offs. While this route offers different picturesque landscapes year-round, you must carry snow chains during the winter months.

On this southern california scenic drive you can spend a day and night relaxing at Lake Arrowhead . This town is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts. The stunning lake and charming mountain town feature many outdoor recreation activities including hiking, mountain biking, fishing, backpacking, and swimming. Both campers and hotel stayers can find plenty of accommodations here.

As you continue your drive you’ll end up at Big Bear Lake. This is another incredible year-round destination. It has a ski resort for winter activities and the lake is a beautiful spot to hike, bike, and swim during the warmer months. I learned to snowboard here and used to visit every summer!

Lastly, don’t miss ziplining around Big Bear and hiking up the Castle Rock Trail for impressive views of the lake!

5. Palm Springs and Surrounding Areas

palm springs scenic drive views southern california

Palm Springs is a beautiful city all the way out in the Sonoran Desert well known for its spas, golf courses, hot springs, luxury hotels, and public art . Downtown is filled with vintage boutiques and fine restaurants, and bordered with palms and deep red rocks.

With so many road trip ideas in Southern California, Palm Springs is a great option to get away from the biggest cities but still live in luxury in the desert. Whether you want to chill in the sun by a pool, go shopping, or go golfing, there are plenty of ways to stay entertained in this Southern California destination. You can also take the cable car to the top of the mountain and spend som time hiking in a cooler climate.

If you prefer the outdoors, hop over to nearby Joshua Tree National Park or explore the Salton Sea, just about an hour outside of Palm Springs. This landlocked, saline body of water is home to many species of birds and the eerie abandoned ghost town feel surrounding this sea makes it an interesting spot to explore.

6. Joshua Tree National Park

joshua tree national park tree

Nature-lovers should take a road trip to Joshua Tree National Park. Most famous for its Joshua trees, variety of cacti, large rock formations, and rugged mountains, there are so many ways for all travelers to explore this park .

This park is only a few hours from Los Angeles and is a great multi or single-day trip option. The park is a well-known destination for rock climbing, hiking, and Southern California scenic drives. Even if you don’t want to get out of the car, the park takes over and hour to drive through, so you can spend lots of time taking in the views.

For a moderate hike check out Skull Rock or Baker Dam. For a more difficult hike find your way up to Ryan Mountain . If you’re driving, check out Keys View.

As the desert sun gets hot throughout the summer days, Joshua Tree is a great destination from late fall to early spring. However, come prepared for cool evenings and maybe even snow in the winter! There are tons of Unique Stays in Joshua Tree also.

7. Death Valley National Park

death valley national park artists palette

Death Valley National Park is a perfect Southern California road trip destination outside of the summer months. With the most comfortable temperatures from November to April, Death Valley is another southern California desert that is worth the visit. If you visit in the summer this park is conveniently very drivable with many pull-offs, but keep the AC on in the car as temperatures can soar to over 115 degrees Fahrenheit!

The park has several must-see sites. For those who enjoy hiking check out Golden Canyon. Or hike through Artist Pallete’s Painted Hills , which you can also see partly from the road. You have probably already seen these colorful rolling hills on Instagram!

Don’t miss Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America , 282 feet below sea level. Walk as far as you’d like on this salt flat for surreal views. To overlook the valley make your way up to Dante’s View for impressive overlooks of the desert landscape.

End a day with a visit to Zabriskie Point. This is a gorgeous sunset spot known for its unique erosional landscape and is a great photography location.

8. Road Trip to Las Vegas

southern california road trips and scenic drive ideas

Head to the Neon Capital of the World for entertainment, bars, casinos, and outdoor attractions. A southern California scenic drive to Las Vegas can work for any type of traveler. You can enjoy the vast expanses of desert on the way to Vegas from So Cal, stopping in tiny remote towns, or wait until Sin City for some adventures.

Take a stroll up Las Vegas Boulevard for endless entertainment. Wander into the massive hotels to explore each of the uniquely designed casinos created to look like different cities around the world. Check out the famous Las Vegas Themed hotels too.

Or make your way to one of the beautiful sites surrounding the city. Take a helicopter tour to one of the seven wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon. Flying over the deep canyon walls, while looking down on the Colorado River below is an unforgettable experience. You can also continue your road trip there for just a few more hours.

Or head to nearby Valley of Fire State Park and wander along some of the hiking trails and look out for bighorn sheep. Going hiking is one of the best things to do in Las Vegas for couples.

Las Vegas is also a great starting point for many Utah parks. Zion is only a couple hours drive and Bryce Canyon is about four hours – you can also visit Arches NP from Moab Utah . Other nearby outdoor attractions worth checking out are the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, and Red Rock Canyon. There are so many places to visit from Southern California in this area!

However, come prepared for the heat of the desert sun when you vacation in Las Vegas – especially in summer. But know that if you visit in the winter, most people are surprised by how cool it gets!

9. Santa Barbara

State Street Santa Barbara PCH road trip stops highway 1 california

Santa Baraba is a coastal California city known for its picturesque beaches – a perfect stop on a Pacific Coast highway road trip OR a perfect destination in itself.

The whole city borders the coast and features the dramatic San Ynez Mountains in the background. Explore the city and enjoy wine tasting rooms, golfing, street fairs, upscale dining, boutiques, and the historic Spanish Mission churches. SB has a bit of everything!

Stearns Wharf is a historic pier with great dining and shopping. Lotusland is a beautiful botanical garden filled with exotic plants, many of which are cacti. The Santa Barbara Museum of Art, located downtown, has Asian, American, and European art dating back 4,000 years. Or take a walk down State Street which is the capital of shopping and gastronomy.

If you have enough time, head to the Santa Ynez Valley for the region’s famous wine country. It’s only about forty minutes from Santa Barbara. This valley is located between the Santa Ynez and San Gabriel Mountains and must not be missed!

10. San Luis Obispo

san luis obispo road trip ideas southern california

San Luis Obispo is part of California’s central coast and is another one of the best historic and relaxing destinations of the Southern California road trips. Immerse yourself in the historic Spanish mission churches and buildings and learn about the late 17th-century history that took place in and around this town.

SLO is also really close to lots of the best Southern California beach hikes – such as Montana do Oro State Park.

Or check out the famous San Luis Obispo downtown farmers market every Thursday from 6-9 pm. If you enjoy hiking, make your way up to Bishop Peak or Cerro San Luis Obispo. For a funky spot, go visit Bubblegum Alley, a wall completely covered in already chewed gum.

Or, head to Paso Robles for wine tasting, Avila Beach for beautiful views, or whale watching on the coast. Visit nearby Morro Bay to see Morro Rock and bird and marine wildlife. There’s plenty to explore in San Luis Obispo and the surrounding area – you could road trip around here for many days and not get bored!

11. Sequoia National Park

sequoia national park view california road trip ideas

Sequoia National Park is home to the largest trees in the world- the Giant Sequoias. This national park is most famously known for its massive groves of old-growth Sequoia’s, some as old as 3,0000 years. “General Sherman” is actually the largest tree (well, the tree with the greatest mass) in the world!!

But, the park also hosts varying environments as well as the trees. Deep canyons, marble caves, rolling foothills, and majestic mountains also make up this national park landscape. Mount Whitney, the highest point in the 48 states stands tall here at 14,500 feet.

Whether you’re a hiker, climber, or enjoy cruising in a vehicle this park has plenty of options making it a perfect southern California road trip option.

Also, while visiting don’t miss Moro Rock (pictured above). A short hike with carved stairs will take you on top of this large granite dome providing impressive views of the scenic landscape. King’s Canyon National Park is also just a short drive away. To learn more about the park head to the Giant Forest Museum.

If you check out the park from the east side you can access Mount Whitney from a long, difficult hike up to the summit. But if hiking isn’t really your thing, stop by Alabama Hills, located just west of Lone Pine. Alabama Hills was the setting for many famous wild west movies. It’s also a beautiful spot to picnic or camp and enjoy the impressive views of Mount Whitney from outside the park.

12. San Diego

la jolla beach san diego california road trip

I simply couldn’t leave out San Diego for a Southern California road trip option. With 70 miles of coastal beaches and a warm Meddeteraian climate year-round, this charming city is a wonderful spot to visit and to drive to from anywhere in SoCal. It’s also home to some of the best sunsets in the state.

Wildlife lovers should check out Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve or La Jolla Cove for a chance to see sea lions and seals – or even leopard sharks at the right time of year. If you visit La Jolla Cove during low tide check out the tide pools for a chance to see sea anemones, sea stars, and other marine wildlife. Torrey Pines is a great spot to hike along the steep coastal cliffs.

When in San Diego’s downtown district, enjoy a beer at one of the 150 craft breweries San Diego is famous for. For good surfy vibes head to Pacific Beach or Ocean Beach. Stop by Balboa Park to explore culture, science, and nature all at once at a museum, garden, or pavilion.

With numerous museums, parks, and attractions, San Diego is a great destination for those traveling with kids, wanting to explore history, see beautiful sights, or even attend a great music festival.

13. Ortega Highway Road Trip

ortega highway road trip southern california

Ortega Highway is one of the lesser-known Southern California scenic drives, but is amazing just the same. Stemming from southern Orange County and winding through rocky hills and mountains until reaching Lake Elsinore, Ortega Highway is truly a hidden gem and one of the best things to do in Orange County.

After driving 20+ minutes off the 5 freeway exit, you’ll start to feel like you are in the wild west – with tiny roadside stands and wooden shack candy shops on the side of the road every so often.

There are plenty of hikes and state parks to explore off of Ortega – but I mostly recommend Casper’s State Park. I have been here tons of times with my family, and the views never disappoint from riverbeds to ridges.

14. Anza Borrego State Park

anza borrego state park souther california

Many people love San Diego, but it takes a true adventurer to make it out in the desert inland of SD to Anza-Borrego National Park. For some reason it is lesser-known, but is worth visiting or at least driving through on a road trip of San Diego or SoCal.

This Southern California road trips hidden gem is like a mini-death valley, with colorful hills, incredible formations reminiscent of Bryce Canyon or similar, and great hikes. It’s also one of the few true dark-sky zones of southern California, so you can see the start shining VERY brightly here.

Amza Borrego would be a great stop on a road trip between San Diego, Orange County, Palm Springs, Joshua Tree, and/or the Rim of the World Scenic Byway. If you have a few hours to spare driving inland, this desert is not to miss.

With so many year-round Southern California road trips to choose from, it’s time to get planning! Whether you prefer the desert, the beach, a big city, or a cute town there are plenty of options for all travelers to get out and explore the incredible places throughout California.

Privacy Overview

Dotted Globe

Ultimate California Road Trip Itinerary: From the Pacific to the Redwoods!

one night road trip

Are you looking for the best California road trip itinerary to explore the most beautiful places in the Golden State? Our 10 days in California itinerary will take you from the rugged coast and beautiful beaches to the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevadas. Hike the Mojave desert, sleep underneath a yucca tree, and visit the lowest place on the continent while you road trip in California. Read our 10 day California Road Trip guide now. You may also like our post on 20 Best Road Trips in the USA .

Welcome to our ultimate California road trip planner!

We created this planner to help you plan the perfect road trip around California and it contains all the essential information you need to plan your trip today including budget and costs, what to eat, where to stay, etc.

Here you will find recommendations for a variety of California itineraries as well as get more information on California road trip must-see attractions including the Golden Gate Bridge, Big Sur, Yosemite, and Los Angeles.

Our mission? To make sure you have a blast in California!

Pacific Coast Highway near Big Sur is the most scenic drive in the world

Also Read: Portland to San Francisco Road Trip Itinerary California To Texas road trip planner Best Things to do in Washington State

California is our favorite destination ever.

I have been enamored with California long before I visited it.

California, San Jose, and the West coast are randomly thrown around in conversations in India – because everyone knows someone working in Silicon Valley – and you can’t help but know about this slice of America.

Growing up, I knew more about Cisco, Apple, Google, and Yahoo (remember when everyone used Yahoo?!) than San Francisco, Yosemite, and Big Sur.

And Disney – because everyone knows Disney!

one night road trip

California has such a unique history.

The oldest, tallest, and widest trees live here and guess what, they have been around since prehistoric times – yes, even dinosaurs lived among the redwood trees!

One of the lowest, aridest, and hottest places on earth is right here in California in Badwater Basin.

And as for scenic places: California has so many of them!

We love Big Sur and its rocky coast, the wildflower super blooms, blue Lake Tahoe, Mono Lake and its tufas, unique shapes of Joshua trees!

There are so many things to see in California road trip that the list just goes on!

General Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park during the winter

Also Read: 24 Best Places to Visit in California in winter

Dotted Globe contains affiliate links. If you click one of them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read my full  Disclosure  here. Thank you!

And that’s why in our California road trip itinerary of 10 days, we take you around all these unique and beautiful places in the Golden State.

Our California 10 day road trip itinerary is perfect for driving around dreamy landscapes of yellow poppies, orange orchards, purple foliage, and lush green vineyards.

We have divided this California roadtrip itinerary into 4 essential stretches as per the geographic features of the state – yepp, we are that geeky – and you can customize it as you want. 

Best waterproof walking shoes for California beaches

If you are a beach person like me, then extend the Pacific Coast Highway Itinerary to 10 days.

If you are a mountain lover like my hubby, then take a 10 day road trip from San Francisco to Yosemite.

Yosemite Valley Tunnel View in the winter

Pick your favorite area and stay there as long as you want. Or follow our California in 10 days itinerary exactly as described!

As always, we have also included suggestions for if you have more or less time.

Whatever you chose, you are going to have the time of your lives – because this is California!

Balboa Park's Casa de Balboa Building in San Diego, California

“Every time I come, I’m still amazed at the breadth California has. Big Sur, Yosemite, the desert… I love it.” – Theo James, the English actor

Best of California Road Trip 10 Days Itinerary

We, like most people, have seen California in bits and pieces rather than in one go.

We first visited California almost a decade ago and did San Francisco, Los Angeles, and the theme parks.

Second time around, we visited Death Valley National Park on a road trip from Vegas.

Then I lived and worked in the Bay area in tech (oh, the irony!) and that’s when we explored the California National Parks, North Coast, and the Sierra Nevada side of the state.

Our most popular posts: 22 Best City Breaks in the USA The Best Things to do in New York on your first visit Ultimate List of Best Places to visit in the USA

The Napa Valley Sign in Napa California

Most recently, we did the San Francisco to Los Angeles road trip along the gorgeous Pacific Coast Highway – oh and also road-tripped Southern California and Disney with the kids.

On our next trip – we plan to do the North Coast and Redwoods Scenic Highway AGAIN.

Yeah – that’s how much we love California – have been to many destinations several times and still can’t have enough.

The best way to tour California is obviously by driving. The state is beautiful but huge and it’s not easy planning California trip that covers all the major attractions with limited time in hand.

Huntington Beach, California is sunny and warm in winter

And planning a California road trip with kids is even more difficult – how do you prioritize between theme parks and natural attractions?

And that’s where we rush in – your knights in shining armor – delivering the ultimate 10 day California road trip itinerary. 

Our California trip planner is more like going on a series of best California road trips – each more gorgeous than the previous.

Also, we follow this road trip along two of California’s most popular routes: south on the SR1 or Pacific Coast Highway and then back north along the scenic SR 395 through Eastern California .

That’s what makes our itinerary the absolute best California driving trip planner!

You can also call it the California National Parks road trip because we will be visiting the most popular of them on an epic road trip.

We hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

one night road trip

Stretch 1: Down The Pacific Coast – 4 Days

Often enough, when someone talks about a California driving holiday, this stretch along the Pacific Coast Highway is the one they actually mean.

Constantly ranked among the top scenic drives in the world, the coastal drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles is the best of both worlds.

It combines the urban getaways of California’s two largest cities with the natural panoramas of Big Sur and the Pacific. 

If you have limited time, we would recommend spending 3 to 4 days along this route.

If you want to focus only on this coastal road trip, then just drive south on a road trip from San Francisco on SR1.

Take your own time to enjoy roadside stops like Carmel-By-The-Sea, Morro Bay, and the stunning Big Sur.

Hike or camp and explore nature.

Here’s our suggestion for this stretch of 10 day California itinerary planner.

Union Square is the heart of Christmas festivities in San Francisco

San Francisco – 1 Day

Start with our San Francisco road trip planner.

San Francisco is our favorite city to start a 10 day California trip.

The city is quite easy to fly into; the 3 airports of San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland are located close by and many airlines have deals to the Bay area.

We would recommend spending a minimum of one day in San Francisco before picking up your rental car and driving south.

Or you can rent a car before, see SF, and then drive the PCH.

You can also start your 10 day road trip from Los Angeles, in that case, adjust your plans accordingly.

San Francisco street cars look charming during the holidays

Read this now! Whatever you do – don’t casually park your car at an empty garage in San Francisco. Car Break-ins in San Francisco are very common, as we discovered to our ill-fortune . On our latest trip to San Francisco, we had parked in a garage two blocks away from Pier 39 and came back to find the rear glass broken and both our children’s suitcases gone!  We had to spend quite some time to sort the issue and it left a sad memory on an otherwise awesome road trip around California in 10 days. We would recommend parking at your hotel while taking a cab or the tram to explore the city. 

San Francisco has many names – SF, San Fran, Fog City, the City by the Bay, Frisco (though don’t say that in front of locals) or simply, the City – going back to the days of the Wild West when there was nothing much in Northern California but the city.

San Francisco is colorful, vibrant, and bohemian.

It’s amongst our favorite US cities – right there at the top along with New York , Chicago , and New Orleans.

San Francisco City Hall decorated for Christmas

There are quite a few things to do in San Francisco: unsurprisingly most of them begin at or near the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, San Francisco’s gigantic urban park.

Begin your visit at the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center near the southern end of the bridge.

Learn interesting facts and see construction relics from the building of the Golden Gate Bridge before visiting the bridge itself.

Next walk across all 1.7 miles of this engineering marvel and icon of America.

The views of the bay from the bridge are beautiful and you feel an indescribable thrill while walking across it.

Definitely the highlight of your California travel itinerary!

one night road trip

Up for more adventure?

Bike the Golden Gate!

We have done it twice – most recently with our 3 yrs and 6 months old kids – it is a superb experience.

We love biking across to Sausalito, exploring the quaint town, and taking the ferry back to San Francisco.

You can also bike to the redwoods if you have more time.

Read our ultimate guide to biking the bridge here.

If not biking, then use the rest of your day to explore San Francisco’s highlights: Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39, Lombard Street, and Ghirardelli Square.

If you want to spend more time in San Francisco, see the Painted Ladies – those famous SF houses shown in Full House!

You can also check out the city from the Twin Peaks.

The Golden Gate Park is perfect for a stroll.

Ride the cable car to Chinatown and have some dumplings and noodles for lunch.

Spend an afternoon admiring the beautiful architecture of the Palace of Fine Arts or visit the prison of Alcatraz Island.

Visit the beautiful redwood trees at Muir Woods National Monument or whale watch and hike at Point Reyes.

San Francisco is a beautiful city and you can easily spend a couple of days there as a part of your 10 day trip to California.

Read our San Francisco posts now to plan this part of the trip: San Francisco 3 to 5-day itinerary ideas 17 Best Things to do in San Francisco on your first visit

The area around San Francisco is also full of activities and tourist attractions.

Here are some suggestions if you want to spend a few more days exploring around the Bay Area during your California itinerary of 10 days:

Napa & Sonoma 

Take a day trip from San Francisco to Napa Valley along the Silverado Trail.

Sonoma County is also a great place to visit for wine lovers.

You can tour the many vineyards, taste local wines, dine at Michelin starred restaurants, and visit famous tasting rooms.

If you happen to visit in the fall, you will see beautiful fall colors in the vineyards and be able to attend grape stomping. 

San Jose is popular with millennials and those working in Silicon Valley.

You will find plenty of trendy nightclubs and bars in San Jose.

If you enjoy shopping, check out the high fashion brands on Santana Row.

For outdoor lovers, a hike to Mission Peak is a must while families will love the Winchester Mystery House.

Silicon Valley

If you love tech then you need to visit Silicon Valley.

It boasts the largest concentration of geeks and nerds – and as a fellow geek, I say it quite fondly!

Start your visit at the Computer History Museum to know everything about the machine that changed our lives.

Then see Google’s Android lawn sculptures in Mountain View or the garage where Hewlett Packard began in Palo Alto.

Visit Stanford University’s sprawling campus as well as Facebook and Apple!

McWay Falls, Big Sur, California

Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip – 2 Days

On to the next part of the 10 day road trip in California.

After seeing San Francisco, drive south along the SR1 or Pacific Coast Highway.

Over the next 2 days, you will follow the coastal route to Los Angeles while making plenty of stops along the way.

Check the coastal communities of Half Moon Bay and Davenport before reaching Santa Cruz.

If you have kids, spend some time at the Santa Cruz Beach and Boardwalk.

Next visit Monterey and Carmel by the Sea. Hike in Point Lobos or walk the coastal bluffs at Garrapata State Park.

On the way, you will see secret beaches, hidden coves, and beautiful views. 

Wineries near paso Robles in Central California

As you begin driving PCH1 while following our 10 days in California itinerary, you understand why artists settle here, photographers and writers both wax lyrical about this region, and why the drive is called the most beautiful in the world.

We recommend staying somewhere in the vicinity of Carmel Highlands for the night.

The next day, rise early for the star attraction of the drive: the 90-mile long rugged, wild Big Sur.

Big Sur is 6 hours from Los Angeles and you have a big day ahead.

It is really hard to describe Big Sur.

Rocky cliffs, foaming waves, spring wildflowers, lighthouses, migrating whales, turquoise water, redwood trees: Big Sur has everything.

December in California is the perfect time to go whale watching near Monterey

It is gorgeous in a wild way.

In Big Sur, you will find amazing state parks, some of California’s best hiking trails, iconic beaches, and tons of marine life, including otters, elephant seals, and dolphins.

Some areas of Big Sur can be closed at any given time of the year due to floods or landslides – so we recommend checking out the PCH status before your 10 days road trip California.

Beach hiking trails in Monterey California

Read more about all the attractions including the beautiful McWay Falls in our post One day in Big Sur . 

Other attractions of the Pacific Coast Highway drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles include Monterey’s famous 17-mile drive, the seaside towns of Pismo Beach and Morro Bay, the famous Hearst Castle, Santa Barbara, and the beaches of Malibu.

For the purposes of this California Itinerary of 10 days, we would suggest 2 to 3 days on PCH.

However, if you have more time then the PCH is easily a 4 day to week-long road trip in itself.

To read more about all the awesome stops on PCH and planning a detailed itinerary, check out our article on Planning a road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway . 

Also Read: Top 10 Convertible drives in the USA

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Los Angeles – 1 Day

While San Francisco and Silicon Valley are for tech lovers, Los Angeles is for Hollywood fans.

How long to stay in Los Angeles is a tricky question.

If you only have one day in Los Angeles, start by seeing the famous Hollywood sign and then visit the Hollywood Walk of Fame to take selfies with your favorite stars.

Also, see the Kodak Theatre (now Dolby Theatre) which hosts the Oscars and tour the movie star homes on Rodeo Drive.

Venice canals at Christmas in Los Angeles

If you have more time to explore Los Angeles, we suggest starting with lunch at the Santa Monica Pier.

Then visit the Griffith Observatory and see Los Angeles from above.

Or you can take a behind the scenes VIP studio tour at one of your favorite studios: pick from Warner Brothers, Paramount Pictures or Sony!

You can also check out the beautiful exhibits at the Getty Center or the beautiful modern art at the Broad.

LA also has many other top museums and a large number of attractions – read our post on Best Things to do in Los Angeles for more ideas.

For more help in planning your day, read our Los Angeles itinerary for first-time visitors .

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Here are some suggestions to explore the area beyond Downtown Los Angeles:

No California family road trip is complete without a trip to Disney.

Both of California’s Disney Parks are located close to Los Angeles in Anaheim.

On the best California vacation itinerary, you have to meet Mickey, Goofy and other beloved cartoon characters!

Kids also get to meet Disney’s princesses in full attire at the parks.

To plan a California family vacation itinerary including a trip to Disney, read our Disney posts .

Universal Studios

To understand all about movie-making, see movie sets, and enjoy thrilling rides visit Universal Studios.

This theme park has really cool attractions and the Studio Tour will take you through sets based on Shutter Island, Jaws, King Kong, and more.

Harry Potter fans will love visiting Hogwarts and taking thrilling rides based on the books and movies – and is a must-visit if you are spending 10 days in California.

Colorful houses near Santa Cruz, California

Channel Islands National Park

For a unique experience, customize our itinerary for California 10 days and visit the remote Channel Islands.

Comprised of 5 islands, the park has excellent wildlife, sea caves, and lots of natural beauty.

You can take a ferry to the park from Ventura.

Optional: San Diego – 1 Day

From Los Angeles, you can venture on the next part of California 10 day itinerary or extend your trip down the coast by visiting San Diego.

Not many people know that San Diego is the oldest city on the West Coast.

It has beautiful Spanish Colonial architecture and lots of history. 

San Diego, California, downtown skyline

Read our post 22 Best Things to do in San Diego now to know more about this beautiful city.

If you have one day, you can visit the Historic Old Town and understand the Mexican and Wild West roots of the city.

Next, visit the famous Balboa Park with its beautiful architecture, renowned museums, and the San Diego Zoo.

Round off your time in the city by exploring the historic Gaslamp Quarter and its Victorian architecture and trendy eateries, hotels, and pubs.

This area is perfect for ending the day with dinner and drinks.

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If you have more than a day, visit the famous San Diego Sea World and see the dolphins in action.

San Diego is home to many beautiful beaches; the Mission Beach boardwalk is very popular.

Other things to see include Mission San Diego, Sunset Cliffs Park, and the bustling waterfront area of Seaport Village.

If you have more time on 10 day itinerary California, check out the dramatic sculptures in the desert city of Borrego Springs.

Related: For more California road trip ideas, check out our post on 12 Best California road trips

Christmas decorations in Old San Diego Town California

Stretch 2: Through The Arid Californian Desert – 2 Days

Continue on the California road trip route planner through deserts of southern California.

While most people associate California primarily with the coast and then with the dense redwood forests, the state is also renowned for its unique desert landscapes.

Most of these parts of southern California have a desolate beauty.

It is full of desert cities like Palm Springs which offer unique tourist attractions for visitors.

In this post, we focus our California 10 days itinerary on exploring two of the region’s national parks: Joshua Tree National Park and Death Valley National Park.

Joshua Tree Landscape

Joshua Tree National Park – 1 Day

Located partly over the Colorado desert and the Mojave desert, Joshua Tree National Park is named after the iconic Joshua tree.

This is a type of Yucca tree that is twisted, scraggly, and found only in the Mojave desert of California.

The easily recognizable tree looks even more dramatic in the desert landscape and bare rock formations of Joshua Tree National Park.

The national park is one of the most underrated California road trip destinations.

Its unique vistas have drawn photographers and artists to the park for decades.

Read our post on One Day in Joshua Tree to plan your trip.

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There are many things to do in Joshua Tree and its otherworldly landscape.

One of the best ways to see Joshua Tree is by driving around the paved road in the park.

Campsites in Joshua Tree are spectacular and hikes through Yucca trees and cacti adventurous.

The Hidden Valley Trail is a short mile-long trail that offers great desert landscape views.

The park has many popular geological rock formations that are used for rock climbing.

The park also has a dark night sky and is good for stargazers, astronomy enthusiasts, and night sky photographers.

Wildlife and birding opportunities around the park are also numerous.

Barker Dam in Joshua Tree National Park at sunrise

Read more in our post 24 Best Things to do in Joshua Tree National Park .

While deciding how to plan a trip to California, we recommend keeping more time aside to explore the many attractions surrounding Joshua Tree.

You can easily include them on a South California road trip from San Diego to Joshua Tree in this order: San Diego – Anza Borrego – Galleta Meadows – Salton Sea – Palm Springs – Joshua Tree.

Here’s some more information about these desert experiences that are worth adding to your itinerary if you have the time.

Salton Sea 

The Salton Sea is an inland lake created by flooding from an irrigation canal of the Colorado River that carries water to the Imperial Valley in 1905.

Several resort communities were built along the new lake.

However, the lake has no discharge and as a result, the water became unusually saline causing the death of marine life.

As a result, the communities were abandoned and are extremely popular with ruin photographers.

If you have teens, then definitely include Bombay Beach ruins in your California vacation itinerary – they will love to see random objects lying on the beach.

Today, the Salton Sea shoreline is filled with deteriorating structures and RV communities.

The Salton Sea is also located directly on top of the San Andreas fault and geothermal activity including mud pools are present along the coast.

The Salton Sea State Recreation Area is popular for birding, boating, picnicking, and camping. 

Beautiful interior of the church at the Santa Barbara Mission in California near Christmas

Palm Springs

Palm Springs, located in the Colorado desert region, is one of the biggest Californian desert cities.

If you want a relaxing vacation, then Palm Springs is one of the best California ideas.

One of its main attractions is the Palm Springs aerial tramway which takes you up Mount San Jacinto and offers great views of the surrounding area.

Palm Springs also has many great museums, boutique stores, restaurants, and resorts.

It is one of the most popular winter vacation destinations in the USA.

If you plan to visit Palm Springs, then check out our post on 30 Best Things to do in Palm Springs, California.

Palm Springs California in amazing to visit in December

Anza Borrego and Galleta Meadows Sculptures in Borrego Springs

While California has many beautiful state parks, few know about its largest – Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

This park is at its most beautiful in the spring when the cacti flower and the desert landscape comes alive with colors.

Anza Borrego Desert State Park is just two hours away from San Diego and can be seen on a San Diego Joshua Valley road trip.

In nearby Borrego Springs, you can see the unusual Galleta Meadows Estate sculptures.

These sculptures created by artist Ricardo Breceda are free to visit and beautiful works of art.

By driving all over the land you can spot dragons, serpents, wooly mammoths, and other fantastic creatures.  

Also, read our post on Planning the ultimate Southern California itinerary.

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Coachella Valley Preserve 

Coachella’s Thousand Palms Oasis is a unique chance to see the oasis environment in the middle of the desert.

The oases directly sit on fault lines and the water seeping through the faults has given life to California Fan Palms and other big palms in the arid desert.

Wildlife including sheep, goats, bobcats, etc, also can be spotted at the oasis.

Entry to the reserve is free and it has many hiking trails plus offers excellent wildlife viewing opportunities.

There are also other hiking areas close to Coachella Valley Preserve including Indian Canyons where you can hike through slot canyons. 

Scenic road to Death Valley National park, California

Death Valley National Park – 1 Day

Comprising of areas of the Mojave desert and the Great Basin desert, Death Valley is vastly different than Joshua Tree National Park.

For the most part, Death Valley is devoid of vegetation and is home to a variety of geological formations including the badlands, sand dunes, and the famous salt flats.

Death Valley also has the distinction of being the lowest point in North America and is also one of the hottest and driest places in the country.

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No trip to Death Valley National Park is complete without visiting the Badwater Basin salt flats.

The salt flats, at 282 feet below sea level, are the lowest place in North America.

Death Valley National Park has many scenic drives that are perfect for exploring around the park.

Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes are good for taking a stroll, exploring the desert plants, viewing animal tracks, and sunrise/sunset photography.

The park has many interesting geological formations.

Death Valley also has a dark night sky and is great for stargazing and photographing the Milky Way.

Read our post on 14 Best Things to do in Death Valley National Park for more information.

Badlands view from Zabriskie Point in Death Valley National Park at Dusk, California

We know you are planning to roadtrip California, but we can’t talk about Death Valley without mentioning Las Vegas.

Las Vegas is also a great city to begin your road trip to California.

The distance between Vegas and Death Valley is just over 2 hours and the route is quite scenic.

In fact, it is one of our favorite road trips from Las Vegas.

You can see the Sin City and then go on a road trip through California – an epic Las Vegas Los Angeles San Francisco trip, if you will!

Or you can also go on a memorable Las Vegas Grand Canyon road trip from California.

For Las Vegas travel inspiration, read our post on 52 Best Things to do in Las Vegas .

Frozen Convict Lake surrounded by mountains on a winter day;

Stretch 3: Up Through The Sierra Nevada – 4 Days

After seeing Death Valley, take a road trip on California’s Scenic Highway 395.

This road trip is scenic whether you do it from north to south or like we recommend here, from south to north.

The best time to see the aspens turn yellow here is in fall.

The total distance from Death Valley to your final destination of Yosemite is 4 hours when the Lee Vining road to Yosemite is open in the summer.

However, we recommend keeping aside 4 days for this road trip as it has some of the most underrated road trip destinations in California including the Manzanar National Historic Site, Alabama Hills, Ancient Bristlecone pine forest, Bodie Ghost Town, etc.

For more information on these Route 395 stops, see this article .

Roads in Kings Canyon National Park in winter

For the purposes of this itinerary, we focus on the popular attractions of Mammoth Lakes, Yosemite, and Lake Tahoe. 

Route 395 will take you high up into the Sierra Nevada mountains, known for their spectacular beauty.

The Sierra Nevadas are home to many national and state parks including the mighty Yosemite and crystal clear high mountain lakes.

For the rest of your Californian road trip, you will be exploring the High Sierras and its many breathtaking attractions.

This is a welcome respite after the desert landscapes of Death Valley and Joshua Tree and depending on when you visit you will be able to see beautiful meadows, wildflowers, fall foliage, and even snow!

Lake Tahoe looks spectacular even in the winter

Mammoth Lakes And Mono Lake – 1 Day

Contrary to their name, Mammoth Lakes is not a lake but a winter ski town in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Mammoth Mountain is the main winter skiing area with a variety of ski runs.

In summer, it is a favorite with mountain bikers and hikers.

The town does have several beautiful lakes that are accessible only in the summer but none of them are named Mammoth.

The area has beautiful alpine meadows with wildflowers in spring and natural hot springs for some R&R.

In one day, we recommend taking the roughly one hour drive around the Lakes Basin and visiting all the lakes.

You can hike, picnic, kayak, and fish in whichever lake you like.

Or maybe just hang up a hammock and read a book by the lake.

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Nearby Mono Lake is a saltwater lake surrounded by unique towering limestone formations called the tufa.

The lake visitor center has great information about the formation of the lake and the tufa while the short South Tufa trail is great for exploring the surrounding area.

The trail takes you along the lakeshore and among the tufas.

We suggest stopping here for an hour or so; Mono Lake accepts National Park Pass for entry.

On the way from Mammoth Lakes to Mono Lake, you will pass by June Lake and Devils Postpile Monument.

Enjoy snowshoeing on Lake Tahoe in winter

June Lake Loop Road is a great place to see the fall colors while the Devils Postpile National Monument is a unique geological formation of basalt columns.

Rainbow Falls, a 31m plunging waterfall, is another popular attraction of the monument.

Past Mono Lake, take the Lee Vining Road into Yosemite.

The official name of the road is Tioga Pass Road and it is closed in winter and spring (usually November to May) due to snow.

In that case, you can’t really visit Yosemite from the eastern side.

To know alternative routes in winter, check here . 

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Yosemite National Park – 2 Days

Best known for its giant sequoia trees, bald granite cliffs, and spectacular waterfalls, Yosemite National Park is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Yosemite along with Yellowstone National Park and Grand Canyon National Park is known as the ‘Big Three’ and receives over 4 million visitors each year.

Yosemite is a must-stop on any Ca road trip itinerary.

The best time to visit Yosemite National Park is from the summer to fall when Tioga Pass Road is open.

Beautiful winter scenery in Yosemite National Park, California

We suggest spending 2 days in Yosemite National Park to hike, drive along scenic roads, and see the major attractions. 

On your first day, start by taking a Yosemite Valley Tour.

The Yosemite Valley is surrounded by the bald granite cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome.

Most of the waterfalls including Yosemite Falls are also located in the valley.

The Valley is also where most of the park services including accommodations, shuttle buses, etc are located.

The Valley has hiking trails for all difficulty levels that lead to stunning views of Yosemite.

Lower Yosemite Falls hike is a short and easy trail that goes to the base of the falls.

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Touring the Yosemite Valley via the free shuttle bus is the easiest way to see the national park.

However, if you are visiting in summer (especially long weekends) it can get very crowded – so plan to start early in the morning.

The Valley Visitor Center has great information and exhibits about the history and geology of Yosemite, plus it is a good place to get souvenirs, postcards, and magnets.

The aptly-named Mirror Lake reflects Half Dome peak and is beautiful to visit.

However, it dries up towards the end of summer and is best seen in spring/summer. 

Another must in the Valley if you’re visiting in summer is Glacier Point.

Located along the valley rim, it can be reached only by car or private tour.

The views from Glacier Point are stellar. It is also the base for many of Yosemite’s rim hikes.

We suggest spending one day exploring the valley. Yosemite also offers paid guided tours if you prefer them.

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On the next day, you can go up the Tioga Pass road if it is clear of snow.

This is your chance to experience Yosemite devoid of the crowds.

The shuttle bus will take you up the Tioga Pass road to Tuolumne Meadows.

To see Yosemite’s giant sequoia trees, visit the Mariposa Grove.

This area is also accessible by the park shuttle.

End your day by visiting Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite Village.

Photographer Ansel Adams’s stunning black and white photos of Yosemite are a great reminder of how Yosemite looked over half a century ago.

Lake Tahoe And Emerald Bay – 1 Day

If you continue along Route 395 from Yosemite, you will reach lake Tahoe.

Note: Route 395 itself does not reach Lake Tahoe, so you will be following 207 from the Nevada side. 

The deep blue water of Lake Tahoe surrounded by snow-clad mountain peaks of the Sierra Nevadas is one of California’s iconic images.

Located on the California-Nevada border, Lake Tahoe is a popular travel destination for Californians throughout the year.

In winter it is popular for snowshoeing, skiing, and sledding.

Summer in Lake Tahoe is made for biking and camping.

In fall, the area around Lake Tahoe comes alive with spectacular fall foliage and is one of the top fall drives in the country .

South Lake Tahoe or the California side is best for enjoying the outdoors and nature with family while the Nevada side has lots of casinos and is more touristy.

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Crystal clear waters of Lake Tahoe (CC 2.0 – Christian Abend )

The drive around Lake Tahoe is 72 miles long and takes about three hours.

It is highly scenic and one of the best road trips in California.

Much of the shoreline of Lake Tahoe is public and the views of the lake from the drive are stunning.

The lake looks a pretty shade of blue during the day and taking a beautiful picture of the water is a highlight of your visit.

An essential stop along the drive is the Emerald Bay State Park.

The drive here is spectacular and the views of the turquoise lake are lovely.

There are many other ways to enjoy Lake Tahoe.

You can take a helicopter tour or enjoy watersports on the lake.

The Sierra Nevada mountain ranges are an absolute delight for outdoor and nature lovers.

What you will see in these 4 days is just the tip of the iceberg.

The High Sierras have many beautiful alpine valleys, lakes, ghost towns, waterfalls, and hiking trails worth exploring.

If you can spend more time in the Sierra Nevada, then here are some other must attractions:

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks 

These are the two other national parks located in the High Sierras.

The giant sequoias surround you as you drive the park roads creating a surreal and unique experience.

The twisting and turning roads here are not for the faint-hearted (hint: carry some Dramamine!).

Both national parks have great hiking trails and lots of wildlife.

John Muir Trail

While it is not possible to hike in a short time, John Muir Trail deserves a special mention.

This is a long-distance trail in the Sierra Nevada and passes through Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Parks.

It is as renowned as the Appalachian or the Pacific Crest Trail. 

Bodie Ghost Town

The old mining ghost town of Bodie is an hour away from Mammoth Lakes.

Preserved as a state park, the town is full of historic saloons and deserted buildings.

While Sacramento is not in the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges, the city is on the way while returning to San Francisco from Lake Tahoe and makes for a great addition to our California road trip itinerary recommendations.

One of the top attractions in Sacramento is the California State Railroad Museum.

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Stretch 4: Along The Wild North Coast

There are many things to do in Northern California including national parks, scenic drives, beautiful coastal towns, and more.

You will need another 5 days minimum to fully explore the Northern part of the state.

Hence, we do not recommend covering the North Coast if you are following this California Road Trip Itinerary for 10 Days – you simply won’t have time.

The best way to explore this region is to plan a separate road trip in the northern part of the state, the details of which you can read here in our post, Ultimate Northern California road trip itinerary .

California’s North Coast is less visited, unspoiled, and partially unexplored compared to the famous central Coast and the crowded southern coast.

The prehistoric coastal redwood trees grow in groves along the road all the way up to Oregon.

Hwy 1 ends at Leggett where it joins Hwy 101.

While the road follows the coast, for the most part, it turns inward in the area of the Lost Coast.

The remote Lost Coast as the name suggests is devoid of major highways and remains the ultimate adventure for a 10 day trip to California.

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However, the coast is not the only unique thing about Northern California.

The northern part of the state is also home to geothermal activity.

You can climb lava tunnels at Lava Beds National Monument and see volcanic craters, domes, mud pools, etc at Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Here are a few attractions of the region:

Redwoods National and State Park

The Redwoods National and State Parks were created to preserve the old-growth redwood forests.

The Redwoods are the tallest living trees on Earth and also among the oldest.

The National Park and state parks are also home to a number of endangered animals including spotted owl, species of sea lions, etc.

The unique environment of the dense redwood forests by the coast has resulted in the park being designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Seeing the Redwoods covered in fog during winter or spring is a surreal experience.

Point Reyes

Point Reyes National Seashore, located in Marin County, preserves a large swath of northern California’s coastal wilderness.

Most popular attractions at Point Reyes include Alamere Falls on Wildcat Beach and Point Reyes Lighthouse.

Other attractions include the endangered tule elk herd that can be seen around Tomales Point, Native American redwood houses, earthquake trail, and dramatic cliffside beaches.

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Avenue of the Giants

Avenue of the Giants is an over 30 miles long scenic highway that passes through the Humboldt Redwoods State Park and its mighty coastal redwood trees.

Roadside attractions include tunnels cut into redwood trees, giant groves, and unique roadside attractions like a house created from a single redwood log and a Redwood RV.

We suggest hiking in the Redwood groves to experience the truly gigantic trees.

The quaint seaside town of Mendocino is quite different from the coastal towns on the Central Coast.

It reminded me of Maine and the coastal upper East coast due to its Victorian mansions painted in pretty pastel colors.

The town is a historical landmark and very pretty to wander and explore.

Nearby Mendocino Headlands State Park and Russian Gulch State Park are worth a visit.

Nearby Fort Bragg is no fort but a lumber town on the North Coast.

The famous ‘Glass Beach’ of which I’m sure you have seen pics floating around on social media is in Fort Bragg.

The beach is a part of MacKerricher State Park, a state park with amazing views of the undeveloped headlands, beaches, and tide pools.

Another popular attraction in Fort Bragg is the Skunk Train – a railroad built to haul timber logs from the redwood forests.

Other attractions on the North Coast include the pretty Victorian towns of Ferndale and Eureka, Del Norte Redwood State Park, and the seaport community of Crescent City.

More 10 Day California itinerary ideas for slow travelers

You can use our California road trip planner to customize your itinerary based on your interests. 

If you can only spend 10 days in California, then seeing all the above attractions can be overwhelming; here are a few suggestions for those who like slow travel.

California coast road trip itinerary

One great option is to go on a 10 day pacific coast highway trip or 10 day west coast road trip.

That way you can spend more time in the cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles while seeing Big Sur at a leisurely pace. 

On this San Francisco to Los Angeles road trip in 10 days, you can tour the lighthouses, hike the trails, picnic on the beach, visit the wineries of the Central Coast, and enjoy nature – seriously the best road trip in California. 

You can even do the San Francisco to San Diego road trip in 10 days.

In that case, we would recommend keeping aside 2 days each for the 3 major cities and spending the rest of the time in the Big Sur region. 

This San Francisco 10 days trip lets you enjoy the beauty of the coast while visiting the Sierra Nevadas and the desert later.

California National Parks itinerary

California has 9 national parks – all of them are unique and make for an exciting California National park road trip. 

You can visit either the most popular ones or all of them, depending on how much time you want to spend in each park. 

We would suggest starting from Los Angeles, then seeing Joshua Tree and Death Valley before visiting Kings Canyon and Sequoia. 

Then see the beautiful Yosemite Valley. From Yosemite, head north to Lassen and then finally see Redwoods parks before returning to San Francisco. 

You can also see Pinnacles and Channel Islands if you have the time, to complete the national parks in California road trip. 

You can also use this route for creating your own California RV trip itinerary, since most national parks have RV campgrounds. 

Northern California road trip itinerary

Another great option for those who like slow travel is to plan a Northern California itinerary for 10 days. 

Start your road trip from San Francisco and drive along the less visited North Coast and see the majestic redwood trees. 

Drive along the Redwoods Scenic Byway before turning towards the mountains and exploring the caves at Lava Tubes National Monument. 

Visit Mount Shasta on your way to Lassen Volcanic National Park and end your trip in Sacramento, a couple of hours away from San Francisco. 

For more information on how to plan a California road trip focusing on the northern part of the state, read our in-depth post on Northern California road trip .

If you have less time: California itinerary 7 days

If you can’t spare 10 days, then we also have suggestions for 7 day California road trip routes. 

With only 7 days in california, we would recommend focusing on one region and exploring it at a leisurely pace. 

Of course, you can opt for a 7 day southern California itinerary or a 7 day California coast road trip along the PCH, but you can also consider some unique road trip ideas in California which explore its most popular attractions. 

Here are our favorites if you want to see the best of California in a week:

7 day road trip from San Francisco to Yosemite

If you are wondering how to spend a week in California but still see the most popular attractions, then this itinerary is for you. 

Start your road trip in San Francisco, see the Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown, Mission District, Fisherman’s Wharf etc in two days. 

Then spend a day in Napa Valley and nearby Calistoga before seeing Sacramento.

In Sacramento, see the state capitol and the railroad museum then make your way to Yosemite National Park. 

Take a tour of the Yosemite Valley and see the famous El Capitan as well as the many waterfalls.

Enjoy the panoramic view from the Tunnel View Outlook. 

Then depending on the season, visit the Tuolumne Meadows area.

Return to San Francisco to complete 7 day road trip in California.

North California coast road trip

This California 1 week itinerary is perfect for slow travel. 

Land in San Francisco and take a day or two to explore it’s many attractions.

Then rent a car and drive north. 

Part of this road trip is on the Pacific Coast Highway 1 till Legett, after which you will be driving along the famous Redwood scenic byway. 

For your first stop, explore the beautiful Point Reyes.

See the lighthouse and the shipwreck, then eat oysters in Tomales Bay. 

Drive along the Avenue of the Giants and pass through the Redwood tunnels. 

Hike in the prehistoric Fern Canyon and visit the glass beach at Fort Bragg, then last stop at Eureka or Crescent City to finish the California coast 7 day itinerary.

7 Day Southern California trip itinerary

For this ca road trip planner, begin your trip with a day or two in San Diego or Los Angeles and then wind your way around Southern California’s desert attractions. 

See famous Joshua Tree and Palm Springs.

Enjoy the fantastic landscape of the Mojave desert and drink a delicious date shake.

See the sculptures in Borrego Springs. 

Then visit Anaheim and enjoy the theme parks.

There are also many things to do in Anaheim besides Disney. 

7 Day California Coast Road Trip

This is one of the most popular california driving holidays itineraries.

Follow this California road trip itinerary 7 days along the world famous Pacific Coast Highway. 

See the major cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Explore the charming mountain side towns of Pismo Beach and Morro Bay. Learn to surf and spot the elephant seals. 

Spend some time hiking and enjoying the wild, rugged vibe of Big Sur.

