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The Best of Washington State in 10 Days

This itinerary takes you to the most distinctive and best of Washington State’s destinations: a towering peak, an ancient rain forest, a windswept coastline, a turquoise lake, a whale-friendly archipelago, and one of America’s most appealing cities. Because so much of your time is spent outdoors, this trip is best suited for travel between June and September, during the long and glorious days of the Pacific Northwest summer. It’s doable in May and October as well. In those months you get less sunshine and more rain, but you’ll have fewer crowds to contend with.

You can pick any region of this itinerary for a shorter, more focused trip. There are suggestions here for lodging, but, with the exception of Seattle, you can also choose to camp on most nights. Washington boasts abundant campgrounds, some of them in spectacular locations.

Seattle in 3 Days

front view of museum of flight in Seattle, Washington
The Museum of Flight. Photo © Matthew Lombardi.

Day 1

Depending on the logistics of your arrival, you may simply want to touch down in Seattle, have a good meal, and rest up. If you have time, head to the impressive Museum of Flight to the south of the central city on your way into town from Sea-Tac airport.

Day 2

Seattle is a big, dynamic city with enough historical and cultural attractions to keep you busy for a month. Today, get the classic sightseeing experience by visiting Pioneer Square, Pike Place Market, and Seattle Center, home of the Space Needle.

Day 3

Get off the tourist track to explore Seattle a little further. The city is a collection of colorful neighborhoods. If you only have time for one, make it Capitol Hill, which has fabulous restaurants, hopping nightlife, stately old mansions, and beautiful Volunteer Park. A little further afield, Ballard is also a great dining destination, as well as the site of Chittenden Locks, a feat of ambitious early-20th-century engineering that remains the crucial link in Seattle’s system of waterways.

Mount Rainier and the South Cascades in 2 Days

carpet of wildflowers with a view of Mt. Rainier
The Paradise area of Mt. Rainier National Park. Photo © Roman KhomlyakiStock.

Day 4

From Seattle a two-hour drive will get you to the White River entrance at the northeast corner of Mount Rainier National Park. A pretty, winding road climbs to the Sunrise area, a hub of park activity and the highest point on the mountain accessible by car. Get your bearings at the visitors center, have lunch at the cafeteria, and then head out for a couple of hours of alpine hiking.

In the late afternoon drive to the Crystal Mountain ski resort, where you’ll be spending the night. Take the gondola up to Summit House for dinner. It’s a pricey trip and the food is nothing special, but the spectacular view makes it all worthwhile: In one panorama, you take in Mounts Adams and St. Helens to the south and Baker to the north, with majestic Rainier front and center.

Day 5

Head back into the park and make the drive around to the other side of the mountain, stopping along the way for a short hike on the Grove of the Patriarchs Trail, which is like a museum of old-growth trees. The road west from there is another gorgeous drive, eventually climbing to the Paradise area, where there’s an impressive visitors center and a classic cedar lodge. After Sunrise and Crystal Mountain, this will be your third picture-book view of the mountaintop, each strikingly different from the others. It’s also the starting point for numerous trails; spend the afternoon and early evening hiking. If you want to take it easy, sign up for a ranger-led nature walk.

Have dinner at the Paradise Inn. You can bed down there, or at the inn near the Nisqually entrance in the southwest corner of the park, or at one of the hotels just outside the entrance in the town of Ashford. No matter where you stay, you’ll need a reservation.

With More Time

Leaving Mount Rainier National Park from the Nisqually entrance, head west and then south on I-5 to the turnoff for Mount St. Helens—a 2.5-hour drive in total. As you approach the Johnston Ridge Observatory at the base of the volcano it’s hard not to be awed by the extent of the devastation caused by the eruption of St. Helens in 1980. The observatory is a first-class facility for viewing St. Helens and learning about the causes and consequences of the blast. Trails take you closer, and there are daily ranger-led walks.

Olympic Peninsula in 3 Days

rocks stacked on a log at Ruby Beach
Ruby Beach. Photo © Rruntsch/Dreamstime.

Day 6

Say goodbye to Rainier in your rearview mirror as you head west toward the Olympic Peninsula. Stop for lunch in the state capital, Olympia, at about the midpoint of a three-hour drive to Lake Quinault, located at the southern end of Olympic National Park. Here you’ll experience the lush, primordial forest for which Washington is famous. The rain forest surrounding the lake is home to some of the tallest trees in the world, several of which are easily accessible on short roadside trails.

You’re now in the rainiest region of the contiguous United States, averaging 150 inches a year, but the precipitation is seasonal—if you’re here in summer you stand a good chance of getting a dry day. If it is showering, though, you can still get a great look around from the comfort of your car on the Quinault Rain Forest Loop Drive. For your overnight stay you have the option of a national park lodge on the lake or one of several modest hotels in the area.

Day 7

Start the day by getting a taste of Washington’s rugged Pacific coast. It’s a 45-minute drive to Ruby Beach, a classic example of the misty, pebble-strewn coastline, studded with haystacks (giant rock formations). You won’t need your swim trunks, but you’ll want your camera to capture the ethereal beauty.

From here U.S. 101 heads back inland and turns north; after a 75-minute drive you reach glacier-carved Lake Crescent, the most beautiful lake in the state. You can stop along the way for lunch in Forks, the town made famous by the Twilight novels, but the sooner you get to the lake the more time you’ll have for an afternoon spent floating on its tranquil, turquoise-green waters. (Kayaks and canoes are available for rent.) There’s yet another national park lodge here where you can stay, or you can get a jump on the next day’s driving by heading east another half hour to Port Angeles, where there are more lodging options.

Day 8

In the morning, head up to the only part of the Olympic Mountains accessible by car: Hurricane Ridge, an hour’s drive from Lake Crescent or 35 minutes from Port Angeles. The trails here offer a different kind of mountain experience from Mount Rainier. Fields filled with wildflowers give you vast vistas; you have a view to the north of the Strait of Juan de Fuca glimmering 5,000 feet below, and to the south of the neighboring Olympic peaks.

Come back down to sea level on the 90-minute drive to the charming town of Port Townsend at the northeast corner of the peninsula. You’ll find lots of good dining options here, but for an earlier lunch you can stop at Sequim along the way. From Port Townsend take the 35-minute ferry ride to Keystone Landing on Whidbey Island. (You can reserve a place on the ferry.) You’ll be in Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve, which includes, 10 minutes from the ferry dock, the old fishing town of Coupeville, where you’ll overnight. Spend the evening strolling the quaint streets that make up the town, and if you’re up for a short hike head to the bluffs above Parego Lagoon, where you get a gorgeous view of the Olympic Mountains and Strait of Juan de Fuca.

San Juan Islands in 2 Days

golden hour lights up a lighthouse in the San Juan Islands
Lime Kiln Point Lighthouse. Photo © Matthew Lombardi.

Day 9

Drive north from Coupeville and over the picturesque bridge at Deception Pass to the town of Anacortes, a 45-minute trip, and catch the ferry to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. The 75-minute cruise through the archipelago is a beautiful way to get into the San Juans state of mind. You can reserve a place on the ferry online, and in summer it’s essential to do so. You also need to arrange lodging well ahead of time. There are lots of options—waterfront campsites, B&Bs, motels, fishing lodges, old-school resorts—but they all book up in summer.

Where you stay should dictate your touring strategy. You’ll want to see American Camp, Lime Kiln Point State Park, English Camp, and Roche Harbor; begin with whichever is farthest from where you’ll bed down for the evening, and work your way toward your lodging from there.

Day 10

If you didn’t have time for one of the main sights the previous day, you can make up for it in the morning, or get out on the water. You have two classic options: rent a kayak and go for a paddle—if this is your first time here you should take a guided tour—or go on a whale-watching cruise to meet the resident orcas.

