The Only Two-Week Itinerary for California You Need
Explore Malibu shores, desert isolation, and the US’s weirdest castle with our California itinerary.
If you have two weeks to spare, there are much worse places to spend them than in California. But how, exactly, to spend them? Yes, you could choose to camp out in Yosemite for a fortnight, or spend those fourteen days exploring the bright lights of Hollywood – or you could take on the whole of the Golden State on a road trip to remember. Here, Plum Guide has put together a two-week California itinerary, and picked out some of the most perfect homes across the state.
Day 1: San Francisco
Our first stop in this California itinerary is San Francisco where you’ll be greeted by the sight of the Golden Gate Bridge, perhaps slightly obfuscated by Karl. Yes, San Francisco has named the fog cloud that frequently descends on the city; say hello if he’s here at the same time as you. Otherwise, let the just-as-famous cable car cart you around the city, visiting the LGBTQ neighbourhood of the Castro and the artsy Mission district. This is the city where the burrito is said to have been invented; several restaurants lay claim to the creation, but we’d head to the no-frills, James Beard-awarded La Taquiera for hefty portions and incredible flavour.
Day 2 - 5: Pacific Coast Highway
We hope you’ve fuelled up – and no, we’re not still talking about burritos. The Pacific Coast Highway really can’t be done in fewer than four days if you want to give yourself enough time for leisurely lunches on the beach and sightseeing stops along the way. As home aficionados, our favourite of the weird and wonderful sights along the highway has to be Hearst Castle, a 165-room behemoth built by the fabulously wealthy newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst in the 1900s. Is it gaudy? Undoubtedly. Would we give our left arm to live here? 100%. We suppose we’ll settle for a stay in this rather more understated Plum home along the Malibu coastline.
Other highlights along the road trip include the rugged coastline of Big Sur, the kitsch Santa Cruz boardwalk, and the appropriately named Elephant Seal Vista Point where you can see the lumbering seals so ugly they’re almost cute again. Whatever you choose to do along this iconic route, make sure you’re in charge of the soundtrack; there’s nothing worse than listening to someone else’s playlists for 1000km.
Day 6 - 8: LA
You could spend a month in the City of Angels and still leave without exploring even a fraction of this sprawling metropolis; but if you’re short on time, we think a long weekend in Los Angeles is the perfect time to take in some of the sites. On Day 6 of your California itinerary sunbathe beside the hippies on Venice Beach, explore a magnificent art collection at the Getty, and trek up to take pictures beside the Hollywood sign – go on, we know you want to. For a short city break, we recommend staying in the city’s achingly cool Art District (perhaps in an equally cool Plum home) where you can buy handmade pottery or take a class at Still Life Ceramics, tuck into a plate of the city’s best tacos at Guerrilla Tacos and sip craft beers and cocktails at Arts District Brewing Company.
Day 9 - 10: Joshua Tree
You’ll know when you’re getting close to Joshua Tree National Park by the change in landscape; with the bright lights of LA behind you, you’ll discover a strange world of twisted, bristly desert trees and ancient rock formations. It’s not hard to see the draw of Joshua Tree – there’s a sense of peace and tranquility here that will melt even the most cynical of hearts (we’re speaking for ourselves here). Put those phones away and watch the stars come out while you settle in for a very relaxing few days at this design-focused desert Plum home.
Day 11 - 12: Yosemite
Put your most confident driver behind the wheel for this stretch - the journey from Joshua Tree to Yosemite National Park is between seven and eight hours, depending on the route you take. Luckily, both of your options are incredibly scenic, though that’s where the similarities end. You can go through Sequoia National Park, where ancient redwoods tower 250m tall, or venture into Death Valley. Don’t be put off by the name - this stretch of desert may look bleak, but it’s one of the most beautiful landscapes in the state (stop at Zabriskie Point for breathtaking sunset views over the hilly badlands). Just make sure the car air conditioning works.
Yosemite National Park couldn’t be more different than the sparse deserts you’ve just come from - here you’ll find plunging waterfalls, lush green valleys, even more sequoias and the craggy El Capitan rock face made famous by nail-biting documentary Free Solo. The park is also full of wildlife and trying to spot a bear or a Bighorn sheep in the distance can provide endless hours of fun, though approaching either is ill-advised (don’t say we didn’t warn you). For an escape from the wilderness, head to Yosemite Village, where you can browse Ansel Adam’s black and white photography of the area and grab a fireside drink at the Mountain Room Lounge.
Day 13 - 14: Lake Tahoe
We believe that you should always feel refreshed and rejuvenated when coming home from a holiday, rather than so stressed you’re in need of another one. So for the final few days, you’re embracing all the rest and relaxation that the beautiful Lake Tahoe has to offer. Skiing, water sports, and hiking are all popular activities here but after two weeks of a packed itinerary in California, no one would judge you for simply sitting back and enjoying the hot tub views from this lakeside Plum home. Or at least, we won’t, and who else’s opinion really matters?