Take a tour of the Point Sur Lighthouse and hike down to Keyhole Rock. Go whale watching. 

If you have more time: California road trip itinerary 14 days

This two week california driving itinerary is perfect for long summer vacations, when most parts of the state including the High Sierras are completely accessible. 

Just use our main California trip planner, but add in all optional ideas including San Diego and the beautiful northern coast. 

Then see the Lassen Volcanic National Park area and visit the beautiful Burney Falls from Redding.

Spend some time in Mount Shasta and head back to San Francisco to complete California 2 week itinerary.

We hope you liked our California road trip blog.

Now you have everything ready to plan your perfect California trip itinerary, so make the most of it.

Did we miss any hidden gems in the Golden State?

Which part of the road trip did you enjoy the most? Let us know in the comments!

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The World Was Here First

13 Best Stops on an LA to San Francisco Drive

Last Updated on December 7, 2023

by Michael Rozenblit

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. That means if you click a link and make a purchase, we may make a small commission. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. For more information, see our privacy policy.

one night road trip

An LA to San Francisco drive along the Pacific Coast Highway in California is undoubtedly one of the best road trips in the world. While you can drive between the two cities along the I-5 highway in just under 6 hours, taking your time and driving along the coast provides travellers with some amazing sites and stops to see.

Combining this section with a drive from LA to San Diego or even as part of a longer trip to Portland or Seattle makes for the ultimate California itinerary for visitors who want to see the best of this state! 

Wondering where to stop on this iconic route? These stops combine a fantastic mix of beautiful nature, relaxed beach towns, hip cities and quirky attractions!

Table of Contents

Getting from LA to San Francisco

The distance on the drive from LA to San Francisco is about 382 miles (615 kilometres) and takes only around 6 hours non-stop if travelling on the I-5 Highway.

However, the stops outlined on this drive go primarily along Highway 1 and Highway 101 and you should expect to spend at least 3 to 4 days to see all the highlights of the PCH.

If you need to rent a car prior to setting off on your LA to San Francisco road trip then I recommend  searching on Rentalcars.com to compare pricesa great deal for a rental car as they aggregate prices across many major providers.

Alternatively, if you prefer a campervan or RV for your drive along the Pacific Coast Highway, then I suggest browsing on Outdoorsy which offers a huge selection of choices.

Best Stops on an LA to San Francisco Road Trip

Below are 13 amazing stops to enjoy between Los Angeles and San Francisco along Highway 1 and the Pacific Ocean.  

1. Santa Monica

Even though Santa Monica is still a part of Los Angeles , it makes for a fantastic first stop when on a California road trip.

Home to the iconic Santa Monica Pier, there are a number of great coffee shops and cafes that can provide a much-needed caffeine boost before hitting the road properly.

I suggest first heading either to Main Street which has a local Farmer’s Market on weekends. If you want to indulge in Santa Monica’s world-famous shopping then venture over to the Third Street Promenade before ending your stop in Santa Monica with a walk along the Oceanfront and an obligatory photo at the Pier! 

Iconic Santa Monica Pier

2. Malibu 

Next up on your road trip and only about a twenty-minute drive from Santa Monica is Malibu. Malibu is one of the most beautiful areas to visit in the Los Angeles area and is a worthy stop whenever exploring this metropolis.

Not only is it famous for some absolutely breathtaking beaches such as Zuma and Topenga, you can also visit an offshoot of the notable Getty Museum – the Getty Villa – which houses an incredible collection of art and antiquities.

There are also some incredible homes here as it is one of the most sought-after postal codes in the entire Los Angeles area. So if you fancy seeing over-the-top multi-million dollar homes or want to check out some of the beautiful beaches and stunning scenery, then a stop in Malibu for a couple of hours is worth it.

3. Santa Barbara

The city of Santa Barbara is a fantastic place to stop for a day and enjoy the laid-back California lifestyle. Begin your one day in Santa Barbara  by strolling along the Harbour and exploring the iconic Stearns Wharf.

You can then take advantage of the plethora of watersports offered in the area by going surfing, kayaking or paddleboarding. If you don’t feel like getting into the water then there are also a number of hiking opportunities in the area.

In the afternoon, make sure to take advantage of Santa Barbara’s Urban Wine Trails. There are dozens of tasting rooms scattered across the city with some of the best wine you’ll find in all of California.

Most of the tasting rooms are within walking distance of each other meaning you can enjoy a couple of these wineries during your time in Santa Barbara. Tasting flights typically cost around $15 and you can share a tasting between two if you want to visit multiple wineries. 

If you prefer a guided experience and want to visit several wineries, this guided food & photo tour includes visits to a number of tasting rooms along with food tastings and a guide to show you some hidden spots in the area.

Santa Barbara is a great place to stop for the night with the town having many great accommodation options such as this beachside cottage or this modern condo.

Santa Barbara beach

4. Solvang 

From Santa Barbara, the drive goes along the 101 through picturesque mountains and wine country. About 45 minutes north of Santa Barbara, you have the option of detouring to Solvang – a town that will make you feel as if you’ve been transported to Denmark! 

Solvang was founded by Danish immigrants who wanted a feeling of familiarity after migrating to the USA.

Solvang is fairly compact and you could spend an hour or so walking around here and enjoying the Northern European architecture and shops. If you’ve visited Copenhagen before you might also notice a replica of a lot of the city’s famous sites such as the Little Mermaid Statue and Hans Christian Anderson Museum.

Solvang is an unusual stop and not something you would expect to find on a trip along the Pacific Coast Highway. However, it makes for a good detour if you are longing for a taste of Europe!

Windmills in Solvang, CA

5. Pismo Beach

After Solvang, your next opportunity to stop on the California Coast will be at Pismo Beach – a quintessential California surf town located just south of the larger city of San Luis Obispo!

The main attraction of Pismo Beach is the stunning coastline that you find here along with the old-school California feel. On a nice day, you can walk along the pier and spend an hour or two watching surfers hitting the waves.

Alternatively, if you’re a surfer yourself, then you can rent a board and enjoy the great conditions which are suitable for beginners and advanced surfers.

Pismo Beach makes a good stop for lunch if you have spent the night in Santa Barbara as there are a number of great independent cafes and restaurants to enjoy. We stopped at Shin’s Poke  which is an excellent place to eat if you’re after a fresh poke bowl!

Pismo Beach

6. Hearst Castle

Another unique stop to make on a road trip from LA to San Francisco is Hearst Castle, located a short detour outside of San Simeon. The castle was built by newspaper mogul William Hearst and will once again make you feel as if you’ve been transported to Europe!

Visiting the castle starts at $30 and takes a couple of hours making this a fairly expensive detour if you’re trying to minimise your  California trip cost , however, you can get a view of the castle from Highway 1 if you prefer to stick to the coast.

Make sure to also keep an eye out for zebras and other animals when driving past Hearst Castle which are remnants of what was once the world’s largest private zoo. 

7. Elephant Seal Vista Point 

Located only a few miles from the detour to Hearst Castle, Elephant Seal Vista Point gives you the opportunity to see elephant seals relaxing on the beach and waddling in the ocean.

The seals spend the majority of the year living deep in the ocean however they come onto the beach throughout the year with peak season being in December to March when they are breeding.

The seals are absolutely fascinating to watch and you can easily spend an hour or so walking along the viewing platforms and seeing them from unique vantage points. 

The viewing platforms here are wheelchair accessible, free to visit and maintained by Friends of the Elephant Seal who are a non-profit organisation working hard to conserve these magnificent animals. 

Elephant Seals on the PCH

Arguably the highlight of any LA to San Francisco drive, Big Sur is an area of California that will absolutely blow you away! There are several state parks and coastal walks in the area which means there is plenty of spectacular natural scenery to enjoy and you should plan to spend at least one day in Big Sur.  

From the dramatic coastline to beautiful waterfalls to lush redwoods there is something for everybody at Big Sur. Make sure to stop at iconic sites such as Bixby Creek Bridge & McWay Waterfall which are located on Highway 1.

Spend a couple of hours hiking in Pfieffer Big Sur State Park and make sure to take advantage of the plethora of short coastal walks that you can access by pulling off Highway 1. The coastal walks were the highlight of our time in Big Sur as watching the waves crash against the cliffs is infatuating!

Bixby Creek Bridge

Located just north of Big Sur, Carmel is a town that deserves to be stopped at in its own right. The town of Carmel is quite charming to walk through and there are a number of artisan shops to check out.

Similarly to Santa Barbara, Carmel is also a great town to stop at a wine tasting room to enjoy a glass or flight! 

It should also come as no surprise given its proximity to Big Sur but there is plenty of beautiful scenery to enjoy close to the town of Carmel. Nearby Point Lobos State Reserve makes for a fantastic sunset stop as well as a great place to enjoy a scenic drive as there are typically fewer visitors here compared to Big Sur.

Sunset at Point Lobos State Reserve in Carmel

10. Monterey 

From Carmel, take the famous 17-mile drive towards Monterey . The 17-mile drive is a beautiful coastal road that has a number of lookout points to stop at. The drive gets extremely busy so I highly recommend doing the drive first thing in the morning before the tour buses arrive! 

In Monterey, enjoy a walk down Cannery Row while spotting tributes to some of the literary greats that have come from this part of the world.

You can also visit Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is considered one of the best aquariums in the world and has a number of great exhibits to explore or go on a whale watching tour to see sea life in the wild.

It’s worth also driving to the nearby town of Pacific Grove, both to enjoy more local and affordable places for lunch (I highly recommend a clam chowder bread bowl from  Vivolo’s Chowder House !) and to stop at the Pacific Grove Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary.  

From the months of October to February, thousands of monarch butterflies migrate here and you can walk through the sanctuary and see them flying around between trees and colourful plants. Entrance to the sanctuary is free. 

Staying in Monterey or Carmel for a night or two is a great option for travellers taking their time when driving from LA to San Francisco. There are also unique accommodation options such as this peaceful cottage in Carmel .

Cannery Row in Monterey

11. Santa Cruz 

Driving from Monterey to Santa Cruz will take approximately one hour and have you arriving in another quintessential California surf town!

The most popular place to visit in Santa Cruz is the Beach Boardwalk which is home to one of the oldest roller coasters in the USA.  It has been significantly upgraded over the years and is now a great mix of old-school charm and modern attractions. Entrance to the Beach Boardwalk is free and you pay per ride.

After exploring central Santa Cruz, take a drive or walk along West Cliff Drive for another dose of spectacular views and watching surfers go about their day! Just inland from Santa Crus is San Jose, which, at the heart of Silicon Valley, can be an interesting detour for fans of tech.

Beach Boardwalk in Santa Cruz

12. Half Moon Bay 

Located only 30 miles south of San Francisco , Half Moon Bay makes an excellent lunch stop before heading towards the big city! Half Moon Bay is a relatively small town and has a number of great little cafes and boutique shops to explore if you want to stretch your legs.

I recommend heading to San Benito House Deli for lunch where you can get enormous and delicious homemade sandwiches with a range of toppings for very reasonable prices. Lunch here will ensure you’re fuelled up for the final part of your journey to San Francisco from LA.

13. Marin Headlands

When ending your drive, I suggest marking your final stop as Marin Headlands in San Francisco. This will direct you to drive across the famous Golden Gate Bridge and towards Marin Headlands where you can enjoy several viewpoints of the bridge and the city of San Francisco!

There is absolutely no better first impression of this amazing city than seeing its most iconic site from the spectacular viewpoints of Marin Headlands!

The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco at sunset

Is it better to do a San Francisco to Los Angeles Drive? 

While we explored all of the stops in this article by driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco, it is arguably better to do this trip in reverse.

A San Francisco to Los Angeles road trip will see you driving next to the coast which has several advantages. The main benefit is that you can easily pull off Highway 1 when you want to stop and enjoy a viewpoint or take a photo.

This is particularly beneficial when driving in Big Sur as the roads are narrow and it can be more challenging to pull into a car park from the other side of the road. The other advantage is that the views are obviously better for the passengers!

At the end of the day though, you should drive along Highway 1 whichever way makes the most sense to you! Regardless of whether you travel from San Francisco to LA or the other way around, the stops will be the same and you will still get to see all of the magnificent attractions in this beautiful part of California!

Viewpoint from a coastal walk in Big Sur

Where to Stay Between LA and San Francisco 

While you can find accommodation anywhere along the Los Angeles to San Francisco drive, I recommend basing yourself in Santa Barbara and Carmel or Monterey out of all these stops along Highway 1.

Both these areas have several attractions that can be explored over a couple of days while the other stops work better as pitstops when driving. That being said, if you want to spend a couple of days surfing or breaking up your journey further than both Pismo Beach or Santa Cruz are also logical places to spend a couple of nights.

Los Angeles 

Hollywood Inn Suites Hotel – Located in the heart of Hollywood, this hotel has a range of rooms to choose from and is centrally located making it an excellent base for exploring.

Freehand Los Angeles – A modern hostel located downtown, it is a great place to stay for solo travellers or people trying to cut down costs. There are private rooms as well as dorms available.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other hotels in Los Angeles!

Santa Barbara

The Presidio Hotel – A boutique hotel in the heart of the town with a great selection of rooms and a friendly staff that will go above and beyond to ensure you have a great stay. 

Cheshire Cat Inn   – This quaint bed and breakfast is perfect for couples who want a romantic place to stay. A fantastic breakfast is included in the room rate.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other hotels in Santa Barbara!

Monterey/Carmel

Carmel Green Lantern Inn – Located next to Carmel Beach, this cosy bed and breakfast is a lovely place to stay in Carmel. Their guest rooms have private entrances making this a great option for people looking for more privacy. 

The Stevenson Monterey – If you want to stay in Monterey, then this motel is a great budget option and is located just off Highway 1. They have a range of rooms available and their location is ideal for people that are only staying in the area for one night.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other hotels close to Carmel or Monterey!

San Francisco

Axiom Hotel  – If you’re looking for an up market place to stay, then this chic hotel is perfectly located right off Union Square.

Orchard Hotel   –  A boutique hotel, located in downtown San Francisco, they have several different types of rooms available and breakfast is included in the rate.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other hotels in San Francisco!

Sunset in Carmel, California

The drive along Highway 1 from LA to San Francisco is absolutely one of the best trips that we have ever been on! With so many different attractions to see, you will definitely be able to find something of interest for all types of travellers!

Are you planning on driving the PCH? Have any questions? Let us know in the comments below!

one night road trip

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9 Best Stops on a San Francisco to Yosemite Road Trip

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About Michael Rozenblit

Michael is a co-founder and writer for The World Was Here First. Both solo and with his partner, Maggie, he has travelled to over 50 countries across the globe and has a particular affinity for the Balkans and Eastern Europe. He’s lived in numerous countries worldwide but currently resides in his hometown of Melbourne, Australia. Read more about Michael

Hi Michael, Quick logistics question. I love to do loosely planned road trips, staying longer where ever I like, and finding accommodation along the way. Is it necessary to book accommodation in advance for a week long road trip between LA and San Fran in late September / early Oct? Regards from Australia

Hello Michael Great blog – thanks. We are planning to fly in and out of LA from London in February. I’m the only driver, my husband doesn’t drive and I don’t want to do long stints, so thinking of flying up to SF spending two nights then taking a slow drive back to LA using your recommendations. I don’t want to drive for more than two hours at a time and we are happy to stop over of 2/3 nights each stop to get the best of PCH and maybe finish with 3 nights in LA. We have 10/14 nights to use for this holiday. Can you help with an itinerary please? Huge thanks Kaye

Hi Michael,

I am planning to fly to LA with my wife on 8 Dec for the drive from LA up to San Francisco and then drive back LA. We are going to spend 3 nights for this journey.

As you mentioned that the scenery is better from SF to LA direction, I would like to seek your view if it is better for me to drive directly from LA to SF (stay overnight at SF on day 1) and then drive back from SF and then stay over at Carmel and Santa Barbara for 2 nights respectively. In this way, I will be able to stay and view the scenery from the other direction.

Does my plan make sense? Thanks in advance for your advice.

Hi Charles, That makes sense to me – it will make it easier to pull off at the viewpoints if you’re driving in both directions regardless.

Excellent and very helpful ideas for the trip. Thank so much👍👍👍👍👍

Hi, I and my family will plan to be with our friends families in San Francisco from irvine, and I believe that your trip road is an amazing one, so thank you so much for your effort 🌹🌹

Thanks Jamal! Glad you found the article helpful! 🙂

Hi, loved reading your article. I am travelling from UK to San Francisco in April and looking to do a 3 night / 4 day drive along Pacific Coast whilst there. So leaving SF and then back up again. How far down towards Santa Barbara is reasonable to get to and where would you recommend the 3 night sleepovers? Thank you so much.

Hi Caroline, With only 3 nights I would suggest spending your time primarily in and around Big Sur and staying in Monterey/Carmel.

Hi Michael! Thank you for this excellent information. My husband and I are strongly considering to follow your recommendations but from SF to LA. I just want to know how many days approx you recommend for this road trip with no rush. Thank you

Hi Mariel, I suggest at least 3 to 4 days for ths trip.

going from8/15 21 san fran to la catching a game in both towns i am looking for big sur tour love nature and wine for wife going in august suggestions welcome will rent a car fo trip

Hi Don, We have some more tips on Big Sur here: https://www.theworldwasherefirst.com/big-sur-day-trip-itinerary/ . Hope you have a great trip!

Hope the travels will be open in fall as we are planning a trip to California. Based on your article we will do the SFO to LA and if you can give us an ideal stops along the way. We are open to do this in 3-4 days so that we don’t need to rush. Our hobby is Photography and would like to be in places to take some amazing shots during the right times early mornings and evening during golden hours. Also if you have any other spots that are not in the article please let us know too.

This is a great article and site that I use frequently. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us.

Hi Reuben, With 3-4 days, I think you have enough time to visit all these stops if you want! I would suggest spending at least a couple of nights near Big Sur in places like Monterey or Carmel so you can get the most of out this beautiful area and be able to take your photos. Hope you have a great trip soon!

We already covered Santa Monica and Malibu. And we are planning to stay only one night at one of the other destination, where do you recommend we stay ? And is it possible to cover all destinations? Thanks 🙂

Hi Abdul, I don’t think you can make all the stops in one night. I would suggest spending the night in Monterey/Carmel and seeing Big Sur and the surrounding area.

Thanks for these awesome tips

I’m hiring an RV (relocation) from LA and dropping off in San Fran.

I have 3 days to do the drive so I’m planning to stop and stay the nights in Sanaa Barbara, Pismo and Monterey

Are these areas generally ok with RV’s parking up for the night?

Hi Albert, I believe you need to find a campsite to park your RV for the night, however, I’m not sure about the specific rules for RVs in California.

We are planning this drive in December and have loved reading your advice. We are a family of 4, 2 teenagers capable of long stints in the car and quick stops if needed. We’re planning to stop for 2 nights on the way from Santa Monica to San Fran, being Cambria and somewhere around Monterey. We were heading straight to San Fran but have now decided to have a few nights at Lake Tahoe, so we’re thinking of going from Monterey to Lake Tahoe. Is this advisable and will we miss anything between Monterey and San Fran if we do this? We’ll spend a few nights at Lake Tahoe then head back to San Fran for a few nights before flying out to NY. Does this sound like a good plan? Can you give us any tips. First timers coming from Australia. Thanks kindly.

Hi Dani, that sounds like a good plan! In our opinion, the best section of the PCH is from Santa Barbara to Monterey so if you prefer to visit Lake Tahoe after that sounds fine. Hope you have a great trip!

Hi! My friends and I are planning on doing this trip in reverse because we have to end on Los Angeles. How RV friendly would you say it is? Beyond the road part, which I assume won´t be an issue, I mean where would you recommend we stop along the way (we have four nights to spare and four alone). Thanks!

Hi Sanitago, While we didn’t have an RV there are campsites along the PCH so finding somewhere to stay shouldn’t be an issue. I suggest basing yourself near Monterey/Carmel & Santa Barbara if you have 4 nights.

Hi, My husband and I have just looked our tickets to LA from Australia in November We were wanting to do the coastal road to san Fransisco but are not confident driving over there, is there any other way to visit these places if you dont have a car ? Buses, trains, tours . ? thanks

Hi Gemma, you can see and stop at some but not all of these stops by taking the Amtrack Coastal Train and there are also some shuttle buses but it’s going to add a lot of travel time compared to driving. You can also take day trips to some places from LA or SF – have a look at these articles for more information. https://www.theworldwasherefirst.com/big-sur-day-trip-itinerary/ & https://www.theworldwasherefirst.com/santa-barbara-day-trip/ . Hope you have a great trip!

Hi Michael, I have a hotel booked in Las vegas from 9th-16th April next year. I havent booked any flights yet and am contemplating flying into San Fran, driving down to La and then driving across to Las vegas on the 9th. Ill then fly out of vegas on the 16th. Potentially the earliest i can fly into San Fran is on the 5th April. I understand i wouldn’t be able to make all the stops that you say in your blog but would that give me enough time to see the Golden gate bridge and main attractions in San Fran and then drive down and see the Hollywood sign and the stars on hollywood boulevard before making the trip to Vegas or would it be too rushed. Any advise would be greatfully appreciated i only wish i had more time.

Hi John, that sounds do-able if you don’t plan on making any of these stops. You could spend 2 days in SF, drive down to LA and then spend one day in LA before heading to Las Vegas. Hope you have a great trip!

Thanks for the reply Michael, really appreciate your insight. I don’t mind stopping on the way down just not for trekking or surfing more for just the views. Is there anywhere you can recommend for a shopping stop or a food stop between San Francisco and LA as it seems to be about a 6 hour drive. Also the same between LA and Vegas would be great. I think that’s a shorter drive through.

If going down the coastal route in one day I would suggest stopping somewhere like Pismo Beach which is about halfway. I haven’t driven from LA to Vegas so can’t offer any advice there.

Really appreciate your response. Thanks Michael. Really enjoyed your blog and all the insights. Looking forward to going now.

Thanks for the tips, going to Cali this month cant wait. I already booked my flight BNE to LAX then SFO back to brisbane so will be doing the trip la to san fran. Thanks for all the tips as I have never visited California before.

Hope you have a great trip Maree!

we have 13 nights flying in and out from San Fran.

What would be the best use of our time, travelling with kids? We want to do the coast down to LA… but what would be a good loop route, to keep things interesting and maximise time?

Hi Bob, you could possibly go down to the coast to LA and then travel inland, stopping at places like Sequoia National Forest, Yosemite National Park and Death Valley before returning to SF. Hope you have a great trip!

Hello Michael,

Thanks for writing this blog. Really helpful for people like me.

May I ask in case I would like to spend more time. Can you please guide if travelling from San Francisco to LA, where would be the best place to stop and stay?

Hi Gourav, personally I think Monterey/Carmel & Santa Barbara are the best places to spend the night when driving from San Francisco to LA. You could spend 2-3 nights in Monterey/Carmel as it makes for a good base for exploring Big Sur and other nearby attractions. If you want an additional place to stay the night, I suggest Pismo Beach. Hope you have a great trip!

Awesome! Just the kind of guide we were looking for. We plan to do this in June 2020 with our 4 year old daughter. This is going to help us immensely in fulfilling our Californian road trip dream. Thank you from the bottom of my heart??

Glad you found the article helpful Abhijeet – hope you have a great time in California!

Hello, Michael. Thank you so very much for all of your information. It was very helpful. My husband and I are traveling from LAX-San Francisco-Bob Hope Airport (he surprised me with trip) in a little more than a week. My husband was hoping to add the Sequoia Nat. Forest, but we are only going for 5 days/4 nights. Any suggestions on how to do this? Is it even possible to include? Thank you.

Hi Lily! I personally think it might be too rushed to include it if you only have 5 days as there’s a lot to see along the PCH. If you want to go there, it’s about a 4-hour drive from LAX so you can potentially go there first and then drive back onto the PCH towards Pismo Beach. You can also see Redwoods in Muir Woods or Redwood Regional Park in Oakland which might be a more logical stop if flying from SF. Hope you have a great trip!

HI Michael,

My family and I are planning a road trip from SF to LA to LV in End December/Early January. We are planning to use the PCH to drive to LA.

Is there any advice we need to take note for driving along the PCH during this period?

What will be the weather like?

Hi Daniel! We were in California at that time of year and the weather is quite mild, particularly as you get further south. Hope you have a great trip!

Thank Michael. Any special precaution when driving along PCH during this period. Any chance of snowing or land slide etc?

just to make sure especially when family is traveling along.

You won’t get any snow on the PCH. There have been landslides in the past but they’re rare so I wouldn’t worry too much about it or let it impact your trip.

Wow! What a helpful article – thank you! I am travelling to LA in August 2020 with my husband and two young children for the first time. We have 11 nights/days to drive LA – San Fran. I don’t want too many stops in different locations due to all the packing and unpacking! Do you think 6 nights in Santa Monica and 5 nights in Monterey would work? Are these locations good bases for exploring everything/day trips? I’m not sure if Santa Monica to Monterey is too far to drive in one day? If so, can you recommend a stop in between? Thank you so much!

Hi JD! Glad you found the article helpful! I think spending that long in those places should give you plenty of time to enjoy all the attractions of the area. I think you can easily drive between Santa Monica & Monterey in one day, particularly as you can go back to Big Sur on one of the days when you are in Monterey. If you want to stop somewhere, I suggest Santa Barbara.

Love your advise?. Traveling oct 24-november 3 and driving the coast. Your ideas are great❣️ Any other recommendations? Can’t wait❣️?

Hi Terri! Hope you have a great trip! Check out our other related articles for ideas on where to go south of LA or north of SF! https://www.theworldwasherefirst.com/san-francisco-to-seattle-drive/ & https://www.theworldwasherefirst.com/la-to-san-diego-drive/

This may be a strange question but we are considering this road trip next February and I have read that the PCH can be dangerous, if not lethal, in places due to the absence of guard rails. As I’m terrified of heights this is a real concern. Can you put my mind at rest or suggest an alternative route for the more white knuckle parts?

Hi Julie, I didn’t notice any absence of guard rails. Unfortunately, there isn’t an alternative route if you want to see the majority of these sites!

Hello. I’m taking my mother for her 72nd bday and my 3.5 yo daughter Is it a good idea to leave from riverside county on a Friday at 5 am Visit at Hearst castle Hike big sur and spend night in a cabin. Saturday am go to Monterey aquarium stop by at Half moon Head to Marin headlands And spend 2 nights in Sf Drive back to riverside Monday 5 am

Any suggestions on itenerary I have in mind

Hi Claudia! It sounds like a busy first day but if you are willing to leave at 5 am then it might be doable. Hope you have a good time!

Hello! Road trip, my 2 brothers and my 3 teenagers and I , we have Dec 26-30.. how much time to spend in LA, what to see, we fly into LA late on 25th and fly out of San Fran late on Dec 30th. Thanks

Hi Tamara, I’d personally rather spend the time driving along the PCH and spending a couple of days in San Francisco rather than time in LA.

Hello! your 13 stops article was very inspiring for us… I know you’ve had similar questions so I’ll be short and sweet, but we land in LA and take the road at 9 am and have that day and the next to reach San Fran… Which is a good mid way stop for the night so we can split attractions in half? and also get a good sunset? Is Monterey a good place to stop half way if we do a quick tour of LA and the stops before Monterey on day 1 and continue the rest of the stops and do a quick tour of San Fran on day 2? or is somewhere else a better mid-way stop? Thanks!

Hi Jen! I would suggest spending the night in Santa Barbara or Pismo Beach if you’re going to spend the morning in LA. Then driving from there to SF on day 2, taking in Big Sur and Monterey/Carmel. I don’t think you’ll have time to drive through Big Sur on day 1 if you’re spending time in LA as well. Hope you have a great trip!

Hello, we are planning on doing this drive early december. We would be leaving from Anaheim to San Fran Could this drive be done in one day? We understand we wouldn’t have the chance to stop at all the stops but wonder if it could be done? xx love the blog very excited!

Hi Jayde! You can drive between the two cities in one day along the 5 though there isn’t much to see along that route compared to going along the coast.

Dear Michael, appreciate your help in planning a trip to California [we did leave it late…]. We are flying into LV from UK in mid August [was the only route available from London using miles] and immediately to SF. excluding arrival and departure we will have 11 days. We would like to spend a min time to see SF attractions and then drive along the cost to LA and presumably tale a flight to LV at the end of the trip. There is a desire to include a detour into Yosemite into the trip. We are happy to fly it it allows us to see more and saves time. Does it make sense to go fly to Yosemite from SF [Fresno?] and then spend there a night and then rent a car there and drive to Monterey and then onwards to LA? Would we miss anything on the coast like from SF to Monterey? How many days is then optimal for between Monterey and LA? Is it all managable or should we drop smth out of it?

you advice is much appreciate as I am already in a panic state…

Hi Natalia! I wouldn’t recommend flying as it will likely take more time than driving and you’ll have a lot more options for car rental in SF. The highlights of the LA to SF drive are from Monterey to LA so you wouldn’t necessarily miss much if you speed through the SF to Monterey drive. I’d suggest 2-3 days for Monterey to LA to see the highlights though you could obviously spend more time if you enjoy hiking and surfing! Hope this helps and you have a great trip!

Hello, Planning a LA to San Fran drive and was wondering if you have recommendations for stops with handcrafted cocktails also ? thanks!

Hi Andrea, I don’t have any specific recommendations however I’m sure you’ll be able to find one in the major towns along the route such as Santa Barbara, Monterey or Carmel.

I’m looking forward to this drive in September, leaving from San Diego to San Francisco. I’m so glad that I came across this blog that recommends what cities to consider for overnight accommodations. We rented a convertible for the drive and gave ourselves from Sep 25 to Sep 29 to complete the route. We are so looking forward to this…thanks again!

Glad you found this article helpful Donna – hope you have a great time in California!

What kind of weather should one expect between Christmas and New Years? Also, is this a busy time of year for travelers in these locations?

We were there in the early-mid December last year and the weather was quite pleasant during the day though slightly chilly at night. San Francisco is a bit cooler but still quite mild particularly compared to the European winters we’ve had the last few years!

Exciting! How long would this whole road trip take? Make it a comfortable one with no rush. Also, is August a good time to do this road trip? Thanks

Hi Salah! I think a minimum of 3 to 4 days to enjoy this stretch of the PCH. However, you could easily spend a week or more if you like hiking, surfing or want to make additional detours. August will be peak season but the weather will be hot so you’ll be able to enjoy the beaches to their full extent! Hope you have a great trip!

Hi Michael Are there any ‘must see’ locations for children aged 8/11 that spring to mind and do you have any recommendations for family friendly accomodation along the way. We have the Boardwalk at Santa Cruz, Monterey Aquarium, Hearst Castle, Tinker Toys and Sweet Shop at Carmel and Pismo Beach listed but was just interested if you had any other suggestions. We live in Australia but stay in LA for 4-6 weeks every June/July so Malibu/Santa Monica have already been covered on previous trips. This year after visiting family in San Fran we are driving back to LA on the scenic route on the July 4 long weekend period. Many thanks Jen

Hi Jen! Maybe check out the Exploratorium in San Francisco as well? It’s a great interactive science museum! I would also recommend spending some time at Big Sur as there are plenty of great hikes and things to see and do! Check out this article for some specific Big Sur suggestions: https://www.theworldwasherefirst.com/big-sur-day-trip-itinerary/

A number of the accommodation recs listed in this article have options for rooms that can accommodate up to 4 people so worth checking out some of them! Hope you have a great trip!

Hello my name is josiane i am planning trip We are a family my husband and i and two girls 23 and 21 We ll leave santa monica on the 22-23 of july and we must travel from san francisco to las vegas on the 27-28th of july .what do u suggest us to do and Where to sleep in how many in how many cities we may spend the night and for how many nights? Can tou give me an idea please?!

Hi Josiane, you can see all the stops listed in this article over 3-4 nights, staying in Santa Barbara and Monterey or Carmel. If you want to allocate nights to San Francisco as well then you’ll probably need to cut out some of the stops as it will be rushed!

I wish I had seen your blog before I booked my flight and went in the opposite direction from San Francisco to la instead of the north drive, wonderful ideas here and will probably investigate many. Not a hiker or surfer but I am sure we will discover lots

Glad you liked the article – hope you enjoy it! 🙂

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Nomadic Matt: Travel Cheaper, Longer, Better

A 7-Day Southern California Road Trip Itinerary

The open road cutting through Joshua Tree Park in the rugged desert of California during a road trip

I’ve been on many road trips around the US over the years. It’s by far my favorite way to explore the country.

One state in particular is perfect for road-tripping: California.

Occupying much of the West Coast, California is home to almost 40 million people. Here visitors will find high mountains, giant trees, scrubby deserts, green valleys, stunning beaches, and vibrant cities. It’s its own little country in some ways.

Since California is so big, I’m going to do a series of posts that cover road trips in the state, as it’s better to focus on smaller areas so you can really soak up and enjoy each region. In travel, less is often more.

To kick off the series, here is a one-week itinerary for Southern California:

Table of Contents

Days 1–2: Los Angeles

Days 2–3: san diego, days 3–5: joshua tree national park, days 5–7: sequoia national park & kings canyon national park, day 7: head back to los angeles.

Looking out over Los Angeles from behind the Hollywood sign

The city has a lot to do. Here are some of my personal favorite activities:

  • Stroll down Hollywood Boulevard – Don’t miss the Walk of Fame (where celebrities have their names engraved on the sidewalk) and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (featuring stars’ handprints and footprints).
  • Visit LACMA – With over 150,000 works, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is the largest art museum in the western US. It has collections from pretty much every era throughout history and every region of the world. Admission is $25 USD.
  • Hike to the Hollywood Sign – While you can snap pictures of the sign from pretty much anywhere in town, it’s also possible to hike up to the sign itself to take in the view. The three trails (from easiest to hardest) are the Mt. Hollywood Trail, the Brush Canyon Trail, and the Cahuenga Peak Trail.
  • Browse The Last Bookstore – This is one of my favorite bookstores in the world. It sells books and records, has art displays, and features a cool upstairs area with cheap books. Browse the shelves, grab a coffee, and buy a book!
  • Hit the beach – There are a lot of awesome beaches in and around Los Angeles. Some of the best are: Venice Beach, Carbon Beach, Santa Monica State Beach, Huntington City Beach, and El Matador.
  • See the Getty Museum – Opened in 1997 as part of the massive Getty Center, this museum has a diverse collection of paintings, manuscripts, drawings, and other artwork from the eighth century to the present day. Admission is free.
  • Go hiking – LA has a lot of hiking trails, so it’s easy to connect with nature. Some worth checking out are the Charlie Turner Trail (90 minutes), Baldwin Hills (30 minutes), Runyon Canyon (45 minutes), Portuguese Bend Reserve (3 hours), and Echo Mountain (3–3.5 hours).
  • See the Le Brea Tar Pits – These natural asphalt pits are located in Hancock Park and have existed for upwards of 50,000 years. Tons of fossils, preserved for centuries, have been found in them. The museum has lots of interesting information about the pits and how they came to be. Adult admission is $15 USD.

For more things to see and do, here’s my complete guide to Los Angeles .

WHERE TO STAY

  • Banana Bungalow Hollywood – A chill, laid-back hostel that’s super social and organizes lots of activities.
  • Freehand Los Angeles – This hostel/hotel features designer rooms with comfortable beds, a rooftop pool and bar with amazing views of the city, a lobby bar, a restaurant, and even a fitness center.

For more suggestions, here’s my complete list of favorite hostels in Los Angeles!  

The skyline of San Diego as seen from over the bay

Here are some things to do during your visit:

  • Tour the USS Midway Museum – This aircraft carrier was the largest ship in the world until 1955. It saw action in numerous conflicts before being decommissioned in 1992 and turned into a museum. You can explore the flight deck as well as many of the rooms below. Admission is $32 USD. You can get your ticket in advance here .
  • Have fun at Belmont Park – This kitschy amusement park is right next to the ocean and perfect for some cheesy fun. It has a few classic rides as well as games and lots of greasy (and delicious) food and snacks.
  • Go surfing – Whether you’re a veteran or a newbie, grab a board and hit the waves. There’s some awesome surfing here. You can usually rent a board for around $60 USD a day. 90-minute lessons cost around $150 USD.
  • Visit the San Diego Zoo – Located in Balboa Park (see below) and with over 3,500 animals and 700,000 plant species, the San Diego Zoo is a massive, 1,800-acre park where you could easily spend an entire day. It’s one of the best zoos in the country and a great choice for anyone traveling with kids. A one-day pass is $72 USD.
  • Explore Balboa Park – This is one of the oldest recreational parks in the US. In addition to the zoo, there are dozens of museums, as well as gardens, walking paths, sports fields, stadiums, theaters, and more. It’s a massive cultural center and green space with a ton to see and do.
  • Enjoy Pacific Beach – Head to Pacific Beach if you want to soak up the sun, surf, or go for a swim. The area is also known for its nightlife and offers lots of bars, clubs, and restaurants.
  • Go whale watching – Between December and April, California gray whales migrate from Alaska to Mexico. They can grow up to 49 feet long and are incredible to see up close. Tours usually cost around $55 USD. You can book your tour here .
  • Hike Point Loma – This peninsula is where Europeans first arrived in California. You can walk out to the tip and enjoy the sweeping views of the ocean, visit the old lighthouse (built in 1855), and watch locals climb the cliffs of Osprey Point.
  • HI San Diego – This hostel organizes tons of events and tours, includes free breakfast, and has a big kitchen so you can cook your own food to save money.
  • ITH Adventure Hostel – This eco-hostel has a vegetable garden (and gives free veggies to guests), a recycling and compost program, and even backyard chickens. There is a lot of outdoor common space to relax in too.

For more suggestions, here’s a list of my favorite hostels in San Diego!  

The iconic Joshua trees growing in the aria California desert

It’s an otherworldly spot, a Martian landscape perfect for hiking, camping, and escaping the busy cities along California’s coast. There are countless trails to enjoy, ranging from short and easy to multiday challenges. Some suggestions:

  • Ryan Mountain – A steep 3-mile hike offering some incredible views.
  • Wall Street Mill – An easy 2.8-mile hike that leads to an old mill used to refine ore during from gold mining.
  • Split Rock Loop – A quiet 2-mile hike with lots of neat rock formations.
  • Barker Dam Trail – A 1.1-mile loop offering a chance to see rabbits, bighorn sheep, and all kinds of birds.

The park is three hours from San Diego, and the visitor center has more information and trail maps. It’s only $30 USD for a seven-day vehicle pass, which is good for multiple entries in case you stay outside the park itself. If you plan on visiting multiple national parks on your trip, it’s best to get an America the Beautiful national parks pass. For just $80 USD per year, you’ll gain entrance to national parks and other federal recreation sites. It’s a great value!

WHERE TO STAY Airbnb is the best option here if you don’t have your own camping gear, although there are also glamping and more rustic options around the area too. If you want to stay in an RV, check out RVshare , an affordable sharing economy option for renting RVs.  

Massive redwood and sequoia trees in Sequoia National park in California, USA

The park itself is composed of towering redwoods and sequoias, some of the biggest trees in the world. I’m talking trees so thick you can drive a car through them and so tall that you can’t see their crown!

Start things off by visiting the Giant Forest Museum to learn about the geography, history, and importance of the park. Afterward, walk Big Trees Trail, a short loop that will get you in and among the trees. It also has the largest single-stem tree in the world, “General Sherman”!

For a sweeping view of the forest, hike up Moro Rock. Standing 250 feet tall, it’s a massive granite dome that juts out of the surrounding hills and forest. Stairs and a viewpoint were built into the rock itself so you can climb to the top safely and enjoy the magnificent vista.

While you’re here, visit nearby Kings Canyon National Park, a mountainous park with beautiful lakes, valleys to hike, and spectacular views. It’s also where you can see “General Grant” (the third largest tree in the world). For a scenic drive, cruise the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway, a narrow road along the side of a mountain that offers more picturesque views of the rugged landscape.

Admission is $35 USD for a 7-day pass that covers everyone traveling in the vehicle.

WHERE TO STAY There are lots of places to camp here, both inside and outside of the parks. However, if camping isn’t your thing (it’s not really mine), there are plenty of lodges and hotels in the area. You can find them via Booking.com .  

After that, it’s back to LA. It’s only a 3.5-hour drive, so if you’re not in a hurry, enjoy the desert views and stop along the way if you see anything that piques your interest.

California is a huge state with unlimited road-tripping potential. And while there are a million different routes you could take for a seven-day trip, I think this itinerary covers some of the best of SoCal.

Book Your Trip to the USA: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight Use Skyscanner to find a cheap flight. They are my favorite search engine because they search websites and airlines around the globe, so you always know no stone is being left unturned!

Book Your Accommodation You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it, as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

  • Safety Wing (best for everyone)
  • Insure My Trip (for those 70 and over)
  • Medjet (for additional evacuation coverage)

Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With? Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They will save you money when you travel too.

Need an Affordable Rental Car? Discover Cars is a budget-friendly international car rental website. No matter where you’re headed, they’ll be able to find the best — and cheapest — rental for your trip!

And if you need an RV, RVshare lets you rent RVs from private individuals all around the country, saving you tons of money in the process. It’s like Airbnb for RVs, making roads trips fun and affordable!

Want More Information on the United States? Be sure to visit our robust destination guide to the US for even more planning tips!

Got a comment on this article? Join the conversation on Facebook , Instagram , or Twitter and share your thoughts!

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above may be affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase. I recommend only products and companies I use and the income goes to keeping the site community supported and ad free.

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A sunny day along the beautiful coast of San Diego, California

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Home » Blog » Best Highway 1 Road Trip Itinerary & Guide

Best Highway 1 Road Trip Itinerary & Guide

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Big Sur cloud inversion along highway 1 in california

Highway 1 is arguably one of the most beautiful stretches of coastal roads in the United States, perhaps even in the world. Our first road trip together was actually this very itinerary! If you’re looking for jaw dropping views of never ending coast, beautiful blue water beaches, and gorgeous overlooks, this is Highway 1 Road Trip for you.

one night road trip

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ROAD TRIP ITINERARY

Living in California for all of our lives, both Stephen and I have done this road trip several times. In fact, we’ve probably done this itinerary at least 4 or 5 times in the past year. So this blog post is all based on our own personal experiences down the coast, as well as some recommendations from fellow adventurers we’ve met along the way. 

WHERE TO START & END YOUR HIGHWAY 1 ROAD TRIP

Since LAX is one of the most popular starting spots for this trip, we’ll be starting off on a route from LA up the coast and back, as well as a route for those that would rather make a loop around after completing the stretch of Highway 1. In saying that, you could jump on either of these itineraries at any stage of your Highway 1 road trip and you may choose to start/finish in different spots. Or, if you start from San Francisco, you can drive down the route in reverse and just complete it in a different order. This itinerary is more geared toward those driving the whole way, whether it’s in your own car, a rental, or a campervan , rather than flying in between major cities.

If you decide to go the camper van route, we loved doing this itinerary in our Kuga Rental from Traveller’s Autobarn . We picked it up in Los Angeles and drove all the way up to Point Reyes and Back using this itinerary. The van was so convenient in terms of spaciousness, comfortability, and transportability. We usually car camp, so this was our first van life experience, and the rental worked out super well for us in terms of getting us from Point A to B in a super easy and hassle free way! 

If you’re interested in booking a camper van for your Highway 1 Road Trip, make sure to use the code “LoversPassport ” at checkout with Travellers Autobarn to receive a $50 discount on a Kuga camper van rental. The coupon will work on a 5 day minimum rental for a Kuga Campervan model for the rest of 2021! 

HIGHWAY 1 ROAD TRIP TIPS:

Best time of year to visit highway 1.

California generically has fantastic weather year round. However, when it comes to the coast, expect several mornings to be socked in with low hanging clouds or fog. Usually it will burn off by the afternoon, but we’ve encountered the Big Sur Coast to be cloudy and moody like 7/10 times we’ve gone so just be prepared.

Honestly, the summer months of June, July and August are the most foggy. The best weather is usually in September or October with still moderately warm temperatures, less crowds, and less likelihood of clouds. Mid-to-late February through April is also pretty nice, just with mildly colder temperatures. 

WHERE TO RENT A VEHICLE FOR YOUR HIGHWAY 1 ROAD TRIP

Choosing a Highway 1 rental car will depend on the type of trip you plan to take and whether you would prefer to stay in Air BnBs, hotels, tents, or stay in a camper van. If you plan to stay in hotels or guest houses then you can opt for a regular rental car and we would recommend picking it up after you fly into Los Angeles International Airport. 

We personally love to either travel via a SUV with a camper build or rooftop tent or a camper van when traveling around the coast of California. That way we have more flexibility in terms of where we want to go each day and what we want to do, as well as where we want to stay the night. Other perks of renting a car camper or camper van is that you can adjust your plans on the go without having to worry about a spot to sleep. Click here to book your Highway 1 campervan rental (we highly recommend using Travellers Autobarn if flying into Los Angeles or San Francisco ). If you plan to tent camp then you’re probably best to opt for a small rental car as that will be your most budget-friendly option.

WHERE TO STAY ALONG THE CALIFORNIA COAST

The biggest piece of advice when it comes to finding accommodations is to plan in advance! Campground reservations along the latter part of Highway 1 up closer to Big Sur book out several months in advance. If you want to stay in established campgrounds, make sure to set reminders on your calendar of when campground permits are released. 

However, there are several other options. If you don’t mind dispersed camping in which you are completely self sustained, then make sure to check out freecampsites.net or iOverlander to find campsites along the route that you’d like to stay at. 

If you are going along the hotel route, some of the most popular hotels along this route tend to run on the more pricey side. That being said, we’d still recommend some popular favorites like the Ritz Carlton Bacara or Rosewood Miramar Hotel in Santa Barbara, The Cliffs Hotel in Pismo Beach, the Madonna Inn in SLO, Ragged Point Inn near San Simeon and Big Sur, and Ventana in Big Sur. 

LOGISTICS OF A HIGHWAY 1 ROAD TRIP

Gas in California has gotten quite expensive recently. Mapping out your route ahead of time can give you a good idea of how much you’re going to need to budget for gas since this road trip does cover quite a bit of miles! We always like to use Gas Buddy to find the best gas prices along our route. 

Theft is also quite prominent in major cities. Always make sure to be wary of your surroundings and keep your valuables with you and out of sight when exiting your car along Highway 1 Road Trip stops. 

CAR SICKNESS

Also, it should be noted that there are a lot of curvy roads along the way. If you get carsick, make sure to take proper precautions! 

CLEANLINESS ON THE ROAD

While road tripping for a week, you are likely going to want to shower. We love bringing our Rinsekit on road trips like this where we are typically car camping. It’s a portable shower that is so easy to just pack in the car so you can basically shower anywhere you want! We lay down a tarp we bought from Walmart and hang a towel across the back of the car with magnets for privacy, but you can also invest in a pop up shower tent to go along with your Rinsekit.

LENGTH OF YOUR HIGHWAY 1 ROAD TRIP

If you are dedicated and don’t mind driving a ton with less time at each stop, you could totally do this itinerary in 3 days. However, if you want to fully experience Highway 1, I’d recommend allotting 5-7 days to really experience each town along the way. Since the total drive is quite a bit of miles, it will be nice to pace your itinerary out a bit rather than rushing through the whole thing. 

That being said, Stephen and I both work full time office jobs during the week and are able to do this road trip with modifications on a Friday Night-Sunday Night. If you have less time, I would cut out 3-4 of the stops listed below so that way you can still enjoy your Highway 1 Road Trip without feeling rushed. You’ll also have an excuse to come back and see the beauty of the California Coast again in the future!