Take an early-afternoon ferry back to Anacortes, then drive back to Seattle. If traffic is clear it’s about a three-hour trip.

With More Time

If your goal is to unwind and get away from it all, the best way to do that is to spend another night or two in the San Juans. You can ferry over to Orcas Island, or just stay put on San Juan, maybe paying a visit to one of the smaller sights such as the lavender farm or winery, or hanging at Lime Kiln Point State Park and watching for whales in Haro Strait.

To explore Orcas Island, catch a morning ferry from Friday Harbor. Orcas has an even more laid-back feel, with more than its share of artists and eccentrics. Head north from the ferry terminal to the main town of Eastsound, where you can have lunch and do some window-shopping, then continue on to Moran State Park and spend the afternoon taking in the view from the top of Mount Constitution, rowing a boat on Mountain Lake, and even having a lake swim. The restaurant at Doe Bay Resort is a great dinner choice on this part of the island. If you’re into the hippie vibe there it can also be a good place to spend the night, but if you prefer something more mainstream choose one of the lodging options back in the direction of Eastsound.

The next morning, start your day with a kayak trip. Possible launching points include Doe Bay, Smuggler’s Villa Resort at the north end of the island, and Deer Harbor on the west side. No matter where you start, kayaking around Orcas gives you the opportunity to paddle by smaller outlying islands, where the only inhabitants are wildlife. In the afternoon pay a visit to isolated Orcas Island Pottery, a one-of-a-kind studio and shop with a beautiful waterfront location on the western side of the island. In the evening have dinner at one of Eastsound’s restaurants and take in the small-town nightlife.

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2-Week Best of Arizona Road Trip Itinerary

The best way to see the American Southwest is from behind the wheel of your own car. This Arizona road trip itinerary provides a unique opportunity to explore this exotic region from the ground up.

road to monument valley in arizona
Enjoy the scenery on the drive to Monument Valley. Photo © ablokhin/iStock.

Day 1: Scenic Drive to Cave Creek

70 Miles / 1.5 Hours
Arrive at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix and head to a hotel in downtown Phoenix, Scottsdale, or Tempe. Introduce yourself to the desert by taking a scenic drive along Highway 51 about 35 miles or 45 minutes out to Cave Creek and Carefree. Have dinner at El Encanto in Cave Creek before heading back.

Travel map of Phoenix, Scottdale & Sedona, Arizona
Phoenix, Scottdale & Sedona

Day 2: Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Prescott

100 Miles / 2 Hours
Get an early start and spend the morning touring the Heard Museum, the Phoenix Art Museum, or Taliesin West. Leave the city via I-17 to Prescott. Stop for a late lunch and a slice of pie midway at the Rock Springs Café, north of Phoenix along I-17. Spend the night at one of downtown Prescott’s historic hotels or bed-and-breakfasts. Have dinner at Park Plaza Liquor & Deli and hit up a few Whiskey Row watering holes.

Day 3: Prescott and Jerome

35 Miles / 1 Hour
Get up early and eat breakfast at the Dinner Bell Cafe. Walk around downtown Prescott and tour the museums, shops, and galleries. Be sure to visit the Sharlot Hall Museum. Head north on scenic Highway 89A to Jerome. Stay at the Jerome Grand Hotel and have dinner at The Asylum.

landscape view of Jerome Arizona
Jerome, Arizona. Photo © Chris Putnam/123rf.

Day 4: Jerome and Sedona

28 Miles / 40 Minutes
Have breakfast at Mile High Grill & Spirits and take a walk around Jerome. Head down Highway 89A to Sedona. Check into your hotel, and then head out to explore the red rocks, galleries, and shops of Sedona. Eat dinner at Oaxaca Restaurant in Uptown.

Day 5: Sedona and the Verde Valley

52 Miles / 1.25 Hours
Spend the day shopping, hiking, sightseeing, and exploring Sedona and the Verde Valley. Check out Montezuma Castle National Monument, about 26 miles from town, or hike into red-rock country or take a Jeep tour through the red lands.

Montezuma Castle National Monument in the Verde Valley of Arizona. Photo © Derrick Neill/123rf.
Montezuma Castle National Monument in the Verde Valley of Arizona. Photo © Derrick Neill/123rf.

Day 6: Oak Creek Canyon and Flagstaff

30 Miles / 1 Hour
Eat breakfast at the Coffee Pot Restaurant in Sedona, then head north on Highway 89A through Oak Creek Canyon. Stop for a hike or to splash around in the water at Slide Rock State Park. Continue north to Flagstaff, about an hour’s drive from Sedona. Check into one of the historic hotels downtown. Stroll and shop downtown, then have dinner and beers at Beaver Street Brewery.

Travel map - Southwest Road Trip Driving Distances
Southwest Road Trip Driving Distances

Day 7: Flagstaff and the High Desert

130 Miles / 3 Hours
Wake up and head out to visit the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, about three miles north of downtown on Highway 180, then drive a circuit to take in Wupatki, Sunset Crater Volcano, and Walnut Canyon National Monuments via U.S. 89 and the Loop Road. From here drive east for about an hour on I-40 to Winslow. Check into La Posada. Have dinner in the Turquoise Room, and order a box lunch from the restaurant for the next day.

Day 8: The High Desert and Navajo Country

175 Miles / 3.5 Hours
Spend the morning touring the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park near Holbrook, 52 miles or about an hour from Winslow on I-40. Then take I-40 to Highway 191 north to Chinle on the Navajo Reservation, a distance of 123 miles, about 2.5 hours. Stay at the Thunderbird Lodge near Canyon de Chelly or at one of the chains in Chinle.

red rock landscape of canyon de chelley
Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Photo © Tim Hull.

Day 9: Canyon de Chelly and Monument Valley

150-180 Miles / 3-4 Hours
Spend the morning hiking into Canyon de Chelly to the White House Ruin and driving the scenic rim roads, or hire a Navajo guide and go deeper into the canyon. After lunch head north on Highway 191, west on Highway 160, then north on Highway 163 to Kayenta, a distance of about 75 miles or about 1.5 hours. Get a hotel room in Kayenta, drive through Monument Valley late in the afternoon, and watch the sun set. Monument Valley is 50 miles from Kayenta, a drive that takes about an hour.

Day 10-11: The Grand Canyon

155 Miles / 3 Hours

Travel map of the Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon Overview
Eat breakfast in Kayenta at the Blue Coffee Pot Restaurant and then head west on Highway 160 past Tuba City to U.S. 89 then south to Cameron, about 100 miles or 1.5 hours. Take Highway 64 west 30 miles to Grand Canyon National Park and make your way to the east entrance. Check out the Desert View sights, then drive on into Grand Canyon Village and have lunch at El Tovar. Spend the night at El Tovar or the Bright Angel Lodge.

Get up early and hike down one of the South Rim trails for as far as you feel like going. If you’re not a hiker, take a mule ride to the river and back. Spend the remainder of the day looking around the rim and staring into the canyon.

Day 12: Heading to Tucson

340 Miles / 5 Hours
This day will be spent mostly in the car driving from the high country down to Tucson and Southern Arizona. Leave the Grand Canyon early through the South Entrance and take I-40 East to I-17 South. In Phoenix, follow the signs to I-10 South to Tucson. You’ll probably arrive in the late afternoon. Check into the Hotel Congress, the Arizona Inn, or one of the area’s bed-and-breakfasts, and then head to Mi Nidito for a Mexican-food dinner.

front view of San Xavier del Bac church in Tucson
The church of San Xavier del Bac. Photo © Michael A. Barrios.

Day 13: Tucson and the Border Region

135 Miles / 2 Hours
Get up early and spend the morning walking around Saguaro National Park West and visiting the nearby Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Have lunch at the museum’s café, or at the Coyote Pause Café about five miles south. Then continue south to see San Xavier del Bac.

After visiting the church, keep heading south to Tubac and Tumacacori. Stroll through the shops and galleries at Tubac or check out Mission San Jose de Tumacacori. Have dinner at Wisdom’s Café in Tumacacori or continue south on I-19 and walk across the U.S.-Mexico border at Nogales, about 25 miles south on I-19, and eat at one of the restaurants in the tourist district.

Drive back to your hotel in Tucson, about an hour’s drive depending on where you’re staying, and relax.

Day 14: Southeastern Arizona

50-150 Miles / 1-3 Hours
This day is a Southern Arizona grab bag. Drive through the San Pedro Valley or the Mountain Empire. Do some wine-tasting in Elgin, shop in Bisbee, or drive the dirt roads into the Huachuca Mountains and up to the Coronado National Memorial. Visit Chiricahua National Monument, Cochise Stronghold, Patagonia, Madera Canyon, Kartchner Caverns, or Tombstone.

A full, busy day will allow you to make three or four major stops, depending on your personal interests and the amount of time you spend at any one place. You’ll likely arrive back at your hotel in Tucson late.

Day 15: Tucson and Back to Phoenix

116-156 Miles / 2-3 Hours
Wake up early and take a stroll through one of Tucson’s downtown neighborhoods or 4th Avenue and the University District. On your way north on I-10 to the airport in Phoenix, a distance of 116 miles, stop off along the way at Picacho Peak State Park for a last hike.

With more time, you could take a short detour off of I-10 to Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, about 20 miles off of I-10, a half-hour drive, for a last look at native Arizona.

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One-Week Best of Yellowstone and Grand Teton Itinerary

From spouting geysers to toothy mountains, this Yellowstone and Grand Teton itinerary takes you on a week-long romp through the two national parks and wraps up with a smash-bang ending in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Yellowstone in Three Days

view of steaming terraces at Canary Springs
Canary Springs at Mammoth Hot Springs. Photo © Becky Lomax.

Day 1

From the North Entrance in Gardiner, drive through the Roosevelt Arch to enter Yellowstone National Park. Cross the 45th Parallel into the steaming landscape at Mammoth Hot Springs and stop to stroll the boardwalk through colorful travertine terraces. Back in the car, drive south through the Golden Gate to Swan Lake, a high plateau with elk and bison. Continuing south, pull over at Roaring Mountain to see, hear, and smell the volcanic action, then stop at Norris Geyser Basin to tour the hottest and fastest-changing geothermals in the park. From Norris, head east on the park road toward Canyon Village, where you’ll spend three nights (book accommodations or campsites one year in advance).

Day 2

In the morning, drive to Artist Point and park (get there before 10am to snag a spot), then hit the South Rim Trail along the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, following the scenic path down to the Upper Falls Overlook. Climb down (then back up) the steel steps of Uncle Tom’s Trail to get wet in the mist from the Lower Falls.

After lunch in Canyon Village, drive north over Dunraven Pass and gaze up at Mt. Washburn, the highest peak in the park. Just south of Tower Junction, pull over to view Tower Fall as it spills into the Yellowstone River. Continue down the curvy descent to Tower-Roosevelt, then turn northeast into the Lamar Valley for wildlife-watching. Look for elk, antelope, bison, bears, and wolves, and bring binoculars to spy bighorn sheep and mountain goats on the flanks of the Absaroka Mountains. Return to Canyon Village for the night.

a geyser spewing steam into the air in Yellowstone National Park
Old Faithful Geyser. Photo © Steve Byland/Dreamstime.

Day 3

Today, explore the steaming geothermal features of Yellowstone’s caldera. From Canyon, head west toward Norris, then drive south past Madison to drop into the crater’s geyser basin. Park at Old Faithful and make a beeline for Old Faithful Visitor Education Center. Time your day based on the center’s geyser eruption predictions. Follow the Upper Geyser Basin boardwalks north to see colorful Morning Glory Pool while waiting for famous Old Faithful to blow.

After reveling in the majesty of Old Faithful, return to the park road and drive north to tour the other nearby geyser basins. Don’t miss Midway Geyser Basin, which features the radiant Grand Prismatic Spring. In the Lower Geyser Basin, drive along Firehole Lake Drive to Fountain Paint Pots, which contains four types of geothermal features. Once you’ve had your fill of geysers, return to Canyon Village.

Day 4

It’s your last day in Yellowstone—and your first day in Grand Teton. Begin by driving south through Hayden Valley, keeping an eye out for bison and trumpeter swans. Stop to walk the lower loop of Mud Volcano amid the sputtering, growling geothermals. At Yellowstone Lake, tour historic Lake Yellowstone Hotel and the West Thumb Geyser Basin, known for its crystal-blue hot pools, cone geysers, and paint pots. Just before exiting Yellowstone, the Lewis River descends to join the Snake River, Grand Teton’s iconic river.

At the South Entrance, you’ll enter Grand Teton National Park on Highway 89/191/287. Continuing south, the road passes through the remains of the 2016 Berry Fire as it nears the Flagg Ranch Information Station. Just before reaching the north shore of Jackson Lake, look west for the first view of the jagged Teton Mountains. Stop at Jackson Lake Lodge,, where you’ll spend the next two nights.

Grand Teton in Two Days

woman walking on a trail next to a lake in Wyoming
Enjoy an easy walk on Colter Bay’s Lakeshore Trail. Photo © Becky Lomax.

Day 5

In the morning, sign up for a two-hour horseback ride at Jackson Lake Lodge for fantastic views of the Teton Range. Back at the lodge, enjoy lunch in the Mural Room, then drive north to Colter Bay to walk the two-mile loop along the Lakeshore Trail. Return to Jackson Lake Lodge for the evening.

Day 6

Get an early start for the drive south along Teton Park Road to Jenny Lake, where you’ll park and hop aboard the boat shuttle to cross the lake. Once on the shore’s terra firma, follow the Jenny Lake Loop to 200-foot Hidden Falls. Continue on a ledge that cuts through a rock cliff to Inspiration Point with views overlooking Jenny Lake and Jackson Hole.

After soaking in the scenery, either hike back or take the boat shuttle across the lake to return to the Jenny Lake Visitor Center where you left your car. Back on the road, drive south to Moose and tour the exhibits at the Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center. Take a sunset drive to Mormon Row for history and wildlife-watching before returning to Jackson Lake Lodge.

Jackson Hole in One Day

antler archway in Wyoming
Four elk antler arches mark each corner of the Town Square at Jackson. Photo © Becky Lomax.

Day 7

Exit the park and head south to Jackson for the final day. Wander through the National Museum of Wildlife Art, walk through the antler archways in Jackson Town Square, and dance the night away in the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar.

If You Have More Time

Before hitting Jackson, take an early-morning drive south on the Moose-Wilson Road, stopping at the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve. Continue south, keeping your eyes peeled for wildlife, then turn east to visit Teton Village. Climb aboard Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s Aerial Tram to be whisked to 10,450 feet atop Rendezvous Mountain to survey the Tetons and Jackson Hole. Enjoy a late brunch of waffles at Corbet’s Cabin before descending to Jackson.

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One-Week Best of Bermuda Itinerary

With its short distances and efficient public transport, Bermuda reveals much of itself to energetic travelers during a weeklong stay. Look below the surface of this reef-fringed paradox and you’ll discover a melting pot of culture, history, and outdoor adventure encompassing all nine parishes. Start your travel planning with this suggested itinerary covering the best of Bermuda.

calm waves on the shore of Elbow Beach in Bermuda
Elbow Beach. Photo © Rosemary Jones.

Day 1

Touch down at L. F. Wade International Airport and grab a cab to your hotel. Ask the driver where to find the island’s best fish sandwich, a Bermudian staple. Shake off your mainland cobwebs with an afternoon at Elbow Beach, strolling the soft sand and testing the turquoise waters. Later, choose a waterfront terrace, such as the trendy Seabreeze Lounge on Paget’s South Shore, The Dock in Southampton, or sunset-soaked 1609 Bar & Restaurant on Hamilton Harbour, for an alfresco dinner.