EPIC HIGHWAY 1 ROAD TRIP ITINERARY

Any Highway 1 Road Trip is going to be jam packed with lots of beautiful spots and lots of driving. BUT, it’ll totally be worth it! Thankfully, the California Coast has some of the most scenic coastal viewpoints where your mind will be blown for the majority of the ride,

SANTA MONICA

Whether you love relaxing at the beach or hiking in the mountains, Santa Monica has a variety of things to do. Make sure to stop by the Santa Monica Pier and shop around the Third Street Promenade. If you are a history or fine arts lover, the Getty Villa is also close to Highway 1 and is a great little stop to enjoy beautiful views of the Santa Monica coastline. 

For our avid hikers, check out Tuna Canyon for beginners, or one of our favorites in the Santa Monica recreation area called Sandstone Peak. If you head up to hike Sandstone Peak for sunrise or sunset, you may just get treated to a cloud inversion depending on the cloud elevation!

The Malibu coastline boasts some of the best beaches in all of California. My home beach of Zuma Beach is a classic one to visit to enjoy a summer day or learn how to surf. Leo Carrillo State Beach is another gorgeous option for a beautiful beach day. 

For some classic brunch spots along the Malibu coast, check out Duke’s Malibu and try to get an early reservation for brunch outside for a view or Malibu Farm along the pier for a trendy (but expensive) brunch or cocktail with a gorgeous beach in front of you! If you are a wine lover, make sure to check out Malibu Wine Safari and Rosenthal Winery right along Highway 1. 

For our outdoorsy lovers, check out Point Dume. If you love outdoor rock climbing, you can actually climb here! As previously mentioned, the surfing in the area is fantastic, or you can enjoy a variety of coastal hikes found here on All Trails. Finish up your time in Malibu with a sunset at El Matador State Beach. 

OXNARD & VENTURA

This is our stomping ground, so if you’re ever in the area make sure to reach out and say hi! Check out the Oxnard or Ventura Harbor and even rent a kayak or paddleboard if you want to get out on the water. Enjoy a beautiful view of the beach towns up at Serra Cross, grab a delicious brew from Madewest Brewery on the Ventura Pier, and check out the surfers at Surfers Point before heading on up the coast further. If you want a more in- depth guide on just Ventura, check out this video on a day in the life of the gorgeous coastal city.  

OPTIONAL HIGHWAY 1 ROAD TRIP ADD ON: CHANNEL ISLANDS NATIONAL PARK

While at either city harbor, you can check out Island Packers, where you can book a day trip or overnight trip to one of the Channel Islands in Channel Islands National Park! We recently did an overnight trip to Anacapa Island and it was beautiful, but you could definitely do it as a mini day trip! Santa Cruz is by far the most popular island and offers a lot more diversity on the island! Make sure if you decide to camp out there that you book your sites in coordination with your f erry tickets out to the islands. 

Check out our Youtube video of our experience camping on Anacapa to see the full experience! 

SANTA BARBARA

Just around 40 minutes north from Ventura, you’ll find a beautiful paradise in Santa Barbara. This city is a MUST stop along the way! Stephen and I both lived here for 4 years and it’s honestly our favorite city in all of California. There’s a little something for everyone.

For the adventure lovers, make a little detour from Highway 1 up the Santa Barbara Mountains via the 154 and check out Lizards Mouth or La Cumbre Peak for sunrise or sunset. If you are into hiking, check out Inspiration Point or 7 Falls Trail for beautiful views of the Santa Barbara Coast and the Channel Islands in the distance on a clear day. For more on Santa Barbara, check out our Couple’s Guide to Santa Barbara or our Santa Barbara videos on Youtube. 

Make a stop at East Beach and set up your hammock or slackline among the palm trees. Swing by East Beach Tacos or La Superiqua for some amazing Mexican food for lunch. Some of our other favorite beaches in the area are Hendry’s Beach (dog-friendly, too, and has a great restaurant called Hendry’s Boat House there), as well as Butterfly Beach and Santa Claus Beach. There’s also the beach that is next to the Santa Barbara Pier which is often nice, and you can also rent kayaks or paddle boards here.

For the city lovers, check out the Funk Zone in downtown Santa Barbara for some of the finest wine, beer, and food. We always love checking out The Lark, Loquita, Helena Avenue Bakery, the Lucky Penny, Finneys, and there are so many more options for amazing restaurants in the area. Once you’re done exploring there, you can cruise on up to State Street and check out the amazing outdoor shopping and other dining opportunities. Lastly, make sure to get some ice cream from McConnell’s Ice Cream on State Street before heading to your next road trip stop!

North of Santa Barbara, you’ll encounter Gaviota, which is a quaint little area with beautiful, quieter beaches than Santa Barbara. We always love checking out Gaviota State Park! Our favorites are the Gaviota Hot Springs Hike as well as the Gaviota Wind Caves hike, which is a great one for kids as well. Please make sure to leave no trace and keep the trails better than you found them when recreating in these areas since they are more fragile and less maintained.

OCEANO & PISMO

We always love making a pit stop at the Oceano Sand Dunes right near Pismo Beach. If you’ve ever checked out the Sand Dunes in Death Valley, you probably won’t be as impressed. However, these dunes are still super fun to walk around. We love coming here for sunrise photography since there’s usually no one else around. Beware, walking on the sand is much more strenuous than you think though! Allot yourself more time than you think you’ll need when visiting here.

We love stopping at  Brooks Burgers here for lunch before we keep heading up Highway 1. 

AVILA BEACH

One of our favorite hidden gems along the coast is Avila Beach. Right after Pismo and right before you get to San Luis Obispo, check out Avila Beach. It is tucked away off the side of Highway 1 and is the cutest little beach town! We love parking in the beachfront area and ordering a pizza from Mission Pizza (their Maui Wowie pizza and Cheese Sticks are awesome) and having a beach side picnic. There’s also a cool mini hike down to Pirate’s Cove. This requires descending down a cliffside rope, so make sure to be wearing the right shoes and don’t do anything you aren’t comfortable with. Beware, you might see some nude people hanging around since there’s a neighboring nude beach right there as well! 

SAN LUIS OBISPO

Stephen’s all time favorite donut place in California is SLO Donut Company and it’s right off of Highway 1. If you’re driving late, it’s open from 5am-12am (*check Yelp as hours may change with pandemic restrictions), and it has the best donuts and fantastic coffee. 

We always love heading into downtown SLO as well for other restaurants, fun nightlife, and nice shopping. If you are a Spanish food lover, we cannot recommend the Paella from Luna Red enough. 

SLO is also an adventure lovers playground. Bishop Peak offers several amazing outdoor climbing routes and an amazing view of the city when hiking the peak itself. Madonna Mountain, also known as Cerro San Luis, also offers some nice hikes. Another stop to include would be Terrace Hill for a beautiful view of the ocean.

Morro Bay State Park and Morro Strand State Park are amazing parks to check out if you have time. They both offer stunning views of Morro Rock and are great areas to sit and enjoy the sunset. If you have extra time, also add the nearby Montana De Oro State Park to the list. Monta De Oro State Park features rugged cliffs, quiet sandy beaches, coastal plains, streams, and more. 

Unless you are into surfing, the only pitstop in Cayucos you really need to make is visiting the Brown Butter Cookie Company. You will thank us later. They have some of the best homemade cookies you will ever try. 

San Simeon is home to the famous Elephant Seal Lookout and is pretty close to Hearst Castle as well. If you have kids, this is a great stop along your Highway 1 Road Trip! Due to the pandemic, Hearst Castle hasn’t been open recently; however, it’s definitely worth checking out when it reopens!

RAGGED POINT

Ragged Point is known as the “Portal to Big Sur.” It truly is the first amazing look at the Big Sur coast line on your way up from LA. We like to stop here for a coffee and we’ll take it around the property so we can look at all the beautiful viewpoints around the inn. If you are in need of some food, too, they usually have a cafe as well!

For more information on Big Sur specifically, make sure to check out our ultimate guide to Big Sur . This blog covers all information from campsites, hikes to do, and beaches to see across the Big Sur stretch of Highway 1.

We highly recommend checking out all of the following stops along the Big Sur Coast!

  • Sand Dollar Beach
  • Limekiln State Park
  • Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
  • Mcway Falls
  • Hike Partington Cove
  • Andrew Molera State Park 
  • Bixby Bridge: Make sure to not park illegally here or you will get a ticket. People drive quite crazily trying to pull off here, so just be aware. 
  • Notley’s Landing: if you blink, you might miss it! This is just a tiny little pullout for a few cars with a gorgeous look at Bixby Bridge from a far. 
  • Garrapata State Park: One of the few dog friendly beach areas in Big Sur! 

The Big Sur area, in particular, is especially known for limited accommodations. Make sure to know exactly where you will be camping or staying before since you can get in trouble for staying overnight on certain parts of Highway 1, and campgrounds fill up incredibly quickly.

Before you get to San Francisco, also try hitting Monterey, Santa Cruz, and Davenport along the way for beautiful views of beaches! Shark Fin Cove is also along the way if you happen to be driving by it for sunset.

Monterey is a beautiful coastal city right along Highway 1 after Big Sur. There are so many family friendly activities in Monterey. For a more in depth guide to exploring this beautiful area, check out our weekend recommendations for visiting Monterey .

SAN FRANCISCO

A note before visiting San Francisco, this city, especially now, has been experiencing more theft and break ins ever than before. Please remember when visiting to take all of your valuables with you and leave nothing in sight in your car or van to prevent theft. If you can’t find a reputable campground, there are a variety of hotel options as well.

As more outdoorsy people, we hardly ever venture into the city because of the insane amount of traffic and trash. HOWEVER, we try to make a point to hit the following spots in San Francisco when doing our typical Highway 1 Road Trip. 

  • Battery Spencer
  • Bunker Hill Hike
  • Golden Gate Overlook
  • Baker Beach
  • Marshall’s Beach
  • Muir Woods National Monument (Make sure to make a parking reservation ahead of time!)
  • Muir Beach Overlook
  • Mt. Tamalpais State park
  • Stinson Beach 

Food wise, Aristicault’s Bakery is a MUST for pastry lovers. Their croissants are seriously next level. When we take people with us to visit SF, we will also do the touristy clam chowder bowls down in Fisherman’s Wharf or take them to the Ferry Building to look around. 

POINT REYES NATIONAL MONUMENT

Point Reyes was one of those spots that we had little expectations for, but it absolutely blew us away! That’s why we chose to end the road trip itinerary here! Make sure to hit the Cypress Tree Tunnel and the Lighthouse area to take in mind blowing views of the California Coast line that almost compare to those of Iceland’s Black Sand Beach. 

If you are lucky enough to have more time in this area, definitely check out the hikes in the monument. The coastal bluffs are ridiculously beautiful. 

And that’s it for this itinerary! If you continue on heading up North via Highway 1, you’ll get some amazing chances to visit the Redwoods. But we’ll save that for a specific Northern California Road Trip itinerary! If you decide to do a more Northern CA road trip, we would recommend picking up your campervan in San Francisco and doing a loop from there. 

Have you ever taken a road trip up Highway 1? If so, which spot was your favorite? 

The Lovers Passport is reader-supported. Your engagement on this site allows us to bring you this content for free! Since this website contains affiliate links, if you make a purchase through these links, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. It’s one of the ways I can keep producing free guides and resources for all of our readers. This has absolutely no effect on our recommendations or evaluations and all opinions are our own. Thanks for supporting our adventures!

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Wheatless Wanderlust

A Perfect San Francisco to Los Angeles Road Trip Itinerary

California is our home, and we wouldn’t trade it for the world. Except for the sky-high cost of living. We’d like to trade that, please. But there’s a reason it’s expensive to live in California – it’s a pretty amazing place with unbeatable weather. Our recent California road trip reminded us of just how incredible this state is.

We made our way from San Francisco to Los Angeles, spending four weeks meandering through California, exploring our home state in a way that we hadn’t before. California is known worldwide for its beauty. From breathtaking beaches, to rolling hills lined with vineyards and groves of towering redwoods, coastal California has it all.

On a road trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles, you’ll encounter all of those things and more. It’s a picturesque, exhilarating drive with jaw-dropping landscapes, world-class wine tasting, and more hikes than you could complete in a lifetime. The drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles along Highway 1 is a road trip that should be on everyone’s bucket list. 

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In this guide, we’ll walk you through all of the best stops along the way, and give some of our picks for what to check out, eat, and drink in each spot. 

Note : You can absolutely reverse this itinerary for a Los Angeles to San Francisco road trip. 

Before we get to the best stops on your San Francisco to Los Angeles road trip, a few logistics you’ll need to plan the perfect road trip. 

Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means that if you click on one and purchase something, I make a small portion of the sale at no additional cost to you. It goes without saying that I would never recommend something I wouldn’t use or do myself.

Where to Fly In and Out Of?

If you’re not already near the San Francisco area, you will want to fly into San Francisco International Airport (SFO) or Oakland International Airport (OAK) and rent a car that you can comfortably drive down to Los Angeles. 

Plan on flying out of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) , which is going to be your best bet as far as finding flights for most cities.

There are two smaller airports, Burbank (BUR) and John Wayne (SNA), which will be less of a hassle than super busy (and majorly trafficky) LAX but may not offer as many flight options.

How Many Days to Spend Driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles?

The fastest route driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles is straight down Interstate-5 (I-5), which only takes about six hours but is an incredibly boring drive and you miss out on all the best sights along the California coast.

Definitely don’t do that unless you’re in the mood for barren landscapes, lots of big trucks, and the occasional whiff of cattle ranches. We’ve done it and it’s not fun.

When we did the drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles, we did it in about 10 days, with plenty of stops on the gorgeous California coast along the way. 

Our number one tip is to take it slow .

We recommend spending at least three to five days driving down the coast (sample itineraries below!) so that you can take in all of the beautiful coastal California views.

This route is only about nine hours of drive time, so you’ll be able to make plenty of stops for sightseeing, hikes, and picnics at the beach. 

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The Route for Driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles

Basically, you’re going to drive highway 1 from San Francisco to Los Angeles. 

Follow Highway 1 from San Francisco along one of the most scenic coastlines in the world.

When you reach Santa Barbara, you’ll continue onto Highway 101 for a short stretch and then hop back on Highway 1 to drive through glitzy Malibu into Los Angeles.

Recommended Itineraries for Driving from SF to LA

Wondering exactly how to spend your time on your drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles? Here are some itinerary ideas based on our own personal experience.

Below, in the “best stops” section, we have a bit more detail on each place to help you plan your time. 

Note : We’re not counting the day you fly into San Francisco in the number of days. 

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If you only have three days, here is what we’d recommend. 

Day 1: Leave San Francisco early, head to Monterey and walk around Cannery Row, stop at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve before driving through Big Sur , stop at Pfeiffer Beach and McWay Falls, and don’t miss the elephant seals at San Simeone. Spend the night right on the beach at White Water in Cambria, a sleepy coastal town.

Day 2: Grab coffee in San Luis Obispo (we like Scout Coffee A LOT) before heading out to Morro Bay and Montana de Oro . Hike along the coastal bluffs – this is one of our favorite coastal California hikes. Continue the journey south to Avila Beach (stop at the Avila Barn) and Pismo Beach . Both are worth getting out and walking around to stretch your legs. Drive through the Santa Ynez Valley, the best wine region in Southern California, and taste some wine at either Foxen Vineyard & Winery or Babcock Winery & Vineyards. Head into Santa Barbara for the evening – stay at either the Hotel Indigo or the Wayfarer , two of the best places to stay in Santa Barbara . Head to the Funk Zone for some urban wine tasting for the evening, and enjoy dinner at Loquita, a Spanish restaurant right in the heart of Santa Barbara. 

Day 3 : Grab coffee at either Dart Coffee or Dune Coffee Roasters and spend the morning exploring the coast around Santa Barbara. Finish your road trip by heading down the coast to Malibu , getting out at Zuma Beach and Point Dume, before continuing down highway 1 and hitting the western edge of Santa Monica . You’ve arrived in LA!

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If you have a bit more time, you’ll be able to make a few more stops along the way.

Day 1 : Spend a full day exploring San Francisco. Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge and hike down to Baker Beach for the best view of the bridge. Check out Lombard Street, the crookedest street in the city, which has amazing views of the Bay. Browse the shops and food stalls at the Ferry Building, a collection of San Francisco’s finest artisans like Blue Bottle Coffee, Heath Ceramics, and Dandelion Chocolate. Do dinner and drinks in the Mission, which is the best neighborhood for foodies in San Francisco. Stay overnight at either Beck’s Motor Lodge or the Kabuki , two of the best places to stay in San Francisco.

Day 2: Head out of the city to the south, stopping in Pacifica and Half Moon Bay , before arriving in Santa Cruz . Walk Westcliff Drive and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, and don’t miss coffee at Verve and ice cream at the Penny. Hop back on Highway 1 and head south to Monterey and Carmel , your stop for the evening. Spend the night at Hotel Abrego in Monterey, which is a solid value and will put you in a great position to tackle Big Sur early the next day.

Day 3: Today, head out early with a coffee from Captain + Stoker in Monterey in your hands, and start what we think is the best day on this trip. First, head to Point Lobos State Natural Reserve and hike the short and easy trail along the coastal bluffs. Then continue on to Big Sur . The stops to make here, in order, are Bixby Bridge, Andrew Molera State Park (great place for a hike along the coast!), Pfeiffer Beach, McWay Falls, and Limekiln State Park. This should take you a full day, so spend the night in Cambria at White Water , a lovely boutique hotel that is literally across the street from the beach. 

Day 4: Continue the coastal drive down to Morro Bay , where you should stop to admire Morro Rock (and catch a glimpse of the resident sea otters) from Morro Rock Beach. Then, head to Montana de Oro State Park and hike the Bluffs Trail (there are other options below for a more strenuous hike). Head into San Luis Obispo for lunch at Old SLO BBQ Co and cider at SLO Cider Co before making the journey to Santa Barbara through the Santa Ynez Valley, stopping in Los Olivos for cider at Tin City Cider and wine tasting. Stay overnight in Santa Barbara at Hotel Indigo or the Wayfarer and explore the Funk Zone for the evening. 

Day 5 : Grab coffee at either Dart Coffee or Dune Coffee Roasters in Santa Barbara in the morning and spend the first half of the day exploring the coast around Santa Barbara. Finish your road trip by heading down the coast to Malibu , getting out at Zuma Beach and Point Dume, before continuing down highway 1 and hitting the western edge of Santa Monica . You’ve arrived in LA!

If you have a couple of extra days, I would spend them in San Francisco or LA. Two days in each would be perfect, which would make this an 8 day adventure. 

That’s a very, very high level look at what a San Francisco to Los Angeles road trip looks like. Continue reading for a detailed look at the best stops to make on the drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles. 

The Best Stops on a San Francisco to Los Angeles Road Trip

Here are our favorite stops along the Pacific Coast of California that you should make sure to add to your itinerary.

San Francisco

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San Francisco is so much more than a starting point for your road trip or a place to pick up your rental car. It’s a vibrant city, full of some of the best food and drinks on the west coast. And hills. Lots of hills. 

We called San Francisco home for almost a decade, and we still love the city even though it has become a bit too expensive for our “jobs” (read: exploring the world untethered). 

If you want to spend a day or two exploring San Francisco, we have some travel guides to help you find the best spots.

We’d recommend picking up your rental car at the END of your time in San Francisco, because parking is a veritable nightmare in the city.

If you do have a car, plan on paying for parking at your hotel, or paying for at least one parking ticket over the course of your San Francisco itinerary. 

If you want to stay overnight in San Francisco, we’d recommend choosing a hotel. Most of the hotels in San Francisco are in Union Square, but it’s really not a great place to stay. We think you should stay at either Beck’s Motor Lodge or the Kabuki .

Here are some San Francisco travel guides to help you plan your time. 

  • 4 Days in San Francisco: A Complete SF Itinerary (Local’s Guide)
  • Where to Stay in San Francisco (and Where Not to Stay)
  • Gluten Free San Francisco: A Travel Guide for Celiacs
  • The Best Day Trips from San Francisco

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Whether you love the beach or you’d rather explore the mountains, you’re in luck. Santa Cruz has both!

Known for its gorgeous beaches, Santa Cruz has small-town, surfer beach vibes even though it’s not that small. 

In the mountains above Santa Cruz, you’ll find some of the tallest Redwood trees in the world. You literally can’t go wrong stopping here, and you might have a hard time leaving!

Take Surfing Lessons

If it’s been your dream to learn how to surf, then Santa Cruz is the place to do it. Surf School Santa Cruz has five-star reviews on Yelp and even has private two-person surfing lessons if you have someone with you who wants to join in on the fun. 

Visit the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Who doesn’t love a good boardwalk? The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk will not disappoint. It’s like a time warp, taking you back into the 1950’s with a wooden roller coaster, arcade games, and other rides like bumper cars. 

Take a few hours to walk around, grab some food, and maybe even play some games or go on a couple of rides.

There are rides for daredevils and little kids, so it’s enjoyable for the whole family and such a wholesome, nostalgic way to spend the day!

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Walk or Bike Westcliff Drive

If you’re up for a little fresh air and exercise with stunning views of the ocean, then head over to Westcliff Drive. 

It’s a scenic three mile biking and walking path along the Pacific Ocean with amazing views of Monterey Bay.

Lighthouse Point has a grassy area to relax and play frisbee looking over Steamer Lane, where you can watch surfers on some of the best waves in the United States.

See the Redwoods at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

Nature lovers, do not miss this stop. This 40-acre grove of old-growth Redwood trees dates back over 1,500 years, with the tallest tree standing 277 feet tall.

These trees are strikingly massive and totally take your breath away. Pictures just genuinely do not do this state park justice.

If you’re lucky, you’ll also get to see some wildlife, including the famous banana slug, which is the mascot for UC Santa Cruz, the university in town. 

Hike the Old Landing Cove Trail

Hop out of the car, throw on your hiking boots (or just your sneakers will do), and head to the Old Landing Cove Trail .

The trail is a 2.3-mile loop that will lead you to views of cliffs along the Pacific Ocean. We’re pretty sure there may literally be no better place to stop and take an easy hike to stretch your legs on a road trip.

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Continuing down the coast, next you’ll hit Monterey. Monterey is home to beautiful, uncrowded beaches, all the seafood you could ever want, and the best places to explore the Pacific Ocean.

Well known for its marine life, including the adorable sea otter, it’s also home to the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. 

The Monterey Bay Aquarium

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The aquatic life of the Monterey Bay can be seen up close at the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium .

With over 20,000 marine animals from sharks to jellyfish to otters, this aquarium is one of the best in the world and a must see if you’re interested in marine life.

Whale Watching

Have you ever been whale watching? It’s truly a unique experience! The best time to go whale watching depends on what you want to see.

Orcas and gray whales? December through May. If you’re more interested in seeing Humpbacks, you’ll have a better chance May to November.

Want to see the Blue Whale (the largest animal on earth)? Your best bet is July through October.

Luckily this means that no matter when you visit you can hop on a whale watching tour and have a good chance at seeing some of these giant, majestic creatures.

Get Out On the Water

A popular activity for those who are a little more adventurous and want to get out there is to rent a kayak or a paddleboard. Rent one from Monterey Bay Kayaks . Take a few hours to explore this beautiful stretch of coast from a new perspective.

Head to Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

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Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is a protected coastal area where you can hike and explore the wildlife of Monterey.

View the bluffs and cliffs unique to the California coast and hike the trails to check things out on foot. If you’re lucky you’ll spot some sea lions playing in the ocean below.

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It’s a unique spot to see all sorts of wildlife – last time we were there we saw hundreds of giant white pelicans perched all over the trees and cliffs.

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Big Sur is known for its rugged coastal cliffs and awe-inspiring views. It’s a popular spot to camp and even to just drive through because you can see so much of it from the car.

Stop for the Amazing Sights (North to South)

Bixby Bridge: While you may not know it’s name, it’s likely that you’ve seen this iconic bridge as it’s one of the most photographed bridges in California.

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Andrew Molera State Park : With its undeveloped, raw beauty, this state park has trails along the coastline and a beach where you can stop to rest and enjoy the scenery.

Pfeiffer Beach: The striking rock formations here are perfect for exploring and stopping for a quick photo opportunity.

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Mcway Falls : Have you ever seen a waterfall right on the beach? Featuring a 80 foot tall, year round waterfall, that switches from emptying on the beach to directly into the ocean depending on the tide.

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Ragged Point: The perfect pit stop! A nature trail leads down to the Pacific Ocean and you can often see elephant seals along the beaches.

Take a Hike

  • Andrew Molera State Park loop : Just off Highway 1, this trail is an 8 mile long loop featuring scenic ocean bluffs and a river crossing.
  • Buzzards Roost : For a shorter hike, Buzzards Roost comes in at just 2.6 miles and features the beautiful wildflowers of California. Best to hike March to October.

Treat Yourself

If you want to take a self care day and splurge, then a spa day at Ventana Big Sur offers luxury spa services.

If you want to make this one of your stops for the night, they even have options for glamping in their 20-acre redwood canyon campground.

For a bit more of a rustic, budget friendly self care day check out Esalen Hot Springs to soak in the relaxing, healing waters. 

Morro Bay and Cayucos

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This is the peak of the Central Coast of California. These small beach towns are pretty sleepy, but filled with cute local shops and nature trails. We spent a full four days in the area, and loved every second of it.

Stop in San Simeone to See the Elephant Seals

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This is a quick stop that does not disappoint! Located 7 miles north of San Simeon, you’ll know you’re in the right place when you open your car door and instantly hear their calls.

It’s a popular spot to observe elephant seals as they hang out here year round. However, the best time of the year to see them is October through May.

Eat Beachside at Hidden Kitchen in Cayucos

We are obsessed with the 100% gluten-free blue corn waffles at Hidden Kitchen ! Whether you enjoy savory or sweet, there are options for all taste buds and they’re all gluten free.

Not feeling waffles? They’ve got great tacos too. Get the weirdo, a combination of peanut butter, maple syrup, banana, and BACON.

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Hike Around the Base of Morro Rock

Morro Rock stands 576 feet tall above the surrounding ocean, but that’s not even the most impressive thing about it. Morro Rock is actually a volcanic plug that was estimated to have formed about around 23 million years ago.

While you can no longer climb it, you can hike around the base and if you can stick around for sunset you’ll be handsomely rewarded with a breathtaking view.

Make sure to look for sea otters in the calm water flowing from Morro Bay into the open ocean – it’s a favorite hangout for the furry little creatures! They’re Alysha’s favorite.

Explore Montana de Oro State Park

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It’s best to enjoy this beautiful state park by hiking one of the many great trails.

  • Bluffs Trail is a 4.1 loop trail that is rated easy and located near Los Osos. It features wildflowers and if you’re looking for a place to get in your morning run before hitting the road it’s good for a quick trail run too.
  • Valencia Peak is 4.2 miles long and rated moderate. It allows you to gain elevation to look at the scenic central California coast from above. 
  • Hazard Peak is a harder trail, but completely worth the climb! At 11.2 miles it’s a bit longer for those who are looking for a more rigorous hike that has an 1,800 foot elevation gain.

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San Luis Obispo

Welcome to central California! Once you hit San Luis Obispo, you’re about half way through your San Francisco to Los Angeles drive. 

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Drink Cider at SLO Cider Co

If you’re stopping in SLO (San Luis Obispo), you have to enjoy some cider! SLO Cider Co has dry hard cider that is made in California and is gluten free.

Another great option to try some cider is Cider Bar , San Luis Obispo’s first cider bar.

If you’d rather avoid the hard stuff (because you’re driving), head to Whalebird Kombucha for a refreshingly bubbly probiotic pick me up. 

Stop by The Creamery Marketplace

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Want to stop and take a walk around to maybe grab a bite to eat or hit a bar?

Make sure you check out The Creamery Marketplace, a collection of bars, restaurants, and shops in Downtown SLO. This open-air public market features a close community of local businesses to support.

Grab Lunch at Old SLO BBQ Co (Gluten Free Options!)

With a walk up window and craft beers on tap, make sure you stop by Old SLO BBQ Co for authentic barbecue.

Many of their recipes date back nearly a century and though it’s not noted on the menu, most of their dishes are gluten free and they have gluten free prep procedures if you let them know your needs.

Make a Stop, or Three, For Coffee

  • Field Day Coffee has that friendly outdoor, plant filled coffee shop vibe with amazing coffee – and they make their own almond milk.
  • Scout Coffee Co has two locations in SLO where they feature pastries from their in house bakery and craft roast coffee.
  • Kreuzberg California is a low key, art-adorned coffee house with good food and space to hang out and enjoy yourself. 

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Head to Nearby Avila Beach

A short drive from San Luis Obsipo is Avila Beach, a smaller beach town with a few fun sights to check out.

The quick hike down to Pirate’s Cove is one of our favorite stops on this stretch of coast – just note that it is a clothing optional beach, so it’s up to you if you want to avert your eyes or join in.

Another fun stop is the Avila Barn which has the exact farm vibe you’d expect it to!

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With tons of produce and baked goods you can pick up a few snacks for the road after feeding some goats and visiting with all the other farm animals.

The Santa Ynez Valley: Solvang and Los Olivos

Wine tasting.

Are you a fan of wine tasting? This is your chance and here are our top choices in the Santa Ynez Valley.

Babcock Vineyards is located in Lompoc with beautiful views and lots of recommendations from locals in the area. Rancho Sisquoc Winery is part of a 37,000 acre cattle ranch and has been crafting small quantities of quality wines for over 40 years.

Priding themselves on minimalist winemaking and sustainable wine-growing, Foxen Vineyard is a solar-powered winery located in nearby Santa Maria.

A town full of tasting rooms! Wine tasting is basically all there is to do here and we’re not complaining.

You can take your pick from the dozens of tasting rooms, but make sure you make a stop in Tin City Cider for a taste of their amazing dry cider.

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Well known for its Danish style architecture, Solvang is a bit touristy, but still a fun stop on your way down the coast.

We recommend checking out The Book Loft , Solvang Spice Merchant , and stopping by to check out the Solvang windmill.

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Santa Barbara

One of our favorites! There’s a reason many celebrities have homes away from the congestion of Los Angeles in Santa Barbara. It has been coined “The American Riviera” with its dramatic backdrop of mountains and expansive ocean views.

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Explore the Funk Zone

Spanning the area between the ocean and Highway 101, the Funk Zone is a district of Downtown Santa Barbara that has become more popular in recent years as tasting rooms, shops, galleries, and cafes have started to pop up.

We love the Valley Project , which focuses on unique wines from the nearby wine regions and has a gorgeous map of the area behind the bar. 

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Tackle the Urban Wine Trail

Within the Funk Zone is the Urban Wine Trail , which is a self-guided route of over 20 tasting rooms representing Santa Barbara County wines. 

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Hike to Inspiration Point

A 3.5 mile trail that gives you a chance to experience the beauty of the mountains of Santa Barbara with amazing views of the ocean.

It’s open year round and has a decent amount of shade if you’re there during the summer and are looking for a trail with some relief from the California sun.

Hit the Beach

  • Leadbetter Beach does get a bit busy in the summer, but if you’re there during the week or off season it’s not too bad. You can grab a blanket, have a picnic and watch the sailboats from the nearby Santa Barbara Harbor.
  • Butterfly Beach , located in ritzy Montecito just south of Santa Barbara, is a long narrow stretch of beach that’s perfect for walking or relaxing.
  • Arroyo Burro Beach is a dog friendly beach considered a hidden gem by the locals and has a few restaurants to stop in to eat at if you get hungry. 

Where to Eat & Drink in Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is full of great food and drinks, including a bunch of gluten free restaurants . Here are our favorites.

  • For coffee, go to Dune Coffee Roasters , the best coffee in Santa Barbara, or Dart Coffee , whose outdoor patio (“coffee garden”) is a lovely place to enjoy your morning coffee on one of the seemingly unlimited gorgeous days in Santa Barbara.
  • For incredible Spanish food, head to Loquita and order the paella.
  • For 100% gluten free brunch, featuring amazing french toast and about as many baked goods as you can possible imagine, Lilac Patisserie is your spot.
  • Lily’s Tacos are some of the most authentic tacos I’ve had in the US, and it’s all gluten free. And super affordable – you can easily feed a couple for $15.

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If boho-chic were a town it would be Ojai. If that’s your vibe, then you’ll definitely want to pass through on your San Francisco to Los Angeles drive.

Lunch at Food Harmonics

Health foodies, there are a lot of great restaurants in Ojai, but this is one you need to check out.

They focus on delicious healing, balancing food and their menu is 100% organic, gluten, sugar, soy, and GMO free.

Browse New and Used Books at Barts Books

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Have you ever visited an outdoor bookstore? Barts Books is a quirky bookstore in the middle of a pretty quirky town. If you love being surrounded by books, then you definitely need to stop in because it’s a book lovers paradise.

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Grab a Treat at Revel Kombucha Bar

Known for its fresh kombucha on tap, you can also get decadent acai bowls as well as probiotic matcha and coffee.

Fuel Up at Beacon Coffee

Looking for the best coffee in town? Beacon Coffee is the place to stop in if you need a quick caffeine fix and want to support a local business that works with family owned farms around the world.

As a bonus they have several gluten free pastries available for you to snack on – but be sure to come early for these treats, they sell out fast!

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Ventura and the Channel Islands

Heading down the coast a bit, you’ll hit Ventura and off the coast in the Pacific Ocean nearby are the Channel Islands.

If you want to take a full day excursion to check out the Channel Islands National Park, book a cruise with Island Packers which offers rides to Santa Cruz (most popular to visit) and Anacapa islands.

The last stop of your road trip has got to be Malibu. To get there, hop back on Highway 1 (locals call this section the Pacific Coast Highway, or PCH for short) and drive the coastal route past Malibu into Santa Monica, the western edge of Los Angeles.

Soak in the Sun at Zuma Beach

Zuma is one of the biggest and most popular beaches in Los Angeles county. Plus, it’s a great place to surf if that’s your thing.

Even though there are tons of spaces, parking can get tough in the summer months so make sure you bring some shoes for walking to the beach just in case you have to park farther away.

Watch Surfers at Malibu Lagoon

Where Malibu Creek meets the Pacific Ocean, you’ll find Malibu lagoon. On the east side, you can visit Malibu pier and right next door you’ll find Surfrider Beach, one of the best places in California to hang out and watch the surfers.

Hike Los Liones Trail

Because of the location of this hike, it can get a little crowded on weekends, but it’s totally worth checking out!

Make sure you make it all the way to the top for the gorgeous views of the ocean and nearby Pacific Palisades.

It’s a 4.5 mile hike with 1,200 feet of elevation gain, which means it’s in the moderate category as far as difficulty goes. 

Los Angeles

Congratulations! You made it! 

Los Angeles is a pretty incredible city, and neither of us had spent much time there until we recently spent over a week exploring the city. 

Whether you want to eat and drink, relax on the beach, or hit the theme parks, there’s something for everyone in Los Angeles. 

Here are some of our Los Angeles travel guides to help you plan your time if you have a couple of extra days at the end of your road trip. 

  • A Complete Los Angeles Itinerary
  • Where to Stay in Los Angeles: The Best Hotels & Airbnbs
  • Gluten Free Los Angeles: A Travel Guide for Celiacs

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California has so many diverse landscapes, all beautiful in their own right. But if we were to recommend a road trip, San Francisco to Los Angeles would definitely be at the top of our list.

It’s one of the most beautiful drives in the world… if you take the coastal route instead of the inland route, that is.

We hope you enjoy your San Francisco to Los Angeles road trip! Did you discover a new spot that we didn’t cover? Let us know so we can add it to our list of places to explore in California!

More to Explore in California

Heading to the great state of California?  Here are some other posts you might like.

  • One Day in San Francisco: How to See the Best of San Francisco in a Day
  • 4 Days in San Francisco: How to Plan an Amazing San Francisco Itinerary
  • Where to Stay in San Francisco: A Local’s Guide to the Best Places to Stay
  • Gluten Free San Francisco: A Complete Travel Guide for Celiacs
  • The Best Day Trips from San Francisco: 10 Amazing San Francisco Day Trips
  • 5 Days in Los Angeles: How to Plan a Perfect Los Angeles Itinerary
  • Where to Stay in Los Angeles: A Complete Guide to L.A.’s Best Places to Stay
  • Gluten Free Los Angeles: A Complete Guide for Celiacs
  • 3 Days in San Diego: How to Plan a Perfect San Diego Itinerary
  • Where to Stay in San Diego: A Complete Guide to the Best Places to Stay
  • Gluten Free San Diego: A Complete Guide for Celiacs
  • How to Plan an Amazing San Francisco to Los Angeles Road Trip
  • Northern California Road Trip: The Best of the Northern California Coast

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Matt is the founder and main writer behind Wheatless Wanderlust, which he started back in 2018 as a way to share his gluten free travel guides with his fellow Celiac travelers.

Since then, Matt and his wife Alysha have visited 18 national parks, spent three months in Europe and six weeks in Colombia, and have explored every corner of the Pacific Northwest, which is where Matt grew up.

He writes super detailed guides to the places they visit, bringing together personal experience and historical context to help YOU plan an amazing trip.

Hi, Is December a good month to travel the San Fran to L.A. coast trip?

December would be a great time to do this. You might get a little bit of rain, and it’s not going to be hot, but December generally has decent weather and it’ll be far less crowded than other times of year. Plus, sunrises/sunsets in December in California are amazing!

Hi, between February and March, which month is a better time to drive down the San Fran to L.A. coast trip?

Hey Tracy! Both are going to be roughly the same in terms of weather. I’d go with March, but there’s not a huge difference between those two months. Enjoy!

I have just booked flights to San Fran for next April, with my hubbie and 2 kids 13 & 11 we plan to take 8 days to drive San Fran to LA then 2 days to vegas, then fly to New York. Your blog giving me great ideas for planning our Road trip, I know we are trying to fit in alot but coming from Ireland this will be a huge adventure for adults and kids. ( I love hiking, hopefully by then I will have converted my family also)

Fun fun! That is a lot to see over a couple of weeks, but eight days between San Francisco and LA is a decent amount of time to see the highlights. Let us know if you have any specific questions as you’re planning – happy to help!

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33 Driveable Weekend Getaways from Pittsburgh to Get Out of the City (+ A Map!)

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Pittsburgh is a great city with so many things to do all year. But, sometimes, you want to get out and explore some other places. It’s okay. We understand!

Where should you venture when you want a getaway from Pittsburgh?

There are SO MANY options, all within just a few hours’ drive from the city.

What makes us experts? Well, we both grew up in western Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh. We’ve explored most of these locations more times than we can count over the years, so we feel great about sharing each of these recommendations with you.

What type of destination or weekend trip are you looking for? There is something in this list that could be tailored to just about any desire. Here are some great ideas for weekend getaways from Pittsburgh .

➡️Just Want The Highlights? Our Top Recommendations:

  • Best for Exploring the Outdoors: Pine Creek Gorge ; Cuyahoga Valley National Park ; Dolly Sods ; Hocking Hills
  • Small Town Getaways: Lancaster, PA ; Jamestown, NY
  • Explore Another City: Buffalo, NY ; Baltimore, MD
  • A Girls’ Weekend in Wine Country: Geneva, OH ; Finger Lakes, NY
  • History Buff’s Getaway: Gettysburg ; Washington DC
  • Best Relaxing Weekend Getaway: Bedford Springs

What Makes a Good Weekend Trip from Pittsburgh?

We think that a good weekend trip requires no more than 4-5 hours of driving . Typically, with those on the longer end of this range, we’d even recommend a long weekend of at least 3 days.

Anything shorter than 1.5 hours could be explored in a day trip , but this list includes a wide variety of locations and distances. Hopefully, it will at least inspire a starting point for your next weekend getaway.

One thing we really like about many of these places to visit near Pittsburgh is that they can be enjoyed any time of the year.

These destinations are all driveable, and for most of them, having a car to get around once you’re there is a good idea.

Compiling this list was seriously tough! It became overwhelming when we sat down to think of all the great places within only a few hours’ drive from the city. Basically, we could have had 50+ spots here with great reasons to visit each one.

Best Weekend Trips from Pittsburgh

Stay in the State of Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is full of places to see and things to do. Check out some of these spots, some very well-known and some more off the beaten path.

1. The Laurel Highlands

Drive Time: 1 hour 20 minutes Distance: 70 miles

Ohiopyle Falls is located right in town.

The Laurel Highlands is a scenic, mountainous region in Western Pennsylvania that’s perfect for a weekend getaway from Pittsburgh.  The drive time is only about 1 hour and 20 minutes, and the area offers plenty of things to do.

The star of the show in the Laurel Highlands is definitely Ohiopyle State Park . Discover beautiful waterfalls , and hike great trails like Jonathan Run and the Ferncliff Loop.

In addition to Ohiopyle, other great state parks nearby include Laurel Hill and Laurel Ridge.

Ohiopyle is also a popular whitewater rafting destination close to Pittsburgh.

Book an adventurous Whitewater Rafting Trip in Ohiopyle!

The tallest point in the state of Pennsylvania is located nearby in the Laurel Highlands: Mount Davis. If you’re trying to visit the tallest point in this or every state, this is a must-visit.

During the winter months, we think Seven Springs is a great place to satisfy your winter sports adventures on the mountain. You can ski, snowboard, or tube your way down the mountain.

Drive Time: 2 hours Distance: 128 miles

The sunsets on the Presque Isle State Park beaches are stunning, and here is a peak at one through the trees.

Erie is a great place to visit for a getaway weekend.  It’s located in the very northwestern corner of Pennsylvania, and it’s only about 2 hours from Pittsburgh! Erie has plenty of things to do and see during every season.

The city has a rich history with ties to Lake Erie that dates back centuries. Enjoy the historic tall ships or millionaires’ row of mansions right downtown.

Outdoor activities like hiking, biking, fishing, and boating are great ways to enjoy Presque Isle State Park and nearby Erie Bluffs State Park .

Stay for the sunset at Presque Isle and watch from one of the park’s beaches. We think it’s easily one of the best places to watch a sunset in the Great Lakes region .

If you’re looking for some indoor fun, enjoy the Erie Art Museum, shop at the Millcreek Mall, or catch a show at Kellar’s comedy club and magic bar. Some pretty big names have performed on the small stage at Kellar’s.

Have you Pittsburghers heard of Billy Gardell? We’ve seen him at Kellar’s.

After spending the day exploring, visit one of the many great local restaurants. There are so many options that it’s hard to go wrong. Some of our favorite spots include The Cork, BrewErie, and Pineapple Eddie’s, among others. These are just a few!

3. Pine Creek Gorge

Drive Time: 4 hours Distance: 228 miles

The Barbour Rock Overlook provides a stunning view of the green valley of the PA Grand Canyon.

The Pine Creek Gorge is the jewel of the northern part of the state. It’s an amazingly scenic and diverse destination. It’s an under-the-radar weekend trip from Pittsburgh!

The star attraction in this region is sandwiched between Colton Point and Leonard Harrison State Parks. It’s the gorge with the river below, known as the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon .

Hiking, biking, boating, and backpacking are all popular things to do in the area. You’ll want to spend all day exploring and enjoying the many trails and views. The West Rim Trail in the PA Grand Canyon is one of our favorite weekend backpacking trails in Pennsylvania at about 30 miles long.

The area is also filled with small towns, great places to eat, spots for shopping, and outdoor activities like kayaking.

Visit nearby Hills Creek State Park for more hiking and water adventures in the park’s lake. In the winter, you’ll see plenty of ice fishing happening out on the lake.

4. Gettysburg

Drive Time: 3 hours 30 minutes Distance: 185 miles

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Located only about 3 hours and 30 minutes away from Pittsburgh, Gettysburg has a lot to offer, and it’s worth the drive. You’ll find all sorts of things to do in Gettysburg, and it’s a perfect destination for history buffs.

Check out sites like the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and the History Center. Then go out and explore the battlefields for a window into the events that occurred during the Battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War.

We learned so much by playing the virtual tour videos from the NPS at each stop through the battlefields drive.

There are also plenty of places to go hiking nearby, including Pine Grove Furnace and Caledonia State Parks. Take a nighttime ghost tour if you’re into the paranormal.

Other things to do in Gettysburg include shopping and visiting wineries! So many quaint little shops with unique items are scattered throughout the streets of the town.

Gettysburg is definitely worth a visit if you’re looking for a weekend getaway, although you can certainly spend more than just a weekend exploring!

5. State College

Drive Time: 2 hours 30 minutes Distance: 136 miles

Mike Lynch Overlook on Mount Nittany

State College is a great driveable spot near Pittsburgh with a more small-town feel. This university town still offers all sorts of fun for both visitors and locals.

Whether it’s exploring the historic sites or grabbing some grub at one of the many restaurants, there is something to do in State College every day of the week. We always make sure to stop at the Berkey Creamery for some delicious ice cream when we’re in town.

Outdoor activities are popular, too. Wander through the arboretum at Penn State or hike up Mount Nittany . Play a round of golf at one of the beautiful courses. Take a tour through Penn’s Cave . There are even a few spots nearby for afternoon wine tasting.

Visit during particular fall weekends, and you’ll see the town transform. Football games are a big deal in these parts, and people come from far and wide to cheer on their Nittany Lions. So much so, that on these weekends, State College turns into one of the largest cities in Pennsylvania. It’s definitely a sports experience you should have at some point in your life.

On top of that, this small town has a lot to offer when it comes to shopping and entertainment. For those who love culture and art, don’t miss out on visiting any museums or galleries.

6. Benezette & Elk County

Drive Time: 2 hours 30 minutes Distance: 129 miles

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Benezette is a small town about 2.5 hours from Pittsburgh, and there are plenty of things to do for visitors. This is certainly a more laid-back escape than some of the others on this list.

One of the best attractions in Benezette is seeing elk! Elk roam free on the hillsides surrounding the town, and it’s a great opportunity to see these large animals in a natural setting on the east coast.

Plan this as a fall getaway when the leaves are changing and the elk are in the rut. You’ll be in for a real treat.

Hike the nearby state forest trails, and you might get even closer to them, but not too close! Always maintain 100 yards between you and the elk for yours and the animals’ safety.

You can also enjoy some fishing or take a scenic drive through the area if that’s what you prefer!

7. Lancaster

Drive Time: 3 hours 50 minutes Distance: 238 miles

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Lancaster, PA is a historic and charming area located about three hours and fifty minutes from Pittsburgh. Lancaster offers plenty of things to do for visitors and locals alike, but life’s pace is much slower than that in the city.

Whether you’re looking for outdoor activities like hiking or fishing, or indoor fun at the museums, there is something for everyone in Lancaster!

In addition to all these wonderful attractions, the area also has a lot of restaurants where you can taste the local flavors of Pennsylvania Dutch cooking. You’ll never go hungry here with this delicious home cooking.

Take an Amish Immersion Tour to Learn More About the Pennsylvania Dutch Culture in Lancaster!

Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine is a mixture of German and Dutch elements. These foods emphasize meat, potatoes, cornbreads/biscuits, cabbage dishes with pork or beef sausages; fresh loaves of bread; apple pies; pretzels; and scrapple.

8. The Poconos

Drive Time: 4 hours 30 minutes Distance: 279 miles

one night road trip

If you’re looking for a more adventurous weekend getaway, the Poconos are a great option! This area is located about four hours and thirty minutes from Pittsburgh.

It’s quite a large area, so you could easily spend a long weekend exploring the Poconos and still not do everything you want.