Day 2

Head into Hamilton for a home-grown breakfast with Bermudians at the Cottage Café & Bistro. Spend the morning exploring Front, Reid, and Church Streets’ boutiques, art galleries, and churches. Climb Holy Trinity Cathedral’s landmark tower to overlook the city. Try lunch at sushi hot spot Beluga Seafood Bar or farm-to-table Devil’s Isle Kitchen and Bar. In the afternoon, rent a scooter or hop on a bus and cruise the North Shore to visit Crystal Cave and Fantasy Cave. Watch the daylight dwindle aboard a Hamilton Harbour sunset cruise, then head to Marcus’, celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson’s restaurant that puts his award-winning spin on island cuisine.

people on a white sand beach in Horseshoe Bay Bermuda
Horseshoe Bay. Photo © Rosemary Jones.

Day 3

Cool out on the beach today. Go to pristine Warwick Long Bay for bodysurfing, sandcastles, and snorkeling. Follow the trail west through protected, dune-cradled South Shore National Park to sample Jobson’s Cove, followed by Chaplin, Stonehole, and Horseshoe Bays. Take a dip at each. Have lunch at the foot of Gibbs Hill Lighthouse inside The Dining Room. In the late afternoon, escape the sun and indulge in a spa treatment at a resort (book your treatment days in advance if possible).

Day 4

Take the ferry from Hamilton across the Great Sound to the Royal Naval Dockyard, scooter optional. Book a half-day scuba outing, rent a kayak, or take a snorkeling or paragliding tour of the West End. Celebrate the neighborhood’s British heritage with a pub lunch, then learn stories of soldiers, slaves, immigrants, and war vets at the National Museum of Bermuda. Grab a rum cake, a piece of blown glass, or a painting from the Bermuda Arts Centre to take home.

cannon pointing out to the ocean in Bermuda
Gates Fort commands a key vantage point overlooking the Town Cut. Photo © Rosemary Jones.

Day 5

Take the ferry along the North Shore to St. George’s. Explore the museums and backstreets of the old town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visit area forts (also UNESCO gems), including Gates Fort, Alexandra Battery, the Martello Tower at Ferry Reach, and Fort St. Catherine with its commanding views of the bay where the first settlers landed. Have lunch at one of the wharf-side eateries, then do some souvenir scouting.

Day 6

Walk in John Lennon’s footsteps at the Bermuda Botanical Gardens in Paget, where Double Fantasy was born, and pay a visit to the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art. Head to North Hamilton for a Caribbean-style lunch at one of the many cafés, such as Jamaican Grill, Juice ‘n’ Beans, or Fish & Tings. Climb up to nearby Fort Hamilton for moat gardens and panoramic views, and stroll the backstreets to glimpse gingerbread architecture. If it’s a Wednesday, return to the city for a stroll around Harbour Nights, or go for an evening pool dip or a chilled dark ’n’ stormy.

Day 7

Grab an early-morning beach run or walk along the South Shore and cool off with a dip in the balmy water before your flight out.

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Trans-Canada Highway Road Trip: Calgary to Vancouver

Professional truckers make the trip between Calgary and Vancouver along the Trans-Canada Highway (Hwy. 1) in 12 hours or so. But you’re on vacation, so plan on expanding the drive to a weeklong road trip that will get you to Vancouver…eventually.

Panoramic view of an alpine lake surrounded by mountain peaks.
View of Lake O’Hara in Yoho National Park. Photo © foto4u/123rf.

Day 1

Depart Calgary (Alberta) and try not to be tempted by the wonders of Banff National Park (leave them for another time) as you enter the mountains and cross the border at Yoho National Park. Explore the Yoho Valley by road, then head to Emerald Lake for an afternoon walk. If you don’t feel like splurging on a park accommodation, continue one hour west along the Trans-Canada Highway to Golden.

Day 2

Ride the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort gondola, then hit the highway for the one-hour drive to Glacier National Park. This park is spectacular even from the highway, so unless you’re a keen hiker or it’s getting late in the day, continue another hour along the Trans-Canada Highway to Revelstoke. After dinner at Woolsey Creek Bistro, take in an outdoor evening concert in Grizzly Plaza.

Day 3

Drive south 250 kilometers (156 miles) from Revelstoke along Highways 23 and 6 to Nelson. Break up the trip with a short detour to Sandon, British Columbia’s best-known ghost town, and to watch spawning kokanee at Kokanee Creek Provincial Park. Make dinner reservations at All Seasons Café.

Day 4

Driving through the West Kootenays to the Okanagan Valley is a delight, although a roller-coaster Highway 3 means the 260-kilometer (162-mile) trip takes around four hours. Stop for a swim in Christina Lake en route.

Day 5

Spend the day at your leisure in the Okanagan Valley. Near Osoyoos, Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre is an interesting stop, unless it’s a super-hot day—then stay close to the water or visit the Naramata wineries. Spend the night in Kelowna at the Hotel Eldorado and dine at the hotel’s lakefront bistro.

Day 6

A summer chairlift ride at Silver Star Mountain Resort, an hour’s drive north from Kelowna on Highway 97, will leave you with pleasant memories of the Okanagan. Then allow 90 minutes to drive to Kamloops via Highway 97, stopping en route at Historic O’Keefe Ranch for a late lunch and a living history lesson. Spend the night in Kamloops, taking in a performance by Western Canada Theatre.

Day 7

Give the direct Coquihalla Highway a miss and allow three hours to travel down the Fraser River Canyon to Hope. Suburban Vancouver is approaching, so if you feel like stalling the inevitable onslaught of city traffic, take a walk through the Othello–Quintette Tunnels.

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The Two-Week Best of British Columbia

Two weeks in British Columbia allows the opportunity to travel throughout the province, including to the northern region. Of course, you can always add to your itinerary with more time in Vancouver and Victoria—but you’ll find more adventure traveling farther afield.

the harbor near downtown Vancouver
Downtown Vancouver. Photo © mfron/iStock.

Day 1

Arrive in Vancouver for a two-night stay. Spend the rest of your first day exploring Gastown and the waterfront area, including English Bay. Rent a bike for an evening ride through Stanley Park.

Day 2

Spend the day in the bustling resort town of Whistler, a 90-minute drive north of Vancouver along Highway 99, returning to Vancouver in time for dinner atop Grouse Mountain.

Day 3

Take the 90-minute ferry ride across to Vancouver Island and visit Victoria sights such as the Royal BC Museum and Butchart Gardens, then explore the urban oasis of Goldstream Provincial Park.

Map of Vancouver Island, BC
Vancouver Island

Day 4

Make Tofino, a three-hour drive from Victoria along Highways 1 and 4, your final destination on Day 4. Even with a visit to Cathedral Grove and a short walk along the driftwood-strewn beaches of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, you will have time to enjoy a relaxing evening in Tofino.

Day 5

Rise early and make your way north up the island to Telegraph Cove, a four-hour drive from Tofino via Highways 4 and 19. Go whale-watching in the afternoon and continue north for 60 kilometers (38 miles) to Port Hardy.

Day 6

The morning ferry from Port Hardy gets into Prince Rupert in the late afternoon, linking up with the overnight ferry to the Haida Gwaii.

Day 7

Even after 24 hours and two ferry trips, you’ll be invigorated by the uniqueness of the First Nations history and total wilderness of Haida Gwaii.

Day 8

You have all day on the island to explore the beaches of Naikoon Provincial Park and First Nations attractions like the Haida Heritage Centre. Ferries depart Haida Gwaii for Prince Rupert in the evening (book a cabin to get a good night’s rest on board).

Day 9

Arriving in Prince Rupert at dawn, take breakfast at the Cow Bay Cafe while waiting for the Museum of Northern British Columbia to open. Head west, stopping at ‘Ksan Historical Village. Aim for an overnight stay in Prince George—an eight-hour drive from Prince Rupert—but don’t push it; the more driving you get done today, the quicker you will reach the mountains the following day.

Day 10

After the long haul across northern British Columbia, the first views of the Canadian Rockies, two hours’ driving beyond Prince George, are a relief. As Mount Robson comes into view, you will be wowed. Short hikes to viewpoints and waterfalls will fill your afternoon.

Day 11

Drag yourself away from Mount Robson and head south on Highway 5 for four hours to the river city of Kamloops, then east along the Trans-Canada Highway to Revelstoke. Even if you’re not a railway buff, Craigellachie (site of the last spike on the transcontinental railway) is a pleasant stop along this two-hour stretch of road.

A canoe floats on the surface of Emerald Lake with the mountains reflected in the surface.
Beautiful Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park. Photo © donyanedomam/123rf.

Day 12

Drive the Meadows in the Sky Parkway near Revelstoke and continue east along the Trans-Canada Highway for two hours to Yoho National Park. This may be the night for a splurge at the Emerald Lake Lodge (at the very least, walk around this beautiful lake).

Map of Yoho National Park, BC
Yoho National Park

Day 13

Head south along Highway 95 for three hours through the Columbia Valley. Stop at the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area before veering west along Highway 3 to the artsy city of Nelson.

Day 14

It’s a seven-hour drive to Vancouver from Nelson via Highway 3. En route, the wineries, golf courses, and abundance of water sports in the Okanagan Valley will tempt you to linger a day or two longer.

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2-Week Best of Peru Itinerary

This 14-day Peru itinerary is the classic backpacker route that includes many of the country’s top attractions. The trip involves a journey through a nature reserve and sand dunes on the country’s desert coast, a visit to the islands of Lake Titicaca, a hike through Cusco and Machu Picchu, and a dab of Lima’s colonial center. While it is a good example of what Peru has to offer, it still leaves out a lot.

If you have extra time, add on a weeklong trip in the north, which has fascinating pre-Inca ruins, excellent hiking, and sandy beaches. Or spend a few more days in the Peruvian Amazon, which is teeming with wildlife and is home to unique indigenous cultures. Getting around is accomplished via a straightforward combination of planes, trains, buses, and combis.

an orange tent sits on the beach near the ocean in Peru
La Mina Beach in Paracas National Reserve. Photo © Donyanedomam/iStock.

Day 1

From Lima take a bus to Pisco (3 hours) and a short combi ride to the beach town of Paracas, where you can enjoy the sunset over the Pacific.

Day 2

Explore Reserva Nacional de Paracas and the Islas Ballestas. Watch sea lions and endangered Humboldt penguins and picnic on a wilderness beach. In the evening, take a bus to Ica (1 hour) and then a short taxi ride to Lago Huacachina, where you’ll spend one night.

sand dunes surround a lagoon and village
The tiny village of Huacachina is built around a lagoon. Photo © javarman3/iStock.

Day 3

Sandboard on the dunes above Lago Huacachina and then tour a pisco bodega. After a late lunch, take a bus to Nasca (2 hours).

Day 4

Enjoy a morning overflight of the Nasca Lines. Afterward, take the bus to Arequipa (6.5 hours), where you’ll check in for a two-night stay.

Day 5

Tour sophisticated Arequipa, a sparkling white city best known for the 17th-century Monasterio de Santa Catalina.

Day 6

Take a flight or bus trip from Arequipa to Puno (7 hours by bus).

reed boats in lake titicaca
Lake Titicaca in Puno. Photo © traveler1116/iStock.

Day 7

Explore Lake Titicaca with a day tour of Islas Amantaní and Islas Uros. Return to Puno for the night, or consider a stay with a family on Islas Amantaní.

Day 8

Continue onward to Cusco. From Puno you can fly, take a direct nonstop train, or ride a tour bus that allows you to see the ruins along the way (9 hours). Upon arrival, grab a 1.5-hour taxi or combi ride from Cusco to Ollantaytambo, a living Inca village in the heart of Peru’s Sacred Valley.

Days 9-10

Recharge in the lush surroundings of the Sacred Valley. Options include touring Ollantaytambo’s old Inca city and the Temple of the Sun, rafting the Río Urubamba, and going horseback riding or day hiking on one of the area’s many Inca trails. On the second day, walk or mountain bike from the Inca ruins of Moray down a steep valley past the Salineras, or salt mines, and back to Ollantaytambo.

Mist surrounding Machu Picchu with Huayna Picchu behind it
Machu Picchu with Huayna Picchu behind it. Photo © Tomas Sobek/123rf.

Day 11

Take an early morning train to Machu Picchu from the Sacred Valley. Spend a full day at Machu Picchu, then hop on the afternoon train-and-bus combination back to Cusco.

Days 12-13

Tour the Cusco area, where you will have two days to appreciate the churches, the artisanal neighborhood of San Blas, and the fortress of Sacsayhuamán.

Aerial view of the coast near Miraflores
Aerial view of the coast near Miraflores. Photo © Pablo Hidalgo/123rf.

Day 14

From Cusco, catch a morning flight to Lima’s airport, where you can leave your bags, and then take a quick look at the city center and enjoy a gourmet dinner in Miraflores. Then hop a red-eye for home.

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Road Trip Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in 2 Weeks

On a map, the enormity of the Upper Peninsula can be deceptive. The unique qualities that give the U.P. its appeal are scattered over 30,000 square miles, 14 counties, and two times zones. Rustic hiking trails, breathtaking lake views, and charming small towns are interspersed among miles of two-lane highways and scores of abandoned iron and copper mines. But hours spent behind the wheel on a road trip will pay off handsomely. The route outlined here will offer the most efficient way of limiting your driving time and seeing the best that Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has to offer.

If you only have a week and want to experience a bit of everything—without having to work too hard to do so—stick to the eastern half. If you have more time, add on the 7-day itinerary to explore the western half of the Upper Peninsula.

Michigan’s Eastern Upper Peninsula in 6 Days

Day 1

Chances are you’ll be arriving in Mackinaw City, the gateway to the U.P., after a very long drive from home. Check into a comfortable hotel room; enjoy a meal at one of the local restaurants, and take a bit of time to explore downtown. A respite like this is the perfect tonic for early vacation fatigue—one you’ll thank yourself later.

the sun sets over the lake surrounding Mackinac Island
Take a ferry to Mackinac Island. Photo © jmbatt/iStock.

Day 2

Catch an early ferry to Mackinac Island (7:30am is the first). If you plan on spending just one day on the island, it’s best to be a commuter visitor and return to your Mackinaw City lodgings at day’s end. Visit Fort Mackinac, take a captivating carriage ride past the lovely Victorian cottages, and visit the Governor’s Residence and the magnificent veranda at the Grand Hotel. Yes, they charge $15 per person for the veranda privilege, but the experience is truly unforgettable.

After lunch, take in a relaxing round of golf at The Jewel or spend some time at Mackinac Island Butterfly House. If you have a sweet tooth—and who doesn’t?—pick up a wedge or two of world-famous Mackinac Island fudge at either Murdick’s Fudge or Ryba’s. Enjoy dinner on the island at the Woods Restaurant before returning to your lodgings on the mainland.

Day 3

Get an early breakfast at Darrow’s Family Restaurant; you have a bit of a drive ahead of you. Cross the bridge, turn right and make a brief stop at Straits State Park. Here you can enjoy a breathtaking bridge view on the Upper Peninsula side. Head west along U.S. 2. As you begin your trip from St. Ignace to Naubinway, you’ll be treated with a pleasing panorama of the Lake Michigan shore, with St. Helena Island in the distance. There are many turnouts along this route, and with a good zoom lens and clear weather, you can get a shot of the island’s lighthouse. Continue on toward Manistique and stop for lunch at Clyde’s Drive-In No. 2 for a great burger and malt.