Outdoor activities include hiking, biking, watersports, and golfing during the summer. Check out the nearby Ricketts Glen State Park Waterfall Trail for a real treat! There are over 20 waterfalls along the trail.

You can also enjoy some time at the casino or take a trip to one of the area’s many water parks. Indoor fun includes visiting the various museums and theaters or simply relaxing at the spa. In the winter, it is a ski and snowboard destination.

A trip to the Poconos is truly an adventure, whether you prefer relaxing or being active. While it is a little further drive, it is well worth the time and effort.

Drive Time: 50 minutes Distance: 33 miles

McConnells Mill and Covered Bridge is one of the best places to visit and one of the most photographed locations in the park.

If you’re looking for something off the beaten path, Butler County may be just what you need to explore. Although it’s one of the closest destinations on this list, and you might be wondering why it made the cut, there are plenty of hidden gems here.

About fifty minutes or so from Pittsburgh to the north, there are plenty of outdoor activities as well as indoor fun. Hiking is plentiful in nearby McConnells Mill and Moraine State Parks . Sections of the North Country Trail travel right through both parks.

Shopping and dining options give you some variety that is different from the city. A few craft breweries, wineries, and local restaurants serve up delicious treats.

Numerous festivals are held in Butler every year, too. The Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival attracts Jeep enthusiasts from all over the country to the area for a weekend of on and off-road fun. I love my ’97 TJ and make it a point to attend every year.

If you’re looking for a weekend getaway that doesn’t require a lot of time, driving, or effort to reach, heading just north to Butler County is an easy trip.

10. Philadelphia

Drive Time: 4 hours 50 minutes Distance: 304 miles

one night road trip

Philadelphia is such a historic city with plenty to do, whether you plan to spend a week or one day in Philadelphia . It’s also the place where American independence was first declared, so history has a big influence on the city’s culture.

Museums, dedicated to different varieties of art, history, or oddities are scattered throughout the city! The Mütter Museum is one of the strangest museums we’ve ever been to, but those fascinated by the human body may also find it interesting.

Stop by Independence Hall where the founding fathers debated and signed some of the most important documents in US history, the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. After, take a short walk to the famous Liberty Bell.

Take a Walking Tour of the historic Old City with a guide to be sure that you don’t miss any of the most notable sites during your visit!

Those interested in crime will enjoy a visit to the Eastern State Penitentiary. Wander the eerie passageways on a self-guided tour where notorious criminals like Al Capone were once locked away. We found the audio tour that comes with your entrance ticket really interesting!

In addition to all these wonderful attractions, the area also has a lot of restaurants where you can taste local flavors. The Philly Cheesesteak war is alive and well. While Geno’s and Pat’s are the most famous, they’re not the only places to grab these sandwich staples.

Before leaving the City of Brotherly Love, visit the Museum of Art and run up the stairs made famous in “Rocky.”

➡️ Pro Tip: If you’re able to plan a visit on Independence Day weekend like we have, you may be lucky enough to sit on the museum stairs and catch the movie being played under the stars.

11. Delaware Water Gap

Drive Time: 4 hours 50 minutes Distance: 299 miles

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The Delaware Water Gap is an ideal destination if you are looking to explore the outdoors. The area features caves, waterfalls, hiking trails, wildlife viewing areas, and many other outdoor attractions.

The Delaware River forms a natural border between Pennsylvania and New Jersey at this location, which also makes it a great spot for fishing or canoeing on the river.

The area is so beautiful that many are hoping that the national recreation area will soon be upgraded to national park status, becoming Pennsylvania’s first.

We had a fantastic time sipping on a drink at the Glass Wine Bar in the Ledges Hotel. Make sure you request a table with a view of the waterfall!

We had an early reservation for a drink and appetizers and then drove the 30 minutes back to Raymondskill Falls. The restaurant wasn’t as busy, and we had Raymondskill to ourselves.

12. Cherry Spring State Park

Drive Time: 3 hours 30 minutes Distance: 182 miles

one night road trip

Cherry Spring State Park is a perfect destination for visitors who want to enjoy some relaxing time outdoors. It’s a great space to get “off the grid.”

This park is a true destination for stargazers. It’s known as the darkest spot on the eastern seaboard. The park is situated far away from any big cities, light pollution, and traffic; all of which make it the perfect place for seeing the Milky Way, among other things.

Cherry Springs also offers educational programs throughout the summer to help visitors learn more about astronomy and the night sky.

You’ll need to book a campsite far in advance for any big events such as eclipses or meteor showers. There aren’t a ton of campsites, and they can book up quickly, and they’re definitely rustic.

Trails in the surrounding state forest are great for mountain biking and hiking. Although the only overnight options within the park are rustic tenting options, check out Airbnb or VRBO for private cabin and home rentals near the park.

13. Hershey

Drive Time: 3 hours 50 minutes Distance: 215 miles

Hershey, Pennsylvania is a small town near the heart of Amish country. For those who are thrill-seekers, there is plenty to do. The amusement park is a main attraction for tourists.

Next door, the Hershey Story Museum & Chocolate World offers visitors a glimpse into the history of Milton S. Hershey’s chocolate empire and how it has grown to include popular brands like Reese’s, Twizzlers, Almond Joy, Mr. Goodbar, and many more.

Five-pound Hershey chocolate bars exist and are sold here. I know. I got one!

You can also take a guided tour, which is more of an experience through the Chocolate World with animations and songs.

Enjoy some shopping or play a round of golf if the weather permits. There are several hotels and motels close to the Hershey area, including one right next to Hersheypark.

14. Bedford Springs

Drive Time: 1 hour 45 minutes Distance: 108 miles

one night road trip

The Bedford Springs Resort is a historic property that was established in 1806. The resort is centered around healing mineral springs that were discovered in 1796. In those times, it was a destination for city dwellers who would vacation to get away from the pollution and hustle and bustle of city life.

It was completely renovated and restored, then opened back to the public in 2007. Let me tell you, this property is a hidden gem in south-central Pennsylvania. We were pleasantly surprised with what we discovered staying at the resort.

The 300-acre property features a spa, fed by a mineral spring, which pays homage to the original purpose of the property. Indulge in a “Bedford Bath” which is the signature treatment here, alternating hot and cold baths with steam from the springs, too.

This is a great weekend getaway where you can indulge in relaxation, but there are also onsite hiking trails, bike rentals, and golf. An outfitter on site can help book fishing trips in the area.

Getaways from Pittsburgh in the Neighboring States

Pittsburgh is within just a couple hours’ drive to multiple other states. There are plenty of options when considering weekend getaways from Pittsburgh, so don’t be afraid to get outside the city and the state.

Access to many spots in Ohio is just a short drive away. Although some rivalry exists between residents of the two states, that shouldn’t deter you from considering a visit!

15. Cleveland

Drive Time: 2 hours 15 minutes Distance: 133 miles

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While some Pittsburghers may roll their eyes or shake their head any time Cleveland is mentioned, it’s an enjoyable spot to visit for a weekend. At just over 2 hours from Pittsburgh, it’s an easily accessible drive for just a short visit.

Cleveland’s downtown features an impressive skyline of high-rises, fun restaurants, and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. For music lovers, this place is a must-visit!

Cleveland also has the closest NBA professional basketball team in the Cavaliers, if you’re looking for a different sport to watch that isn’t offered in Pittsburgh.

There are so many great restaurants, bars, and breweries to visit, too, scattered all over town. Don’t just head down East 4th Street. Check out Tremont or Ohio City, The Flats, and other hotspots around town.

And, if you’re a beer lover, Cleveland has an impressive list of breweries to visit, many of which offer samples or tours. We love Noble Beast, Masthead, Terrestrial… We could go on!

16. Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Drive Time: 1 hour 50 minutes Distance: 112 miles

Brandywine Falls is the largest and most popular Cuyahoga Valley National Park waterfall

Who knew a national park was so close and accessible? Even if the Delaware Water Gap becomes a national park, this one is closer! Cuyahoga Valley is a newer and lesser-known national park, but there are some beautiful spots to check out.

Brandywine Falls should be one of your first stops, and then hike along some of the fantastic trails, including a section of the Buckeye Trail. Take a ride on the train, especially if you’re visiting during the fall when the leaves are at their peak.

The Towpath Trail is a popular spot for bicyclists. The trail, which follows the Ohio & Erie Canal currently for 87 miles, is mostly flat and makes for an easy ride. It will be 101 miles long when it’s all finished!

The trail offers great views of the Cuyahoga River and the surrounding landscape, as well as some information about the historical significance of the canal way.

All of these sites certainly make Cuyahoga Valley National Park worth visiting on a weekend from Pittsburgh.

17. Nelson Ledges

Drive Time: 1 hour 35 minutes Distance: 92 miles

Nelson Ledges is a great place to explore the natural rock formations that make up the park. Hike, swim, bike, snorkel, camp, or find another activity that gets you excited to be outdoors. The possibilities here are nearly endless!

Check event schedules. The park is sometimes home to arts festivals and musical events on its 250 acres of land.

If you’re looking for a more leisurely activity, take a walk along one of the nature trails or enjoy a picnic lunch.

There are also two fishing lakes in the park if you’d like to relax by the water. Just be sure to check with the park staff about fishing regulations before you start casting your line.

18. Put-in-Bay

Drive Time: 3 hours 50 minutes Distance: 202 miles

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If you’re looking for a weekend getaway with both a party atmosphere and spots to find some solitude, Put-in-Bay is the perfect spot. Just a few hours from Pittsburgh, this island offers plenty to do and see.

The town is situated on South Bass Island in Lake Erie. You’ll have to take a ferry to get to the island.

There are plenty of restaurants, bars, and shops to explore in town. Rent a golf cart for a fun way to get around town. You can also visit some of the historical sites or take a boat tour of the area.

If you’re looking for something more active, there are plenty of bike trails or golf courses to check out. And don’t forget about the beaches! Put-in-Bay has some of the best beaches around for swimming and enjoying Lake Erie.

19. Hocking Hills

Drive Time: 3 hours 30 minutes Distance: 193 miles

Ash Cave with a trickling, freezing waterfall

Hocking Hills is a favorite destination in the region for a number of reasons. It’s one of the most popular state parks in Ohio. Things to do in Hocking Hills include canyoneering, rafting, and hiking through the scenic landscape of rock formations, cliffs, and waterfalls.

The area can get quite busy during the summer, so consider visiting the Hocking Hills hiking trails during the winter for a different experience. Just make sure that you have the appropriate gear.

The trails can get really icy and dangerous! We definitely needed our Kahtoola microspikes , especially on the Old Man’s Cave and Rock House trails.

In addition to the great outdoors, the town has a number of places worth checking out. Take a ride around the area, visit some of the antique stores, or stop at the winery for an afternoon of tasting.

For overnight stays, there are soooo many cabins throughout the area with great amenities like game rooms, hot tubs, and beautiful fireplaces. Many pet-friendly cabins and hiking trails allow dogs in Hocking Hills , making this a great place to get away with your pups.

Pro Tip: Cell phone service can be extremely limited in many spots, even at some of the cabins that we’ve stayed at. Make sure you have paper maps and plan your trip ahead of time. You don’t want to risk missing things you’d like to do because you don’t have wifi or cell service.

Drive Time: 2 hours 20 minutes Distance: 138 miles

Geneva, Ohio is a small town with a big heart. The wine country of northeast Ohio has been growing and thriving. It’s home to beautiful scenery, delicious food & drink, outdoor adventure opportunities…the list goes on!

Geneva is home to more than just vineyards. It’s also the perfect place to visit if you want the best of both worlds: a weekend spent exploring or relaxing- all without having to travel too far from Pittsburgh.

Check out some of the beautiful covered bridges of Ashtabula County. There are 19 of them around the county.

Spend your time wandering “the Strip” for a carnival-like atmosphere during the summer months or get out and get active at the state park. Then, enjoy the wine! One of my personal favorites is Laurello’s.

Stay at the Lakehouse Inn in Geneva-on-the-Lake to be within walking distance of the Strip and enjoy epic lakefront views.

21. Sandusky

Drive Time: 3 hours Distance: 182 miles

Cedar Point Amusement Park is a world-famous amusement park located in Sandusky, Ohio. It’s home to some of the tallest and fastest roller coasters in the world, as well as a variety of other rides and attractions.

You could absolutely spend an entire weekend in Sandusky visiting the beach on Lake Erie, checking out Cedar Point, and exploring the shopping and restaurants in town. There’s so much to see and do in the region.

This would be a great weekend getaway for families, especially with older children. Park entrance fees can be on the pricey side, but buying multi-day passes does give some discount.

Sharing a lot of the southern border of Pennsylvania, Maryland is home to a couple of weekend getaway destinations from Pittsburgh.

22. Deep Creek Lake

Drive Time: 2 hours 10 minutes Distance: 103 miles

Just over two hours away, this lake offers plenty of activities to keep you busy during your stay. You can go fishing, boating, swimming, or hiking on the trails around the lake during the summer.

Wisp Resort in the area is a great winter destination for skiers and snowboarders. The resort is on the smaller side but offers slopes for all levels of skiers and a terrain park for the more adventurous.

There are also restaurants and shops in and around the town of McHenry if you need to take a break from all the outdoor activities, or stay in and just spend a weekend relaxing in one of the lakeside cottages.

23. Baltimore

Drive Time: 4 hours 5 minutes Distance: 248 miles

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Baltimore is a city with a rich history, both as an industrial port and as the birthplace of the Star-Spangled Banner. But today, Baltimore’s many charms extend to its diverse restaurants and neighborhoods, world-class museums and art galleries, beautiful parks, and waterfront promenade. It’s also home to world-class universities like Johns Hopkins.

Some must-sees include The National Aquarium, which showcases millions of gallons of water-filled tanks with thousands of different species of aquatic life from around the world. You can explore the Atlantic coral reef or get up close with sharks in Shark Alley.

Baltimore is also home to the famous Inner Harbor, with its beautiful skyline views.

If you’re looking for a more laid-back experience, stop by the Johns Hopkins University campus or check out the museums and art galleries around town. Stop by the Westminster Presbyterian Church, where you can see Edgar Allen Poe’s gravesite.

New York is such a large state that much of it is not accessible within a reasonable amount of time to be considered a weekend trip, even a long weekend trip from Pittsburgh. There are a few options, though, all of which have something fun to offer.

24. The Finger Lakes

Drive Time: 5 hours Distance: 284 miles

Upper Falls in Letchworth State Park framed by the railroad bridge passing overhead

The Finger Lakes wine country in upstate New York is a beautiful destination for a weekend getaway. The region is home to stunning landscapes, delicious food and drink, and plenty of outdoor adventure opportunities.

The Finger Lakes region is one of the furthest destinations included in this list, and you’ll want to take a long weekend vacation (or maybe more) to explore everything the region has to offer.

Spend the mornings exploring the many waterfalls scattered throughout the area or one of the stunning state parks near the lakes. The afternoons can be saved for wine tasting. Relax by one of the beautiful lakes in the evenings. What could make a better weekend getaway?

Make sure you check out Watkins Glen , Taughannock Falls , and Letchworth State Parks. These are just a few hiking options that have beautiful things to see around the Finger Lakes, but each one has great waterfalls and hiking trails.

25. Jamestown

Drive Time: 2 hours 40 minutes Distance: 171 miles

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Did you know that Jamestown, NY is the birthplace of Lucille Ball? She was born there in 1911 and spent her childhood there. It is also her final resting place, along with some members of her other family members.

After a successful career in Hollywood, she retired to her hometown and opened the Lucy-Desi Museum. The museum celebrates her life and career and is home to many artifacts from her time on I Love Lucy.

Jamestown is also home to the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival each year. The festival features stand-up comedians, sketch comedy groups, and performances from both up-and-comers and well-known comedians.

For outdoor lovers, nearby Chautauqua Lake has plenty to do from boating and watersports to hiking trails and parks. Visit Southern Tier Brewing’s original location, and during the summer, you might be able to catch a musical act on the small outdoor stage while you grab a drink and bite to eat.

26. Niagara Falls

Drive Time: 3 hours 40 minutes Distance: 238 miles

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Niagara Falls is quite a famous destination, being one of the most visited tourist attractions in North America. It’s no wonder why; Niagara Falls is truly spectacular. It’s the largest waterfall in North America by volume.

There are so many things to do at Niagara Falls, including taking a ride on the Maid of the Mist boat tour , visiting the Cave of the Winds, and even hiking along the Gorge Trail.

You can take out the planning and book a day-long tour of the highlights of Niagara Falls .

Discover Niagara Falls through a Guided Tour, Including Maid of the Mist and Cave of the Winds.

There are also many hotels located near the falls, making it easy to stay overnight while enjoying the beauty of the falls. Some even overlook the falls, but you’ll have to head over to the Canadian side for most of them.

While the area is very built-up and touristy, the magnitude of these falls should not be missed. In our experience, visits during the colder months were less crowded.

27. Ellicottville

Drive Time: 3 hours 15 minutes Distance: 203 miles

one night road trip

Ellicottville is a small town in Western New York, south of Buffalo. This quaint little town provides a lot of bang for your buck, especially if you enjoy outdoor activities.

The town is home to 2 ski slopes, which offer even more than just winter fun.  During the summer, trails are open for exploration and mountain biking at Holiday Valley. Just south of town, there are more trails and outdoor areas to visit in the state forests.

After a day of exploring, you can spend the evening wandering through the shops in town or grab dinner and a drink at Ellicottville Brewing.

If you’re looking for a quiet weekend escape in a small town, this is the perfect spot.

28. Buffalo

Drive Time: 3 hours 20 minutes Distance: 219 miles

one night road trip

The city of Buffalo gives off very similar vibes to that of Pittsburgh with the locals and things to do.

There are plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from, as well as museums and art galleries, and a waterfront with activities in all seasons. 

Ever wanted to try your luck at curling after watching it on TV during the Olympics? There are lanes at the waterfront area, known as Canalside, where you can try it out and learn the sport. There are also skating rinks and plenty of winter fun. 

During the summer, the waterfront becomes a popular location for concerts and festivals, such as the annual Taste of Buffalo food festival. You could also combine a trip to Buffalo and Niagara Falls, as they’re only about 20 miles apart.

West Virginia

Wild and wonderful, West Virginia has plenty of outdoor adventure waiting in its mountains.

29. New River Gorge

Drive Time: 3 hours 30 minutes Distance: 217 miles

one night road trip

Just over 200 miles to the south, you can visit the US’s newest national park the New River Gorge .

The area in and around the gorge is popular with thrill-seekers, as there is fantastic whitewater rafting in both the New and Gauley Rivers. While we haven’t tackled the Gauley, the New River trip is fun in the spring.

Rock climbing and hiking are also other popular activities in the park, and you’ll find lots of camping options to stay the night in the area. Whether you’d like to spend the night in a primitive cabin or one with lots of amenities, there is a suitable choice. Plenty of tent camping sites are available, too.

Cell phone reception can be a problem in parts of the park, so plan ahead by downloading maps, just in case you find yourself off the grid. It is one of many great areas in West Virginia to get off the grid.

30. Charleston

Drive Time: 3 hours 35 minutes Distance: 228 miles

This historic city is the capital of West Virginia. With its beautiful architecture and charming downtown, Charleston is an absolute must-see when visiting West Virginia.

Although it is the capital of the state, Charleston has kept much of its small-town charm throughout, making this a relaxing weekend getaway from Pittsburgh.

Shop in the Capitol Market or attend an event at the Haddad Riverfront Park amphitheater. Grab a bite at one of the many downtown restaurants serving dishes like Italian or Mexican favorites. 

For a long weekend option, combine a visit to Charleston and the New River Gorge. The one-hour drive between the two destinations on Route 60 is scenic and beautiful. It’ll give you a good taste of those West Virginia country roads.

31. Dolly Sods Wilderness

Drive Time: 3 hours 25 minutes Distance: 152 miles

one night road trip

Another beautiful off-the-grid destination in West Virginia, Dolly Sods is a hiking paradise. As part of the larger Monongahela National Forest, there are over 17,000 acres of outdoor areas to explore.

This is a destination for those who are more adventurous outdoor lovers. 

There are trails for hikers of all levels, and if you want to see some wildlife, keep your eyes peeled for deer, foxes, and even black bears.

The best way to enjoy the outdoors is to camp out here. There are several campsites that offer electricity and water hookups, but no showers.

To really get to some of the best seclusion, plan to head to the backcountry, but only if you come prepared.

Much of Virginia requires more of a drive, so not all of the state is accessible for weekend getaways from Pittsburgh. A few spots could be great, though, especially for long weekend options.

32. Shenandoah

Drive Time: 3 hours 45 minutes Distance: 193 miles

one night road trip

If you’re looking for a quick weekend getaway from Pittsburgh, Shenandoah is a perfect place to go south.

One of the East Coast’s beautiful national parks, there are miles of hiking trails, biking, and scenic roadways through this portion of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

You can also take advantage of the natural beauty of the area by fishing and camping.

Shenandoah is definitely a four-season destination. Depending on the time of year, you will be treated to rushing waterfalls, fields of wildflowers, bright fall foliage, or snow-covered mountains.

All are beautiful in their own way, so plan your visit according to the type of scenery that you’d like to visit.

33. Washington D.C.

Drive Time: 4 hours 5 minutes Distance: 242 miles

one night road trip

Because it’s within a 5-hour drive of Pittsburgh, we can’t leave the nation’s capital off of our list of best weekend destinations from Pittsburgh.

You’ll certainly need more than a weekend to see everything that the capital city has to offer, though!

From the monuments and the National Mall to the shopping in Georgetown, there are endless things to do and places to explore. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly experience, check out the Smithsonian Museums or the National Zoo.

They’re all free to visit!

If you’d like someone else to do the route planning, check out these ELECTRIC CART GUIDED TOURS . You’ll be able to see more in less time in this small-group experience.

Plenty of sports teams call D.C. home, too, so there is a great chance that you could catch a game of some kind during your visit.

If you’ve never been to Washington D.C., you won’t know what you’re missing.

While there are so many options for weekend getaways from Pittsburgh, hopefully, this list gives you some great ideas to start with. Better yet, take a spur-of-the-moment trip to one of the closer destinations we suggested. Sometimes those kinds of trips lead to some of the best memories!

Which one of these weekend getaways from Pittsburgh are you most excited about planning?

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Samantha is the owner and author of PAonPause, a blog that helps travelers find the best outdoor travel experiences and highlights unique locations around the Great Lakes. When she isn't writing and creating content for the website, she's hiking and exploring with her husband and 2 rescue pups. She also enjoys a good craft beer, a summer ride in her Jeep with the top down, and discovering a new waterfall.

Sacramento to Reno Drive

one night road trip

If you’re looking to embark on a Sacramento to Reno drive, you’ve come to the right place. The open road, sky-high emerald green trees, snow capped mountains and the feeling of anticipation for fun days ahead. What’s not to love? 

One of the best road trips from Sacramento is undoubtedly the drive to Reno Tahoe. The Sacramento to Reno drive is only about 2 hours long, depending on the time of year and weather conditions. Since Reno Tahoe is close, those planning a day trip from Sacramento should also plan to stay a while if you’re heading to the Biggest Little City.

Need some trip planning inspo? Here are some of our favorite things to do in Reno Tahoe.

Best Road Trips from Sacramento

Ready to experience a lake like no other? Take a detour from your trek to Reno and dip your toes in Big Blue. We love Kings Beach, Sand Harbor and Hidden Beach, to name a few. All of these beaches are located along the north and eastern shore of Lake Tahoe, making them an easy detour on your way from Sacramento to Reno.

Planning a beach day during your stay in Reno Tahoe? Check out more  beaches in Reno  Tahoe here.

Need a pit stop?  Truckee, CA  is a unique and vibrant mountain town nestled in the Sierra Nevada. Located right off of I-80, it’s a perfect place to grab a bite to eat, visit a local brewery or browse the local shops in downtown Truckee.

MidTown Reno

Once you make it to Reno,  spend the day like a local in Reno’s MidTown District  and enjoy tons of boutiques, vibrant murals and countless can’t-miss  MidTown Reno restaurants  and bars. MidTown is one of the fastest-growing spots in Reno, and it shows. With so much good food, you won’t leave hungry. Beer lovers and cocktail enthusiasts will enjoy a seemingly endless variety of trendy pubs and cocktail bars to choose from.

Hot Springs

Did you know that Nevada is home to over 300 natural hot springs? For those looking to get in touch with nature, embark on an adventure to find a natural hot spring and enjoy Nevada’s breathtaking terrain while submerged in the rich mineral water of a hot springs bath.

There are also several hot spring resorts in Reno Tahoe if adventuring isn’t on the agenda. To learn more, check out our  Guide to Northern Nevada Hot Springs .

Stay the Night in Reno

Hotels and lodging.

With so many things to do in Reno Tahoe, you’re going to want to stay for more than a day. From  pet-friendly hotels  to  LGBTQ+ hotels  to casinos, there is plenty of  lodging  to choose from to set the vibe for your trip.

Other places to stay include  vacation rentals ,  campgrounds  and  RV parks . However you’re traveling, there’s lodging for you.

How Long Is the Drive From Sacramento to Reno?

How is the drive from sacramento to reno, how far is sacramento to lake tahoe, is there a train from sacramento to reno.

Stuffed Suitcase

How to Pack for a Road Trip + Packing List (2023)

By: Author Kim Tate

Posted on Published: March 13, 2023

road trip packing pinterest image

One of the quintessential vacations is the classic road trip. If you’re getting ready to hit the road, you’re probably needing a road trip packing list and some tips for how to pack your car. After taking dozens of road trips over the years, here are my expert tips for things to bring on a road trip along with some organization tips for the car.

pin image for how to pack your car for a road trip

What to Pack for a Road Trip?

Planning and packing for a road trip can be both exciting and overwhelming. Whether you’re going on a short weekend getaway or a long cross-country journey, there are plenty of things to consider.

You’ll be putting together your car emergency kit, creating your ideal playlist, and loading up the trunk with all the road trip essentials . Here’s what you need to know about packing smart and preparing for any unexpected challenges when taking a road trip.

Affiliate links are included in this post, if you purchase from my link I may earn a commission.

What should an adult pack for a road trip?

girl on road trip getting bag from roof of car

As an adult, there are some of the best things you should pack for a road trip. What you choose to pack may be a lot different than what a child or an entire family chooses to pack. Here is a list of ten items to pack for a road trip to make sure you have a good time in the car.

1. Toiletries

Pack the essentials such as shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste and toothbrush, soap, razor, and other items you may need if you’re overnighting in a hotel. But also think about personal comfort/grooming on the road. Do you want to pack a hairbrush, lip balm, eye drops, hand lotion, etc?

2. Clothing 

Be sure to pack comfortable clothes for the weather you will be traveling in. Consider if you need a change of clothes for overnights or if you’re driving to a different climate than you started in.

Include a pair of slip-on shoes for the car but also a pair that is suitable for walking in case you decide to take a hike or explore somewhere new. I have a few ideas for great road trip outfits .

3. First-Aid Kit 

No matter where you are going, it’s always a good idea to have a basic first-aid kit handy in case of an emergency. Pack all your prescriptions, bandages, antiseptic creams, pain relievers, etc., so you can deal with minor injuries while on the go.

4. Electronics & Accessories 

Your smartphone, laptop, and camera should be at the top of your packing list because they’re essential for keeping memories and staying connected with family and friends during your travels. Don’t forget adapters, chargers, and extra batteries if necessary. 

5. Maps & Road Directions 

You never know when technology will fail you when looking for directions! Be sure to bring along a road atlas , physical maps, and/or a GPS device to help guide you on your journey safely and efficiently. 

6. Comfortable Blankets & Pillows 

Having comfortable blankets and pillows can help passengers stay comfortable and even take a nap. They’re also needed if you plan to take sleeping breaks in the car during a long drive.

7. Snacks & Drinks

Pack road trip snacks like granola bars or trail mix for an energy boost throughout the day, plus something refreshing like bottled water or cold drinks that won’t go bad after several hours in the car.

Make sure to include towels so you can quickly dry yourself off after a quick swim or even rainy weather! Compact travel towels are best since they don’t take up much space in your luggage/carrier bag(s).

9. Money & Identification

Bring along some cash just in case credit cards don’t work wherever you go, plus your driver’s license! Also, make sure to bring your passport if you’ll be crossing the border. And make sure you have your car registration and insurance packed as well.

10. Entertainment 

It’s always nice to keep yourself entertained, especially during long road trips! Consider bringing books, magazines, music, and/or movies depending on what type of entertainment suits you best! Audiobooks are a great option on long trips, you can often get a good deal with Audible or Audiobooks.com .

Kindle Paperwhites are also great for bringing lots of books without taking up a lot of space and can be read in the dark or bright sun. If you’re an avid reader, check out Kindle Unlimited . I have it and love that I can read unlimited free books continuously.

What should you pack for a child on a road trip?

kids leaning out of car window on road trip with mom and dad

Packing for a road trip with a child can be tricky. It’s important to make sure you have everything your little one needs, without adding unnecessary weight to your vehicle. Here’s a list of essential items that you should pack when taking a road trip with a child :

1. Car Seats 

When driving long distances, it’s important that children are safely and securely strapped into their car seats. Ensure your car restraints are up-to-date and suitable for your child’s age and size.

2. Healthy Snacks & Drinks

Try to avoid too many sugary drinks and snacks while on the road, as they can increase crankiness in young kids. Opt instead for healthy road trip snacks such as fruit, vegetables, and crackers that will fill them up without the sugar rush later on.

3. First Aid Kit

You should always carry basic medical supplies in the vehicle, especially when traveling with children. Items like antiseptic cream, saline solution, bandaids, and ibuprofen are helpful for travelers of all ages. Depending on what age group the kids are in, you might want to add child-safe versions of medications like Benedryl and pain relievers.

4. Clothes & Toiletries

Depending on how long the journey is it’s important to pack several changes of clothes including underwear and socks along with toiletries such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, and shampoo, especially if you’re planning extended trips or staying overnight.

5. Favorite Toy & Blanket From Home

Nothing soothes a child more than familiar objects from home; it makes them feel safe and secure in an unfamiliar environment away from home comforts. Pack something small like their favorite blanket or teddy bear from home to take away some of the homesickness during times of restlessness on the road trip. A pillow can also come in handy for helping kids nap.

6. Activities & Games

Keep boredom at bay by packing some creative activities for kids to do while traveling in the car such as picture drawing books, travel games, or sticker collections! If space is limited, digital devices preloaded with fun educational apps, cartoons, or reading material can be just as beneficial!

When my girls were really young, I tried to plan for a new activity, toy, snack, or show for every 30 minutes of the drive. Taking frequent breaks to stretch your legs and let kids run around can also help break up the long drive.

7. Activity Board & Bin

Kids might be coloring or drawing and will need a flat surface for their work. An activity lap desk can come in handy for kids. You might also consider an organizing bin for helping them store all their activities. If your kid will be watching shows on a phone or tablet, a headrest mount might be useful.

8. Sun Protection & Insect Repellents

If you’re planning outdoor activities it’s always helpful to have sun protection like sunscreen and hats handy, often overlooked but equally essential are insect repellents which come in effective spray bottles compatible with any kind of climate!  

Packing may feel overwhelming initially but these road trip essentials will ensure your little ones travel safely and enjoyably along the way, stress-free!

Ultimate Road Trip Packing List

screenshots of road trip packing list printable over image of miniature car

Sometimes you don’t think about the individual items you may need on a road trip! This list of simple items is just as important as the big items! Use this list and my blog post of road trip essentials for all things you need on a road trip!

I’m including a printable road trip packing list you can sign up for at the bottom of this section.

Driver’s License

A driver’s license is an essential item for any road trip. It allows you to legally operate a motor vehicle while on the open roads, and also serves as a form of identification if needed at airports or other travel hubs. It is necessary for renting a car if that should be needed during the trip. Having a valid driver’s license before taking to the highways is always recommended!

Car Insurance & Car Registration

Car insurance and registration is an important element of any road trip, as it protects against unexpected damages or liabilities that may arise during your journey. Driving without the right coverage can leave you vulnerable to costly legal bills if an accident occurs. 

Car insurance can provide access to roadside assistance services if your vehicle breaks down, allowing you to reach your destination with minimal disruption. Having the right car insurance in place before hitting the open road is a must, as it can save time and money while providing peace of mind.

A spare tire is also an essential item to bring on a road trip. You never know when a flat tire may occur, and having the right equipment to replace it can save you time, money, and headaches. 

A spare tire also allows for greater flexibility if unexpected road conditions prevent your vehicle from proceeding safely. A spare tire can be beneficial in emergency situations where you need to get off the highway or drive through harsh terrain. Having a reliable spare tire ready at all times is important. 

Roadside Emergency Kit

Every road trip should include an emergency roadside assistance kit . Make sure you take a well-stocked kit with you that includes important road trip essentials like jumper cables, a tarp, bottled water, rags, plastic bags, gloves, flashlights and batteries, jumper cables, flares or reflectors, tire jack and tools to change a tire, and extra oil and fluids for your vehicle.

Having these items on hand can help you handle unexpected breakdowns or repairs quickly and confidently, reducing the hassle of being stranded on the side of the road. 

Car Phone Mount 

A car phone mount is necessary if you plan on using your phone while driving on a road trip. Not only does a car phone mount keep your device within easy reach, but also provides a secure place to store it so that you can keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road. 

Car phone mounts come in a variety of styles and offer features such as adjustable positions for improved visibility, auto-clamping, gravity hold for easy use, and wireless charging capabilities. Having a reliable car phone mount will make your road trip much more enjoyable and safe. 

Car Power Adaptor

Car power adapters are available in different styles and allow you to charge phones, laptops, tablets, cameras, and other USB-connected devices while you drive. Having a reliable car power adapter eliminates the need for frequent stops to recharge, enabling you to focus on enjoying your journey without worrying about losing power.

Packable Cooler

Taking a packable cooler along on your next adventure can be extremely helpful. Not only does it keep food and drinks cool and fresh, but it also helps save on space. Perfect for camping trips, or just a day at the beach, these easily-packed coolers are great for any outdoor activity. 

They come in many sizes to accommodate different amounts of food and drink supplies, making them an ideal choice for those who need to bring snacks and refreshments along with them. You can even buy plug-in coolers to act like a mini-fridge for keeping snacks and drinks cool.

Trunk Organizer

A trunk organizer is a great way to organize your car’s cargo area. It allows you to maximize the space in your trunk while also keeping things tidy and easy to find. Trunk organizers come in many different sizes and styles, making it easy to find one that works for you. 

They are perfect for holding items such as sports equipment, groceries, emergency items, and more. With a trunk organizer, you can be sure that all of your items will be stored properly so they don’t take up too much space or get jumbled together. Just keep in mind how your suitcases will fit if you choose to use an organizer.

Travel Picnic Kit

If you’re looking for the perfect way to enjoy your lunch on the go, a travel picnic kit is an ideal solution. Whether you’re at work, on vacation, or exploring a new city, having a portable set of dinnerware, utensils, and food containers can make all the difference. Even just bringing a portable picnic blanket works well.

Not only does it save time by letting you eat wherever you are, without worrying about packing up leftovers, but it also allows you to create tasty meals that are healthier than restaurant food or fast food. Plus, with colorful designs and fun patterns available, a travel picnic kit adds a bit of style and personality to your meal-time experience.

Taking a travel mug with you on a road trip is an excellent way to save money and reduce waste. Making sure your car has adequate cup holders is essential. It’s always nice to have your favorite hot or cold beverage nearby while traveling, so don’t leave home without one!

If you’ve ever forgotten your sunglasses at home, while taking a road trip, then you know this was a huge mistake. Pack a few pairs of sunglasses, so you can protect your eyes while you drive or even sit in the front seat. 

Printable Road Trip Packing List (PDF)

Sign up for my email list in the box below and my road trip packing list pdf will be sent straight to your inbox!

Apps You Need For a Road Trip

roadtrippers plus screenshots app for planning road trips

Google Maps

The most important app for any traveler, Google Maps allows you to easily plot out routes and check traffic in real time. You can plan your road trip with Google Maps to include gas stations, rest stops, attractions, and more. It offers spoken turn-by-turn directions that make navigating easier than ever before. 

If Google Maps isn’t enough for you, then Waze is worth looking into as well. This app provides crowdsourced reports on traffic conditions that allow drivers to make driving decisions based on where they are currently located. In addition, it has community alerts that notify drivers when there are police officers or road obstructions ahead. 

One of the essential road trip apps has to do with fuel; specifically finding affordable fuel quickly along your route. GasBuddy makes this happen by helping users find nearby gas stations with their lowest prices listed before they stop. No more worrying about running low while searching for cheaper fuel options,  this app will take care of it all! 

TripIt helps travelers organize every detail of their trip into one streamlined itinerary including flight times, hotel reservations, and car rental information. Plus, it keeps track of any travel confirmations that come through emails so you don’t have to waste time manually entering data from each confirmation email into another program or writing everything down on paper. 

Spotted by Locals

This unique app allows people to explore like a local wherever they go by providing authentic recommendations from local experts who live in the cities they’re visiting. Get off the beaten path and discover hidden gems that only locals know about: restaurants, bars, events, and more are at your fingertips with Spotted by Locals ! 

Roadtrippers Plus

One of my favorite apps for sightseeing road trips is RoadTrippers Plus. It’s an app that helps you find all the best attractions and restaurants along your route, along with reviews of the attractions. Sign up and use code BTR5QTP to get $5 off.

Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, SoundCloud

Don’t forget to load up your favorite music streaming service before taking off! Long trips tend to get boring without good tunes keeping everyone entertained during long stretches of driving, plus music can really set the mood while exploring new cities or playing silly car games to break up monotonous highway miles.  

Best Snacks to Pack for a Road Trip 

road trip snack ideas

When on a road trip, you probably get extremely hungry. That’s where your favorite snacks to pack for a road trip come in. You’ll want to add some munchies that each traveler. These are some road trip snacks you may want to consider. And don’t forget a few trash bags for easy disposal!

  • Granola Bars – A classic favorite made with oats, nuts, and honey that is easy to eat while driving. Make your own or buy some prepackaged ones.
  • Trail Mix – A combination of dried fruit, nuts, seeds, and sometimes chocolate pieces that makes for a tasty snack on the go. 
  • Sandwiches or Wraps – Whole grain bread filled with lean meats make great portable meals that can be eaten quickly at rest stops.
  • Homemade Muffins – Perfect for a sweet treat on the road; these handheld snacks can be filled with wholesome ingredients like quinoa and chia seeds.  
  • Beef Jerky or Pretzels – Classic salty snacks that have been around for years! Searching for organic versions may even be possible in gas stations these days! 
  • Cereal – Dry cereal can make an excellent road trip snack. Some of our favorites are cheerios and chex.
  • Nuts and Seeds – Almonds, walnuts, and sunflower seeds provide a good source of protein and healthy fats to keep you full while on the go. 
  • Gummy Bears or Fruit Snacks – These will appease your sweet tooth cravings in a somewhat healthier way depending on which you choose.
  • Applesauce or Yogurt Smoothie Pouches – Easy to eat and pack; these make a great snack for anyone in the car.  
  • Popcorn – Pop some before your trip or buy any of the popular bags sold in most grocery stores. 
  • Fresh Fruits or Vegetables – Carrots, celery sticks, cucumber slices, oranges, and grapes are light enough to not weigh down your stomach after a long drive, plus they’re healthy!

How to Pack Your Car For a Road Trip 

Whether you’re embarking on a short road trip or a long one, packing your vehicle correctly is important. To make sure everything goes smoothly, here are some tips for getting your vehicle ready for a road trip.

  • Make a List – Before you start packing, make a list of all the items you need to bring with you. Consider the type of trip you’re taking and include clothing, toiletries, snacks, maps and emergency supplies in your list.
  • Pack Smartly – When it comes to loading up the car, pack heavier items first and closer to the back of the vehicle. Place lighter items such as blankets and pillows near the front and above heavier items so that they are easy to reach during the drive. Make sure everything is securely fastened down with bungee cords or straps so that it doesn’t move around while driving
  • Clean out Your Vehicle – Before leaving on your trip it’s important to give your vehicle an interior clean out. This includes taking out any unnecessary items like empty water bottles or old takeout containers that won’t be needed during your journey.
  • Consider Comfort – During long trips comfort should be the top priority when it comes to packing up your car. Bring along a small pillow, blanket, or set of headphones to help make the ride more comfortable if there will be multiple people in the car at once.
  • Leave Space – Don’t overpack! Remember to leave some space in case you need more room for souvenirs or something else while on your journey
  • Double Check Everything – Before getting behind the wheel of your vehicle, double-check that all maintenance has been taken care of so your car is ready for the trip. Items such as spare tires and jumper cables should also be checked off before leaving home just in case something unexpected happens while driving. 

First, I suggest that each person (including kids) pack a small bag or tote of their favorite toys/activities. This will be kept nearby and contain things that will keep you busy.

For adults, this might be magazines, books, or electronics. Kids might pack some books, coloring books or journals, electronic toy(s), printable activities/games, dolls, or legos.

A food bin is a big must for any road trip. I like to use a small box to store all our road trip snacks .

I make each of our girls their own plastic container of special snacks, this was learned after one too many, “but Mom, she already had two granola bars…”. If each child starts with the same number of “fun” snacks, they can’t argue if they eat all of theirs.

We also pack some general snacks that everyone enjoys, but the special snacks — like granola bars and fruit snacks — are limited.

Following these simple steps can help ensure that both you and your car are safe for whatever journey lies ahead!

Diagram to Pack for a Road Trip

Diagram for Packing Your Car for a Road Trip

1 – Passenger Seat

This is where the main passenger (usually me) keeps their stuff. I like to pack magazines, my iPad, and my purse in a narrow tote. I’ll also store some lip balm and eye drops in my bag

2 – Main Console

We keep electronic chargers here along with many of our road trip essentials. Depending on how your car is built, what you can store in this space might be limited.

Some essentials that should be stored nearby the front seats are paper towels, wet wipes, kleenex, dental floss, hand sanitizer, lotion, and a travel first aid kit .

See my full list of road trip essentials we bring on our road trips and figure out where best to store them in your car. Keep in mind what you’ll want to access easily while driving and what can be stored in the back for use at stops.

3 – Garbage

We have a special car trash can that loops around my seat belt latch and has an elastic opening so things don’t fall in or out accidentally. You can also use a plain plastic grocery bag looped around the gear shift.

I recommend each row of passengers have its own trash bag. If you’re traveling with kids you might even want to give each kid a garbage bag they can keep near their seat.

Having easy access to garbage bags will be a huge help in keeping your car clean and organized during your road trip .

4 – DVD Players

We’ve always had dual DVD car screens that we bought at Target, but now that our girls received tablets for Christmas, we like these  tablet headrest mounts .

Our girls love watching some of their favorite movies while on a road trip. Of course, you may decide to skip this. One of my big tips, if you are buying DVD players for multiple kids, consider buying a set that offers independent playing options.

As our girls got older sometimes they’d want to watch the same movie, but other times they didn’t and our players let them watch their own movies or they can watch the same one.

kid watching dvd movie on road trip

5 – Kid Bags

Each of your kids should bring a bag of personally selected items for the road trip. It could include a book or journal, or a special activity/toy. Our girls use their school backpacks.

If you’re wanting to keep things off the ground, you might consider a  backseat organizer that lets kids store misc stuff in pockets on the back of the seat. We’ve also used one of these middle seat organizers for the girls to share (see #7 below).

You can also consider packing a plastic lidded bin that is placed below your child’s feet. Just make sure it’s easy for the top to be removed while seated.

Related Post:  Best Kids Travel Bag Activities to Pack

6 – food.

This is where we keep all the road trip snacks. We often use one of these clever crates and place it in an easy-to-reach location for each person.

For kids, I recommend making them each their own snack bag or box so that there are no arguments about who’s had too many of one kind of snack. Each kiddo should get the same amount of fruit snacks, granola bars, etc. Make sure you remember wet wipes & napkins.

Another tip is to bring lidded/sippy cups for young kids. They work great for sharing a bottle of juice or water, and no spills!

For adults, consider a thermal mug if you’re a coffee drinker. Your hot drinks will stay much warmer than those disposable cups from the store. Bring reusable water bottles, too.

road trip snack bin packed in car

7 – Kids Activities

This is normally another bag and carries more kids’ activities and games. We normally have a blanket for each kid in this space too. If the road trip isn’t too long, this could be the only space you store kids’ activities. We’ve used boxes and this backseat organizer for placing between the girls’ seats.

8 – Luggage

Bags and stuff you don’t need to access while driving go in the back. We often have one hotel stop on our main road trip drive, so we pack one overnight bag with all of our stuff for that hotel night so we don’t have to bring in each person’s luggage.

Another tip is to keep some extra snacks/treats or special drinks and such back here so you can dole them out when you stop. You can also store some of the other road trip essential items back here.

trunk packed for road trip vacation

FAQs for What to Pack for a Road Trip 

What should go in a car emergency kit.

A car emergency kit should include a first aid kit, jumper cables/battery starter, flares or reflective triangles for safety if your car breaks down on the side of the road, a flashlight with extra batteries, an emergency tool (like a hammer or a window breaker/seatbelt cutter combo). It should also include blankets and warm clothing in case you are stranded in cold weather. 

Don’t forget water, energy snacks, and basic tools like screwdrivers and wrenches. It’s also good to keep items such as windshield washer fluid, fuel line antifreeze, and deicer spray in your vehicle in case the weather turns bad.

What should you pack if you’re traveling through a cold state?

If you are driving through a cold state, it is important to pack winter road trip items such as warm clothing and blankets, as well as a winter car kit. This should include items such as jumper cables, windshield washer fluid, de-icer spray, fuel line antifreeze, and an emergency tool (like a hammer or window breaker/seatbelt cutter combo). 

Consider packing snacks that contain healthy energy sources like nuts and fruits. Bring along extra batteries for your flashlight and any other electronic devices you plan to use on your trip.

What type of shoes should I pack on a road trip?

When packing for a road trip, it is important to choose shoes that provide comfort and support. Depending on the nature of your journey, you may want to pick shoes with features such as waterproofing or ankle support. The best shoes to pack are:

  • Running shoes – Athletic shoes are great for long days of driving, as they offer plenty of cushioning and shock absorption. I prefer slip-on loafer sneakers for road trips.
  • Hiking boots – These sturdy boots provide support for walking around during stops and exploring in unfamiliar territory.
  • Sandals – For warmer climates where days might be spent primarily outdoors, sandals can be comfortable and stylish. Try to avoid slide sandals as they aren’t great for driving in.
  • Rainboots – In the event you encounter bad weather during your travels, rainboots can protect your feet from wetness and mud, but it might be easier to pack a pair of water-resistant sneakers or hiking boots.
  • Ballet flats – When space is limited, ballet flats are easy to pack away but still provide comfort during walkabouts in town or at a rest stop along the highway.

What should I pack for a 12-hour drive?

If you’re embarking on a 12-hour drive, packing the right items can make all the difference in having a comfortable trip. Making sure your car is stocked with essential items will help ensure that you don’t run into any unexpected issues along the way.

  • Snacks: It’s always a good idea to pack some snacks for your journey. Choose nutrient-dense snacks such as fruits, nuts and granola bars that will give you lasting energy along the way.
  • Drinks: Whether it’s water or a caffeinated beverage, make sure you have enough drinks to stay hydrated throughout your journey.
  • First Aid Kit: Accidents and injuries can happen, so make sure you pack a first aid kit in case of emergency.
  • Cash: Have some extra cash on hand in case you need to use toll roads or if there’s an unexpected stop along the way.
  • Entertainment: Bring along some books, magazines, or music to keep you occupied during your drive.
  • Blanket and Pillow: Make sure you have a comfortable blanket and pillow to help make the journey more bearable.