After lunch, turn off onto M-149 and head to Palms Book State Park to see Kitch-Iti-Kipi, better known as “Big Spring.” Continue on U.S. 2, ending your day’s sojourn in Escanaba. Have dinner and stay the night at the historic House of Ludington.

A traveler crosses a footbridge to the Marquette Harbor Lighthouse.
The Marquette Harbor Lighthouse. Photo © Henryk Sadura/123rf.

Day 4

After breakfast in Escanaba at the authentic Swedish Pantry, head up M-35 toward Marquette, the Upper Peninsula’s largest and most cosmopolitan city. Once you arrive, a stroll along the waterfront will be invigorating after time behind the wheel. Bring your camera so you can get some great shots of Marquette Harbor Lighthouse, a photogenic lighthouse on rocks located offshore. Grab lunch and spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the area, perhaps perusing junkyard art at Lakenenland Sculpture Park or viewing the sunset at Presque Isle Park. Choose from one of several excellent downtown dining spots for dinner before spending the night in Marquette.

Day 5

Grab breakfast at the Sweet Water Café before setting course on M-28 for Munising and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Since the colorful rocks can only be seen from the water, either book a three-hour boat tour with Pictured Rocks Cruises or a six-hour kayak tour (departing at 9am) with Paddling Michigan. Enjoy dinner at Lake Superior Brewing Company and stay the night in Grand Marais; renting one of the Hilltop Cabins will offer a great waterfront view.

Turquoise water at the shore at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
Pictured Rocks National Lakshore in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Photo © Maciej Maksymowicz/123rf.

Day 6

Grab a convenient breakfast at West Bay Diner and Deli, then hit the road for Tahquamenon Falls State Park, where you’ll find the most magnificent waterfall in the U.P. You can see the Upper Falls from the observation deck, which is only a short trail walk from the parking area. Four miles downstream, the Lower Falls produce a similar spectacle. The awe-inspiring power of the falls is hard to overstate. As much as 50,000 gallons of water per second cascade over Upper Tahquamenon, the second most powerful waterfall in the eastern United States, exceeded only by Niagara.

Enjoy lunch at the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery and Pub before setting out for Sault Ste. Marie. Sail through the always fascinating Soo Locks with Soo Locks Boat Tours and marvel at how gargantuan ships can transit though the locks with just inches to spare. Cap off your adventure with a special dinner at Freighters. Check in at the Ojibway Hotel for the night before departing for home the next morning.

Travel map of Michigan's Upper Peninsula (East)
The Eastern Upper Peninsula

Michigan’s Western Upper Peninsula in 7 Days

Adventure awaits in the western half of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Take your time to really examine the scenery—it’s much more rustic than in the east, and nothing like what you’ll find in the big city!

Day 1

Start your trip on the U.S. 2 going west toward Iron River. Along the way you’ll cross into the central time zone and begin to see some of the rough terrain for which the U.P. is known. This area was the heart of iron country during the heyday of mining. To learn about this historic period, visit the Iron Mountain Iron Mine near Vulcan. Afterward, get back on U.S. 2 and stop in Iron Mountain for lunch; try either Bimbo’s Wine Press on East Main Street if you appreciate good Italian fare (owing to the area’s Italian heritage), or Famers on Pine Mountain Road if you’d prefer a sports bar atmosphere.

Continue west on U.S. 2, taking a brief detour into a corner of Wisconsin on the way to Crystal Falls. You’re entering the Superior Upland, the area of rough beauty known as iron country. Stop in Crystal Falls just long enough to admire the spectacular view looking down Main Street and take a picture of the highlands in the distance.

Continue west along U.S. 2 until you come to Watersmeet. Book a room at the Lac Vieux Desert Resort Casino for a well-deserved rest. After dinner at the Thunderbird Sports Lounge, make the short trek up U.S. 45 to view the baffling Paulding Mystery Light.

female hiker in a forest in Michigan
Hiking through the Porcupine Mountains. Photo © Steven Prorak/Dreamstime.

Day 2

The most picturesque wilderness of the Upper Peninsula awaits you! After breakfast at the hotel, take U.S. 45 north toward Ontonagon, where you’ll find the eastern end of Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. Pick up picnic supplies in town before taking M-107 up the large hill to Lake of the Clouds Overlook. Park your car and make the very short hike up to the top of the cliff to take in the breathtaking view.

Follow M-107 through the park, being careful of the frequent turns in the road. After exiting the park near Union Bay you’ll find a series of scenic turnouts along the Lake Superior shore. Most have tables, so stop here to enjoy your picnic lunch and chat with some of your fellow travelers. After lunch, head to Ontonagon to take in the Ontonagon County Historical Museum, which offers a fascinating look at the community’s past, with an emphasis on the logging and mining industries. The historical society also offers tours of the Ontonagon Lighthouse, an 1853 structure gradually being restored. Grab dinner at Syl’s Cafe and get a cabin for the night at the Mountain View Lodges on M-64, featuring a waterfront view and a sandy beach.

Day 3

Today you’ll be heading into the Keweenaw Peninsula, as north as you can go and still be in mainland Michigan. From Ontonagon, take U.S. 45 to M-26 and head north. As you progress, you’ll see more pine and spruce trees mixed in with maples and elms. When you come to Houghton, a college town that’s home to Michigan Technological University, stop and take a leisurely break, possibly at Cyberia Café. Stop to view the unusual “lift bridge” linking the city to Hancock across the Keweenaw Waterway.

Continue north on U.S. 41 until you come to Calumet, considered by some to be the capital of the once-dominant copper industry. Take some time to look around at the magnificent if somewhat neglected architecture flanked by abandoned mines. Continue until you get to Copper Harbor and the end of U.S. 41. Take a tour of the Copper Harbor Lighthouse, which involves a fun 15-minute boat ride from the marina. Book a room at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge.

trees on a rocky coastline in Isle Royale National Park
Coastal cove of Isle Royale National Park. Photo © innerflux/iStock.

Day 4

Shift into nautical mode and board the Isle Royale Queen IV for the three-hour trip to Isle Royale National Park, the least-visited property in the National Park system. Although the park is very rugged and most visitors choose to camp, indoor accommodations are available at the Rock Harbor Lodge at Rock Harbor at the far eastern tip. Either way, you’ll have virtually unlimited opportunities to commune with nature.

Hiking, fishing, observing wildlife, and kayaking are some of the activities you can enjoy. Spend two to three days exploring Isle Royale—a truly unforgettable experience.

Days 5-6

Take a few day hikes along some of the shorter trails into the island—Scoville Point and Lookout Louise are good choices, and the view from Ojibway Tower is phenomenal. Look into a National Park Service boat tour or rent a sea kayak and explore the shoreline yourself. Pack lunches and take them with you, but note that dinners at the lodge are satisfying.

Backwoods campers and hikers will have 165 miles of trails to explore. There’s no way to hike it all in a few days, but a well-planned trip will have you walking from campsite to campsite while you keep a lookout for moose.

red, orange, and yellow trees surround the lake in Copper Harbor
Copper Harbor in autumn. Photo © Snehitdesign/Dreamstime.

Day 7

Make sure you’re back at the ferry dock by 2:45pm for the ride back to Copper Harbor. You’ll get into town a little before 6pm, just in time for dinner at the Harbor Haus. Make your way back home in the morning.

Travel map of Michigan's Upper Peninsula (East)
The Western Upper Peninsula

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10-Day Coastal Carolinas Itinerary

From Nags Head to Hilton Head, this 10-day itinerary hits all the coastal hot spots in North and South Carolina and highlights the region’s culture, history, natural beauty, and rich maritime legacy.

North Carolina Coast

Day 1

Begin at Nags Head on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, your home base for the next couple of days, and enjoying the beach and the key local sights, Jockey’s Ridge State Park and the Wright Brothers National Memorial.

people playing on the beach in front of cottages at Nags Head in North Carolina
Relax at the beach at Nags Head. Photo © Meinzahn/iStock.

Day 2

This morning head down to windswept Cape Hatteras National Seashore and climb the historic lighthouse. Then, in the afternoon, head to Roanoke Island’s Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. At night, perhaps take in a performance of “The Lost Colony” historical drama.

Day 3

This morning enjoy the exquisite historic district in New Bern, with a visit to the gorgeous gardens at Tryon Palace. After a tasty lunch downtown, head to the ocean again and walk the waterfront at Beaufort. Don’t miss a visit to the North Carolina Maritime Museum and the Old Burying Ground. Tonight drive down to Wilmington for the first of two nights at a fine B&B, such as the Rosehill Inn.

Day 4

This morning tour Wilmington’s historic homes: Bellamy Mansion, the Burgwin-Wright House, and the Zebulon Latimer House (save with a three-house ticket). After lunch, walk the decks of the USS North Carolina. Tonight have a quality meal downtown at any one of the fine eateries on and around Water Street.

battleship docked in North Carolina
Walk on the deck of the USS North Carolina battleship. Photo © DavidByronKeener/iStock.

Day 5

After breakfast at your B&B, head out to the ocean for some fun at Wrightsville Beach. In the afternoon head south toward Myrtle Beach. Stop for fried seafood along the way at Calabash, on the border between North and South Carolina. Alternately, you could continue on to Myrtle Beach for a delightfully cheesy, utensil-free dinner show at Medieval Times at Broadway at the Beach.

South Carolina Coast

Day 6

Today is your big Myrtle Beach day. Claim your patch of sand along the miles of beaches in the morning, and after lunch visit Ripley’s Aquarium, shop at Barefoot Landing, or have a round of miniature golf. Tonight enjoy some down-home entertainment by catching a show at the Carolina Opry, quaffing an adult beverage or two at The Bowery, or perhaps learning how to do the Shag at Ocean Drive Beach.

aerial view of the streets and buildings lining Myrtle Beach in South Carolina
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Photo © Refocus/Dreamstime.

Day 7

Work your way southward with a stop at Brookgreen Gardens on the Grand Strand, having lunch at the waterfront in nearby Georgetown. This afternoon visit gorgeous Hampton Plantation, then it’s down to Charleston. After checking into your room at the Andrew Pinckney Inn, walk the French Quarter, including looks at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church and the French Huguenot Church. Enjoy a classic Charleston dinner at one of any number of amazing restaurants nearby, such as Peninsula Grill or Husk.

path leading through mossy giant oaks in South Carolina
Stop in at Brookgreen Gardens for an afternoon stroll. Photo © andykazie/iStock.

Day 8

This full day in Charleston includes some shopping on King Street and a walk along the Battery and nearby Rainbow Row for a snapshot of these photogenic mansions. For an afternoon historical road trip, cross the Cooper River to Mount Pleasant, and visit Boone Hall Plantation and the nearby Charles Pinckney Historical Site. For more recent history, visit the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum. Tonight eat and drink in style in the Upper King area.

Day 9

You have a full array of choices for this full day in Charleston, including a ferry ride to Fort Sumter, a jaunt across the Ashley River to Kiawah Island. If it’s a weekend, you can head up to North Charleston to see the Confederate submarine CSS Hunley at the repurposed Charleston Navy Yard.

a young deer standing in grass on Kiawah Island
Take in the views of wildlife at Kiawah Island. Photo © centrill/iStock.

Day 10

Finish your tour by spending the morning in historic Bluffton on the relaxing May River, browsing the art galleries. Then jaunt down to Hilton Head Island to relax on the beach, with a visit to Sea Pines Forest Preserve and Harbour Town.

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Plan a California Coast Road Trip with a Flexible Itinerary

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The ideal way to experience the California coast is to hit the road. Following this legendary road trip will take you through California’s bustling cosmopolitan cities, small beach towns, redwood forests, and sandy beaches.

[pullquote align=”right”]You can switch back and forth between the two routes depending on your pace and your interests. Highway 1 is generally more scenic; U.S. 101 is usually faster.[/pullquote]For the most part, you’ll cover this stunning 850 miles by following the legendary Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) and U.S. 101. You can switch back and forth between the two routes depending on your pace and your interests. Highway 1 is generally more scenic; U.S. 101 is usually faster. A few diversions onto other routes are necessary to cover the entire coast (for example, you’ll be driving I-5 between San Diego and Los Angeles).

The day-by-day routes below begin in Southern California, but you can just as easily start in Central or Northern California, or reverse the route (from driving north to driving south) if that works better for you. Combine all three itineraries to make a 16-day tour of the coast. If you’re pressed for time, choose just one or two of the itineraries.

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Northern California travel map
Northern California
Southern California travel map
Southern California

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Southern California Coast Road Trip in 5 Days

San Diego

Day 1

map of San Diego
San Diego

Easygoing San Diego is a great place to start any vacation. Upon arrival, orient yourself by driving to the top of Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial, a small mountain that has views of the entire city. After that, head down to La Jolla Cove to go kayaking or snorkeling; or just lie on the beach.

In the afternoon, visit Balboa Park, where you’ll spend most of your time at the San Diego Zoo. End your day with a craft beer at one of San Diego’s many breweries, like the giant Stone Brewing Co., followed by a meal in the Gaslamp Quarter. Try the historic Grant Grill or the nearby Café Chloe.

Day 2

The fastest way to reach the North County beach towns of Encinitas, Carlsbad, and Oceanside is to take I-5 north out of San Diego. Or, to cruise along the coast, opt for North Coast Highway 101 (also called Camino del Mar, San Elijo Boulevard, and Carlsbad Boulevard as it travels from Torrey Pines State Beach to Oceanside). Make sure to stop for a surf or a swim since the ocean temperatures cool as you head up the coast.

Continue north on I-5 to visit Huntington Beach before turning off towards Long Beach for a paranormal ship walk on The Queen Mary, an ocean liner that is now home to restaurants, a hotel, shops, and a museum. If you are daring enough, book a room for the night in the haunted ship.

Torrey Pines State Reserve
Torrey Pines State Reserve. Photo © Chad McDermott/The Department of Creativity.

Los Angeles

Day 3

map of Los Angeles
Los Angeles

Jump on I-405 to save some time and drive about 30 miles north, exiting toward Venice Beach. Park your vehicle and take a stroll along the Venice Boardwalk to take in the local wildlife that includes bodybuilders, street performers, and alternative-culture types. Without getting back on the highway, take the local roads paralleling the beach 10 minutes north to Santa Monica. Enjoy the amusement park rides of the Santa Monica Pier or just take a break on Santa Monica Beach. For dinner, get a taste of the Caribbean at Santa Monica’s casual but popular Cha Cha Chicken or backtrack to Venice for a hearty Italian meal at C&O Trattoria.

Day 4

Consider heading inland for a day of culture (and pop culture). For aesthetic stimulation, visit the world-famous Getty Center or the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Less rigorous on the mind is a walk down the star-studded Hollywood Walk of Fame and a stop at the historic TCL Chinese Theatre, where you can find the handprints of your favorite movie stars. End the day in downtown Los Angeles with tacos from B.S. Taqueria followed by a cocktail with city views at The Upstairs Bar, the rooftop space atop the Ace Hotel.

Get an amazing view of Los Angeles from the Getty Center.
Get an amazing view of Los Angeles from the Getty Center. Photo © Jon Bilous/123rf.