By packing these essential items for your 12 hour drive, you can have a more comfortable and enjoyable journey. With a little bit of planning, you can ensure that your trip is as stress-free as possible.

What are 3 tips to prepare for a road trip?

1. Plan your route – Make sure you have a good idea of the route you’ll be taking and plan out stops along the way if needed. Consider alternate routes in case of traffic congestion or detours, too!

2. Pack light – When packing for a road trip, consider bringing only the essentials so that you don’t have to lug around too much luggage. This will make the journey more comfortable, and you can always stop to pick up items if needed.

3. Bring entertainment – Make sure you have some form of entertainment such as books, music, or games for both adults and children in the car so that everyone stays busy during the drive. This will help make the journey fly by!

Bonus Tip: Have your vehicle inspected. Before you head out on a road trip, make sure to get your car checked for any potential issues. This will help ensure that you don’t have any problems during the drive and can get safely to your destination without any surprises!

Whether you’re a road-tripping expert or spending several long hours in the car for the first time, with these packing guides and road trip tips, you’ll be ready to head on a family road trip any time of year!

Check out my full list of road trip tips .

pin image for road trip packing list printable screenshots plus essential items to pack for a road trip

Share and Save This Post:

Thursday 6th of May 2021

This is amazing. Thank you.

Catherine Brady

Sunday 15th of March 2020

Love all of the practical tips in this post!! Also, the related spin off posts are super useful as well-especially the one on organization and the first aid kit!

Susan Summers

Thursday 5th of December 2019

Thanks for the tips. We're planning on doing our first road trip in France next summer. Can't wait!

Friday 6th of December 2019

Great, Susan! Hope you have a fabulous trip!

15 Brilliant Road Trip Hacks – Two Frugal Moms

Sunday 16th of July 2017

[…] 10. How To Pack Your Car For A Road Trip […]

Erica Gilbert

Wednesday 21st of June 2017

Nice tips and love the visuals! Glad you’ve mentioned the first aid kit. It’s important to check this before the trip and keep it where it’s easily accessible, especially when you’re traveling with kids. I usually keep a travel size pain relief oil, since it works for multiple situations. Also, a roll of toilet paper comes in handy to quickly clean up any spills or to wipe something.

New England Wanderlust

Connecticut , Maine , Massachusetts , New Hampshire , New York , Rhode Island , Vermont  ·  March 30, 2022

34 Awesome Road Trips From Boston & Best Itineraries (2024)

Boston is an amazing starting point for adventures all over New England and the Northeast. With so many options to visit tons of nearby coastal towns, exciting cities and plenty of quaint, charming villages, there are endless possibilities for road trips from Boston. And since I’ve been road-tripping and traveling all over the Northeast for over 10 years now, I know all the destinations that are worth your time.

This list includes destinations that are all individually under 6 hours from Boston, and if you’re looking for road trip itineraries that combine destinations from this list, be sure to scroll to the end for suggested itineraries to make the most of your road trip!

one night road trip

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🚙 Need to rent a car for your epic road trip? I’ve got you covered! Click here to check the best prices on Discover Cars!

Best Road Trips From Boston

For this list, I’ve broken down the destinations into four categories: Coastal, City, Charming Towns and Luxury Getaways. For each destination, I’ve also included the time it takes to get there from Boston, highlights of the best things to do, what to expect once there, and nearby things to do.

Coastal Road Trip Destinations From Boston

1. plymouth, ma.

Distance From Boston: 40-50 minutes

If you’re looking for a quick, easy getaway from city life in Boston, a little road trip to Plymouth is a fun way to do that. While the town is known for its history dating back to the early 1600s, they are also lots of outdoor activities, parks and beaches, and combine that with a small-town feel, Plymouth makes for a lovely little escape from Boston.

Best things to do in Plymouth:

  • Plimoth Patuxet Museum is a living replica of the original pilgrim colony settlement. If you’re a history buff, this is a must-see. You can even climb aboard the Mayflower II, an exact replica of the ship that brought the pilgrims to Plymouth.
  • Plymouth Long Beach is a 3-mile long stretch of public beach that’s perfect for getting out by the water.
  • Plymouth Farmer’s Market is held every Thursday from May through October, and was Yankee Magazine editor’s pick for best Farmer’s Market in 2018.
  • Brewster Gardens is a tranquil, waterfront park that’s sure to invite lots of relaxation.
  • Walk around the charming downtown to visit the shops and restaurants,
  • Pop into Dirty Water Distillery for an artisanal spirits tasting.
  • Go on a whale watch tour with Captain John’s Boat Tours .
  • Spend the day getting pampered at Mirbeau Resort & Spa , and even stay for lunch or dinner, or the night for the ultimate day of relaxation.

Click here to book your stay at Mirbeau Resort & Spa!

Psst! I have an entire post on visiting Plymouth, MA , if you need more ideas!

2. Cape Cod, MA

Distance From Boston: 1-2.5 hours, depending on where you to choose to go on Cape Cod.

Cape Cod is the ultimate beach road trip from Boston

With over 500 miles of shoreline to explore, Cape Cod is the ultimate beach road trip from Boston because you can get there in about 2 hours and feel like you’re in a whole other world. There are 15 towns in Cape Cod to choose from for your visit, and more beaches than anyone can count. Fill your days being ocean-side, exploring beautiful little coastal towns, eating fresh seafood and taking in amazing sunsets.

Best Things To Do on Cape Cod :

  • Visit The Cape Cod National Seashore
  • Explore Chatham’s downtown
  • Visit Provincetown and the Pilgrim Monument
  • For more on the best things to do on the Cape, click the link below for my detailed travel guide.

You may also enjoy:

  • Can’t Miss Things To Do When Visiting Cape Cod For The First Time
  • Best Things To Do On Cape Cod For Adults
  • Best Towns To Stay In On Cape Cod
  • What To Pack For Cape Cod
  • Unique Things To Do On Cape Cod

3. Nantucket, MA

Distance From Boston: 2-3 hours, which includes time to park at the ferry terminal, and ride the ferry.

Nantucket Island is just off the coast of Cape Cod, and can easily be combined with the Cape for a road trip from Boston.

Nantucket is a gorgeous island off the coast of Cape Cod bursting with charm and natural beauty. A day trip to Nantucket is common while visiting Cape Cod, but staying overnight for a night or two would be the best way to make the most of your road trip from Boston. This is a great island to explore if you’re looking for stunning beaches and a beautiful downtown area.

To get to Nantucket, you’ll need to take the ferry from Hyannis on Cape Cod. From there, you can choose between Hyline Cruises or Steamship Authority to get to Nantucket.

Best Things To Do on Nantucket:

  • Explore the shops and restaurants in the main town.
  • Visit Brant Point Lighthouse.
  • Rent a moped to explore the local beaches and towns.
  • For more amazing things to do on Nantucket, click the link below for my detail travel guide on a Nantucket day trip.
  • The Best Nantucket Day Trip Travel Guide
  • How Many Days Do You Need On Nantucket + Suggested Itineraries
  • How To Visit All The Nantucket Lighthouses

4. Martha’s Vineyard, MA

The cliffs in Aquinnah on Martha's Vineyard are absolutely stunning, and shouldn't be missed when visiting.

Martha’s Vineyard is the other island off the coast of Cape Cod, and it’s more popular as an overnight destination, versus a day trip because it’s bigger. Comprised of 6 beautiful towns, Martha’s Vineyard is home to beautiful beaches, quaint Main Streets for shopping and dramatic cliff-lined shores.

To get to Martha’s Vineyard, you’ll need to take a ferry from either Woods Hole or Hyannis (both terminals located on Cape Cod). There is no benefit to picking one over the other, and it’s best to just pick whichever location is more convenient for you (usually it’s Hyannis for most people).

Best Things To Do on Martha’s Vineyard:

  • Gingerbread Cottages in Oak Bluffs
  • Edgartown downtown and lighthouse
  • Aquinnah Cliffs and Gay Head Lighthouse
  • South/Katama Beach
  • For more information on visiting Martha’s Vineyard, click the link below for my guide on deciding between Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard for a day trip.

You may also find these Martha’s Vineyard posts helpful:

  • Is Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard Better For A Day Trip?
  • The Ultimate Martha’s Vineyard Day Trip Guide
  • How To See Martha’s Vineyard Without A Car

5. Marblehead, MA

Distance From Boston: 40-50 minutes.

Sunrise at Castle Hill is a wonderful thing to experience in Marblehead, MA.

Marblehead is an adorable little coastal town along the North Shore of Massachusetts, and a very quick road trip from Boston. This is the place to come if you’re looking for historical homes, small-town charm, great seafood, dramatic, rocky coastline and options for beaches.

Best Things To Do in Marblehead, MA:

  • Marblehead Lighthouse & Chandler Hovey Park
  • Self-guided historical home walking tour.
  • Take in the views at Castle Hill Rock.
  • For more information on the best things to do in Marblehead, click the link before for my detailed travel guide.

Click here to read even more awesome things to do in Marblehead!

6. Salem, MA

Distance From Boston: 30-40 minutes.

Salem makes for a great road trip from Boston year-round, not just in October. Be sure to visit the Sail Loft in the Historic Maritimes Park.

Salem is another little coastal town along the North Shore of Massachusetts, and is known for being the premier New England destination for all things spooky. While visiting Salem in October is definitely a bucket list-worthy goal, it’s actually a really wonderful town to visit all year round. It’s very walkable with a variety of things to do, and makes for a great day trip, or a weekend getaway.

Best Things To Do in Salem, MA:

  • Winter Harbor Park and Lighthouse
  • Salem Witch Trials Memorial
  • Salem Maritimes National Historic Site
  • Essex Street Pedestrian Mall
  • House of Seven Gables
  • Peabody Essex Museum

Psst! I have some helpful guides including planning the perfect Salem, MA day trip , and the best time to visit Salem if you need more information 😉

7. Rockport, MA

Distance From Boston: 50-60 minutes.

Motif 1 in Rockport, MA is the most painted building in the country.

Rockport is one of my favorite coastal towns in all of New England. It has so much character, wonderful shops and restaurants, and really invites you to slow down a bit to take it all in. It’s a small town, and can be done in a day, but a weekend here would be a very relaxing road trip from Boston.

Best Things To Do in Rockport, MA:

  • Visit Motif 1, the most painted building in New England, if not the country!
  • Go for a scenic walk or hike at Halibut Point State Park.
  • Meander through the shops on Bear Skin Neck.
  • For more things to do in Rockport and the North Shore region, click the links below for my detailed travel guides.

Click here for more amazing things to do in Rockport!

Click here to read my travel guide on the best things to do on Cape Ann!

8. Newburyport, MA

There's charm at every corner of Newburport's downtown.

Newburyport is a delightful little coastal town in Massachusetts that has a very traditional New England feel with beautiful homes at every turn, and an adorable little downtown area and waterfront park. Newburyport is also home to Plum Island, which is a gorgeous part of town with amazing beaches and wildlife sanctuaries.

Best Things To Do in Newburyport, MA:

  • Visit Oldies Marketplace to look for antiques and treasures.
  • Meander the streets of downtown to explore the beautiful storefronts.
  • Take a leisurely stroll along the waterfront park.
  • Pack a picnic or take a nature walk at Maudslay State Park , which has over 500 acres to explore.
  • Head out on the open waters with Yankee Clipper Tours , and cruise around the Merrimack River and Newburyport Harbor.
  • Drive over to Plum Island to visit Plums Island Beach, buy some handmade soaps at Plum Island Soap Co. , and walk the stunning nature trails at the Parker River National Wildlife Refugee .

Click here to read my full guide to visiting Newburyport & Plum Island!

9. Block Island, RI

Distance From Boston: 3-3.5 hours, which includes time to park at the ferry terminal, and ride the ferry.

Block Island is a beautiful island off the coast of Rhode Island with gorgeous beaches, walking trails, water activities, salt marshes, great restaurants and is overall a wonderful place to relax while appreciating the outdoors. This actually might be one of my top underdog suggestions for a weekend getaway from Boston.

It actually reminds me a bit of Prince Edward Island, so if you’re looking to live out your Anne of Green Gables dreams, but can’t make it to Canada, this is a great place to do that. There’s even a lovely hotel on the island called Avonlea.

To get to the island, you’ll need to drive to the Pt. Judith ferry terminal in Rhode Island. For more information on the ferry, click here .

Best Things To Do on Block Island, RI:

  • Take in the views at Mohegan Bluffs.
  • Rent a moped to explore the entire island.
  • Spend some time swimming at Mansion Beach.
  • Visit the island’s two lighthouses.
  • Have lunch with a water view at The Oar .

Click here to read all my tips for taking a Block Island day trip!

10. Newport, RI

Distance From Boston: 1.5 hours, but always anticipate extra traffic crossing the Newport bridge.

Goat Island Lighthouse is a fun place to visiting when in Newport, RI.

Newport is a stunning coastal city in Rhode Island that’s the perfect destination for sailing, shopping, dining and being by the water. Even though it’s technically a city, I wanted to include it in the coastal destinations group because it definitely feels more like a resort waterfront town than a city.

With so many things to do, you could easily spend a weekend here, but Newport will also work for a day trip.

Best Things To Do in Newport, RI:

  • Walk along Cliff Walk for amazing coastal views.
  • Visit Bowen’s Wharf for shopping and dining.
  • Grab a lobster roll at the Newport Lobster Shack .
  • Walk over to Goat Island to see the lighthouse and take in views of the Newport Bridge.
  • Sail around Narrangansett Bay with Sightsailing of Newport .
  • Visit the unique shops along Thames Street.
  • Grab lunch and cocktails at The Lawn at Castle Hill Inn , overlooking the water. Better yet, book an overnight stay for the ultimate Newport experience!

Click here to book your stay at The Castle Hill Inn in Newport .

Click here to read all my tips for taking a Newport, RI day trip!

Click here to read about all the best things to do in Newport, RI in the winter!

11. Mystic, CT

Distance From Boston: 1.5 hours

This adorable little town sits along Mystic River, and has an awesome mix of preserved maritimes history, small-town charm and nature. While Mystic is mostly visited for its quaint, waterfront downtown, it’s also home to parts of two bordering towns, Stonington and Groton, giving you opportunity to explore a few different coastal Connecticut destinations during your visit.

Best Things To Do in Mystic, CT:

  • See penguins, beluga whales, sharks and sea lions at the Mystic Aquarium .
  • Learn all about maritimes history at the Mystic Seaport Museum and Village , which is regarded as one of the best, if not the best, Maritimes museums in the country.
  • Hit the trails at Bluff Point State Park.
  • Take a sunset or moonlit cruise with Poet’s Lounge Sailing Charters .
  • Grab a warm lobster roll, which originated in CT, at Ford’s Lobster in nearby Noank.

Click here to read about all the best things to do in Mystic, CT!

12. The Hamptons, NY

Distance From Boston: 5.5 hours if driving the whole way, 6 hours if you drive to New London, CT to take the ferry.

The beaches in the Hamptons are one of the best things to do when visiting during a road trip from Boston.

The Hamptons needs no introduction, as it’s become a famous summer destination in New York thanks to many celebrities calling it a secondary home. Sitting along the Long Island sound, you can expect gorgeous beaches, amazing shopping and restaurants, specialty food markets and farmer’s markets, wineries and plenty of opportunity for rest and relaxation.

The Best Things To Do in The Hamptons:

  • Have a beach day and watch the surfers at Coopers Beach in Southampton.
  • Go vineyard hopping, and taste some of the local wines. Channing Daughters Winery and Wölffer Estates are two great options.
  • Take in the views at Montauk Lighthouse.
  • Enjoy an afternoon of rest and restoration at the Montauk Salt Caves .
  • Have some amazing and fresh seafood at Bostwick’s Chowder House in East Hampton.
  • Rent a bike and ride along Gin Lane in Southampton for incredible views of the ocean, and to see some amazing houses.

13. Ogunquit, ME

Distance From Boston: 1 hour and 15 minutes

It's worth taking a road trip from Boston just to visit Marginal Way in Ogunquit, ME.

One of my favorite beach towns in all of New England is Ogunquit, which is one of the best places to visit in Maine in the summer , but it’s really fun in spring and fall, too. Offering both dramatic and rocky coastline that Maine is famous for, as well as a long, sandy beach that’s perfect for swimming, you’ll get the best of both worlds here. Ogunquit’s town is entirely walkable, so once you drive in, you’ll be able to leave your car behind and get almost everywhere by foot. There’s an amazing downtown scene with plenty of shops and restaurants, and you’re never that far from Ogunquit Beach.

Best Things To Do in Ogunquit, ME:

  • Walk along Marginal Way, where you’ll get the most amazing views of the rocky coastline.
  • Visit Perkins Cove to enjoy its charming shops and restaurants.
  • Spend plenty of time at Ogunquit Beach, one of the best beaches in Maine.
  • For more information on things to do in Ogunquit, click the link below for my detailed travel guide.

Click here to read about more amazing things to do in Ogunquit!

14. Kennebunkport, ME

Distance From Boston: 1 hour and 25 minutes

Just a short distance from Ogunquit is Kennebunkport, so these two destinations could easily be combined, and both are worth your time. Kennebunkport is full of character, and can be visited as either a day trip, or a weekend getaway, from Boston. Offering both beaches and a wonderful downtown scene, this is a great place to relax, unwind and enjoy being by the water.

Best Things To Do in Kennebunkport, ME:

  • Visit Gooch’s Beach for a walk along the shore, or go for a swim.
  • Have an authentic lobsterman experience with Rugosa Lobster Tours .
  • Walk around the downtown and Dock Square shops.
  • Grab an artisanal ice cream cone at Rococo Ice Cream .
  • Have some craft cocktails and beer at Batson River Brewing and Distillery .
  • Walk along Parson’s Way for amazing views of the dramatic coastline.
  • Grab fresh seafood takeout from The Clam Shack .

Click here to see why Kennebunkport is one of the best Christmas towns in New England!

15. Bar Harbor/Acadia National Park

Distance From Boston: 4 hours and 45 minutes

Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor is one of the best road trips from Boston you can take.

One of the absolute best places to visit in all of Maine is Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, and this will make an epic road trip from Boston. Bar Harbor is the adjacent town to Acadia, and where most people stay when visiting the park. Bar Harbor is a fun destination on its own because it’s full of character, and has great restaurants, and a beautiful harbor-side walking path and park.

Acadia National Park is one of the top destinations in all of New England, providing over 120 miles of hiking trails, and countless opportunities to take in some of the best and most incredible coastline views in the entire Northeast. In my opinion, this is one of the best roads trips from Boston you can take.

Best Things To Do in Bar Harbor & Acadia National Park:

  • Walk along the Ocean Path trail inside Acadia, which is a flat, easy path along Shore Road that provides the most payoff for minimal effort when it comes to the most famous views in the park.
  • Have lunch and popovers at Jordan Pond House inside Acadia, which offers views of the lawn and Jordan Pond.
  • Drive to the summit of Cadillac Mountain inside Acadia for sunrise or sunset.
  • Explore Bar Harbor’s downtown.
  • Take a leisurely walk along Shore Path in Bar Harbor for the best views of the harbor.
  • Visit Bass Harbor Lighthouse inside Acadia.

Tip : You’ll need to purchase a park pass to enter any attractions inside Acadia National Park. Park passes can be purchased online in advance by clicking here .

Psst! I have some posts on Acadia that you may find helpful, including my Acadia National Park Itinerary , and the Best Time To Visit Acadia National Park .

Luxury Road Trip Destinations From Boston

These destinations don’t have to be all about luxury, but since it’s nice to treat yourself every now and then, I wanted to include a few of my favorite luxury resorts that are easy road trips from Boston. If all you’re looking for is a little R&R and some serious pampering without having to leave the resort grounds, these are amazing places to visit.

16. Cliff House in Cape Neddick, ME

If you’re looking for the ultimate coastal Maine getaway to fully relax and recharge, then Cliff House will be the perfect road trip from Boston for you. This oceanfront resort sits atop 70 acres of cliffs, and offers incredible amenities that will allow you fully emerse yourself in Maine’s natural beauty without having to go far. Almost every square foot of this property has an ocean view, so there’s no way you can be stressed during your visit.

What To Expect During Your Stay At Cliff House:

  • Beautifully-appointed rooms with a private terrace, and your choice of partial or full ocean views. Some rooms are also ocean-front.
  • Complimentary coffee, tea and water stations on each floor.
  • A full-service spa.
  • Three oceanfront restaurants and a coffee cafe.
  • Manicured gardens and pathways for relaxing walks.
  • Two outdoor pools, two indoor pools and a hot tub.
  • On-site shopping.

Click here to book your stay at Cliff House!

17. Ocean House in Westerly, RI

Distance From Boston: 1 hour and 45 minutes

For one of the very best luxury experiences in all of New England, Ocean House in Westerly, RI is a truly amazing destination. With the entire properly overlooking the Block Island Sound, it’s guaranteed you’ll be able to relax during your stay. Travel + Leisure has even named Ocean House as one of the top 100 hotels in the entire world.

What To Expect During Your Stay At Ocean House:

  • Freshly designed and elegant coastal New England rooms and suites.
  • Complimentary use of the hotels Mercedes-Benz convertibles for self-guided tours.
  • Complimentary activities within the resort, such as daily yoga and cooking classes.
  • Valet parking included in your room rate.
  • Four on-site restaurants, and lobster dinners on the lawn during the summer.
  • An on-site spa.
  • Beautifully manicured lawns with yard games.
  • Complimentary refreshments throughout the day.

Click here to book your stay at the Ocean House!

18. Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, NY

Distance From Boston: 3 hours and 45 minutes

If you’re looking for the ultimate road trip from Boston that combines hiking in the mountains with total relaxation, then Mohonk Mountain House is perfect for you. Located in the small college town of New Paltz, Mohonk Mountain House is right in the heart of the Hudson Valley of New York, and is surrounded by 40,000 acres of forest.

Overviews of the resort have been used in the Amazon Prime series Upload , and has long been rumored to be the inspiration behind Stephen King’s The Shining . But don’t let that scare you away! That only thing that will actually scare you once here is how amazing the views are.

If an overnight stay doesn’t work with your plans, guests can also purchase a day pass to the resort grounds, which allows you access to the hiking trails. This is a great way to enjoy the scenery without committing to an overnight stay.

What To Expect During Your Stay At Mohonk Mountain House:

  • Traditionally-decorated rooms and suites that overlook the mountains. Most rooms also come with private balconies and rocking chairs.
  • Lake Mohonk on the resort grounds.
  • An all-inclusive stay where breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, as well as all outdoor activities such as kayaks, row boats and canoes, are all included in the room rate.
  • 85 miles of hiking trails right outside your door.
  • Farm-to-table dining.
  • Benches and chairs situated all over the resort grounds for moments of rest, and to clear your mind.

Click here to book your stay at Mohonk Mountain House!

Click here to read my detailed review of a Mohonk Mountain House Day Pass!

19. Mirbeau Spa in Rhinebeck, NY

Distance From Boston: 3 hours and 10 minutes

Mirbeau has a few locations throughout the Northeast, but my favorite of them all is in Rhinebeck, NY, a beautiful little town in the Hudson Valley. This particular Mirbeau Spa is one of the newer additions to their family, and is decorated in a modern, Parisian style, which makes it feel like a unique destination.

The spas at Mirbeau are really amazing. I’ve personally had massages and treatments at different locations, and they’ve always been consistent in quality (and, of course, relaxation). Guests are invited to walk around in robes, including at lunch, and the on-site hotel allows you to continue your relaxation journey into the evening for the perfect overnight stay.

What To Expect During Your Stay At Mirbeau in Rhinebeck, NY:

  • A serene, calm spa atmosphere throughout the entire grounds.
  • A relaxation room, aqua terrace and steam facility within the spa.
  • Different spa packages to customize your stay that include dining options to make your visit stress-free.
  • Luxurious and Parisian-inspired accommodations with options including in-room fireplaces and soaking tubs.

Click here to book your stay at Mirbeau in Rhinbeck!

Charming Small Town Road Trip Destinations From Boston

If you’re looking to visit some of the most charming towns in New England and New York for your road trip, I’ve got your covered! Here are the most adorable little towns to visit that make awesome road trips from Boston.

20. Saratoga Springs, NY

Distance From Boston: 3 hours and 15 minutes

While technically a city, Saratoga Springs’ historic downtown feels very much like a quaint village. Located in Upstate, NY and known for its horse racing track season, this destination has so much more to offer including a wonderful Main Street for shopping and dining, gorgeous parks, beautiful and historic architecture and live entertainment.

Best Things To Do in Saratoga Springs, NY:

  • Walk around the grounds of Saratoga Spa State Park, which is a National Historic Landmark. You can enjoy a round of golf at an 18-hole championship course, have a picnic by the reflecting pool and admire the architecture of the Hall of Springs.
  • July – Labor Day, visit the Race Track , and even try your hand at placing bets on the winner!
  • Stroll through Congress Park, and find the mineral springs to taste the local water.
  • Enjoy a healing bath at the Roosevelt Baths & Spa . The spa staff is trained on how to draw the perfect bath at just the right temperature, and the minerals in the waters have been said to have health benefits such as reducing sinus congestion and arthritis symptoms.
  • Take in a live show at SPAC , one of the the country’s most renowned outdoor concert venues.
  • Walk up and down Broadway, downtown’s main street, to visit the local shops and restaurants.
  • Grab delicious cocktails with lunch or dinner at Morrissey’s Lounge & Bistro inside the famed Adelphi Hotel. Better yet, book an overnight stay at this Gilded Age-era boutique hotel, located in the heart of Saratoga’s downtown.

Click here to book your stay at the Adelphi Hotel in Saratoga Springs!

21. Skaneateles, NY

Distance From Boston: 5 hours and 20 minutes

Skaneateles is a lakeside town in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate, NY, and is a wonderful place to visit, especially in the Summer. With Skaneateles Lake right in the heart of downtown, and an adorable Main Street with really nice shops and restaurants, the quaintness of the town is perfect for rest and relaxation, but also offers plenty to do to keep from ever being bored.

Best Things To Do in Skaneateles, NY:

  • Walk around Main Street to visit the boutiques.
  • Sit and admire the views of the lake from the town’s many waterfront areas.
  • Visit Anyela’s Vineyards to enjoy a tasting, or sip on a glass of wine and take in the peaceful views of the vineyards.
  • Head out onto the lake for a boat tour.
  • Grab dinner and drinks at the Sherwood Inn , located right in the heart of town, and just across the street from the lake.
  • Spend the day getting pampered at Mirbeau Inn & Spa , the original Mirbeau location, which is home to a Monet-inspired garden and bridge.

Click here to book your stay at Mirbeau Inn & Spa in Skaneateles!

Click here to read more suggestions on the best things to do in Skaneateles, NY!

22. Lake Placid, NY

Distance From Boston: 5 hours

Ice skating on Mirror Lake is one of the best things to do in Lake Placid in the winter during your road trip from Boston.

Known for hosting two Olympic games, Lake Placid in the Adirondack region of Upstate NY has so much more to offer (although, the Olympic sites are definitely worth visiting!). I personally love visiting Lake Placid in the winter because the alpine-inspired town really seems to come alive with apres-ski vibes, but it’s really a great destination all year round. While in Lake Placid, you’ll be surrounded by mountains and fresh air, and feel like you’ve truly escaped from every day life.

Best Things To Do in Lake Placid, NY:

  • Walk around Mirror Lake, located in the heart of Lake Placid’s downtown.
  • In the winter, enjoy skiing at Whiteface Mountain , and ice skating and a Toboggan Chute on Mirror Lake.
  • Enjoy the miles of hiking trails in the nearby mountains.
  • Walk around the alpine-inspired downtown village to visit the quaint shops.
  • In the summer, go for a swim in Mirror Lake from the public beach area.
  • Visit the Olympic sites, including the ski jump, ice arena and the Lake Placid Olympic Museum .
  • Walk around High Falls Gorge, a 22-acre nature park with waterfalls.
  • Grab drinks and lunch or dinner at The Cottage, a restaurant at Mirror Lake Inn Resort & Spa that sits right on Mirror Lake. Better yet, book an overnight stay, and also enjoy the on-site spa for the ultimate Lake Placid getaway!

Click here to book your stay at the Mirror Lake Inn Resort & Spa in Lake Placid .

Click here to read my post on all the best things to do in Lake Placid in the fall!

23. Hudson, NY

Distance From Boston: 2 hours and 45 minutes

Located in the Hudson Valley of New York, Hudson is known as being incredibly charming, and one of the best destinations for antiquing in the area. This is a great little town to visit if you’re looking to relax, enjoy a small-town atmosphere and see where the day takes you. Hudson is also a great destination if you’re looking to explore the entire Hudson Valley region.

Best Things To Do in Hudson, NY:

  • Antiquing! There are countless antique shops in Hudson, and you’ll definitely want to check out The Antique Warehouse , which has over 300,000 sq. feet of treasures.
  • Stroll down Warren Street, where most of the storefronts can be found.
  • Take a boat cruise along the Hudson River with Hudson Cruises , which offers tours to the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse, and even murder mystery cruises!
  • The Hudson Farmer’s Market is regarded as one of the best in the region, and is open every Saturday in-season, and also has a winter location February-April.
  • Tour the local art galleries.
  • Go for a nature walk in the Greenport Conservation Area, which is home to over 7 miles of trails, and is walkable from downtown Hudson.

Click here to read my post on the best things to do in Upstate New York in the fall!

24. Manchester, VT

This small little town in Southern Vermont is the perfect place to disconnect and relax. As you cross the New York/Vermont border, you’ll begin to see the tall mountains all around you, and instantly feel more at peace. In fact, you’ll be able to see the surrounding mountains from everywhere in downtown Manchester. And with everything to do from shopping and dining to hiking and nature walks, you’re sure to find something that everyone in your group will enjoy.

Best Things To Do in Manchester, VT:

  • Hike or drive up Mt. Equinox, the tallest mountain in the Taconic Range, and enjoy the incredible views from above.
  • Browse through Northshire Bookstore , an amazing independent bookstore that’s been in business since 1976. Here, you’ll find new and used books, a wonderful children’s section, and unique Vermont-inspired gifts and souvenirs.
  • Visit Hildene , the Lincoln family estate, where visitors can tour the gardens, walking trails, farm land and indoor exhibits, and enjoy sweeping views of the Vermont countryside.
  • Rent a tube at Vermont River Runners and take a relaxing water tube ride along the Battenkill River, which is perfect for a warm summer day.
  • Grab a sandwich as big as your head at Zoey’s Deli . I also love their homemade chips!
  • Hike the Lye Brook Falls trails to visit a beautiful waterfall. The trailhead is a short 5-minute drive from town center.
  • Go for a dip in the Dorset Marble Quarry for a unique swimming experience!
  • After your swim, visit the Dorset Union Store , a quintessential Vermont country store.

Click here for an awesome Vermont covered bridges tour itinerary!

25. Woodstock, VT

Distance From Boston: 2.5 hours

Of all the Vermont towns on this list, I think Woodstock might be my favorite. I love them all, but there’s something about Woodstock that just screams New England charm, and perfectly balances being a town that caters to tourists, while not losing any of the local character. It’s one of those idyllic towns you’ll daydream about moving to.

Best Things To Do in Woodstock, VT:

  • Walk through the truly adorable village and enjoy the local shops and coffee cafes.
  • Head over to the Woodstock Middle Covered Bridge, located right in the village, for a picture-perfect Vermont moment.
  • Get your hands muddy with a pottery workshop at Farmhouse Pottery .
  • Drive to nearby Quechee and visit the Simon Pearce Restaurant & Mill , and take in a live glass-blowing demonstration, as well as lunch overlooking the gorge.
  • Head over to Quechee Gorge Village after Simon Pearce for some antiquing.
  • Visit Billings Farm & Museum to tour a working dairy farm, gardens and orchards, and see live demonstrations. The grounds here are truly spectacular!
  • Hike Mount Tom for stunning views of Woodstock from above.
  • Best Places To Stay In Vermont In The Fall
  • Best Things To Do In Woodstock, VT
  • Best Winter Getaways In New England

26. Stowe, VT

Distance From Boston: 3 hours and 20 minutes

Stowe is an adorable little village in Northern Vermont that I love to visit, and it always puts a smile on my face. Even though it’s a well-known ski destination in the winter months, it’s a great little place to visit year-round will lots of outdoor activities and perfect Vermont scenery all over, including some beautiful covered bridges.

Best Things To Do in Stowe, VT:

  • Hike Mount Mansfield, the highest mountain in Vermont, or drive the auto road to the summit.
  • See if you believe in ghosts at Emily’s Covered Bridge. Legend says it’s haunted by a girl who hung herself on the bridge after her boyfriend never came to meet her.
  • Walk the Stowe Recreation Path, a 5.5-mile long paved path that goes through beautiful scenery throughout the village. The path can be accessed from several locations in the village.
  • Connect to the Quiet Path along the Rec Path, which is reserved for walkers only (meaning, no bikes wizzing by you). It meanders through parts of Mayo Farm, and is a very relaxing way to spend an afternoon.
  • Go hiking at Smuggler’s Notch State Park.
  • Visit the nearby Ben & Jerry’s Factory for a tour.
  • Explore Sterling Falls Gorge.
  • In the winter, hit the slopes at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort.
  • Pick up some chocolates from Lake Champlain Chocolates.
  • Best Things To Do In Stowe, VT
  • Best Stops To Make When Driving From Boston to Stowe, VT
  • Best Things To Do In Vermont In The Winter

27. Greenwich, CT

Distance From Boston: 3 hours

Greenwich is an absolutely beautiful town that sits right on the border of New York, and also very accessible to Manhattan. I love coming to this idyllic little town when I want a day of relaxing, shopping, dining, being outside, visiting the beach and enjoying the gorgeous scenery.

Best Things To Do in Greenwich, CT:

  • Shop the stores along Greenwich Avenue.
  • Enjoy a serene walk through the Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Gardens in nearby Purchase, NY.
  • Meander through Montgomery Pinetum, a public park that’s very relaxing, and also has beautiful ponds, nature trails and gardens with an educational center and greenhouse.
  • Head to the Lobster Bin for an amazing lobster roll on-the-go.
  • Spend some time at the beaches along Greenwich Point Park.
  • Admire the architecture of the historic district buildings.

28. Jackson, NH

Let’s head to the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire! One of the best towns to stay in is Jackson, where you’ll find a lovely downtown and Main Street, an iconic red covered bridge, and endless opportunities to explore the White Mountains region, including lots of hiking and outdoor activities. While it’s most popular during the winter for skiing, and the fall for foliage season, Jackson can be enjoyed year-round.

Best Things To Do in Jackson, NH:

  • Visit Honeymoon Bridge, the town’s famous red covered bridge.
  • Drive to the summit of Mount Washington, the highest peak in New England.
  • Hike the Glen Ellis Falls Trail.
  • Explore the downtown shops and restaurants.
  • In the winter, go skiing at Black Mountain. In the summer, the mountain offers horseback riding and lots of hiking trails.

You may also like: The best things to do in New England in the fall!

City Life Road Trip Destinations From Boston

Even though you’re road-tripping from a city already, it’s still exciting to explore a new one. There are quite a few cities that make for amazing road trips from Boston, and many of them can be combined with other destinations from this list to offer the best of city life, and coastal or small-town living.

29. Portsmouth, NH

Distance From Boston: 1 hour

Portsmouth, NH's harborwalk is a great thing to do when visiting the city.

This charming little city is just a short drive from Boston, and definitely feels more like a town than a city. Portsmouth is a port-side city with a gorgeous downtown filled with quaint shops and boutiques, and is known as being a huge foodie destination. This is a great city to visit if you’re looking for a lot of character, and lots of options when it comes to being outside, dining and shopping.

Best Things To Do in Portsmouth, NH:

  • Grab some fresh and delicious pastries from Elephantine Bakery , and be sure to enjoy them just outside the cafe in the most adorable little courtyard.
  • Shop the boutiques in downtown Portsmouth.
  • Walk along Prescott Park, which has over 10 acres of waterfront gardens and paths, and is home to live entertainment in the summer months.
  • Take a dip in the water at Great Island Common Park.
  • Go brewery hopping, as Portsmouth is home to five breweries.
  • Enjoy a drink at the Book & Bar , a combined bookstore, cafe and bar.
  • Head out onto the water with Portsmouth Harbor Cruises .
  • Visit Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse.

30. Providence, RI

Providence, RI sits along Providence River, and makes for a wonderful road trip from Boston.

Providence is the capital of Rhode Island, and also home to famed schools Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design. It’s also a really fun city to be a tourist! With Providence River running through the city, you still have opportunities to feel like you’re connected to nature, and with tons of restaurants, shops, nightlife and history, this destination makes for an amazing road trip from Boston.

Best Things To Do in Providence, RI:

  • Visit The Arcade , the country’s very first shopping mall designed with Greek revival architecture, and now home to some awesome boutiques and art galleries.
  • Visit the Roger Williams Park Zoo , which is the third oldest zoo in the country, where guests can feed giraffes and other farm animals, and see over 160 different species while visiting. You can also jump on the Explore and Soar ride, which is a fun zip ride and train excursion through the forests.
  • Enjoy a leisurely walk along the Providence Riverwalk.
  • During the summer, experience WaterFire, where braziers are set with bonfires in the middle of the river.
  • Take in the exhibits at the RISD Museum of Art.
  • Take a Venetian gondola ride along the river at Waterplace Park.
  • Do a self-guided historical walking tour along Benefit Street to see some of the city’s most historic houses and buildings.
  • Take a boat tour along the Providence River.

Click here to read my post on the best day trips from Providence!

31. Portland, ME

Portland Head Lighthouse is a must-see during your road trip from Boston.

Portland is an exciting waterfront city in Maine that sits on a peninsula along Casco Bay, and provides the best of both worlds as far as being a city destination that’s also coastal. With things to do outdoors along the dramatic coastline, to an amazing restaurant and food scene, Portland has a little something for everyone during your road trip from Boston.

Best Things To Do in Portland, ME:

  • Portland Head Lighthouse is a must! It’s the most famous lighthouse in Maine, and one of the most iconic in all of New England. Nearby, you can also visit Spring Point Ledge Light and Bug Light, and do a mini lighthouse tour without leaving the city!
  • Visit one of my favorite breweries in New England, Bissell Brothers . They also get bonus points for being close to the waterfront at Thompson’s Point.
  • Meander around Old Port to see the city’s fishing industry come to life.
  • Walk along the lively waterfront scene on Commercial Street for shopping, dining and water views.
  • Tour the open waters on a beautiful Schooner tour with Portland Schooner . They also invite you to pack a picnic with beer and wine to enhance your experience.
  • Tour the Portland Arts District, which is filled with art galleries, museums and theaters.
  • Take a culinary tour of the city and learn the very best places to eat, led by a local. Click the link below to book your tour, or learn more info.

Click here to book your walking culinary tour in Portland!

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32. New York City

Distance From Boston: 3 hours and 45 minutes (but always allow extra time for traffic)

Be sure to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, and take in views from a distance at Pebble Beach.

New York City needs no introduction, and if you’ve never been to the city that never sleeps, this is an absolute must if you’re looking into road trips from Boston. Below is a list of my absolute favorite things to do when I visit NYC, which includes the best things to do for first-time visitors.

The Best Things To Do in New York City:

  • Walk the Brooklyn Bridge and visit DUMBO for sweeping views of both the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges.
  • Get bagels at Brooklyn Bagel (the best in the city).
  • Visit Central park, and be sure to stop at Bow Bridge, Belvedere Castle and The Mall walkway.
  • Grab a slice of pizza at Joe’s (150 E 14th St.)
  • Explore the MET Museum and Cloisters.
  • Take the Staten Island Ferry for views of the Statue of Liberty (this is free and way better than the official tours, which are super crowded!).
  • See a broadway show.
  • It’s touristy, but I love going to the top of the Empire State Building.
  • Walk around the West Village for amazing streets and brownstones.

33. Burlington, VT

Church Street in Burlington, VT is a must-see if you decide to road trip here from Boston.

Burlington is a small and beautiful city in Northern Vermont that sits along Lake Champlain, and is wonderfully diverse, exuberant and also very relaxing. This is a great destination if you’re looking for a small-town feel set in a bigger city, waterfront and outdoor activities, an art scene and plenty of amazing restaurants.

Best Things To Do in Burlington, VT:

  • Walk around Church Street, a pedestrian-only area lined with unique shops and restaurants.
  • Stroll around the waterfront to admire the views of Lake Champlain, as well as the Burlington Breakwater Lighthouse.
  • Bike the Burlington Bike Path, a beautiful path along the lake that’s over 7 miles long.
  • Go kayaking or stand up paddleboarding on the lake.
  • Head to nearby Shelburne to tour Shelburne Farms , one of my favorite things to do in all of Vermont! There are tons of hiking and walking trails through the 1400-acre picturesque grounds, and you can stop to sample their homemade cheeses and baked goods along the way.
  • Take in the art scene on the South End, which is loaded with galleries and shops.
  • Get a taste for the local brews with a Sip of Burlington Beer Tour. Join a small group for dinner, and learn from a local brew expert as you taste all the different beers that are brewed nearby. Click the link below to learn more, or book your tour.

Click here to book your Beer of Burlington experience!

34. Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia is a great city destination when planning a road trip in the Northeast.

Last but most definitely not least on our round-up of the best road trips from Boston, is the city of Brothery Love, Philadelphia. Philly is Pennsylvania’s largest city, and is deeply rooted in history, but there are all kinds of things to do from exciting nightlife and amazing food to parks and waterfront activities.

Best Things To Do in Philadelphia, PA:

  • Run up the Rocky Steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and snap a picture with the Rocky statue. A bit touristy, but if you’re a fan of the movie, you gotta go for it.
  • Speaking of the Philadelphia Museum of Art , after your Rocky moment, be sure to visit. They have an amazing American art collection, as well as works by famed impressionists Renoir, Degas and Monet.
  • Tour Independence Hall, regarded as the birthplace of the United States, and where the Declaration of Independence was debated by our Founding Fathers.
  • Venture just outside the city to visit Longwood Gardens, an expansive garden oasis filled with both indoor and outdoor gardens and, and beautifully designed grounds.
  • Grab a Philly cheesesteak at Woodrow’s Sandwich Shop .
  • Stroll along the Delaware Riverfront to explore Cherry Street and Race Street Piers, and take in amazing views of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.
  • Hop on a BYOB trolley tour of the city, hosted by hilarious guides that share historic and entertaining information, and take you to some of the top sites in the city. Click the link below to learn more, or book your tour.

Click here to book your Historically Hilarious Trolley Tour in Philadelphia!

Road Trip Itinerary Options

If you’re looking to combine towns from this list into longer roads trips, or are wondering which towns are close enough to combine together to maximize your time and cover the most ground, I’ve got you covered! Below you’ll find suggested itineraries with different routes you can take while planning the best road trips from Boston.

Option 1: Massachusetts North Shore Road Trip From Boston

A map of the North Shore route from Boston.

For this route, you’ll head north from Boston and visit the following destinations:

  • Newburyport & Plum Island
  • Portsmouth, NH

Days Needed For This Route: 2-4 . If you’re looking for an easy road trip from Boston with lots of options, this is an awesome route to take. You can do it in as little as 2 days for a weekend trip, or add on two additional days to take your time and explore each town.

Option 2: Cape Cod & The Islands Road Trip From Boston

A map of the Cape Cod road trip from Boston route.

For this route, you’ll head south from Boston and visit the following destinations:

  • Martha’s Vineyard

Days Needed For This Route: 7-8 days. Because this route requires ferries from Cape Cod to the islands, and with Cape Cod being a larger region to explore, I recommend a week.

If you have less time, the islands could be done as day trips, and you could attempt this route in about 5 days . If you have 10 days, I would suggest spending one night in Plymouth, 5 days on Cape Cod, two nights on Nantucket and two nights on Martha’s Vineyard for the ultimate Cape Cod road trip.

Option 3: Boston To Bar Harbor Road Trip

A map of the route from Boston to Bar Harbor.

This route will take you up the coast of Maine and stop in these destinations:

  • Newburyport, MA
  • Ogunquit, ME
  • Kennebunkport, ME
  • Portland, ME
  • Bar Harbor, ME

Days Needed For This Route: 7-10 days. I suggest this much time because your final destination, Bar Harbor, is home to Acadia National Park, and there’s so much to see and do just in the park. And each stop along the way is a very worthy destination to spend at least one night in.

If you’re very short on time, you can do this route in 4 nights with this itinerary:

  • On your way to Ogunquit, pass through Newburyport and spend 2-3 hours there. Arrive in Ogunquit late afternoon to spend the night.
  • The next day, spend the morning in Ogunquit, and then drive to Kennebunkport to spend about 3 hours exploring there. Drive to Portland, and spend the night.
  • The next day, spend your morning in Portland, and then drive to Bar Harbor to arrive by mid-afternoon. Spend 2 nights in Bar Harbor.
  • Drive back to Boston.

I have a detailed Boston To Bar Harbor, Maine Road Trip Itinerary if you’d like more help with planning!

Option 4: Vermont Road Trip From Boston

A map of the Vermont road trip from Boston route.

For this route, you’ll head northwest of Boston, and drive through the best towns in Vermont from this list. You’ll cover these destinations:

  • Manchester, VT
  • Woodstock, VT
  • Burlington, VT

Note : This route isn’t as direct as the other routes, and will include 6.5 hours of driving time to get from Boston to Burlington, stopping at the other destinations along the way. But then you can drive direct from Burlington to Boston on your way home, which will only take 3.5 hours.

Days Needed For This Route: 3-5 days . This could easily be a long weekend itinerary if you don’t stop in each town overnight, and just visit Manchester and Stowe for a few hours each. You could, of course, take your time, and do up to 5 nights for this itinerary.

Option 5: Rhode Island & Coastal Connecticut Road Trip From Boston

A map of the coastal Rhode Island road trip from Boston route.

This route will take you southwest from Boston, and you’ll visit these destinations:

  • Providence, RI
  • Newport, RI
  • Block Island, RI
  • Westerly, RI

Days Needed For This Route: 3-6 days . This is another itinerary you could also do in a weekend if you only spend a few hours in Mystic, as a day trip from Newport, and skip going to Block Island. To visit all these destinations, you’ll need about 5 days, but 6 would be ideal to not feel rushed.

Tip : If you wanted to extend your road trip further along this route, there is a ferry that leaves from New London, CT, and goes to the Hamptons!

Option 6: Boston To New York City & The Hamptons Road Trip

A map of the route from Boston to New York City and the Hamptons.

This route will take you to these destinations:

  • Rhinebeck, NY
  • New Paltz, NY
  • New York City
  • The Hamptons
  • Optional add-on: Philadelphia, PA

Note : The route from Boston to The Hamptons, while making all the stops in the Hudson Valley in-between, is not direct, and will take about 7.5 hours without stops, so I highly suggest you stop overnight in at least one of the towns to break up your drive. If you wanted to visit Philadelphia, this would be the route you would want to add that destination to, as you will have to drive through NYC to get there.

Days Needed For This Route: 1 week. To do this route in 7 days, I would suggest spending a few hours each in Hudson and Rhinebeck, then spend the night in New Paltz (splurging at Mohonk Mountain House is definitely worth it!). Then drive to NYC the next day, and spend 3 nights there. Then drive to The Hamptons, and spend 3 nights. If you want to add Philadelphia, you’ll want to add an extra night or two.

If you’re short on time and want to do this route in fewer days, I would suggest spending a night in the Hudson Valley (same as above), spend 3 nights in NYC, but include a day trip to The Hamptons. Or, if The Hamptons is of more interest to you, you could spend one night in NYC, and spend a night or two in The Hamptons. And then drive back to Boston.

The other option is to drive direct from Boston to New York City, and leave out the Hudson Valley towns entirely. On that route, your focus would be New York City and The Hamptons.

What Towns Are 1 Hour From Boston?

Plymouth, Salem, Rockport, Newburyport are all within an hour from Boston, and make for wonderful road trips or day trips from Boston.

Towns not mentioned on this list that are also an hour or less from Boston that are perfect for a road trip are Scituate, Gloucester, Manchester-By-The-Sea and Essex, all of which are located in Massachusetts.

What Cities Are 6 Hours From Boston?

New York City, Portsmouth, NH, Philadelphia, PA, Portland, ME, Burlington, VT and Providence, RI are all within 6 hours or less from Boston, and are all included on this list as amazing road trips from Boston.

Is Boston Close To Niagara Falls?

Boston is over 7 hours from Niagara Falls, and for that reason, didn’t make this list of road trips. But if you have extra time, it could be added to a road trip itinerary for Skaneateles, NY and the finger lakes region.

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That’s A Wrap On The Best Road Trips From Boston

As you can see, Boston is really an incredible gateway to all of the Northeast, making it easy to take lots of different road trips. Whether you want to explore the coast of Massachusetts and Maine, go cute-town-hopping through Vermont or visit as many cities as you can, you’re now ready to plan which of these road trips from Boston is perfect for you.

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Tuscan countryside as seen from Montepulciano, with the countyside bathed in golden light--this Tuscany travel blog post will cover everything you need to know about finding spots like this during your Tuscany road trip!

The Perfect Tuscany Road Trip Itinerary (+ Driving Tips!)

Planning the perfect Tuscany road trip itinerary is no easy feat–but it’s well worth getting right.

If you’re dreaming of delicious Italian food, of romantic sunsets and Tuscan wines, of rolling hills peppered with vineyards as far as the eye can see, of hilltop villages and of Renaissance art, this Tuscany itinerary has you covered.

We’ve put this ultimate guide to planning a Tuscany road trip after spending several months traveling in the region over a period of years, often on road trips.

We’ve explored Tuscany by car, train, and tour, in large multigenerational family groups and as a couple, in tiny towns and in the fabulous cities of Florence and Siena.

Honeymoon in Tuscany: rooftops of Siena

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We’ve visited museums, gone horseback riding, zipped along countryside roads on a Vespa, and taken quiet strolls down deserted country lanes. We’ve taken food tours and wine tours, and stopped at more than our fair share of vineyards and restaurants independently, too.

Suffice it to say, we absolutely adore traveling in Tuscany, and this Tuscany itinerary is put together based on our detailed experiences traveling in the region as well as additional research.

We want to help you plan your perfect Tuscany road trip itinerary, especially if it’s your first time in the region.

Here’s what we suggest.

Table of Contents

How We Structured This Tuscany Road Trip Itinerary

How long will this tuscany itinerary take, getting around during your tuscany road trip, will this tuscany itinerary work without a car, the ultimate tuscany road trip itinerary, other destinations to add to your tuscany road trip itinerary, tuscany road trip itinerary map, the best time to visit tuscany, useful travel tips for driving in tuscany, what to pack for your tuscany road trip.

Cool Things to Do in Florence: Cooking Class

We structured this Tuscany road trip itinerary as a loop beginning and ending in Florence.

It’s designed primarily for first-time visitors to the region who want to soak up the classic Tuscany experience: think rolling hills, golden light, scrumptious wine, picturesque hilltop villages, and some of the best food you’ve ever eaten in your life.

… But that being said, even longtime lovers of Tuscany will find something for them here (just ask our extended family).

With this Tuscany itinerary, you’ll visit some of the most iconic places in the region, while also peppering in stops at smaller towns and attractions that would likely go unnoticed if you stuck to exploring via train.

Day Trip to Florence from Rome: View of Arno River

Is it a cop-out to say that this Tuscany road trip will take as long as you have?

Perhaps, but whether you have 5 days in Tuscany, a week in Tuscany, or a month in Tuscany, this circular route will provide an excellent backbone to your Tuscany road trip.

If your trip is short–say 5 days in Tuscany or less–you’ll be able to shorten your stays in some towns (in a pinch, for example, Pisa and Lucca can be combined into one day), and with a longer trip to Tuscany, you’ll have a chance to adopt a leisurely pace and add in more excursions like wine tasting or days spent at one of Tuscany’s saunas.

Ideally, I would say that this Tuscany road trip would be spread across roughly 10 days to 2 weeks in Tuscany, but of course, that won’t always be possible–especially if you want to see more regions of Italy during your trip!

If you do have a longer trip to Tuscany planned, we recommend taking a look at some of the additional Tuscany road trip destinations that we’ve outlined below the main itinerary and seeing what other spots catch your eye.

Honeymoon in Tuscany: Views of Tuscan Countryside

For most people, of course, taking a Tuscany road trip will require renting a car.

We’ll cover some tips and tricks for renting a car here below the Tuscany itinerary (or you can use the table of contents section at the bottom of the introduction to this Tuscany travel blog post to navigate there!), but here’s the short version: we recommend renting a small car in Tuscany through Discover Cars , which will allow you to compare prices and inclusions of multiple companies at the same time and choose the best car for you from there.

We also recommend renting your car only after you leave Florence, which we’ll cover a bit more below, so you likely won’t need one for every day of your trip to Tuscany!

Check rates & book your rental car with Discover Cars today!

Kate Storm on a white Vespa in the Tuscan countryside--riding a Vespa is an incredibly fun experience during a Tuscany itinerary!

Short answer? Yes, it can.

Through a combination of trains, buses, and carefully selected guided tours (we recommend several reputable ones in our Things to Do in Florence post ), this Tuscany itinerary can be completed without a car, though the logistics will be challenging in certain places.

That being said, there’s something very special about taking a Tuscany road trip, and by not driving, you will lose out on the charm of seeing some of the smaller towns at night, miss some of the prettiest vistas, and have a little less freedom in planning your trip.

However, we completely understand that not everyone planning a Tuscany itinerary can or would like to drive, and we fully believe you can have a deeply fulfilling trip to Tuscany without a car–we’ve done it several times ourselves.

And, while you will lose some freedom, you’ll also gain a bit of peace of mind, as driving in Tuscany is certainly not the most carefree driving in the world!

Cone of gelato with a cookie stuck in it held in front of a gelato counter.

Start your Tuscany itinerary in Florence.

As the capital of Tuscany, Cradle of the Renaissance, and home to the biggest airport (and train station) in the region, there’s no better place to start your Tuscany itinerary than in Florence.

Ideally, we recommend a minimum of two full days here, which will give you enough time to explore all of the major sights.

Marvel at the art in the Uffizi Gallery, soak in the views from Piazzale Michelangelo and more, (window)shop for gold jewelry on the Ponte Vecchio, eat your way through Mercato Centrale, stand in awe of the Duomo, and visit Michelangelo’s masterpiece David in the Galleria dell’Accademia.

We’ve created several guides to Florence based on our six weeks or so spent exploring the city, including a one-day itinerary and a two-day itinerary , so be sure to check those out for more detail.

For this Tuscany road trip itinerary in particular, though, we have a crucial piece of advice regarding driving: don’t pick up your rental car until the morning you leave Florence.

Having a rental car while in the city is not only unnecessary, it’s an absolute burden. Driving in Florence’s historic city center is extremely limited, and you’ll save both money and headaches by ditching the car until you’re ready to hit the countryside.

Day Trip to Florence from Rome: View of Duomo from Piazzale Michelangelo

Where to Stay in Florence

B&B Le Stanze del Duomo  — Though Florence hotels can be a bit pricey and stretch the definition of “budget”, B&B Le Stanze’s beautiful rooms and impeccable location in Florence will be sure to have you swooning!

Check rates & book your stay at B&B Le Stanze del Duomo!

Bargello Guest House  — Located in the heart of Florence, this property is only a short (read: less than 5-minute) walk away from some of Florence’s highlights like the Palazzo Vecchio. Staying here, you’ll be within easy walking distance of the best of what Florence has to offer.

Check rates & book your stay at Bargello Guest House!

Hotel Lungarno  — Nestled right against the Arno River and home to one of the best views of the Ponte Vecchio in Florence (not to mention some of the best views of the rest of Florence from their top deck), Hotel Lungarno is our personal “if we ever  really  want to splurge” hotel in Florence. You can’t go wrong using Hotel Lungarno as your base for one day in Florence!

Check rates & book your stay at Hotel Lungarno!

Where to Propose in Italy: Florence Proposal in Boboli Gardens

Start your Tuscany road trip and drive to Lucca.

Laidback and charming, colorful Lucca is the perfect first stop on your Tuscany road trip and an excellent place to grow accustomed to the ins and outs of driving and parking in Tuscan towns.

Lucca is not too big, not too small, and parking is fairly easy to find right outside the city walls.

It also happens to be a gorgeous, relaxing city that is a fantastic place to soak up the ambiance of Tuscany.

While you’re there, be sure to check out the beautiful Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, which, like Siena’s main piazza, is actually an oval rather than a traditional square, and to stroll along the tops of the city’s 16th-century fortifying walls, which are completely accessible to the public.

Don’t miss a climb up Torre Guinigi, either–not only does it boast incredible views of Lucca, but it’s home to several oak trees that are growing in the sky!

Part of the oval square in Lucca Italy, one of the essential stops on your Tuscany road trip itinerary

Stop by Pisa.

I’ll be perfectly honest: of all the places we recommend or mention in this Tuscany itinerary, Pisa is the one I’m least in a hurry to get back to.

It’s generally far more crowded than most of these other destinations–even the very touristy ones–and outside of Pisa’s famous tower and surrounding historic complex, the town is not exactly known as one of the most beautiful or interesting Tuscan villages.

It is, however, incredibly famous, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa itself more than lives up to expectations. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is truly stunning, and far more opulent and beautiful in person than I expected before laying eyes on it for the first time.

If you’d like to see it, we recommend stopping by for half a day on your Tuscan road trip, checking out the tower itself as well as the nearby Duomo and baptistery, and then moving on.

If you’d like to tour the interior of any of the structures, including climbing to the top of the leaning tower, we absolutely recommend booking skip-the-line tickets in advance .

Book your skip-the-line tickets to visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa now!

Kate Storm and Jeremy Storm at the Leaning Tower of Pisa--this bucket list spot is part of just about any Tuscany road trip itinerary!

Make your way to San Gimignano.

Known for its stunning towers (14 of an original 72 remain), long history of wealth due to its prime location along a Roman trading route, gorgeous city center, beautiful views, and convenient location that is roughly equidistant from Siena and Florence, it’s safe to say that San Gimignano is both incredibly popular and well worth visiting.

We adore this beautiful hilltop town, and highly recommend spending at least one night either in town or nearby if you can, in order to enjoy the city without the crowds of day-trippers that tend to take over the streets during the day.

Don’t forget to make time in your schedule for a scoop (or several scoops, let’s be real) of gelato from the world-famous Gelateria Dondoli: as one of the best-known and most acclaimed gelato shops in Italy, it’s a safe bet that whatever you order is bound to impress.

2 Weeks in Italy Itinerary: San Gimignano, Tuscany

Head to Siena.

While today Florence is significantly better-known than Siena, that was not always the case: beautiful Siena was once the military rival of Florence, and the history of the Middle Ages in the region is dotted with stories of their back-and-forth battles.

Today, Siena is known for its Palio di Siena horse race that takes place bi-annually in the oval-shaped Piazza del Campo–when you stand in the middle of the piazza, be sure to picture 20 horses running at full-speed around a packed crowd–it’s truly impressive.

Siena is packed full of interesting things to do: it’s home to arguably the most beautiful Duomo in Tuscany (don’t forget to check out the Piccolomini Library while you’re in there!), and we absolutely recommend taking the Porta di Cielo, aka Gate to Heaven, tour of the cathedral’s roof if you can–it’s magnificent.

At least once during your trip, climb to the top of one of Siena’s monuments for an epic view–the Torre del Mangia in Piazza del Campo is a popular choice, but personally, we love that the view from the top of the Opera della Metropolitana includes stunning views of the Piazza del Campo from a bit of a distance.

2 Weeks in Italy Itinerary: View of Siena

Spend some time in Val d’Orcia and soak up the Tuscan countryside.

Of all the scenic places in Tuscany, Val d’Orcia might just be the most beautiful of them all.

This UNESCO-recognized valley is home to the Tuscan road trip views of your fantasies, and it truly has to be seen to be believed.

If you have the time in your Tuscany itinerary, we recommend booking at least a couple of nights in a nearby country villa or agriturismo in order to slowly savor the beauty of the region, but if not, even an afternoon drive here is well worth the trip out.

Kate Storm in the Tuscan countryside at sunset with a sun flare on the right side of the photo--Tuscan sunsets are an epic part of any Tuscany road trip itinerary.

Marvel at the beauty of Montepulciano.

Tiny, gorgeous, and home to arguably some of the best countryside views of all the villages in Tuscany, it’s impossible not to be charmed by stunning Montepulciano–and that’s even before you start sipping its world-famous wine.

While it doesn’t take terribly long to explore a village this size on your Tuscany road trip, Montepulciano has one of those peaceful atmospheres that you just want to savor.

While you’re there, be sure to stop by the beautiful Piazza Grande, admire views of the nearby Church of San Biagio that is located just outside of town, and to taste the local wine, vino nobile di Montepulciano .

Piazza Grande in Montepulciano right after a rainstorm--this Tuscan town is absolutely worth visiting as part of your Tuscan road trip itinerary.

Pay a visit to Arezzo.

As you turn back north toward Florence to start to wind down your Tuscany road trip, be sure to check out the beautiful city of Arezzo.

Often overlooked on Tuscany road trips, Arezzo is a delightful city that is well worth the time it takes to visit.

Home to Roman ruins (including the remains of Arezzo’s very own Colosseum), sweeping views of the countryside from the Medici fortress, some impressively well-preserved fifteenth-century frescoes, and a large number of antique shops just waiting to be perused, Arezzo is an excellent addition to any Tuscany itinerary.

Be sure not to miss a chance to climb the clock tower at Palazzo della Fraternita dei Laici right off the main square (Piazza Grande)–the views from the top are absolutely sublime, and it is our personal favorite spot in Arezzo.

Weekend in Arezzo: Things to Do in Arezzo, Piazza Grande

Drive back to Florence & say goodbye to Tuscany.

As your Tuscany road trip winds to a close, head back to Florence to drop off your car, say goodbye, and–depending on time–perhaps visit one or two more sights in the Cradle of the Renaissance as well.

While we’ve set up this Tuscany itinerary to act as a loop, if you’re going to be flying out of Italy (or continuing your Italy travels outside of Tuscany) in a different location, you can also consider dropping off your car in Rome, Milan, Bologna, or even Venice–but keep in mind that you will likely incur a one-way drop-off fee for doing so, so be sure to budget for that if needed!

Fun Things to Do in Florence: Ponte Vecchio

While this Tuscany road trip itinerary gives a solid outline of the region and is a delightful trip all on its own, for those with a bit of extra time in the area (or those who like to move at a very fast pace), there is an unlimited number of additional destinations you could add to your trip, both in Tuscany and in its surrounding regions of Umbria, Emilia-Romagna, and Liguria.

We’ve outlined a few of each here to give you some ideas as you plan your trip to Tuscany!

Tuscany Honeymoon: Rooftops of Siena

Within Tuscany

The most famous of all of Tuscany’s hot springs has emerged from comparative obscurity into being a full-blown famous photography location in recent years, but there’s no doubt that it’s still a dream to visit–if you have time during your Tuscany road trip to make the trek out there and you’re a fan of hot springs, it’s definitely worth a visit.

Dating back to the Etruscan period and nestled on a hill high above the sweeping Tuscan landscapes it overlooks, the walled city of Volterra is absolutely worth visiting as part of your Tuscan road trip itinerary.

The ease of accessing it paired with its beauty make this one of the first towns we would recommend if you are looking for additional stops along your road trip in Tuscany.

Photo of Volterra as seen from outside the town--Volterra is an excellent addition to any road trip in Tuscany.

Cortona is perhaps best known for the famous book/movie that is based there, but even without the fame brought by Under the Tuscan Sun , this tiny Tuscan town is still a fabulous place to visit!

I’ll be honest: a trip to Elba is a bit of a stretch for all but the longest trips to Tuscany, but it bears mentioning simply for the fact that Elba is Tuscany’s very own island–and “Mediterranean island” is just not what you normally associate with a trip to Tuscany.

Whether you want to scuba dive, enjoy delicious seafood, lounge on the beach, or chase down the island’s interesting history (Elba was the first place Napoleon was exiled to, though he escaped a little under a year later), there’s no doubt that Elba makes a unique addition to any Tuscany itinerary.

2 Weeks in Italy Itinerary: Beach at Monterosso al Mare

Easier to access than Elba but equally focused on all things coastal, the seaside city of Livorno is the perfect Tuscany road trip destination for anyone looking to enjoy a little sea and sun as part of their trip to Tuscany.

Best known for its delicious Brunello di Montalcino wine, the hilltop town of Montalcino is a delightful slice of Tuscany that is easy to access from Siena and Val d’Orcia.

Cluster of grapes almost ready to be harvested in the Tuscan countryside

Outside of Tuscany

Cinque terre.

Of all destinations outside of Tuscany that people tend to be eager to add onto their Tuscany trip, Cinque Terre almost always falls near the top.

We’ve visited this sensational collection of Ligurian fishing villages twice as part of a Tuscany road trip, as well as on a standalone visit, and we can attest that they are well worth the trouble if you have time in your itinerary.

We absolutely do not recommend driving into the villages, however–instead, drive to the train station at La Spezia or Levanto, park your car, and then take the train into the villages from there.

View of Vernazza Harbor from Above: One Day in Cinque Terre Itinerary

Known, above all else, for its food, Bologna is the perfect location for foodies to flock to if they’re looking for some truly epic cuisine during their road trip.

Bologna is the capital of Emilia-Romagna, the region that is home to so many of the things us foreigners tend to associate with Italian food: tagliatelle al ragu (aka spaghetti bolognese), mortadella (aka bologna), parmigiano-reggiano , traditional balsamic vinegar, and more.

Once you get done eating, Bologna has plenty of other sights to explore, as well–but the food alone is worth visiting for.

The Best Things to Do in Bologna: Climb Asinelli Tower

Set on a hilltop overlooking sweeping views of the Umbrian countryside, Orvieto is as historical as it is picturesque: dating back to the Etruscans and once (briefly) the home of the pope, whether you’re looking to dive deep into the history, enjoy the tasty Orvieto Classico wine, or simply admire the magnificent vistas, Orvieto has something to offer.

We adore this little village–be sure to check out the Duomo, the views from the Torre del Moro, and the underground while you’re there, among plenty of other fun things to do.

View of Orvieto Duomo as seen from Torre del Moro

As the location of the birth, work, and death of St. Francis, Assisi is an enormously popular pilgrim destination among Catholic travelers–but even if you’re not Catholic, this small Umbrian town has plenty of history and beauty to offer.

St. Francis was the founder of the Franciscan Order–a name you’ll see pop up a lot in Italy–and is also one of the patron saints of the country.

In Assisi, you can tour the enormously impressive Basilica of St. Francis while learning about the life and history of the saint.

Take This Map With You! Click each highlight to pull up the name of the destination. To save this map to “Your Places” on Google Maps, click the star to the right of the title. You’ll then be able to find it under the Maps tab of your Google Maps account! To open the map in a new window, click the button on the top right of the map.

Ultimately, Tuscany is a beautiful destination year-round, and you can never go wrong with a visit.

Spring in Tuscany brings beautiful flowers but plenty of rain, summer brings lots of tourists but also long days and sunshine.

Fall brings the harvest and temperamental weather, and winter brings cold, gray weather but also low prices and a distinct lack of crowds.

If you ask us, though, our favorite time to take a Tuscany road trip will always be in the fall, particularly late September through mid-October.

True, it’s hardly offseason (in other words, there will be plenty of other tourists around), and there’s a good chance of experiencing a cold and/or rainy day or two–but the changing colors across the countryside, the incredible food that is freshly harvested, and the crisp chill that sweeps through the air each evening as the heat dies down for the year give the region a magical quality that we will never tire of experiencing.

We’ve spent at least part of the last few autumns in Tuscany, and we see no reason to stop that tradition anytime soon.

The Most Instagrammable Places in Florence: Boboli Garden

While driving in Tuscany is not the most difficult driving you’ll encounter in Italy (looking at you, Rome and Sicily), it definitely has its quirks!

Here are a few tips we recommend keeping in mind as you plan your Tuscany road trip itinerary.

Make sure you have access to a GPS for your Tuscany road trip.

This is absolutely imperative, in our opinion, and can make the difference between an insanely stressful Tuscany road trip and a fairly laid-back one: whether you purchase an international cell phone plan through your carrier before leaving for Tuscany or you purchase an Italian SIM card on the ground, you’ll 100% want to make sure you have cell phone data–and therefore GPS–with you as you drive.

Siena Day Trip: Jeremy with Classic Cars

Shop around for your rental car.

I’m almost 100% certain that we’ve used a different rental car company every time we’ve rented a car in Italy–that’s how much the prices can vary depending on your time of travel, pickup and dropoff locations, size of the vehicle, and more.

We recommend searching for your car via Discover Car Hire , which will allow you to check out the rates of several different rental car agencies in Tuscany at once and compare prices and inclusions side-by-side.

Shop for your Tuscnay rental car with Discover Car Hire today!

Cars parked outside of Siena Italy--parking outside of historical city centers is the norm when on a Tuscany road trip!

Buy the insurance–you won’t regret it.

Ultimately, this is up to you–I know some people prefer not to buy additional CDW insurance (aka the insurance that covers damages to the actual car you’re driving, as opposed to your liability to anyone else) on trips–but we buy it every. single. time. in Tuscany and have no regrets.

I don’t want to overstate things, because driving in Tuscany isn’t exactly like driving in the Wild West–but let’s just say that the roads are often tiny, the buildings very close, the parking lots cramped, and the other tourists’ rental cars parked nearby are frequently scratched and dinged in a way that while not horrendously damaging, is definitely something a car rental company would love to charge you for if it happened on your watch.

The peace of mind is absolutely worth it to us–you can price it for yourself when shopping on Discover Car Hire , or purchase a travel insurance policy through that includes car rental insurance (but be sure to double-check the policy, because only some policies cover it).

2 Weeks in Italy Itinerary: Arezzo, Tuscany

You need an international driving permit to rent a car in Tuscany.

Technically, you always need an international driving permit to rent a car in Italy, and that includes in Tuscany.

You can pick this up before you leave home from AAA, and it’s very easy and cheap to do–just a bit annoying, as it’s one more thing to add to your to-do list before leaving for your Tuscany road trip.

Now, that being said–will your rental agency always ask for it? No. Will the police always ask for it? No.

Is it worth the risk of being refused a rental car or getting a ticket over $25 USD and a bit of hassle? Not in my opinion.

Rent the smallest car possible.

Not only is it cheaper, which is always excellent, but a smaller car in Tuscany is also much easier to drive.

While the highways in Tuscany are pretty standard, this-could-be-anywhere highways, the small country roads, parking lots near villages, and dirt roads leading to vineyards and villas can be incredibly narrow–which, naturally, does not stop them from being used for two-way traffic (you’ll probably end up pulling over to let someone maneuver past you at least a couple of times during your Tuscany road trip).

Be sure to account for how much space you’ll need for luggage, especially if you have three or more people in your group, but other than that–the smaller, the better.

Romantic Things to Do in Tuscany: Sunset over Florence

If you get a ticket, you probably won’t know it right away.

Traffic citations in Tuscany are generally captured via camera, so if you get one, you probably won’t know it right away.

Instead, your license plate will be captured, the ticket will be sent to the owner of the car (ie, your rental company), and then your rental company will forward it onto you.

Unfortunately, that means you won’t be 100% sure you didn’t have any infractions during your Tuscany road trip until several weeks after you get home.

You will encounter toll roads in Tuscany–so carry cash.

Most toll roads in Tuscany will accept credit cards, but it’s always best to have small bills/coins of cash on you–just in case you run into a cash-only booth (or you need a last-minute coffee and/or gelato, which are also very important parts of any Tuscany road trip itinerary).

Best Views of Florence: Girl near Ponte Vecchio

Be prepared to park and then climb up to towns.

Tuscany is known for its delightful hilltop towns, full of winding, narrow streets and plenty of foot traffic.

Combine the above description of Tuscany that we all know and love with the very concept of a Tuscany road trip, and an obvious question emerges: where are the cars?

Usually, they’re in parking garages built literally under the hilltop towns or on the outskirts of historical centers… which means you often have to walk up steep hills in order to reach the center.

Some cities, like Siena, have escalators installed to help alleviate this problem–but in general, be prepared for a little bit of a leg workout when visiting small towns in Tuscany!

View of the countryside from the edge of Montepulciano, an excellent stop on any Tuscany itinerary!

Avoid ZTL zones like the plague.

Essentially, ZTL zones are restricted access zones that dot most of Italy’s historic city centers, including in Tuscany.

If you drive into one, even accidentally, you’re risking a big ticket (and we’ve definitely had to call tiny Tuscan police stations to help some of our family members pay them off months after the fact).

Avoid them by parking on the outskirts of historical centers and by doing your research ahead of time, which leads me to…

Whenever possible, figure out where you’re going to park next before leaving.

This is one of our favorite tricks to keeping stress levels down when driving into a new town in Tuscany: know where the public parking lots are and, when heading out for the day, put your directions on for that particular spot rather than just the town.

This will absolutely cut down on the risk of accidentally driving into a ZTL zone (and therefore getting a ticket), and also make the trip into town much less stressful.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, this doesn’t always work–occasionally the parking lot you have picked out will be full, or you’ll luck out and find street parking along the way–but in general, it will definitely make your life easier during your Tuscany road trip.

Couple on steps of a villa in Tuscany: Packing list for Europe Summer

Travel Insurance  — We don’t ever suggest traveling without travel insurance–anything can happen, and this is definitely a case of better safe than sorry. We use and recommend  Safety Wing for trips to Tuscany.

International Driving Permit — If you’re coming from outside the EU and plan to rent a car in Tuscany, you’ll need to make sure to acquire an International Driving Permit in your home country, before  coming to Italy.

It is required for all car rentals in Italy, and while the rental company may not ask, it’s not worth the risk of being refused a car once you arrive or getting a fine if you’re pulled over to be without one. Play it safe and if you plan to drive during your trip, add getting an International Driving Permit to your pre-Tuscany planning!

Small Gravel road in the Tuscan countryside with a vineyard to one side--this Tuscany travel blog post will help you plan the ultimate Tuscany road trip itinerary!

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Photo of dark purple grapes hanging on vines in Tuscany. Black and red text on a white background reads "The Ultimate Tuscany Road Trip Itinerary + Travel Guide"

About Kate Storm

Image of the author, Kate Storm

In May 2016, I left my suburban life in the USA and became a full-time traveler. Since then, I have visited 50+ countries on 5 continents and lived in Portugal, developing a special love of traveling in Europe (especially Italy) along the way. Today, along with my husband Jeremy and dog Ranger, I’m working toward my eventual goal of splitting my life between Europe and the USA.

67 thoughts on “The Perfect Tuscany Road Trip Itinerary (+ Driving Tips!)”

I love this website It has convinced my husband and me to go on a driving tour of italy! I actually have a question. How do you know or find out where is the ZTL zones so you can avoid them? Thanks! Ilene

So glad to hear that, Ilene! Hope you guys have a great time!

Your GPS can help you avoid the ZTL zones, but the biggest thing is paying very close attention to the signs, as they’ll be marked there. As a general rule, historic centers of cities are ZTL zones, so it’s safest to avoid those entirely and park outside the center before walking into the town!

Hi Kate, Do you have any recommendations for accommodations on the Tuscan itinerary? We would be going in Sept 2022.

Hi Sabrina!

Yes, absolutely. We have several properties linked in this post, but if you’re looking for specific towns/cities, we also have recommendations in each of our independent city guides.

Hello, You guys look like you have a great life! My husband and I are older than you but have retired a bit early so we can travel while we are still able to move about. We have traveled quite a bit independently throughout the years so we are comfortable going to new places. Your blog is great and has so much useful information. Thank you for putting all of your knowledge out there. I know it’s a lot of work to do so. If you don’t mind me asking…we were told you have to have a permanent address at least 6 months out of the year for tax purposes. How do you get around that? Don’t mean to overstep. Thanks!

Thank you so much, Joanne! We really appreciate it. 🙂 Residency requirements vary by state, but we maintain a technical permanent address in our home state of Oklahoma where we pay our taxes, maintain our businesses, keep our driver’s licenses up to date, etc. Most nomadic travelers have a similar setup for logistical purposes!

Hello, thanks so much for this post. It’s so helpful! My partner and I are going to copy this for our holiday in June this year. I was just wondering if you could tell me which towns you stayed overnight in? Grazie, Olivia

So glad it was helpful, Olivia! Where to spend the night really depends on your specific taste, but from this itinerary, we’ve stayed overnight in Florence, Siena, and Arezzo. We’ve also stayed in countryside villas near the Val d’Orcia and Lucca.

Since you’ll be driving, we 100% recommend staying in the country at least once–Tuscan villas and agriturismos are absolutely amazing. For staying in the towns themselves, make sure your hotels have parking, but other than that, any and all of them make a great place to spend the night.

My daughter and I just booked a rental car for our trip to Tuscany this summer thanks to your post. I was nervous about driving but you laid it all out perfectly, thank you. We’re going for her graduation present and it’ll be the first time in Italy for us both. Bookmarking your site now for when the trip gets closer. Thanks again!

That’s amazing to hear, thank you Susan! Comments like this never fail to make my day, we are ALL about making sure your trip goes perfectly! Hope you guys have a fantastic time, and congratulations to your daughter on her graduation!

Hey, this has been quite useful. Im planning my road trip, but im going clockwise on this route. Since i live in The Netherlands, i will drive in from the north, Florence and start here and after Pisa-Lucca, the last stop instead of heading back to Florence is Cinque Terre, to enjoy a bit of the coast. I will take the advice of leaving the car in La Spezia, but if you had to choose to spend a night in Cinque Terre, which woudl you guys recommend, Vernazza or Manarola?

Glad to hear it, thanks Rodolfo!

Which village is best for spending the night in Cinque Terre is definitely a matter of preference, and Vernazza and Manarola happen to be two of my top 3 favorites (the other is Riomaggiore). You can’t go wrong with either, but I’d recommend Vernazza if you’re looking for something smaller, and Manarola if you want to have access to a wider variety of shops and restaurants. Manarola is a more popular (read: crowded) sunset spot, but both places will quiet down considerably once the day trippers head home.

Wonderful, informative article! I am so glad I found your website. We are hoping to be able to visit Tuscany in summer 2022. Italy is our favourite country, but we haven’t been to Tuscany or Cinque Terre, so I really appreciate the wealth of information on your website!

Thank you so much, Cheryl! So glad to hear that. 🙂 Hope you guys have an amazing trip to Tuscany and Cinque Terre!

Hi! I just came upon your site when doing a search for info on an upcoming trip. My husband and I are planning a trip for the end of Oct. We will be renting a car in Florence, spending about two days driving through Tuscany and returning the rental in Rome. I know that’s way too short to do Tuscany justice, but we have a commitment in Venice prior to Florence, and are bookended with a fixed return date from Rome. Where in Florence would be our best choice to rent a car so we can get on the road to Tuscany easily? Same question for returning rental in Rome without having to deal with city driving. Lastly, we are doing some basic research in Tuscany in order to maybe get a place there down the road. Should we consider spending our two nights there in Lucca? Thanks so much and I will definitely be following your adventures!

Hi Rohini! There are so many places to rent cars in both cities it’s really impossible to say–I’d keep an eye out for the best deal and then look carefully at the directions. Unfortunately, some city driving is probably unavoidable if you want to make it all the way from Florence to Rome, but you can limit it based on your schedule.

If you’re just going to relax, Lucca is a great choice! If you want to compare possible areas to own a property in Tuscany though, I’d probably recommend one night there and one night in the Val d’Orcia area. You may also want to consider a look at Siena, depending on whether you want to be close to a city or not.

Hi Kate. Thanks for your quick response! This is very helpful info. I had read somewhere that Tiburtina station in Rome is a good spot for rental return since it would not involve going into the city to return. Would you say that is the case? Once again, thank you for your help!

Hi guys, I imagine you’ve had some ups and downs in your travel in the last 2 years because of Covid. I really hope you’ve been able to stay safe and still continue some of your adventures. I found your site and am really keen to follow your path around Tuscany when my husband and I go this year. I looked up your destinations and would really encourage you to look into coming to Australia and New Zealand some time if you can. Down Under is a wonderful place and New Zealand has just about everything you could ever want to see in a really small country! Thank you for your really helpful and informative site. Take care.

Yes, there have been many ups and downs over the last couple of years for sure, but luckily things are mostly up right now! We’ve decided to base ourselves in Portugal for the next little bit to enjoy lots of Europe throughout 2022. 🙂 Knock on wood, but hopefully our next Tuscan road trip is just around the corner!

We’d love to head down to Aus and New Zealand one day! No plans at the moment, but you never know. 🙂

Hope you guys have a wonderful trip!

Such a great and helpful Itinerary, thank you!

We’re planning to visit late September and I am nervous about the driving portion – what location would you recommend for pick up, outside of Florence? We’re hoping to get a drive to our first destination (open to anywhere) and then pick up a car – appreciate any extra tips you might have! I was surprised to not see any mention of Greve as a stop, have you been? This was what I thought was my main stop in Tuscany but I am now rethinking everything! 😀 We have 5 nights in Tuscany (counted Florence separately as a stop when we head North) and prefer to not spend too much time in the city and want to visit many wineries and enjoy the local food! If you have any very specific favorite wineries to stay at or places to dine, I would love to hear about them!

Thanks again for such a detailed post! I have a lot to consider 🙂

Thanks so much, Cait!

There’s never enough time for all the towns, lol, but if you want to swap in Greve you absolutely can! We haven’t been ourselves yet but generally speaking there’s no such thing as a “wrong” Tuscan town to visit. 😉

If you want to pick up a car outside of Florence, I’d recommend taking a look at Siena. By the time you get into the very small hilltop towns like San Gimignano, etc, there may not be car rental agencies available (or if they are, it’ll just be an office and they’ll need to drive the car itself to you from a bigger city–which often comes with a fee).

Have an amazing trip!

Hi, I am planning a vacation trip to Rome (5 days) and from there a road trip (5 days) to the Tuscan area. I’ve been already to Florence and Pisa. I will like to know cities or towns with good food and scenery off the beaten path. Thanks so much for your time and sharing your knowledge.

It depends on how you define off the beaten path, but just about everywhere in Tuscany is further off the path than Florence and Pisa! And virtually everywhere in Tuscany has great food. 🙂

Arezzo, Volterra, Pienza, Montepulciano are all delightful, some more commonly visited than others. Montalcino is tiny but beautiful.

We also love Lucca, it’s much quieter in many ways than Florence or Siena.

A common theme is that if you spend the night in any of these places, they will get much more peaceful and quiet if you spend the night, as the day-trippers will head home.

Some of the spa towns other than Saturnia can feel off the beaten path, such as Bagno Vignoni. They’re popular, but more catered to tourists from nearby.

Wonderful article – thanks!

Planning Sept trip – 4 days Rome, 2 days Florence, 3 days Venice (as of now)

Considering adding a Tuscany component but limited to time. Any suggestions to condensing to 2-3 days as a loop or feasibility of starting in Florence and ending in Venice?

Any input greatly appreciated.

Happy to help, Richard!

With a 2-3 day driving loop from Florence, I’d recommend driving to either the Val d’Orcia (so towns like Montalcino and Pienza) or a nearby base like Montepulciano, and then basing yourself there for a couple of days. You can drive between a handful of close-together towns, see the landscape, enjoy an agriturismo, do some wine tastings, etc, all within a close distance.

Driving from Florence to Venice isn’t a go-to suggestion of mine since you don’t need a car in either city, but we’ve actually made the drive ourselves as part of a family trip and it was lovely! Bologna, Ferrara, and/or Padua are easy stops right along the route.

If you wanted to take a couple of days between the two cities, a loop through Parma, Modena, Reggio-Emilio and Bologna would put you in the heart of Emilia-Romagna, which is the origin of some of the most beloved Italian foods (traditional balsamic, parmigiano-reggiano, etc).

It’s not the most efficient way to get from Florence to Venice of course (that’d be the high-speed train), but if you want to make a trip of it, you’ll have fun!

If you do want to consider renting a car in Florence and dropping it off in Venice, though, be sure to ask your rental company if they allow it and what fees they would charge before making any plans.

One of my stops is in Luca and the hotel and parking garage are in the Atlantic. How do I get a permit to drive through it.

I think you may have a typo in there, but I’m assuming you mean you have a hotel booked in the historic center of Lucca? If the hotel offers private parking on-site, you can give them your license plate number and they’ll be able to make arrangements for you.

If they don’t have parking, you’ll likely need to park outside the walls and walk into the center to reach your hotel.

Hope that helps!

The parking os not on-site but within the walls.

So you are saying that all I need to do is call either the garage or hotel with my rental car license number and they would be able to get me a permit to drive inside the walled city to get to the hotel and garage?

In your case, I’d contact the hotel and ask where they recommend you park, and then if you head to the garage inside the walls, look at the map to confirm the directions to access it.

Essentially, your goal is to avoid the ZTL zones, which trigger an automatic ticket (and technically two–one for entering the zone and one for leaving it). Unfortunately, since all of the traffic controls are done by camera, you’ll have no sure way of knowing at the time you park if you’ve crossed the boundary.

The public parking within the walls should have a way to access it without passing through a ZTL zone, the concern is taking a wrong turn, etc. If you do need to pass through a ZTL zone (generally speaking in Italy), hotels within the walls can get access for their guests but I’m not sure if yours can since they don’t have on-site parking. These rules also vary from city to city in Italy.

Generally speaking, in the case that you do get access to a ZTL zone to access hotel parking (I know yours doesn’t have it, but just generally), you won’t get a paper permit or anything like that. It’s all done by license plate and camera.

Hi Kate! What an insightful article. I am planning a trip to Itlay in August for 12 days with a girlfriend who has never been to Italy. We are landing in Rome, spending 3 days there, and making our way to Florence by train. We will have 6 days in the Tuscany region and plan to rent a car after reading your article. This is what I am planning for our road trip and what your feedback. Would love to know if you can recommend an amazing winery with meals and wine tasting at one of our stops. I have taken suggestions from your blog on places to see and things to do at each stop:) Am I packing in too much? Day 1 – Florence to Lucca to San Gimignano spend the night here Day 2 – San Gimignano to Siena to Val D’Orcia spend 1 or 2 nights here Day 3 or 4 – Val d’orcia to Montepulciano to Montalcino (not sure about Montalcino) Day 4 – Drive to Saturnia from the last destination and head back to Florence

Hi Gira! All of the places you have mentioned are wonderful, but yes, I’d highly recommend cutting a few places from your list in order to savor the others more!

Driving, parking, walking into historic centers, etc, all eat up quite a bit of time.

I’m assuming you’re planning a couple of days in Florence on days 5-6. Ideally, I’d recommend only changing your “base” one other time. Montepulciano is a convenient spot as you can reach the Val d’Orcia, Montalcino, etc, from there. Siena is another fantastic option, but it’s definitely a small city, not a tiny town.

Saturnia is pretty far out of the way from everything else on your list, so unless it’s your dream destination in Florence, I’d consider trimming that. 🙂

Hi, Your article is very informative. Thanks. One question, I understand that leaving anything in the car in Italy is not a good idea as it can be stolen. What about these small towns in Tuscany? Is it risky to leave luggage in the trunk when parking there, too? Thanks

That’s essentially down to your personal risk tolerance. Many people leave luggage in the car when they have no other good option if it is kept out of sight in a locked trunk.

Obviously, there’s always a small risk with that, but it’s a fairly common practice.

The most important thing is to make sure nothing visible is left behind.

Thank you for such a insightful article, it has definitely helped to make a road trip through Tuscany feel less daunting!

Are there are places on your list that are more or less English friendly? We will obviously try to learn what we can in Italian, but it is always helpful to know 🙂

My husband and I previously visited Florence and did a day trip to Pisa, Siena, and San Gimignano. The scenery was so breathtaking it quickly made a road trip through Tuscany a MUST on our bucket list! Having already visited those places (wouldn’t mind visiting San Gimignano again!), what would be your top picks for 5-6 nights (not including Florence but starting from there)? I would love to make a stop at Saturnia if time allowed. Thank you SO much for your suggestions!

Hi Samantha,

Thank you so much! Glad we can help. 🙂

Unless you go exceptionally off the beaten path, you won’t have any problem using English (plus body language/hand signs/etc) in Tuscany, so don’t worry! Definitely learn what Italian you can, but Tuscans are very friendly and exceptionally used to foreigners.

Since you guys have already done quite a bit in the northern part of Tuscany, I recommend heading to the southern part! Montepulciano, the Val d’Orcia (including towns like Pienza and Montalcino), Cortona, and Saturnia, make a great loop.

You might also look at taking a day trip to Civita di Bagnoregio, Orvieto, Perugia, or Assisi. Those places aren’t in Tuscany but are wonderful, and depending on your itinerary might make fun additions.

This is so helpful Kate, THANK YOU!!!! This will be my first time in Italy, I’m traveling solo, and I’ve never driven outside of the U.S. before, so I’m thinking I’ll stick to trains to get around this time (which I know will limit how much flexibility I have). Are any of these towns easily accessible by train from Florence (and/or each other)?

Happy to help, Tara!

Yes, Lucca, Pisa, Arezzo, and Siena are all easy to get to by train.

The smaller hilltop towns are generally harder to access without a car, and many don’t have train stations. You can technically get to Montepulciano by train, but the station is outside of town and you’ll need to catch a bus or taxi to get all the way there.

If you want to visit a few of the tiny hilltop towns, I’d recommend signing up for a day trip one day–we link a some popular ones in this post: https://www.ourescapeclause.com/best-day-trips-from-florence-italy/

Generally from Florence, you can find either day trips that focus on the north (San Gimignano is a common stop) or the southern Val d’Orcia towns. They’re a great way to see harder-to-access spots while letting someone else deal with the driving and parking!

Thanks so much for responding and for the additional tips! <3

Hi Kate! Thank you, thank you, thank you for the wealth of information. Very helpful for our upcoming visit!

Any possibility of emailing you directly with a few more questions?

Thanks, Lori and Steve, USA, coming in October for our 60th birthday’s!!!!

Yes, of course!

We’re not travel agents and don’t plan/book trips for people, but we’re always happy to answer a few questions and point travelers in the right direction. 🙂

Happy early birthdays!

Hello again, We will only have about 4 (3 full) days and nights to explore Florence and Tuscany. We hear that Florence is not terribly large and is very walkable? Would it be practical and safe to utilize motor scooters to do so? The countryside is a PRIORITY, but we are considering not venturing too far from the city to limit travel time. We’d like to spend at least one night in the city, and at least one in the country. And we very much want to explore a couple of very small villages. Suggestions?

Would you recommend purchasing train tickets in advance, or is it really not necessary? Likewise for renting a car, and making hotel reservations (First week of October).

For the train tickets–it depends. For high-speed trains across long distances, like from Florence to Venice, yes, absolutely book in advance. The prices increase dramatically as you get closer to your dates.

For regional/slow trains, like taking a day trip from Florence to Lucca, there’s no need to book in advance.

What gets a bit confusing is that some lines, like between Rome and Florence, have both high-speed trains (essential if you’re making a day trip, as it takes under 2 hours), and regional/slow trains, which depending on the exact timetable can take anywhere from 3-5 hours or so.

If you want an overview of what’s available, we recommend using Omio to search for tickets and compare prices/timetables.

For hotels and a rental car, yes, you’ll want to book in advance. It’s not as urgent as in, say, July, but to get maximum availability it’s best to be prepared, especially if you have special requirements for your rental car such as wanting to rent an automatic.

I hope that helps and that you guys have a great time! October is our favorite month to be in Tuscany. 🙂

My daughter & I will have 5 days in Tuscany, have a rental car & want to visit mostly hill towns. Our hotel is outside Florence. We’d like to drive to Cortona then to for wine tasting, then to Monticchiello for a 7:30 dinner at Daria & spend night. Is this possible? Where do I find city maps?

I think you mean you plan to spend the night in Monticchiello? If so, yes, that will probably work well. Cortona is a bit out of the way as far as Tuscan hill towns go, but it’s very popular!

For city maps, your hotel will usually offer one, especially if you ask. For towns that you just take a day trip to, the easiest way to find them is to head to the tourism office (there’s virtually always a well-marked office in the town center).

Some tourism offices do charge a nominal fee for maps, so it’s a good idea to have a few Euros in small coins/bills on you when you go.

Totally loved it!!! Would you recommend doing this roadtrip with a child? I really want my 5year old daughter to witness new cultures and enjoy some holidays with mum and dad!

Of course it depends on the child, etc, but it’s definitely possible! Italy is considered to be very kid-friendly, and kids are adored and welcome just about everywhere.

The distances in this road trip are also fairly short, so no extremely long car days to contend with.

I don’t see your 2 night Tuscany itinerary?

Hi Lorraine,

I’m not sure what you mean–maybe you’re looking for our 2 day Florence itinerary? Here it is: https://www.ourescapeclause.com/2-days-in-florence-itinerary/

I don’t have anything on spending 3 days/2 nights in Tuscany specifically, but for most visitors, I’d recommend spending 2 days in Florence and then taking a day trip to the countryside on the 3rd day.

Hope that answers your question!

Thank you very much for your article, it was very helpful to consider the cities/town to visit in La Toscana. What would you recommend me for a 10-day trip (honeymoon 🙂 ) by arriving to Rome? For sure, I want to rent a car and do all by car. Would it be better to take a train all over to Florence and from there do the trip all over to Rome? Is it a big deal if I do not have an international license? Thank you for your help.

You can definitely structure this trip as a road trip from Rome to Florence, touring Tuscany by road trip along the way instead if you prefer. For that version, you’ll likely want to start at Montepulciano and then make sort of a “V” shape ending in Florence. Keep in mind that you’ll probably have a one-way car rental fee if you do it this way.

In that case, you may want to add on a stop in Orvieto along the way as well–it’s in Umbria, and a beautiful place: https://www.ourescapeclause.com/things-to-do-in-orvieto-italy/

Having an international driving permit is required for non-EU drivers in Italy. It’s not often asked for, so you can choose to take the risk, but your rental company can refuse to rent to you and of course, you can have issues if you get into an accident, etc, if you don’t have one as well. They’re not complicated to get, so it’s much better to acquire one before going to Italy!

Hi! Thank you so much for this wonderful site – it is so informative!! We are planning 2-3 days traveling from Florence to Rome and wonder if there are private drivers for hire in Tuscany. Is that an option? And, if so, do you have a sense of how we would locate good drivers? Our concept is that it may be easier on us if we just left the driving to a trained professional local… your thoughts? Thanks again! Paul

We’ve never hired a private driver in Tuscany, so I can’t speak to that personally! I know that some private drivers and tours advertise through Get Your Guide. Other than that, I’d recommend asking your hotel concierge, they’ll no doubt know of someone.

However, if your goal is to travel between Rome and Florence, you could also easily take the train. If you’d rather take 2-3 days to do the journey and sightsee along the way, Orvieto and Siena are both stops to consider on the way.

If you’re confident drivers, though, that route is fairly simple–lots of highway driving, etc. If you’re considering the option of driving yourselves, I’d say there’s no real reason not to.

Hi Thank you for putting together all this info, it has filled me with excitement thinking about our trip this year. My husband and I are hoping to fulfil my dream of travelling to Tuscany this year at the start of April. We will be driving from the UK and stopping off in Normandy then driving across to Italy and Tuscany. The first large city we will enter is Turin before moving towards Tuscany. We have 7 days in Italy but we thought a circular road trip would be great made up of countryside, wine, food and wandering around towns and markets. I love the road trip based around Florence but given our route and our starting point, would you be able to recommend anywhere we should visit/stay/avoid that starts further north and drops into Tuscany. I don’t want to disappoint myself by making poor choices in destinations so any help would be much appreciated. Thank you

Sounds like a wonderful trip! We’ve driven from Portugal to Italy and/or France (and back) several times ourselves, so we’re very familiar with the breadth of the drive you’re taking on.

The Langhe region of Piedmont, located close-ish to Turin, is fantastic: think small towns, gorgeous views, delicious wine, and fewer crowds than Tuscany. You may want to consider a stop there before heading further south! We loved La Morra in particular, but there is lots to see around there, including Alba, Barolo, etc.

Depending on what route you take in, you may pass through Emilia-Romagna as well, one of our favorite foodie regions in Italy. There are a million places to fall in love with there, but Parma might be right along your drive: https://www.ourescapeclause.com/best-things-to-do-in-parma-italy/

Hope you guys have a fantastic trip!

Hi, I loved your article. My husband and I are planning to head to Tuscany in September. My thought is to arrive in Florence from the states and stay for 3 nights. Originally I was planning to head to Greve and stay at Borgo de Cabrea. for 5 nights and just do day trips from there. (The pictures of the hotel views blew me away). However after doing some more research, I’m thinking that I would leave Florence and head down to the Val d’ Orcia region for two nights, do some day trips from there, then head back up to the hotel in Greve for my remaining 3 nights. I don’t want to short change my experience in southern Tuscany. Looking for advice on where to stop on the way down, and the way up versus day trips from where we are staying. I’m thinking of stopping in Sienna on our way back up since it’s closer to Greve then we can avoid a day trip back down. Where do you think is good place to stop on the way down vs. places that would be better as day trips? Also any advise on where to stay in Val d’ Orcia region? Thanks for the advise on the cars. The site you suggested is much cheaper than the one I was originally looking at.

Those hotel views do look incredible!

With the caveat that you can’t make a very wrong decision in Tuscany, I’d recommend spending 3 nights in the Val d’Orcia area and 2 around Greve. Definitely check out the tiny town of Montefioralle when you’re in the Greve area, too: https://www.ourescapeclause.com/montefioralle-italy/

Siena is a decent-sized city rather than a hilltop town, so I’d spend more time there than you can–but if a couple of hours is all you can spare, visiting the Piazza del Campo + the Duomo + visiting one of the viewpoints to see the city from above will make for a memorable stop.

As for where to stay in the Val d’Orcia, we’re partial to Montepulciano as a base. It’s not in the Val d’Orcia, but nearby, well-connected, and beautiful. Pienza also makes an excellent base and has some hotels whose views I think you’ll also love: https://www.ourescapeclause.com/pienza-italy/

Depending on which route you take down from Florence, you may pass Monteriggioni, if so, that’d be a lovely stop during your drive.

Thank You so much for your response. After doing some of my own research and keeping your advise in mind, we booked a hotel in Montepulciano. I have another question for you. We are renting a car and tried discover cars. The prices for renting a compact car through Noleggiare are significantly cheaper than any other company. We need an automatic so it can get pricey. The reviews are mediocre and I was wondering if you had any experience with them. Thanks!

I don’t think we’ve ever used them in particular, but in general, we’ve never had any issues with a car rental in Italy and have zero brand loyalty with rental cars there. We tend to go with whoever is most affordable, as the prices can vary so much. We do buy rental insurance, though–for us, it’s worth the peace of mind.

Hi Planning on driving from Rome to Florence, taking our time. Where would you rent the car? And can you drop off a car in Florence if you rent in Rome. Thanks

Hi Sebastiano,

Personally, we’d rent the car in Rome wherever we could find the best deal–we’re not particularly loyal to any one car rental company.

You can definitely rent a car in Rome and drop it off in Florence, however, you’ll likely incur a one-way rental fee. These can vary dramatically, but are usually pretty reasonable if you’re picking up and dropping off the car in the same country (driving from Italy to Switzerland, for example, would be a different story).

Hi! I liked your insights very much, I hope to go visit Tuscany soon with my family. Though you didn’t really mention seaside areas – I guess it’s because people don’t tend to visit Tuscany region because of beaches, but still, there IS some seaside (judging from map sorry), and I would like to know more, either if you had any experience, or from locals or friends. I clinged to the one photo of a beach at Livorno. I was wondering, if it is worth seeing the seaside as well, if there are any beaches, maybe areas where swimming is not recommended, dangerous tides, sharks… or are there nice places as well, worth visiting. Is the shore easily accessible? The shoreline area is more flat I guess, less hills there as I assume again, from maps…

You’re right, I didn’t include seaside areas because typically, that’s not what non-Italian travelers are looking for from the Tuscany region. You’re right that it has a lovely coastline, though!

A few popular beach towns in Tuscany include Viareggio and Forte dei Marmi. Livorno is a popular cruise ship stop, and has a historic fort right on the water. Don’t miss the view from Terrazza Mascagni if you go!

If you want to go further off the beaten path, the Tuscan island of Elba (where Napoleon was once banished to) is beautiful.

If you’re in a beach town, you’ll definitely have access to the sea!

Will be in Tuscany for four days and thinking one day each in Pisa, Florence and Montepulciano (or combine a couple (like Pisa/Florence). Can you suggest a good home base area? We will have a car – any suggestions for a couple of one day road trips (if we can combine P, F or M) to visit wineries, different towns, etc? So many things to see it’s hard to decide and are hoping you can help us out. Thank you so much!!!

Hi Collette,

If you plan to have a car, I’d recommend staying outside a city center and enjoying the countryside a bit. That’s the advantage of having a car in Tuscany!

I’d also recommend combining Lucca with Pisa–Pisa doesn’t take long to see, but Florence definitely takes a full day at a minimum assuming you want to go inside a museum, up a viewpoint, etc.

On the route from Florence to Montepulciano, Monteriggioni and Siena are great options (depending on which route you take). The Chianti area is also between the two, though it’s a bit more out of the way to access!

San Gimignano and/or Volterra would also make a great day, and would be enhanced by having a car.

Deciding where to stay can be fairly flexible, as all of those places can be visited as a day-trip from the others, but I’d choose based on your priorities, as you’ll have some long drives round-trip. The Siena area makes a great base if your priority is Montepulciano and towns like the Val d’Orcia. The Lucca area or Chianti area is lovely for accessing northern Tuscany (Florence, Pisa, San Gimignano, etc).

Ciao! Thank you so much for writing so much about Italy! It’s been very helpful while planning our upcoming Tuscany road trip. We’re planning to rent a car from Florence and are seeing a lot of negative reviews on all the cheaper Discover Cars rental companies. What rental companies have you used in the past and would you recommend them? Also, are there any we should stay away from? Trying to be budget friendly but also do not want hit with a bunch of fees after the fact. Thank you so much for your help!

Hi Natalie,

Happy to help!

Honestly, I could not even remember all the rental companies we’ve used in Italy, let alone in Europe. We’re not picky–we’ve used everything from big brands like Hertz and Sixt all the way to tiny local outfits that we spot on the ground. We’ve never been charged for damage, but we do take precautions.

Specifically, we ALWAYS thoroughly photograph and video (a full 360 video) the vehicle when picking it up, and we tend to buy the additional insurance as well. If you want to ensure there’s a 0% chance of being charged for anything, most companies offer a $0 deductible (in Europe, a deductible is called excess) policy. It’s an increase in the upfront budget, but offers a lot of peace of mind if it’s something you’re worried about!

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She Saves She Travels

16 Best Midwest Road Trips – Scenic Routes You Can’t Miss

Posted on Published: May 25, 2020  - Last updated: February 9, 2024

Ahhh, the Midwest. Vast landscapes with beautiful scenery, the ability to connect with nature and fun attractions. One of the best ways to explore the middle of the USA is with a Midwest road trip!

midwest road trip photo of lake with tan sand trees and reflection of cloudy sky

This post may contain affiliate links. For more info, see my  disclosures .

For those of us who live here, we know there’s so much to offer. Our waving grasses with rolling hills make for beautiful, peaceful sunsets. Gorgeous lakes simply begged to be explored.

Our cities each have something unique to offer, and mix that with Midwest charm, it makes for a great place for a road trip!

Midwest road trip ideas

I’ve explored many places across the Midwest, but I haven’t covered it all. So I turned to other experts to help me out to create this list of best Midwest road trips!

Here’s a bunch of Midwest road trip ideas, ranging from 2 days to 10. From outdoorsy to artsy, there’s truly something for everyone in the Midwest!

minneapolis to omaha road trip

List of Midwestern States

But before we dive in, let’s clarify the states that cover the Midwest to help you plan your trip:

  • Indiana (IN)
  • Illinois (IL)
  • Missouri (MO)
  • Kansas (KS)
  • Nebraska (NE)
  • South Dakota (SD)
  • North Dakota (ND)
  • Minnesota (MN)
  • Wisconsin (WI)
  • Michigan (MI)

Looking for more Midwest adventures? Check out these 16 trails – the best hiking in the Midwest !

Ready to hit the road? Here’s the best Midwest road trips

Black hills, south dakota (a classic).

Roadtrip to Mount Rushmore

Recommended trip: 7-10 days

The Black Hills in South Dakota is one of the best places for a road trip in the Midwest.  There is so much to see and do, you could easily spend months here, but for a shorter trip, 7-10 days would be great.

Rapid City is probably the best place to fly in and out of for a Black Hills trip. I would start with a couple of days in Badlands National Park .  Spend the night in Wall, visit Wall Drug and the Badlands from here, then head over to Wind Cave National Park.

Spend a night or 2 in Hot Springs to easily access the park where you can do some hiking, look for bison, and do a cave tour. Make a stop at the Mammoth site while you’re here, too.

Finally, head to Keystone for a few days. This is the perfect base for exploring the Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park area. 

Some of the must-do activities here are visiting Mount Rushmore (of course), driving Iron Mountain Road , driving the Needles Highway, driving the Custer Wildlife Loop Road, hiking Cathedral Spires Trail, and relaxing at Sylvan Lake. If you want a little side trip, you can easily visit Devils Tower in Wyoming, too.  

Recommended by Megan of Red Around the World

Chicago to St. Louis road trip

Bean in Chicago

Recommended trip: 4-6 days

Driving from Chicago, Illinois to St. Louis, Missouri should be on any midwest road trip. This journey is part of Route 66, one of the original highways in the United States. Route 66 was the primary route for people wishing to move west. Opt to spend one day driving this four and a half-hour drive, or break it up and spend the night in Springfield, Illinois.  

For this journey, start in Chicago. Make sure to spend at least 3 days in Chicago. Stay in the centrally located Downtown/River North area. Do not miss the Art Institute of Chicago and the Field Museum.

Grab some pictures at “The Bean” in Millenium Park. Daredevils can opt for “The Edge” experience at the Skydeck or the Tilt Experience at the John Hancock Building. 

In the morning depart Chicago to drive south towards Springfield, the capital of Illinois . Stop by the capitol building and take a free tour of the building.

Visit Abraham Lincoln’s grave at Oak Ridge Cemetery and then visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Grab a custard at Krekel’s before heading onward to St. Louis, Missouri. 

Plan to spend at least 2 days in St. Louis to explore the main sites. Plan to stay in the Downtown area. Ride to the top of the St. Louis Arch at Gateway Arch National Park.

Take a peek into history at the Old Courthouse, where the Dread Scott decision was made. Make sure to eat some delicious BBQ before departing St. Louis.

Recommended by Francesca of Home Room Travel

You might also like: 101 Road Trip Food Ideas: Best Fun and Healthy Snacks You’ll Love

Indianapolis, IN to Boyne City, MI

skiing on Boyne Mountain

Recommended trip: 2-3 days

Ready for a fantastic Midwest road trip? Regardless of the time of year, driving from Indianapolis, Indiana to Boyne City, MI is a perfect way to enjoy a long weekend.

Day one, you’ll want to get up early and head to Lansing, MI. It’s about 3.5 hours from Indy, so if you time it right, be sure to stop for lunch at Soup Spoon Cafe – a flight of soup is a fun way to start your mini-vacation. Next, if you have younger kids, head over to the Impression 5 Science Center – they’ll love the full sensory experiences. 

After the museum, finish your drive north and check-in at Boyne Mountain for the night. Enjoy a full day of exploring Boyne Mountain and nearby Boyne City the next day. If it’s winter, hit the slopes for a little skiing or even tubing.

If it’s summertime, enjoy hiking, ziplining, or swimming. Downtown Boyne City is situated right on Lake Charlevoix and the town is full of delicious restaurants such as Cafe Sante and Red Mesa as well as unique local boutiques.

Leave Boyne Mountain, and head over to Petoskey for your final day. Start it off right with amazing bagels and donuts at Johann’s Bakery and then hurry over to the main Kilwins location for a factory tour. Kilwin’s offers free tours Monday – Friday every half-hour from 10 – 4:30, and each one ends with a decadent chocolate treat.

After the tour, spend a little time poking around downtown Petoskey for lunch and to pick up a few Michigan souvenirs before heading back to Indianapolis.

Recommended by Pam of Our Adventure is Everywhere

You might also like: Road Trip with Kids: 15 Essentials to Pack

Central Iowa road trip

Iowa state capitol building

We highly recommend taking a road trip through Central Iowa. You’ll pass through  Des Moines , Iowa’s capital and other smaller towns that have some fun and interesting attractions.

Heading east along I-80, your first stop should be the town of Winterset. It’s famous for having the  actual  bridges of Madison County. Six of the original 19 covered bridges in Madison County have been preserved just outside of town. Winterset is also the birthplace of John Wayne. There is a museum dedicated to him, with lots of personal and movie memorabilia.

Continuing east, you reach Des Moines. We love this artsy city! It’s easy to find street art there and downtown has a 4.4-acre sculpture park that is free to the public. There’s also a really lovely botanical garden in Des Moines.

Of course, visiting the Capitol Building is a must. You can do a free self-guided tour and marvel at the building’s incredible architecture.

The next stop on your road trip should be the town of Grinnell. Home to Grinnell College, they have a small but impressive art museum on campus.

Grinnell is also the home of one of eight “jewel-box” banks built by legendary architect Louis Sullivan. He is considered the father of modern American architecture and mentored Frank Lloyd Wright. The bank is beautiful, with large stained-glass windows and pink Tennessee marble floors.

Recommended by Vicky of Buddy The Traveling Monkey

More road trip destinations in the Midwest

St. louis to kansas city.

St Louis arch

Recommended trip: 3-5 days

While many people think of Missouri as a fly-over state, it’s full of not-to-be-missed gems, from St. Louis to Kansas City. So why not see some of them in one fell swoop with a 5-day road trip?

Start in St. Louis, a city bursting with historic architecture and a thriving food and cocktail scene. Spend 2 days here, exploring the City Museum, an adult playground/art installation of interactive salvaged architectural objects. Visit Forest Park, one of the country’s largest urban parks and its world-class museums, all boasting free admission. And, of course, the Missouri Botanical Gardens, consistently ranked one of the best in the nation.

At night, eat your way through the exploding culinary landscape, with one of the many restaurants helmed by James Beard nominated chefs, like Vicia or Lona’s Lil’ Eats.

Once you’ve gotten your fill, drive west to Hermann, a tiny town that has several wineries, breweries, and distilleries nestled in its idyllic grassy hills. For just $20, the Hermann Trolley will shuttle you between these establishments all day, so you can responsibly imbibe in as many craft beverages as you please.

After a day here, finish your trip with 2 days in Kansas City, famous for its jazz scene. To get a taste of it yourself, head to the American Jazz Museum during the day and the Green Lady Lounge at night to see some of the world’s best musicians in action. By the end of the trip, you’ll be ecstatic to have discovered some of the Show Me State’s abundant treasures! 

Recommended by Jessica of Uprooted Traveler

Oh, and if you’re planning to rent a car for one of these Midwest road trip routes, be sure to check out the cheap rates on Discover Cars . I usually save 10-30%, which can really add up! Discover Cars searches the top carriers to find the best deal, at no extra cost to you. It’s a win-win! Search cheap rental cars now .

Milwaukee to Wisconsin Dells

Wisconsin Dells

One of the best Midwest road trips you can take is exploring the highlights of Wisconsin. The ideal road trip itinerary takes you from Milwaukee to Green Bay and ends in Wisconsin Dells.

Start your road trip in Milwaukee , but you can’t leave without spending at least 2 days in this vibrant city. As a matter of fact, people flood from all over the United States to visit Milwaukee for its food, attractions and history.

Must do’s are the Harley Davidson Museum and the historic Third Ward.  Stay in the iconic Pfister Hotel in downtown.

From here you finally head out to the beautiful North of Wisconsin. Along the Michigan river you’ll cross scenic towns such as Port Washington. When you arrive in Green Bay, get ready to explore this vibrant town located in Door County. 

Some of the best things to do here are visiting the Heritage Hill State Park and watch a game by the legendary Green Bay Packers. Plan at least 1 day to visit the city and all the best things to do in Door County .

From Green Bay you’ll drive to Wisconsin Dells which is famous for its waterparks. However, there is so much more to do here. From shopping to hiking in the Dells or staying overnight in one of the  most romantic cabins in Wisconsin , there will be plenty of options to spend at least 2 days in Wisconsin Dells.

Recommended by Paulina of Paulina on the Road

Southern Minnesota road trip

Southern Minnesota - Fairmont

Eat, relax and have fun in Southern Minnesota! Enjoy a food lovers paradise in Austin, Minnesota. Known for having some of the best Mexican food in the state of Minnesota, Austin is also known for award-winning BBQ sauces, french onion soup and stuffed raspberry french toast.

Want to have a food challenge, then be sure to stop by the Tendermaid. Also, don’t forget to visit the one and only SPAM Museum ! Yes – it’s real and there are nearly 20 restaurants with SPAM on the menu.

Then sit back, relax and enjoy the view in Fairmont, Minnesota . Home to a chain of 5 lakes and 29 parks in city limits, Fairmont provides you that opportunity to become one with nature. Explore lakeside dining, outdoor recreation and an arts and culture scene that is sure to impress .

Next discover how  Germans Have More Fun  in New Ulm! Enjoy a road trip through the MN River Valley National Scenic Byway to the most German city in America.

In New Ulm you can climb 102’ to the top of the ‘Herman the German’ monument. Enjoy a tour/tasting at Schell’s Brewery, MN’s oldest brewery. Shop the unique boutiques in the historic downtown. Hear bells chime at our Glockenspiel. See the 1873 murals in the rathskeller at Turner Hall. 

With so much to do in Southern Minnesota, there’s something for everyone!

Read next: How to Save Money for Travel: Your Vacation Savings Plan

Richmond, IN to Butler County, OH

Lake Erie Islands - aerial view

If you’re looking for a cool trip, head to Indiana and Ohio! Starting off in Richmond, Indiana, visit the Wayne County Historical Museum and the Levi Coffin House. Be sure to hear their amazing story of the Underground Railroad!

Stay at the Starr Loft in Richmond before heading to Ohio. On your way to Ohio’s Lake Erie Islands, take a diversion into Bremen at the Bicycle Museum of America. Then onto the Marblehead Lighthouse in Marblehead, Ohio where this historic lighthouse guided sailors safely since 1822.

That night stay at Port Clinton’s Fairfield Inn & Suites. The next morning, head over to Ohio’s Lake Erie Islands. Take Miller Boat Line’s Ferry to Put-in-Bay where you can ferry your car over to the island.

Visit Perry’s Peace Memorial which honors the War of 1812. Check out the view up the 352-foot tower! The memorial honors those who fought in the Battle of Lake Erie. The next day, on Kellys Island, take a tour in a golf cart to check out natural phenomenons like the Glacial Grooves.

Be sure to hang out for an afternoon in Downtown Sandusky, Ohio . Take a Segway tour, visit Cedar Point Amusement Park, visit the Merry-Go-Round Museum or go parasailing.

Last stop on this road trip is Butler County, Ohio! Enjoy the Donut Trail and tour outdoor art at the Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park.

Recommended by Cindy of Traveling Adventures of a Farm Girl

Related read: Best Midwest Camping Spots

Loess Hills Scenic Byway (Missouri to Iowa)

Loess Hills road trip overlook

The Loess Hills Scenic Byway takes its travelers through the most extensive loess (essentially, ancient wind-blown silt deposits) outside a remote region of China! While the byway officially starts at the Iowa state border, the hills themselves run north-south a bit east of the Missouri River, from St. Joseph, Missouri to the Sioux City, Iowa area, passing near Omaha, Nebraska in the middle of the journey.

Each of these cities are destinations in their own right, and combined, they make a road trip full of scenic views and ample entertaining places to stop along the way.  

In St. Joe, Missouri, local museums provide fascinating looks at the history of the Pony Express, the art of Thomas Hart Benton (often depicting loess hills!) and the life of the nefarious Jesse James. Near Mound City, Missouri, visit the Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge to see waterfowl and bald eagles.

The Hitchcock Nature Center near Omaha and the Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center in Sioux City provide more information about the unique geology, flora, and fauna of the Loess Hills along with opportunities for hiking, boating, and more!

For ideal cruising food, try Billy Boy Drive-through just a few miles from the Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center in Soiux City for a burger and a shake! 

Recommended by Lindsay of Siouxland Families

More ideas: Midwest road trips

Minneapolis to omaha.

midwest road trip ideas

Recommended trip: 4-5 days

Get a nice mix of cities and wide open spaces on a Midwest road trip from Minneapolis to Omaha. Starting in Minneapolis, you’ll want to spend 1-2 days visiting the lakes, restaurants and of course, checking out the Mall of America .

Visit the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden in downtown and grab an ice cream cone at Izzy’s Ice Cream . The largest mall in North America (Mall of America) is a whole lot more than shopping, too. With an indoor amusement park, it’s the perfect activity for any weather.

Then hit the road! Next stop: Northwestern Iowa. Stop in Estherville, Iowa for a rustic winery , experience an 80-year old swinging bridge or to visit the site of the largest known meteorite seen crashing into North America.

You could stay in Esterville for the night, or head about half an hour west to Lake Okoboji. In Okoboji, Iowa you’ll find shopping, dining and a bunch of water activities , of course! Try the Arnold’s Park Amusement Park or live music after a day on the water.

Next on this Midwest road trip is Sioux City, Iowa. Grab lunch or dinner at the Fourth Street Historic District in downtown Sioux City , catch a show at the Orpheum Theatre or visit Palmer’s Old Tyme Candy Shoppe for a sweet treat before leaving town.

Omaha, Nebraska is the final destination on this Midwest road trip itinerary. You’ll want to spend 1-2 days visiting this fun city. Omaha is known as the silicone prarie, a tech hub that’s family-friendly, yet trendy enough to support a vibrant art scene and plenty of outdoor space.

One of the best things to do in Omaha is to visit the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium , It’s the largest tourist attraction in the state, and regularly competes with the San Diego Zoo as the #1 zoo in the country! It really is that fantastic!

Check out North America’s largest indoor rain forest, feed the giraffes, walk under sharks in the aquarium and watch the animals in the world’s largest indoor desert dome. Tip: be sure to buy your tickets in advance online and arrive early to avoid the crowds as best as you can.

Get a good tour of the city while taking fun photos at the most Instagrammable places in Omaha . Spend some time wandering the Lauritzen Gardens or check out the Fun-Plex Waterpark.

For some mystery check out the Joslyn Castle , and for some history visit the Lewis and Clark Landing. The Old Market in downtown is the perfect spot to grab a bite to eat after a long day touring the city.

Recommended by me! Nikki of She Saves She Travels

Duluth to Grand Marais, Minnesota

lake superior road trip

Recommended trip: 1-2 days

A Minnesota road trip on Highway 61 between Duluth and Grand Marais will offer you amazing views of Lake Superior, numerous options for a delicious bite to eat, and some can’t miss attractions .

As you leave Duluth, choose the 24-mile scenic route to Two Harbors, and take in the view of Lake Superior along the way. In Two Harbors you can walk along the breakwater to the lighthouse, and watch the ore ships coming and going. Enjoy a local brew at Castle Danger Brewery after doing some shopping in Agate Bay.

Just north of Two Harbors is Betty’s Pies and you don’t want to miss stopping here ! This is a full service restaurant, but they also have a walk up counter where you can order their famous pie. The pie flavors change every day, but you definitely want to try the Great Lakes Fruit Pie . This pie is filled with blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, apples, and rhubarb and it is one of a kind.

It is 11 miles to the next stop, in Castle Danger, but get your camera ready because you’ll be driving through 2 large tunnels, and the exits of both perfectly frame Lake Superior. 

Castle Danger is home to Gooseberry Falls and Split Rock Lighthouse State Parks. You can learn a little history of the area while touring the lighthouse and take a hike down the hillside to dip your toes in the cool Lake Superior water.

Gooseberry Falls State Park has 5 waterfalls that you can hike to, and a very nice visitor center to buy some souvenirs at.

Along the remaining 72 miles to Grand Marais, take the time to stop at a beach or two to hunt for agates. The beaches along the North Shore are loaded with agates and it’s fun to find a few to bring home.  

The city of Grand Marais has a main street full of local shops that ends on the shore of Lake Superior.  The beach is a popular spot to watch the water, and to eat a delicious donut from World’s Best Donuts or maybe you’ll want a slice of thin crust pizza from Sven and Ole’s.  

Grand Marais is also the start of the Gunflint Trail. This is a 57-mile paved roadway that ends in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area near the border of Ontario.

This 110 mile road trip between Duluth and Grand Marais can be made in one day, but why not take your time and really discover the beauty of Lake Superior and the North Shore.

Recommended by Vicki of That Was a First

I-70 Kansas road trip: Abilene to Kansas City

Brown V Board of Education National Historic Site

Recommended trip: 2-4 days

Enjoy a wealth of historic, cultural, and recreational activities along Interstate 70 in northern Kansas. Start in Abilene, Kansas with visiting the Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum, and Boyhood Home. Head over to pet Ginger, the greeter at the Greyhound Hall of Fame. Enjoy award-winning fried chicken at the Brookville Hotel.

Next stop along I-70 in Kansas is Junction City, home to Milford Lake and the Fishing Capital of Kansas. Tour Fort Riley’s museums, but prepare for security. Eat Munson-raised, dry-aged beef at Munson’s Prime restaurant, a local favorite. A perfect spot to call it a night is by the lake at Acorns Resort.

Then you’ll hit Manhattan, Kansas. For high adventure, fly zip lines at Wildwood Adventure Park. Afterwards, relax and eat and drink at Liquid Art Winery & Estate!

Slide into Topeka, Kansas where you can dive into history and visit the state capitol and the national historic site where the Supreme Court reversed segregation in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka . A great way to end the day is with elegance at the Cyrus Hotel.

As you head east on I-70, you’ll get to Lecompton, Kansas. Learn more about where slavery began to die at Constitution Hall State Historic Site and the Territorial Capitol. Then lighten things back up by grabbing a slice of gourmet pie at Aunt Netter’s Cafe. Delicious!

Next up is Lawrence, Kansas and downtown is the place to be! Experience downtown Lawrence during the day or night. See basketball’s original rules at The Cradle of Basketball. And if you’re looking for a brewery, Free State Brewing Co. is Kansas’ first post-prohibition brewery. Stay at in the heart of Lawrence at The Oread.

The final stop on this Northern Kansas road trip before arriving at Kansas City is Leavenworth, Kansas. Visit Fort Leavenworth, or ride antique carousels at C.W. Parker Carousel Museum. A must-try in Leavenworth is the steak house tenderloin at Metropolitan Steakhouse.

Wrapping up the I-70 Kansas road trip is of course, Kansas City! Enjoy the major leagues: sporting Kansas City at Children’s Mercy Park and NASCAR at Kansas Speedway. Eat top-notch barbecue at SLAP’s BBQ. After a great road trip in Kansas, stay in the Chateau Avalon.    

Recommended by Roxie of Roxie on the Road

Midwest road trip: Missouri Route 66

Missouri Route 66 road trip

While most people think of a  Route 66  Road Trip as starting in Chicago and ending in Santa Monica, you don’t need to take two weeks and traverse half the country to get in a taste of the Mother Road. Instead, you can pick a portion and explore it in-depth.

Missouri has a great stretch of Route 66 right here in the Midwest. It starts in the northeast crossing over from Illinois into St. Louis and ends at the Oklahoma border after passing through Joplin.

Obviously the most iconic site on Missouri’s portion of Route 66 is the Gateway Arch, which practically welcomes you onto the road. Make sure to tour Meramec Caverns , see the one-room jail in Cuba, and explore the interesting history of Carthage. 

Take advantage of the fun roadside kitsch of the route and get out at as many stops as you can. A real Route 66 road trip means you need to spend a few nights in the state’s retro motels and enjoy some diners and dive bars.

Recommended by Stephanie of Oklahoma Wonders

Driftless Area Scenic Byway (Iowa)

Driftless scenic byway and visitor center

Recommended trip: 1-3 days

Allamakee County is the home to the most scenic byway in the state of Iowa, Driftless Area Scenic Byway. This beautiful scenic byway zigzags its way on hard-surfaced and gravel roads through the high relief, pre-glacial landscape in extreme northeastern Iowa in Allamakee County. 

This byway has been voted most scenic byway in the state of Iowa . It’s 100 miles of amazing! Along the Driftless Area Scenic Byway you will find…

Effigy Mounds National Monument , the 2,526-acre park by the Yellow River has walking trails with modest to extended routes, allowing you to select your route and view a variety of mounds. An accessible boardwalk trail into the wetlands near the visitor center is available for persons of all walking abilities.

Yellow River State Forest was first acquired as a state forest in 1935, the Yellow River State Forest has grown to encompass nearly 9,000 acres of natural beauty.

Great River Road , where you can enjoy 36.2 miles of the Great River Road in Allamakee County. You will discover the best of the Great River Road right here!

Driftless Area Education & Visitor Center , where you’ll see live animals, interpretative displays, 2 viewing decks of the Mississippi River, and a great group educational experience.  Located just south of Lansing.

This Midwest road trip takes your scenic adventure to another level with:

  • Wine Tasting – Madigan Winery, Lansing & Empty Nest Winery, Waukon
  • Bird Watching
  • Beer Tasting – Safe House Saloon in Lansing
  • Trout Fishing
  • Cheese Curd Tour – WW Homestead Dairy in Waukon
  • Shopping – Horsfall’s in Lansing, Paint Creek Gifts in Waterville and City Meat Market inNew Albin

Recommended by Val of Allamakee County

Take these tips with you! Download the free road trip checklist!

Grab your packing essentials for every road trip with kids. Includes the 15 things you don’t want to forget!

one night road trip

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Triple Nickel Byway (Ohio)

midwest road trip attractions ohio

Winding through the southern part of Ohio is the  Triple Nickel  which encompasses parts of State Route 555. If you’ve never been on this scenic, twisting by-way through the hills of Ohio, you need to put it on your bucket list! This is a perfect day trip that takes you from the picturesque town of Zanesville to the history-rich city of Marrietta.  

The Triple Nickel is one of the more challenging roads in Ohio, but you can take in some of the amazing historical sites when you’re in the area. While touring through Morgan County you can see the Big Muskie bucket part of the world’s largest earth-moving machine in Miner’s Memorial Park and Barkhurst Mill Covered Bridge.  

No trip on the Triple Nickel is complete without stopping to eat at the Triple Nickel Diner in Chesterhill. Pro-tip: Make sure to check their website for the hours of operation because they vary with the seasons.  

If you’re looking for a great place to stay while on the route, take a small detour to the  Stockport Mill Inn located in Stockport, Ohio . You’ll be treated to stunning views of the Muskingum River and the operating locks. Dotty, the owner, will treat you like family and feed you amazing comfort foods only found at the Inn.

The Triple Nickel doesn’t disappoint the road tripper looking for a challenge in the Midwest.

Recommended by Brandy of Gleason Family Adventure

Madison to Spring Green, Wisconsin

Madison WI road trip Midwest

One of the most exciting small cities in the Midwest is  Madison, Wisconsin . It has a wonderful dining scene and miles of shoreline and bike trails.

A culmination of a college-town and a bustling city, Madison is also home one of America’s most beloved architects: Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright used Madison and its neighborhoods as a canvas, where visitors can see his many designs come to life. Although several of Madison’s Wright-designed houses are private residences, designs like the First Unitarian Meeting Houses and Monona Terrace are must-see spots for any architectural buffs! Both buildings are just a short 10-minute drive away.

If you want to see more of the city’s art scene , visit either the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art or the Chazen Museum of Art! Both museums boast both Wisconsin-based artists, as well as international artists too. Furthermore, admission is free for adults, making this the perfect stop for anyone that loves to travel on a budget. 

While you’re in Madison we also highly recommend grabbing tacos from Matthew Danky and his exciting outpost El Grito Tacqueria.  

From Madison, drive about 40 minutes to the quaint town of New Glarus , Wisconsin. The main attraction here is New Glarus Brewing, one of the most highly regarded breweries by beer snobs across the country so make sure to spend a few hours there. 

New Glarus also has rich Swiss heritage. Explore and find an authentic Swiss bakery or locally made raclette and cheese fondue.

Our last stop is very enjoyable Spring Green, an hour away down winding country roads.  Frank Lloyd Wright spent the better part of his life living and working in Spring Green and maintained a school at Taliesin. Wright’s students designed many unique buildings in and around Spring Green.

Recommended by Nick of Road Goat

16 best Midwest road trips

Well there you have it! I hope you’ve found some inspiration on which route you’ll take on your upcoming Midwest road trip! Midwest states have a lot to offer for any type of road trip you’re looking for!

Comment below on which you’re considering – or which route surprised you most!

You might also like: Best Hiking in the Midwest – 16 Cool Hikes You’ll Love Denver to Moab Road Trip: 16 Scenic Stops You Gotta See to Believe 27 Awesome Things to Do in Sandusky, Ohio You Can’t Miss Perfect Colorado Itinerary: 22 Road Trip Stops You Need to See Miami to Key West Road Trip: 22 Stops Along the Way 26 Best Places to Visit in October in the US

Planning to rent a car for one of these scenic routes? Check out the cheap rental car rates on my favorite site. I save up to 30%, which is awesome!

Find this article helpful? Save it for later or share it on social media!

16 USA road trip routes you need to add to your list

Saturday 25th of September 2021

Awesome. I'm wanting to take a scenic drive from Kansas to Ohio, off the beaten path. What are your recommendations?

Sunday 26th of September 2021

Where in Kansas and Ohio? I've spent time in Kansas City and St. Louis which may be along the way, but aren't necessarily off the beaten path. Perhaps a bit more southern, I've heard the Mark Twain National Forest and Shawnee National Forest are both gorgeous! Otherwise I've recently spent time in Sandusky Ohio, Put-in-Bay Ohio and the Lake Erie area. I'm sorry, I'm not sure I have a whole lot of suggestions for that specific route since I haven't personally done it. Best of luck on your road trip!

Alice Peace

Wednesday 27th of January 2021

Thank you for this! A road-trip in the States is definitely on the cards in the future.

Yay! How fun, Alice. I'm crossing my fingers it's soon!

Pamela Foester

Tuesday 12th of January 2021

I love exploring the Midwest, thanks for sharing.

You're so welcome, Pamela!

Tuesday 25th of August 2020

You missed a Gem of the Midwest. Part of the Driftless region on NE Iowa you need to check out the town of Decorah and the area around it. River bluffs, water falls, bike trails, 3 award winning breweries, big Scandinavian culture and museum.

Wednesday 26th of August 2020

Great suggestion! I've heard of Decorah but have never been!

Christa Ellis

Tuesday 9th of June 2020

I love that you included the Levi Coffin House. I have a post about it on my blog. Levi Coffin was a distant cousin to me through his grandmother Prudence Beals/Bales.

Friday 12th of June 2020

Oh very cool! What a small world, Christa! My pleasure to feature it. :)

Santa Monica pier at sunset, Los Angeles

Best Road Trips From Las Vegas

Top road trip destinations from las vegas.

Racetrack Playa, Death Valley National Park, USA with a sunset view of The Racetrack, a dry lake feature stone in the foreground and badlands in the distance.

Death Valley National Park

🚗 130 miles ⏱️ 2 hours

Brave the extremes at Death Valley. Known for its scorching temperatures and unique landscapes of salt flats and rugged mountains, it's perfect for exploring Badwater Basin, Dante's View and stargazing at night.

This is a relatively short drive, so you can extend your trip by detouring to Desert National Wildlife Refuge or Spring Mountains National Recreation Area .

Beautiful shot overlooking sandy beach and crystal waters of Lake Tahoe

🚗 480 miles ⏱️ 8 hours

Lake Tahoe's crystal-clear waters and stunning mountain scenery make it a top destination for outdoor fun. Explore pristine alpine lakes, hike scenic trails, and enjoy world-class skiing and snowboarding in winter.

This epic drive will take you past some amazing landmarks you shouldn't miss, such as Death Valley and Yosemite National Parks .

Zion National Park, Utah, USA at Canyon Overlook on a sunny day.

Zion National Park

🚗 170 miles ⏱️ 3 hours

Zion's dramatic cliffs and canyons offer some of the best hiking adventures around. Whether you prefer easy walks or challenging climbs, the scenery is unbeatable with sandstone cliffs, explore narrow slot canyons.

On your way to Zion, we also recommend making stops at Bloomington Petroglyph Park and Sand Hollow State Park .

Hoover Dam on the Colorado River straddling Nevada and Arizona at dawn from above.

🚗 40 miles ⏱️ 50 minutes

This short trip to the iconic Hoover Dam and Lake Mead will let you marvel at the engineering marvel of the dam, take a guided tour, and enjoy stunning views of the Colorado River and the surrounding desert landscape.

This drive is perfect for a day trip and will take you past Clark County Wetlands Park and Boulder City before you reach Hoover Dam.

Beach in Malibu seen through the palm trees, with sea in the background and golden clouds at sunset

Los Angeles and Malibu

🚗 320 miles ⏱️ 5 hours, 30 minutes

Enjoy the glam of Los Angeles and the stunning beaches of Malibu. From Hollywood attractions to relaxing by the ocean and enjoying the laid-back California lifestyle, there's something for everyone.

As you drive towards the coast, you can also spend some at Mojave National Preserve , Joshua Tree National Park and Palm Springs .

Hiking early in the morning at Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park

🚗 190 miles ⏱️ 3 hours, 40 minutes

See the quirky Joshua trees and rugged rock formations at Joshua Tree. Explore the park's unique desert landscape, hike among towering Joshua trees, and marvel at the stunning rock formations and star-filled night skies.

We also recommend checking out Mojave National Preserve and Mojave Trails National Monument on your way to Joshua Tree National Park.

Toroweap point at sunrise, Grand Canyon National Park.

Grand Canyon National Park

🚗 280 miles ⏱️ 4 hours, 40 minutes

The Grand Canyon National Park is a bucket list-worthy destination, even if it is your second or tenth time being there. With its awe-inspiring views and epic hiking trails, this natural wonder will leave you speechless.

On this drive, you can also stop at Kingman to learn about this charming town's Route 66 heritage and visit Williams .

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, USA at sunset.

San Francisco

🚗 580 miles ⏱️ 8 hours, 40 minutes

San Francisco is full of iconic sights like the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. Explore its diverse neighborhoods, enjoy the cultural diversity, and sample the fantastic farm-to-fork food.

On your way to San Francisco, you can also have some urban fun at Bakersfield and Fresno and can detour to Sequoia National Park .

Red Rock Country near Sedona, Arizona

🚗 390 miles ⏱️ 7 hours, 50 minutes

Sedona has the perfect mixture of outdoor adventure and cultural experiences. Explore red rock formations, hike scenic trails, and enjoy breathtaking views of Oak Creek Canyon and the surrounding desert landscape.

You can also visit the majestic Hoover Dam and then spend some time or have a meal at the cute town of Prescott en route.

Giant Sequoias Forest. Sequoia National Park in California Sierra Nevada Mountains, USA.

Sequoia National Park

🚗 380 miles ⏱️ 6 hours

Walk among the giants at Sequoia National Park and marvel at the majestic giant sequoias, towering mountains, and pristine wilderness of the Sierra Nevada. Explore hiking trails and visit scenic overlooks.

On the way to Sequoia National Park, you can also check out Bakersfield and Visalia if you have extra time.

Downtown San Diego skyline in California, USA at sunset

🚗 360 miles ⏱️ 6 hours, 15 minutes

If you are looking to spend some time at the beach, then San Diego is an amazing place to visit with the perfect weather of Southern California. Don't forget to visit the world-famous San Diego Zoo and the buzzing downtown.

For a scenic drive, you can opt to travel through Mojave National Preserve and make a short detour to Joshua Tree National Park .

Early morning at Yosemite Valley, view of the Three Brothers and their silhouette is mirrored on Merced River

Yosemite National Park

🚗 370 miles ⏱️ 6 hours, 20 minutes

Yosemite National Park is a nature lover's dream and a photography haven with its giant sequoias, towering waterfalls, and iconic granite cliffs. Hiking and rock climbing here are top-notch.

Some incredible places you can visit en route to Yosemite are Death Valley National Park and beautiful Mammoth Lakes .

Downtown Salt Lake City skyline Utah in USA

Salt Lake City

🚗 420 miles ⏱️ 6 hours

With a stunning mountain backdrop and historic Temple Square, Salt Lake City is great for outdoor adventures of Utah and exploring its history. Take some time to explore the Great Salt Lake and hike in the Wasatch Mountains.

If you have a little more time, we recommend making detours to the stunning Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks en route.

Sunset in the Sonoran Desert, Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix and Scottsdale

🚗 305 miles ⏱️ 4 hours, 45 minutes

Leave the neon lights behind and head to the stunning desert landscapes of Phoenix and nearby Scottsdale. If you are looking to spend your time outdoors, you can explore desert trails and soak up the sunshine in the Valley of the Sun.

As you make your way to Phoenix, you can also visit the engineering marvel of Hoover Dam and Kingman , a popular Route 66 stop.

Monument Valley, USA with a scenic road leading to Monument Valley against a blue sky.

Monument Valley

🚗 395 miles ⏱️ 6 hours, 20 minutes

You might recognize the imposing landscape of Monument Valley because it has been featured in so many movies. Here, you can have your own adventure and admire the red rock formations and visit these filming locations.

This scenic drive will take you past the rugged rock landscapes of Zion National Park and Pipe Spring National Monument on the way.

Panoramic view of the red rocks of Delicate Arch in Arches National Park in Moab, Utah

Arches National Park

🚗 540 miles ⏱️ 9 hours, 50 minutes

Discover Utah's red rock country. With over 2,000 natural stone arches, Arches National Park is a wonderland of breathtaking views and fantastic hikes. Make sure to add visiting the famous Delicate Arch to your itinerary.

This road trip wouldn't be complete without also visiting Zion National Park , Dixie National Forest and Bryce Canyon National Park .

Beautiful views across Pyramid Lake. Nevada

Pyramid Lake

🚗 440 miles ⏱️ 7 hours

Pyramid Lake is really a hidden gem with unique tufa formations and peaceful beauty far from the crowds, which make it a great spot for fishing, kayaking, and relaxing by the water at your own pace.

On the way, we recommend taking some time to visit the mining town of Goldfield and the scenic landscape of Walker Lake .

Boise, Idaho, USA taken with trees in the foreground in fall, the downtown city in the background and taken on a sunny day.

🚗 630 miles ⏱️ 9 hours, 40 minutes

For a city with the heart of a charming small town, Boise is the ideal destination to visit from Las Vegas. The Gem State's capital is surrounded by beautiful scenery, which will make it all the alluring to spend the entire day outside!

If you'd like, you can also spend some time visiting Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge and Twin Falls on this drive.

Red rock formations in the distance on a sunny day

Red Cliffs National Conservation Area

🚗 125 miles ⏱️ 1 hour, 50 minutes

Another hidden gem in Southern Utah, Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, is dotted with gorgeous red rock landscapes, scenic trails of all levels, and fascinating petroglyphs. You can even go mountain biking here.

There are so many amazing detours you can do on this drive including Valley of Fire State Park and Bloomington Petroglyph Park .

Napa Valley

🚗 645 miles ⏱️ 11 hours, 30 minutes

This road trip is a foodie's dream come true, where you can explore the world-class wineries and culinary offerings of California's premier wine region. Discover vineyards, enjoy wine tastings, and savor farm-to-table cuisine.

This drive is one for the books with the stunning Yosemite National Park and Lake Tahoe located directly en route.

Mojave National Preserve, California, USA with Joshua trees and spring wildflowers on a sunny day.

Mojave National Preserve

🚗 70 miles ⏱️ 1 hour

Escape to the Mojave National Preserve for some peace and quiet. You can explore sand dunes, volcanic cinder cones, and Joshua tree forests in this desert gem.

If you are a popular history or movie fan, you can visit the famous Bonnie and Clyde's Death Car in Primm en route.

London Bridge in Lake Havasu City, Arizona at sunrise, with boats moored at the jetty

Lake Havasu

🚗 155 miles ⏱️ 2 hours, 30 minutes

Looking for fun on the water? Lake Havasu is your spot! This desert oasis is known for the London Bridge, and it's a great destination for boating, fishing, and simply relaxing by the lake.

If you are not in a hurry to reach Lake Havasu, you can also visit the Dead Mountains Wilderness Area and Havasu National Wildlife Refuge .

Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

🚗 215 miles ⏱️ 3 hours, 20 minutes

With stunning geological formations and slot canyons, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument is a paradise for hikers and photographers. You will discover slot canyons, arches, and towering mesas here.

Make sure to add the incredible Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks to your itinerary on this road trip.

Bryce Canyon Panorama -Sunset Point, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, USA.

Bryce Canyon National Park

🚗 260 miles ⏱️ 4 hours

Bryce Canyon National Park is famous for the rugged beauty of its iconic hoodoos and rock formations. You will find scenic viewpoints and hike along trails in this beautiful national park.

On your way, you can also pay Zion National Park a visit or even extend your drive to make a detour to Dixie National Forest .

Ornate facade of the San Xavier Del Bac Mission in Tucson, Arizona on a clear sunny day

🚗 415 miles ⏱️ 6 hours, 20 minutes

Tucson's mix of gorgeous desert landscapes and cultural attractions make it the perfect place to visit if you are looking for laid-back urban vibes surrounded by beautiful scenery.

This sunny drive will take you through the urban cityscape of Phoenix and past Saguaro National Park before Tucson.

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park

🚗 465 miles ⏱️ 6 hours, 30 minutes

Canyonlands' dramatic desert landscape, carved by the Colorado River, is ideal for hiking, camping, and off-road adventures. Enjoy the towering rock formations and colorful canyons.

On the way, you can make stops at Zion National Park, Moab and Arches National Park among many other amazing places to discover.

Colorful historic Route 66 Store in Seligman, Arizona, on a sunny day with a vintage police car parked outside

🚗 200 miles ⏱️ 3 hours, 10 minutes

This is an amazing getaway to learn more about the history of the legendary Route 66. Step in the nostalgia of the "Mother Road" in Seligman and enjoy this quirky town that offers fun stops and a slice of Americana.

To make justice to this Route 66 -themed road trip, we recommend also visiting another popular stop on Mother Road, Kingman .

Historic metal marker on composite rock base monument for the National Pony Express Centennial

Virginia City

🚗 430 miles ⏱️ 6 hours, 40 minutes

Don your best cowboy outfit and explore the Wild West in Virginia City. With the town's historic buildings and old mines, and lively events, you will feel like you have stepped back in time to the gold rush era.

There are many cute towns and intriguing locales you can visit on this drive, including the mining town of Goldfield and Tonopah .

Beatty and Rhyolite

🚗 120 miles ⏱️ 1 hour, 50 minutes

If you are a history buff or love quirky adventures, you should visit the historic mining town of Rhyolite and the nearby ghost town of Beatty. Discover abandoned buildings, art installations, and remnants of the area's mining history.

To make the best of this road trip, you can make a detour to Spring Mountains National Recreation Area .

Close up shot of the Welcome to Minden Nevada road sign located on Highway 395, pictured on a sunny day

Minden and Gardnerville

🚗 430 miles ⏱️ 7 hours

For a quiet getaway from the hustle and bustle of Sin City, head to the beautiful small towns of Minden and Gardnerville. Located in Nevada's Carson Valley, you can enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, fishing, and stunning mountain scenery.

Some of the places you can also visit en route include Goldfield , Tonopah and Walker Lake .

The Historic Railroad Station in Caliente, Nevada with hills in the background and and iron fence at the front

Alamo and Caliente

🚗 150 miles ⏱️ 2 hours, 30 minutes

If you are looking for a day trip or a short drive, this road trip to the pretty towns of Alamo and Caliente is the perfect adventure. You will find fabulous hot springs, pristine wilderness and an amazing time in the great outdoors.

If you love quirky things and roadside attractions, we recommend checking out ET Highway Rest Area and Alien Research Center en route.

Wooden-fronted Brown-Parker Auto Co Garage, an historic building in Goldfield, Nevada

🚗 185 miles ⏱️ 2 hours, 45 minutes

Goldfield is an amazing place to explore for history buffs and curious travelers. This historic mining town has an interesting past and rustic charm. Here, you will find abandoned buildings, historic sites, and remnants of the area's mining history.

On your way to Goldfield, you can also pay Beatty and Ghost Town of Rhyolite a visit.

Longer road trips from Las Vegas

San Miguel Chapel Mission - an adobe church building in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

🚗 750 miles ⏱️ 11 hours, 40 minutes

Santa Fe is a fantastic destination to admire historic adobe architecture, visit art galleries, and savor authentic Southwestern cuisine.

Colorful pool in the national park with smoke rising above it

Yellowstone National Park

🚗 740 miles ⏱️ 10 hours, 30 minutes

Yellowstone National Park is a truly magical place with beautiful geothermal pools, hot springs, majestic geysers and fascinating wildlife.

The Statue of Liberty free of tourists and New York City Downtown on sunny early morning

New York City

🚗 2,600 miles ⏱️ 39 hours

There's always something exciting happening in New York, with iconic landmarks like Times Square and the Statue of Liberty waiting for you to explore.

Airborne view of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

🚗 1,330 miles ⏱️ 22 hours, 30 minutes

A road trip to Canada's West Coast gem will let you enjoy the perfect mix of urban fun and scenic outings, such as an afternoon in Stanley Park.

Seattle skyline panorama at sunset as seen from Kerry Park, Seattle, WA

🚗 1,175 miles ⏱️ 19 hours, 25 minutes

Take an epic drive to the Emerald City and explore Pike Place Market, visit the Space Needle, and enjoy panoramic views of the Puget Sound.

Denver, Colorado, USA  taken as a panorama of Denver skyline long exposure at twilight.

🚗 750 miles ⏱️ 11 hours

Colorado's capital city is surrounded by stunning Rocky Mountains with tons of outdoor adventures, and is home to many museums and art galleries.

Lifeguard Tower in South Beach, Miami Beach, Florida

🚗 2,765 miles ⏱️ 40 hours

For the ultimate beach getaway, head to Miami and work on your tan in South Beach or simply enjoy people-watching and its amazing nightlife.

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Bella Hadid Wears the Naked Dress to End All Naked Dresses

By Hannah Jackson

Image may contain Bella Hadid Adult Person Camera Electronics Clothing Footwear Shoe High Heel and Accessories

Anthony Vaccarello finally figured out how to reproduce his collection of ultra-sheer pantyhose dresses. Bella Hadid hit Cannes in look seven from the Saint Laurent fall 2024 show: a halter dress featuring 10 denier hosiery cups, a knotted pantyhose bodice, and a below-the-knee skirt with a control top hemline.

Image may contain Bella Hadid Person Standing Fashion Adult Clothing Footwear High Heel Shoe Dress and Accessories

Hadid, styled by Molly Dickson, leaned into the Old Hollywood glamour that has become synonymous with the Cannes Film Festival, adding a pair of mahogany peep-toe ankle strap heels and an enormous pair of drop earrings from Chopard.

Image may contain Bella Hadid Clothing Formal Wear Suit Person Adult Footwear Shoe Accessories Glasses and Dress

This look fits into Hadid’s latest sartorial M.O. of sheer earthy tones that can only be described as “sexy nymph.” While promoting her fragrance, Orebella, in New York, the model wore a diaphanous nude Dior slip dress by John Galliano, as well as a cream-colored Rokh dress with a lace bodice. And yesterday in Cannes, she further explored brown tones in a simple tank dress . But this look—with only some extremely well-placed seams preserving her modesty—is by far her boldest to date.

Image may contain Bella Hadid Adult Person Camera Electronics Wedding Paparazzi Face and Head

When asked about how he would manufacture these ephemeral pieces from the collection, Vaccarello told Vogue, “Don’t even ask me about production—I can’t tell you.” This being the first instance the delicate outfits have been spotted on the red carpet speaks to Hadid’s risk-taking style. Even if she is the only person who ever wears one of these sheer Saint Laurent looks out in the world (let’s see if she can make it to the end of the night without any snags) the fact that Vaccarello was readily willing to make one for her speaks to Hadid’s immense power in the fashion industry.

And if this is Hadid’s wardrobe for her first official day of events in Cannes? We can only imagine what’s to come.

More Great Fashion Stories from Vogue

Lily Collins Has Found a French-Girl Alternative to the Adidas Samba

Meghan Markle’s New Look Is Taking Shape for Spring

Angelina Jolie Will Wear This Pair of Shoes Anywhere—Even a Shopping Run

Katie Holmes’s Baggy Slip Dress Is a Lazy Girl’s Shortcut to Cool

Goodbye, Manolos! Sarah Jessica Parker’s Unlikely Summer Shoe Is a Clog

Rihanna Gives a ’90s Coat a Totally 2024 Feel

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Greta's Travels

Great Ocean Road 2-Day Itinerary: The BEST Self Drive Itinerary

Posted on Last updated: April 9, 2024

Are you planning a 2-day Great Ocean Road itinerary, but not sure where to start? You’ve come to the right place!

The Great Ocean Road is one of those dream destinations that you always hear about but never think you could actually visit one day, kind of like Uluru or the Great Barrier Reef.

My Australia trip was all about ticking off dream destinations from my travel bucket list, and considering my best friend was based in Melbourne for 6-week for an internship, how could we not explore the Great Ocean Road?

We did a weekend road trip on the Great Ocean Road since she then had to be back at work Monday morning, and found it to be the perfect amount of time to see all the main stops on the Great Ocean Road.

This Great Ocean Road 2-day itinerary will show you all the best things to do and the best places to stop at when you do a Great Ocean Road self-drive road trip.

  • 1 Our Great Ocean Road self drive itinerary
  • 2 Great Ocean Road road trip – self drive or with a tour?
  • 3.1 Set off from Melbourne early
  • 3.2 Stop in Torquay
  • 3.3 Visit Bells Beach
  • 3.4 Great Ocean Road sign
  • 3.5 Stop in Lorne for lunch
  • 3.6 Erskine Falls
  • 3.7 Sunset at the Twelve Apostles
  • 3.8 Sleep in Apollo Bay
  • 4.1 Hopetoun Falls
  • 4.2 Triplet Falls
  • 4.3 Otway Fly Treetop Adventures
  • 4.4 Gibson Steps
  • 4.5 Loch Ard Gorge
  • 4.6 Sunset at Bay of Islands
  • 4.7 Have dinner in Peterborough
  • 4.8 Drive back to Melbourne
  • 5 Some road trip essentials

Driving on the Great Ocean Road, Australia

Driving on the Great Ocean Road, Australia

Our Great Ocean Road self drive itinerary

Before jumping straight into the explanation of the best places to stop at during this road trip, I wanted to include a map of our Great Ocean Road self-drive itinerary and of the key attractions.

The geographer in me sometimes makes a come back and finds it easier to make sense of a trip or location if I have a map to look at.

The whole length of the Great Ocean Road is 664km, drivable in around 9.5 hours if you were to do it without stops. The itinerary I have outlined will take 2 days and is optimal for weekend trips.

| READ MORE: YOUR PERFECT AUSTRALIA BUCKET LIST |

Map of the Great Ocean Road attractions and our road trip route

Map of the Great Ocean Road attractions and our road trip route

Great Ocean Road road trip – self drive or with a tour?

I know this is a Great Ocean Road self-drive itinerary, but before diving into the meat of the itinerary, I wanted to give you some options for popular tours you can join.

Self-drive road trips aren’t for everyone. Whether you don’t like driving or don’t like having to plan itineraries, guided tours are a very common choice amongst many travellers.

Hence why there are so many Great Ocean Road tours from Melbourne. I have listed below some of the most popular, which I recommend joining if you don’t fancy driving.

From Melbourne: Ultimate 2-Day Great Ocean Road Tour   – This would be my top choice if I was joining a tour. It covers all the main stops in this itinerary, and includes accommodation during the trip.

You don’t have to worry about getting around, booking accommodation or where to eat. Everything is arranged for you, just sit back, relax, and enjoy the beauty of the Great Ocean Road!

Click here to see prices and availability for a 2-day Great Ocean Road tour!

From Melbourne: Great Ocean Road Full-Day Trip – Personally, I recommend spending at least one night on the Great Ocean Road, as there are so many cool things to do.

However, if you don’t have long in your Australia itinerary, you can also discover it on a day trip. This is the most popular and highly reviewed one online, so you can trust they know what they’re doing.

Click here to book your Great Ocean Road day trip from Melbourne!

Getting up close to Hopetoun Falls, Great Otway National Park, Australia

Getting up close to Hopetoun Falls, Great Otway National Park, Australia

Great Ocean Road itinerary – Day 1

Set off from melbourne early.

We woke up bright and early on Saturday morning, as we had to pick up our rental car in Melbourne first and we knew it could take some time.

Once we had all the paperwork sorted we hit the road with our rental car, excited to finally be enroute to the Great Ocean Road.

Stop in Torquay

Torquay is a small seaside town that is also the official start of the Great Ocean Road. We drove through the town and went straight to the esplanade to enjoy the beach vibes.

We were there in April, which is the Aussie autumn so the beaches weren’t too busy, however if you’re visiting in summer be ready to find them packed with surfers and beach goers.

I would have loved to do a surf class somewhere along the Great Ocean Road, but it wasn’t really the right season and we were a bit short on time.

If you’re visiting in summer and want to spend more time by the sea than chasing waterfalls inland, definitely add some surf time to your itinerary.

Click here to book your surf class in Torquay!

Epic views along the Great Ocean Road, Australia

Epic views along the Great Ocean Road, Australia

Visit Bells Beach

Pretty soon after you set off from Torquay you will come across Bells Beach, a world famous surfing spot.

Bells Beach hosts every year since 1962 the Rip Curl Pro, the world’s longest running surfing competition. It’s a pretty big destinations for surfers basically.

For non surfers you can walk along the edge of the cliffs on the wooden walkways and watch the surfers on the waves far below, or head down the steep steps and walk along the beach.

Even if you don’t surf it’s still a very scenic beach and a lovely spot for a walk.

Bell's Beach, Australia

Bell’s Beach, Australia

Great Ocean Road sign

Because an iconic road trip wouldn’t really be quite as iconic without a big sign to point it out right? 

The Great Ocean Road is often considered one of the most beautiful roads in the world , and it’s easy to see why! After this sign, you officially start your road trip along this iconic road!

There’s a small parking area close to it, I guess they knew people would want photos of it and prepared accordingly!

There’s also a path that will take you to the beach if you want to go for a dip in the sea or just walk on the beach.

The Great Ocean Road sign

The Great Ocean Road sign

Stop in Lorne for lunch

Lorne is a small town along the Great Ocean Road and the perfect spot to stop for lunch after a morning of driving.

Along the Great Ocean Road and seaside you will find a row of cute coffee shops, restaurants and pubs with outdoors seating space.

We parked close to the sea and wandered around for a bit until eventually settling on a classic Aussie burger for lunch.

If you’re not in a rush you can spend some more time wandering around the town and shops before hitting the road again.

Erskine Falls

Wherever I go, if the location allows it, I love to go waterfall chasing. The areas that surround the Great Ocean Road are full of forests, national parks and waterfalls that you can explore.

Since we only had two days we decided to focus on the ones that we thought seemed most spectacular. For our first day on the Great Ocean Road we went to Erskine Falls; a 30-metre waterfall that cascades into a deep gully.

There are two viewing platforms, one at the top of the falls that gives you a view over the falls and river below, and the other at the base.

The walk to the base is pretty steep but not unreasonably long, we found that it wasn’t too challenging physically.

We were there in dry season so unfortunately there wasn’t much water falling, but it was a pretty stunning surrounding nonetheless.

Erskine Falls in Australia

Erskine Falls in Australia

Sunset at the Twelve Apostles

The Twelve Apostles are probably one of the most iconic sights in Australia and on the Great Ocean Road. The Twelve Apostles are huge limestone formations just off the shore of Port Campbell National Park.

Their proximity to each other and the coast is what makes it so particular and attractive to the hundreds of tourists that come every day to visit it. It’s an especially popular sunset spot.

Since we left Erskine Falls quite late and were afraid we would miss the sunset we actually decided to drive inland and not on the Great Ocean Road (not the most coherent decision for a Great Ocean Road trip!) but the road is considerably shorter and saved us loads of time, allowing us to arrive in time for sunset.

Sunset at the Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road, Port Campbell National Park, Australia

Sunset at the Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road, Port Campbell National Park, Australia

There is a parking lot just by the Twelve Apostles from which you can then easily walk to the viewing platforms.

There is a long wooden walkway dotted with viewing decks so that you can enjoy the view from different parts of the coast.

It was extremely busy when we visited so if you want to get a good spot to take photos, make sure to get there well before sunset.

If instead of doing a self-drive overnight trip you decide to join a tour, make sure to join a tour like this Full-Day Sunset Tour . Sunset at the Twelve Apostles is one of the highlights of this road trip, you don’t want to miss it!

Click here to book your Great Ocean Road Full-Day Sunset Tour from Melbourne!

Sunset at the Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road, Port Campbell National Park, Australia

Sleep in Apollo Bay

Once the sun was done we set off and drove back on the Great Ocean Road to Apollo Bay, where we stayed for the night.

Apollo Bay is one of the most popular stops and main towns on the Great Ocean Road so you will find a lot of other backpackers and road trippers like you at the pubs and restaurants.

The town itself isn’t huge, with only one main road of bars and restaurants, which makes it easy to find somewhere to stop for dinner.

There are lots of great AirBnbs on the Great Ocean Road , which are perfect if you’re travelling with friends. We slept at the BIG4 Apollo Bay Pisces Holiday Park .

We had a cute little bungalow with an outdoors patio area. The bungalow was spacious, clean and in a great location to continue our Great Ocean Road adventures. It’s perfect also for families.

Check out the latest prices and availability at the BIG4 Apollo Bay Pisces Holiday Park!

Getting up close to Hopetoun Falls, Great Otway National Park, Australia

Great Ocean Road itinerary – Day 2

Hopetoun falls.

We set off from Apollo Bay early in the morning as we had another packed day ahead of us.

We made it to Hopetoun Falls, the first stop of our day, by 8AM and were pleasantly surprised to find we were the only ones there.

The walk from the parking lot is pretty steep but it’s an easy trail, with wooden steps in the steepest parts.

When you make it to the bottom you will find a viewing platform from which you can look up and admire the three jets that form this waterfall.

Hopetoun Falls is probably one of the most beautiful waterfalls I’ve seen, and the fact we were the only ones there added to the beauty of it.

Hopetoun Falls, Great Otway National Park, Australia

Hopetoun Falls, Great Otway National Park, Australia

Triplet Falls

As you may have imagined by now, we kind of had a thing for waterfalls on this trip.

A short 15-minute drive from Hopetoun Falls you will find Triplet Falls. Triplet Falls, as the name suggests, is a group of three waterfalls that you can visit in the Great Otway National Park.

There is a walking trail that starts at the parking lot, takes you to see all the three waterfalls and return via a loop to the parking lot.

The whole walk is very picturesque, even when you’re not approaching the waterfalls but just walking through the woods. The whole walk will probably take you around one hour.

Triplet Falls in the Great Otway National Park, Australia

Triplet Falls in the Great Otway National Park, Australia

Otway Fly Treetop Adventures

There isn’t too much driving involved this morning, since after visiting these two epic waterfalls you can head straight to Otway Fly Treetop Adventures , a short drive away from Triplet Falls.

This is an area of the Great Otway National Park where you can see up close the treetops of this rainforest, whether it’s with the treetop walk or with a zipline tour.

We settled for the treetop walk as we didn’t have time for the full zip-lining tour (it lasts 2.5 hours).

We did the rainforest and treetop walk which is around 2km and takes around 1 hour to complete. The entry ticket is 25 AUD.

The treetop walk at Otway Fly Treetop Adventures, Otway Natural Park, Australia

The treetop walk at Otway Fly Treetop Adventures, Otway Natural Park, Australia

All throughout the walk there are signs with information about the local flora and fauna, while they are geared more towards children they are still interesting to read while doing the walk.

The walkway goes up to 25m getting you up close to the tree tops, if you’re a bit scared of heights you might not want to look down!

There is also a coffee shop where you can have lunch after all the walking around of the morning and before you hit the road again.

Click here to book your discounted zip-line experience at Otway Fly Treetop Adventures!

The treetop walk at Otway Fly Treetop Adventures, Great Otway National Park, Australia

The treetop walk at Otway Fly Treetop Adventures, Great Otway National Park, Australia

Gibson Steps

Gibson Steps is one of those spots where you can get off the cliffs and down to the beach. There are 86 steps that descend the 70m of the cliffside.

The steps are quite steep and narrow but it’s not a particularly challenging walk down (the walk up on the other hand is slightly tougher).

Even if it was too cold to swim in the sea (and with waves that big I would have avoided it regardless) the beach is very pretty and with the towering cliffs behind it makes for a very picturesque location for a walk on the beach.

Going down the Gibson Steps

Going down the famous Gibson Steps

Loch Ard Gorge

After the Twelve Apostles one of the most famous stops on the Great Ocean Road is Loch Ard Gorge. We drove there straight from Gibson Steps which are a short 5-minute drive away along the sea.

From the parking lot of Loch Ard Gorge there are multiple wooden walkways that take you to different spots along the coast so that you can enjoy the view over the cliffs from different angles.

My personal favourite was the walk down to the beach inside Loch Ard Gorge, since being at the base of these huge cliffs really has a way of making you feel small.

The view over Loch And Gorge from the viewing platforms, Australia

The view over Loch And Gorge from the viewing platforms, Australia

Inside Loch Ard Gorge, Great Ocean Road, Australia

Inside Loch Ard Gorge, Great Ocean Road, Australia

Sunset at Bay of Islands

Since one epic sunset over the sea and staggering cliffs isn’t enough, I figured it was best to add another one in this weekend itinerary.

The Bay of Islands isn’t as famous as the Twelve Apostles however it has nothing to envy to its more popular neighbour.

The Bay of Islands is still a part of the Port Campbell National Park and is a short 30-minute drive away from Loch Ard Gorge along the Great Ocean Road.

From the parking lot it’s a short walk to the viewing platforms, which you’ll find considerably less busy than the Twelve Apostles.

There’s a whole trail set out with wooden boards that you can walk along to enjoy the sunset from different spots along the coast.

Sunset over the Bay of Islands, Australia

Sunset over the Bay of Islands, Australia

Have dinner in Peterborough

The sun has set and it’s time to get ready for heading back home, but not before one last stop on the Great Ocean Road.

We stopped for dinner in Peterborough as it’s very close to the Bay of Islands and has lots of good choices for restaurants and pubs.

The town is also very picturesque with a chilled vibe if you want to walk around and explore after dinner.

Drive back to Melbourne

We chose to drive back to Melbourne via the inland route, as it’s considerably quicker than on the Great Ocean Road along the coast.

We figured since we’d spent the weekend road tripping along the Great Ocean Road and we’d seen all the main highlights, we could avoid the scenic route on the way back.

If you’re trying to get back to Melbourne at a reasonable time on Sunday night so that you can go to work on Monday morning, I would recommend this approach and itinerary.

If you’re not in a rush to get back to Melbourne and want to explore more of Australia, you can easily continue your road trip to South Australia!

Just continue driving on to the Limestone Coast and continue your Aussie adventure!

Exploring the Great Otway National Park, Australia

Exploring the Great Otway National Park, Australia

Some road trip essentials

Before ending this post I thought I’d include some information to help you plan a road trip in Australia and essential items that I like to bring on every road trip with me (or just any trip in general).

Some essentials that never miss from my suitcase include:

Fast drying towel : I like to carry a fast drying towel with me because whether I decide to go for a surf and swim in the sea, or the hostel doesn’t provide one I prefer to have one always on me.

They dry super quick and take up little space so they’re easy to carry around.

Reusable water bottle : There’s a lot of walking around involved in this itinerary, so you want to make sure you stay well hydrated throughout the two days.

Since tap water is drinkable in Australia you’re better off taking a reusable water bottle with you and refilling whenever you have the chance. Bottled water isn’t expensive but when you add them all it can save you a fair bit.

Power bank :   Yes I spend too much time on my phone, there’s no denying that. That’s why I always travel with a power bank.

I like to say it’s my job to be on my phone but really, when a sunset looks as good as the one at the Twelve Apostles did, you can’t help but take all the photos, boomerangs and videos that battery will allow.

Gibson Steps seen from the beach

Gibson Steps seen from the beach

Final thoughts on my Great Ocean Road self drive itinerary

Have you been on a road trip on the Great Ocean Road? How did you find it? Let me know in the comments below!

The Great Ocean Road is an iconic road trip, similar to doing a Road to Hana one day itinerary . It’s one of those bucket list destinations. For me, seeing the sunset at the Twelve Apostles was a bucket list dream come true.

Alongside Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef , it’s one of those sights I just had to see in Australia.

If you’ve done other stops on the Great Ocean Road that I haven’t included let me know, I’d love to expand this list with all the must-see spots on the Great Ocean Road.

This is the exact 2-day itinerary that we followed on our trip, I hope you will find it useful in planning your own Great Ocean Road driving itinerary.

If you’re looking for more travel inspiration for weekends away from Melbourne, check out the best things to do in Echuca .

Looking for more Australia travel inspiration? Check out these guides:

  • Discover the most beautiful walk in Sydney!
  • Are these the prettiest rock pools in Australia?
  • How to spend 3 days in Fraser Island
  • The ultimate Sydney 3-day itinerary
  • The most beautiful spots in Sydney
  • Day tour to Blue Mountains from Sydney
  • Daintree Rainforest tour from Cairns
  • Is doing a day trip to the Whitsundays worth it?
  • The ultimate Brisbane to Cairns road trip itinerary
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  • What to pack for a trip to the Australian outback

Enjoyed reading my Great Ocean Road 2-day driving itinerary? Pin it!

Photo collage of the Twelve Apostles at sunset and Loch Ard Gorge with text overlay saying

Abbie Evans

Wednesday 21st of November 2018

Some great advice and notes. Thank you for the tips :) - made planning my trip so much easier!

Saturday 24th of November 2018

Thanks for the comment, I'm glad you found it useful! :)

Chloe Southern

Friday 9th of November 2018

Thank you! I have wrote lots of notes for our road trip! Will report back on how we get on!

Thanks, glad you found it useful! Let me know how you find it! :)

Backpacking Australia ~ DIVE.in

Thursday 13th of September 2018

[…] to find work in Australia. One of the most scenic routes between the two cities would be via the Great Ocean Road, one of the most popular journeys tourists take Down Under. Just ensure you set aside a few days […]

Places in Bangalore Perfect for a Spontaneous Late-Night Road Trip

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Here is the list of 14 places in bangalore perfect for a spontaneous late-night road trip, 1. ramanagara | distance: 47 km.

Ramanagara | Distance: 47 km

Known For : Ramadevara Betta Ramnagara Hills Ramdevara Temple

Only 47 km drive from Bangalore, a night drive through the rocky hills scattered along with sparse trees is an adventure itself, also be ready for experiencing the wilderness with the sighting of unique species of vultures.

Best Time: November to February

7 Ramanagaram Attractions

2. Bannerghatta National Park | Distance: 36 km

Bannerghatta National Park | Distance: 36 km

Located 22 km away from Bangalore, the Bannerghatta National Park is an asylum for a large variety of flora and fauna. Spread over a massive area of around 104.27 sq. Km, this national park was established in the year 1971. The park itself has several establishments within its confines, which includes the country's first butterfly park as well. Other attractions here are ten Reserve Forests of Anekal Range of the Bangalore Forest Division, an aquarium, a zoo, Children's park, Crocodile Farm, Snake Park, Prehistoric Animals' Park and a museum. Go on a wild ride through the  Bannerghatta National Park and drive into the kingdom of nature. Keep your eye on the road just in case you witness any wildlife!

3. Nandi Hills | Distance: 61 km

Nandi Hills |  Distance:  61 km

Known For : Tipu's Drop Bhoga Nandeeshwara Temple Tipu's Summer Residence

Plan a late-night drive to the uphill journey of Nandi hills to welcome a mesmerising sunrise. Best for a night drive near Bangalore for some fun road trip with friends. It is often said that 'the best places are off the beaten path, and Nandi Hills is a clear testimony to that. Located around 60 kilometres away from Bangalore, Nandi Hills is one such tourist spot that has gradually been discovered by visitors over the years and has now become a popular weekend getaway. Situated at the height of 4851 feet above sea level, you can see a convoy of weekenders from Bangalore during early hours catching a glimpse of the sunrise.

Best Time: October to June

12 Nandi Hills Attractions

4. Kanakapura | Distance: 63 km

Kanakapura | Distance: 63 km

Imagine a relaxed drive with the sound of water falling in the distance and driving through the waterfalls on the roads! Kanakapura near Bangalore offers an excellent setting for a long journey. This place is a hidden gem bountiful in greenery and waterfalls. Kanakapura is home to abundant flora and fauna. Some of the most common animals that can be easily spotted are wild boars, pigs, wild dogs and spotted deers. A lot of colourful birds can be seen perched on the trees filling the emptiness with their melodious chirpings.

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Nature Escape from Bangalore to Chikmagalur

Best selling coorg holiday package from bangalore, historical hampi tour from bangalore, unforgettable ooty honeymoon package from bangalore, fun getaway from bangalore to mysore and ooty, essence of karnataka in 5 days, 5. anthargange | distance: 70 km.

Anthargange | Distance: 70 km

Great place for adventure seekers, a night drive to these formations of volcanic rocks on full moon night guarantees the best experience. You should plan a night road trip to Anthargange! It is situated in the Kolar district of Karnataka in the Shathashrunga range, about 70 km from Bangalore . The mountains at an altitude of 1712 meters from sea level with rocky boulders, small caves and dense plantations are one of the best getaways for trekking, rock climbing and cave exploration enthusiasts.

Best Time: October to March

2 Anthargange Attractions

6. Chunchi Falls | Distance: 90 km

Chunchi Falls | Distance: 90 km

A ride to one of the most beautiful waterfalls will take you closer to nature and mind-blowing scenic views. A night drive through the rocky valley offers you a thrilling and awe-inspiring experience. Chunchi falls, is an almost 50 feet high cascade of falls, which is fed by the river Arkavati. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful waterfalls near Bangalore; with routes adorned with lush greenery and gorgeous scenery. It is placed at around 83 km from Bangalore and offers a breathtaking experience; especially after the monsoon and during winter months. This spot is extremely popular as a picnic spot. It derived its name from a tribal couple, Chuncha and Chunchi. These falls are a perfect way to escape the grind, as they are tucked away from the commercialisation and are usually deserted.

7. Bheemeshwari | Distance: 103 km

 Bheemeshwari | Distance: 103 km

Known For : Cauvery Fishing Camp Doddamakali Nature Camp Boat Rides in Bheemeshwari

Bheemeshwari is a small town in Karnataka's Mandya district, with a soft background of the unembellished and true to life rural India, with bullock carts in place of noisy vehicles, mighty rivers instead of swimming pools and tall green trees in the area of skyscrapers. Ride away for all the chaos of the city to a beautiful, rural town of Bheemeshwari. Drive along with the Cauvery river into dense woods for some refreshing time. Away from the cruel concrete circus of the city, Bheemeshwari is the perfect getaway for a short trip from Bangalore, one that is close to nature, in the most real sense of the word. It has long been known as a paradise for fishing enthusiasts, with some fishing camps set amidst the area.

Best Time: Throughout the year

8 Bheemeshwari Attractions

8. Skandagiri | Distance: 60 km

 Skandagiri | Distance: 60 km

Drive to Skangiri under the moonlight at the height of 1450 m and unravel the beauty of ruined forts on the way! If you thought that trekking is an activity only to be done in the morning, you are undoubtedly wrong. Skandagiri, a hilltown near Bangalore, allows you to trek and explore the hills in the night while the moon is casting its light.  Skandagiri, also known as Kalavara Durga, is at an elevation of 1450 meters surrounded by the Nandi Hills. The hill has a ruined fort on the way which makes the night trek even more interesting by adding the element of horror. And the best part is that you can spend the night at the hilltop under the star. Not to forget the bonfire that is specially lit for the trekkers to sit around and enjoy the warmth. The serenity of the night will make you feel at ease.

9. Savandurga | Distance: 50 km

Savandurga | Distance: 50 km

With the incredible views of greenery and one of the most significant single rock formation in the whole of Asia, you night drive to Savandurga will be full of adventure! Situated 60 kms to the west of Bangalore, Savandurga, considered to be one of the largest single rock formations in the whole of Asia. It comprises of two hills, Billigudda (white hill) and Karigudda (black hill) and has a temple situated at the foothill and a pond nearby.

Best Time: November to May

3 Savandurga Attractions

10. Makalidurga | Distance: 58 km

Makalidurga | Distance: 58 km

Perched at an elevation of 3664 feet, Makalidurga Fort is situated around 60 kms from Bangalore. You ascend the altitude of 3664 ft to reach Makalidurga Fort. You can take a detour to a Shiva Temple nearby for some spiritual experiences. Nestled between green hills, and graced with picturesque surroundings, the fort can be reached after a small trek. There is also a Lord Shiva temple in the fort vicinity; frequented by the locals.

11. Avalabetta | Distance: 91 km

 Avalabetta | Distance: 91 km

You wouldn't mind getting a little lost while driving to Avalabetta as it offers excellent roads with almost no crowd! Rising to the top to watch the sun rising through the mountains is something you cannot miss. Avalabetta often called as “Nandi Hills without the crowd” is a perfect place to relish the same scenic beauty as the Nandi Hills but without the commotion. Standing on the top of the hill, you can witness the magical view of lush green trees, and various rocky terrain spread out profusely. Avalabetta is filled with tranquillity, especially if you watch the sunrise or the sunset from here.

12. Turahalli Forest | Distance: 17 km

Turahalli Forest | Distance: 17 km

Drive into the untouched woods of Turahalli forest, for peaceful and scenic surroundings. Don't forget to take your cycles and sports shoes as it is a heaven for adventure seekers! Turahalli forest is located only 20 km from Bangalore. It is the best of a quick drive from Bangalore to get away from the bustling city. Even though it is dry, you will find many Eucalyptus trees will climbers and small plants here and there. As it offers wavy and rippled terrain, crowd heads here for cycling, trekking, biking over the weekend! Turahalli Forest is known for its quiet and untouched surroundings and offering beautiful views.

13. Bangalore Airport | Distance: 34 km

 Bangalore Airport | Distance: 34 km

Heading to Bangalore international airport is superb for late-night drives. Perfect for smooth and peaceful rides as there is quite a bit less traffic once you get out of the city. You can go on a shopping spree at the airport arcade as there are an array of branded outlets available. Bangalore Airport, also known as Kempegowda International Airport, is stretched in 4,000 acres of land. It is entirely solar-powered and first of its kind in the state. India's third-busiest airport is located away from the city, which makes the route quite scenic and peaceful with less traffic. It is located only 40 km from Bangalore.

14. Kolar | Distance: 65 km

Kolar | Distance: 65 km

Known for the large scale milk production and the gold mines, Kolar is only at 70 km from Bangalore. Road trips to Kolar offer delicious mangoes and high-quality silk for enthusiastic shoppers. One of the biggest milk producers in the country, Kolar is a Kannada district located towards southern Karnataka. Along with milk production, it is also known for the gold mines, Delicious mangoes and high-quality silk. Kolar's mangoes are in high demand in many foreign countries like the USA, the UAE and the UK. One can take a spiritual trip to some of the historical temples in Kolar. Immersed in positivity and beautiful architecture, these temples are also included as tourist attractions.

Now, you have all the places where you can plan your next road trip with your friends or family. What are you waiting for? Get on the roads and keep us updated!

This post was published by Mugdha Songire

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SEATTLE MARINERS

Kirby, Raleigh help Mariners avoid sweep with 5-2 victory over Rays

Jun 26, 2024, 12:21 PM | Updated: 1:00 pm

Seattle Mariners players celebrate vs. Rays...

Dominic Canzone of the Seattle Mariners reacts with Josh Rojas after scoring during a 2024 game. (Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

(Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

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BY MARK DIDTLER

The Associated Press

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — George Kirby allowed one run in six innings, Cal Raleigh hit a three-run homer and the AL West-leading Seattle Mariners avoided a three-game sweep by beating the Tampa Bay Rays 5-2 on Wednesday.

Seattle Mariners 5, Tampa Bay Rays 2: Box Score

Seattle went 3-6 on a trip to Cleveland, Miami and Tampa Bay and at 19-25 is the only division leader with a losing road record.

“It’s just good to end the road trip on a good note.” Kirby said. “Happy flight.”

Seattle closer Andrés Muñoz, who blew his second save in 15 chances on Monday, loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth on two walks and a hit by pitch with the Mariners ahead 5-1. Richie Palacios hit into a run-scoring forceout off Trent Thornton, who got his first big league save when Amed Rosario grounded into a game-ending double play.

“Muny didn’t feel good. today,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “Just the whole body stuff, and that happens once in a while. You could tell right away he wasn’t on top of his game. A ton of credit to Thorny.”

Kirby (7-5) scattered four hits and struck out seven, his sixth consecutive start giving up two runs or fewer.

How much did bumpy road trip hurt first-place Mariners?

Raleigh put Seattle up 3-1 with his 14th homer, a sixth-inning drive off Shawn Armstrong (2-2). The reliever walked the struggling Julio Rodríguez, who had three hits in his previous 32 at-bats, before Raleigh connected on a 422-foot drive to right.

J.P. Crawford made it 5-1 on a two-run single in the seventh.

“We had a bad trip,” Servais said, “It happens to the best teams in the league, and I do think we’re one of the best teams in the league.”

Yandy Díaz extended his career-best hitting streak to 19 games with a first-inning single, tying the Rays’ record set by Jason Bartlett in 2009.

Tampa Bay reached the midway point at 40-41 after losing for just the third time in 10 games. The Rays were 54-27 at the same point last season en route to an AL wild-card berth.

“We got work to do,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “I think that’s the easiest way to put it.”

Díaz also had a third-inning RBI infield single.

Kirby fielded Díaz’s chopper between the mound and the first-base line, but was unsuccessful in beating him to the bag with first baseman Ty France moving toward second on the play. José Caballero, who had doubled, scored from second base.

Rays starter Ryan Pepiot gave one run and one hit over 5 1/3 innings with eight strikeouts and two walks.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mariners: OF Luke Raley was a late scratch.

Rays: Rosario (facial lacerations) played for the first time since getting hit by a pitch on Saturday and went 0 for 4. … 2B Brandon Lowe (broken right pinky toe) was out of the lineup for the fourth straight game.

Mariners: RHP Logan Gilbert (5-4, 2.71 ERA) will start Friday night against Minnesota.

Rays: RHP Zach Eflin (3-5, 2.40 ERA) will face Washington on Friday night.

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Red Caboose Motel at Paradise Station in Lancaster Co. offers unique overnight stay

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RONKS, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- On this edition of One Tank Trips , Action News rode the train into Paradise Station.

Anyone taking a trip out to the one-of-a-kind station has the chance to stay overnight in one of its distinctive motel rooms.

The family-owned Red Caboose Motel at Paradise Station is located about an hour and a half from Philadelphia in Ronks, Lancaster County.

Action News Photojournalist Dave Edwards has more on the iconic destination in the video above.

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Election latest: Farage responds after Reform campaigner filmed making 'very prejudiced' comments

Nigel Farage has responded to footage from a Channel 4 report showing Reform campaigners using racist and homophobic language in Clacton - the constituency where the former UKIP leader hopes to be elected.

Thursday 27 June 2024 22:33, UK

  • General Election 2024

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  • Starmer defends plan for VAT on private schools
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  • Reform campaigner said migrants should be used as 'target practice'
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With our coverage here on the Politics Hub drawing to a close, here's everything you need to know as the election campaign entered its final week - and a sneak preview of what we have coming up tomorrow. 

  • Sir Keir Starmer  has told Sky News there is "no evidence" private schools will be forced to close due to  Labour's plans to impose VAT on them ;
  • Speaking to  Sky's Sophy Ridge,  the Labour leader defended his party's education policy to use the money to support state schools;
  • He also vowed to "hit the ground running" should he become prime minister, saying cutting NHS waiting lists would be Labour's first priority in government.
  • A Reform UK campaigner has been filmed saying migrants crossing the Channel should be used as "target practice";
  • In   footage recorded by a Channel 4 undercover reporter , the same campaigner used a racial slur against Rishi Sunak;
  • Another Reform figure was filmed making homophobic remarks ;
  • Party leader Nigel Farage has described comments in the footage as "very wrong".
  • Rishi Sunak  has refused to say if he told one of his closest parliamentary aides the date of the election  before he placed a bet on it ;
  • Craig Williams , who has now been suspended as the Conservative candidate in Montgomeryshire and Glyndwr,  admitted  he "committed a serious error of judgment" but "not an offence";
  • The  Metropolitan Police  have issued an update on their investigation into bets being placed on the date of the election - there are now  seven officers under investigation;
  • Meanwhile, Mr Sunak's most senior adviser in Downing Street has been interviewed in the investigation. Sources have emphasised to Sky News that he is not a suspect.

Join us tomorrow morning for a new episode of Sky's  Electoral Dysfunction   podcast - and this time we've got someone very much outside the Westminster bubble.

Joining our  political editor  Beth Rigby   and  Ruth Davidson  this week is none other than  Rylan Clark .

👉  Tap here to follow Electoral Dysfunction wherever you get your podcasts  👈

The next government is being urged to tackle an "appalling" rough sleeping crisis as new figures show a record high in London. 

A total of 11,993 people were seen rough sleeping in the capital in the year to March, according to the latest Combined Homelessness and Information Network (Chain) statistics.

That is the highest figure ever recorded on the database, and marks a 58% increase compared to 10 years ago.

The "appalling" increase reflects a "crisis, both in the capital and across the country", said Rick Henderson, chief executive of Homeless Link, the membership body for frontline homelessness services in England, which manages the Chain database.

He said the next government "must create a cross-government plan to prevent rough sleeping and homelessness through delivering genuinely affordable and secure homes quickly, whilst making sure there are a diverse range of properly-funded homelessness services to help people address the root causes of their destitution and move on from rough sleeping for good".

The St Mungo's homeless charity said the next government must "treat homelessness as an emergency and prioritise it in their first 100 days".

According to the latest available figures for England, published in February, the estimated number of people sleeping rough on a single night in autumn in 2023 was 3,898 - more than twice that of the figure in 2010.

Racist and homophobic remarks filmed as part of a Channel 4 investigation   during the Reform UK campaign were "inappropriate," chairman of the party Richard Tice has said. 

Speaking at a Reform UK event in Boston with party leader Nigel Farage, Mr Tice said: "We put a statement out and it's all self-explanatory in the statement.

"The reality is that we're a fast-growing movement, and when you've got unpaid volunteers, some people behave inappropriately. And they're gone."

In footage recorded by a Channel 4 undercover reporter, a Reform UK campaigner has been filmed saying migrants crossing the Channel should be used as "target practice".  He also used a racist slur against Rishi Sunak (see previous post).

Another Reform figure was filmed making homophobic remarks.

Mr Farage has described remarks in the footage as "very wrong".

A Reform UK campaigner has been filmed saying migrants crossing the Channel should be used as "target practice". 

In footage recorded by a Channel 4 undercover reporter , the same campaigner used a racial slur against Rishi Sunak. 

The clips were recorded in Clacton, where Reform leader Nigel Farage is a candidate. 

Responding to the footage, Mr Farage has said the comments were "very wrong".

"There was an activist that said some pretty unpleasant things," he said.

"Very very prejudiced, very wrong.

"He's somebody who turned up to help ... all political parties encourage volunteers."

He added that the campaigner in question would "not be welcome back" and that the two other figures featured in the footage would also no longer be working with the campaign. 

In the footage, the undercover reporter captured canvasser Andrew Parker talking about people coming ashore at Deal in Kent.

Mr Parker said: "Army recruitment - get the young recruits there, with guns, on the f****** beach, target practice. F****** just shoot them."

Mr Parker said in a statement, sent to Channel 4 News: "I would like to make it clear that neither Nigel Farage personally or the Reform Party are aware of my personal views on immigration."

He added: "I have never discussed immigration with either Nigel Farage or the Reform Party and that any comments made by me during those recordings are my own personal views on any subject I commented on. At no time before I was sent out to canvass did I discuss my personal views with any representative of the Reform Party UK or Nigel Farage."

Another Reform figure was filmed reacting to a Pride symbol on a passing police car.  

He says: "You see that f****** degenerate flag on the front bonnet? What are the old bill doing promoting that crap? They should be out catching nonces not promoting the f******."

The other candidates for the Clacton constituency are:

  • Jovan Owusu-Nepaul, Labour;
  • Matthew Bensilum, Lib Dems;
  • Craig Jamieson, Climate Party;
  • Tony Mack, independent;
  • Natasha Osben, Greens;
  • Tasos Papanastasiou, Heritage Party;
  • Andrew Pemberton, UKIP;
  • Giles Watling, Conservatives.

Our live poll tracker collates the results of opinion surveys carried out by all the main polling organisations - and allows you to see how the political parties are performing in the run-up to the general election.

With just a week to go, the Tories and Labour have taken a drop, while support for Reform UK and the Liberal Democrats is on the rise.

Read more about the tracker  here .

The panel discussion is now turning to the Conservative Party's election campaign. 

Sky's  election commentator  Adam Boulton   says it has been "dreadful", adding Rishi Sunak "hasn't brought anything to this campaign". 

A series of missteps have dominated the headlines from the outset when Mr Sunak announced the election in the pouring rain.

But as the campaign enters its final week there may now be a moment of respite for the Conservatives, Adam says. 

"Almost the best thing about this campaign is the most irritating for a lot of people," Adam says.

"He's timed it to coincide with the Euros, with Wimbledon, with Glastonbury, which actually means the last week, it'll have to be a pretty big gaffe for anyone to notice."

That brings tonight's Politics Hub With Sophy Ridge to an end - the show will return tomorrow with Ali Fortescue . In the meantime, stick with us here for more news and analysis through the evening.

By Ashna Hurynag , news correspondent

The battle for Scottish votes is all to play for.

An exclusive YouGov poll for Sky News has Labour on 35% in Scotland and the SNP on 29%.

The latter are closing the gap, but if all goes this way on the night, such a result would mean big gains for Labour.

But the biggest gutter punch is dealt to the Conservatives who YouGov has on 11% and level with the Lib Dems.

But attitudes change when voters consider where to cast their ballot in the 2026 Holyrood elections.

As of the 18 June, voter intentions shifted to 28% for the SNP, 24% Labour, 10% Conservatives and 7% for the Lib Dems.

This tells us Scots treat UK and Scottish elections differently. 

It also suggests the former creating an opportunity for a protest vote - a cry of frustration at 14 years of Tory governments at Westminster, or the firing of a warning shot at the SNP’s record after 17 years at Holyrood.

But so many are still undecided.

1,059 people over 16 were surveyed by YouGov between the 20 and 25 June, exclusively for Sky News, and 14% of people surveyed have changed how they plan to vote over the past four weeks.

Of those, 37% say it was down to how the parties and their leaders have conducted themselves.

The NHS and health care are the key issues, followed by the cost of living next, the economy in general, immigration, and Scottish independence.

Rishi Sunak's most senior adviser in Downing Street has been interviewed in the investigation into bets by Conservatives on the date of the general election.

Liam Booth-Smith, Downing Street chief of staff, was interviewed last week by senior Gambling Commission officials and questioned about who knew about the timing of the election.

Sources have emphasised to Sky News that Mr Booth-Smith is not a suspect in the gambling investigation and was interviewed as a witness and was "asked for help".

Described as the prime minister's most trusted ally, Mr Booth-Smith has worked for Mr Sunak since he was chancellor, when his fondness for leather jackets earned him the nickname "the Treasury Travolta".

According to a Gambling Commission insider, Mr Booth-Smith was interviewed by "senior officials within the Gambling Commission, more senior than investigators".

Sky News has also been told there are currently no plans to interview the prime minister as part of the investigation into bets on the election date.

Read more here:

Sir Keir Starmer's interview with Sophy Ridge hits on the central paradox of the Labour campaign, Sky's deputy political editor Sam Coates says. 

Sam says there is an "incredibly high level of ambition" in Labour's "chunky manifesto" and the "rhetoric couldn't be bigger".

And yet, "the first steps that take you to the missions are small". 

Sam adds that what we may discover should Labour form the next government is that "we don't know what the second and third and the fourth step are going to be". 

Sky's election commentator Adam Boulton adds that Sir Keir was "not overpromising in any area, but making it clear he has his priorities".

"I think people going to have to get used to this. He is going to be someone who sticks to his course," Adam adds.

"He's going to be quite deliberate in his approach."

Sophy ends the interview by asking Sir Keir which is more likely -  Labour winning the election or England winning the Euros. 

He replies: "Well, I can't have both I don't suppose?"

More seriously, he adds the "more important one is winning the election".

"But don't let that be any sort of reflection... I say get behind the team when it comes to England and the players."

Despite topping their group, some fans have been left disappointed by England's Euros performance.

Earlier, Sir Keir told Channel 5 News's Dan Walker he believes England will still be in the competition by the time the election comes round on 4 July.

He said England normally start "a bit wobbly in these competitions" but have a "brilliant set of players", adding that he's "backing them all the way".

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