Day 5

Take the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) out of Santa Monica west as it heads away from sprawling Los Angeles and into Malibu. Stop at Malibu’s Surfrider Beach to watch the surfers compete for its famously peeling waves (or catch one yourself). After a morning outdoors, feed your mind with ancient art at The Getty Villa in Malibu. (Admission is free, but you’ll need to reserve a ticket in advance.) Finish the day by watching the sun slide into the Pacific from the outdoor deck of Neptune’s Net while enjoying fresh seafood.

If you want to spend more time in the Los Angeles area, you can easily fill a couple of days enjoying Disneyland Resort.

Central California Coast Road Trip in 6 Days

Santa Barbara and the Central Coast

Day 1

map of Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara

Wake up early and drive north on the scenic Pacific Coast Highway. Thirty-five miles from Malibu, at Oxnard, merge onto U.S. 101. Head north on U.S. 101 to Ventura and take the exit toward Ventura Harbor, where you can catch a boat out to Channel Islands National Park for a day of hiking, snorkeling, or kayaking on Santa Cruz Island or Anacapa Island. (Make boat reservations in advance.) Return to Ventura and eat dinner at one of its seafood restaurants, such as Lure Fish House or Spencer Makenzie’s Fish Company. Or have an Italian meal and cocktail at hip Café Fiore.

Day 2

Take U.S. 101 north a half hour (28 miles) to Santa Barbara. Get a history fix at the Santa Barbara Mission, which might be the most beautiful of the 21 Spanish missions in California. Then taste some of Santa Barbara’s wines on the Urban Wine Trail, comprising six tasting rooms on lower State Street, or head north for a day at palm-lined Refugio State Beach, 20 miles west of Santa Barbara on U.S. 101.

Mission Santa Barbara on a clear day.
Mission Santa Barbara was the tenth built of the California Missions. Photo © Dreamstime

If your schedule is flexible, you might consider another full day in Santa Barbara, another day of wine-tasting in the nearby Santa Maria Valley, or a day on the Gaviota Coast. Whatever you do, stop at Santa Barbara’s State Street for a fine meal or cocktail at a restaurant like the local favorite Opal. Or head off State Street for superb Mexican food at La Super-Rica Taqueria.

Day 3

Drive 1.75 hours (92 miles) north of Santa Barbara on U.S. 101 to San Luis Obispo’s Madonna Inn, where you can take in its kitschy decor during a restroom and stretch-the-legs break.

Outdoor enthusiasts will want to head off the highway and go west on Los Osos Valley Road just 20 minutes (12 miles) to Montana de Oro State Park, one of the state’s best coastal parks. Picnic at Spooner’s Cove or hike to the top of 1,347-foot-high Valencia Peak. Then head back to U.S. 101 North, but be sure to turn onto Highway 1 north to take in sunset over Morro Rock, known as the “Gibraltar of the Pacific.”

Another option is to drive an hour north (44 miles) to opulent Hearst Castle. Tours of this “ranch” built for newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst offer insight into the lifestyle of the rich and infamous. However you spend your day, end it with a meal in one of the Central Coast’s unassuming beach towns: Morro Bay, Cayucos or Cambria.

Warm weather meets coastal fog on the Bixby Bridge in Big Sur
Warm weather meets coastal fog on the Bixby Bridge in Big Sur. Photo © Mariusz Blach/123rf.

Big Sur

Day 4

Maps - Northern California 7e - Big Sur
Big Sur

Head north on Highway 1 for what might be the most scenic day of driving on your whole trip. The two-lane highway here winds along the mountains of Big Sur with plentiful views of the ocean. From Cambria to the heart of Big Sur is 75 miles, but the scenery, winding roadway, and frequent road construction can make the drive last well over two hours. Be sure to make multiple stops to take in the scenery at places like Salmon Creek Falls, Sand Dollar Beach, and Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Or opt for a comfy cabin by the river at Glen Oaks Big Sur or a rustic room at the charming Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn.

Monterey Bay and Santa Cruz

Day 5

Continue up Highway 1 for 45 minutes (less than 30 miles) through the northern section of Big Sur to the Monterey Peninsula. Take a walk in Carmel’s Point Lobos State Reserve or head to scenic Carmel Beach. Then drive a few miles north into Monterey to spend the afternoon at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Maps - Northern California 7e - Monterey Bay
Monterey Bay

Dine on fresh seafood at Pacific Grove’s Passionfish, The Sandbar & Grill in Monterey, The Poke Lab in Monterey, or Phil’s Fish Market up Highway 1 in Moss Landing.

If you want to spend another day in this area, wander the galleries in Carmel-by-the-Sea, golf at Pebble Beach, or head inland to Carmel Valley for wine tasting.

Day 6

Getting to Santa Cruz is an easy 50-minute drive (44 miles) up Highway 1 from the Monterey Peninsula. The eclectic beach city is an ideal place for recreation whether you are surfing, stand up paddleboarding, or hiking redwood-filled Forest of Nisene Marks State Park or the coastal bluffs of Wilder Ranch State Park. Refuel with a healthy snack at The Picnic Basket before ending the day with thrill rides at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

If your adrenaline is still racing from the Boardwalk rides, calm down with a drink at Red Restaurant & Bar or The Crepe Place.

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is a classic stop on a California coast road trip. Photo © Ken Wolter/123rf.

Northern California Coast Road Trip in 5 Days

San Francisco

Maps - Northern California 7e - San Francisco Bay Area
San Francisco Bay Area

Day 1

Wake up early for a drive on Highway 1 from Santa Cruz less than two hours (80 miles) to San Francisco. In the city, spend a few hours in the thought-provoking San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and have a creative snack at the museum’s In Situ; their menu features popular items from around the world. As the sun goes down, make sure to head out for dinner, whether it’s seafood at the Tadich Grill, modern Thai food at Lers Ros, or pizza at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana. If you still have energy, make sure to check out some of San Francisco’s vibrant nightlife or a concert at a venue like the Great American Music Hall.

Day 2

Head out on the San Francisco Bay to take a fascinating tour of the island prison Alcatraz (advanced booking is strongly recommended). Or secure passage on a ferry to Angel Island, which has hiking trails that offer up some of the finest views of the city.

In the afternoon, shop the used clothing stores of Haight-Ashbury or the department stores of Union Square. Or browse the books at City Lights in North Beach.

You’ll quickly fall in love with San Francisco; you can easily extend your romance to three or four days if you have the time.

Cable car in San Francisco.
Cable car in San Francisco. Photo © vadimsto/123rf.

The North Coast

Day 3

Maps - Northern California 7e - Sonoma and Mendocino Coasts
Sonoma and Mendocino Coasts

Your journey north begins with a drive on U.S. 101 over San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge. After five miles turn off U.S. 101 to Highway 1 at Mill Valley. On the slow, over-four-hour drive up the coast (around 160 miles), make time to stop at places like the tiny but unique Sea Ranch Chapel, which is just feet off Highway 1, and take a hike on the stunning cliffside trails in the Point Arena-Stornetta Unit of the California Coastal National Monument.

End the day in the community of Mendocino with a view of the sunset at Mendocino Headlands State Park or a pint at the lively Patterson’s Pub or at the one-of-a-kind dive bar Dick’s Place.

Day 4

Drive Highway 1 north of Fort Bragg until the road turns inland to connect with U.S. 101 after about an hour of driving. Opt for the Avenue of the Giants, a 31-mile drive through redwoods by the Eel River. Even though it’s only 31 miles, the drive could take a few hours if you decide to get out of your car and ponder the trees.

Get back on U.S. 101 North and head an hour north (60 miles) to Eureka. Stop to wander the city’s Old Town and Waterfront. Taste some of the delicious oysters at the Humboldt Bay Provisions.

Continue on U.S. 101 another 10 minutes or so to charming Arcata. Wander through the redwoods of the Arcata Community Forest before sundown. Dine at one of the restaurants surrounding the lively Arcata Plaza. Follow it with a craft beer at Dead Reckoning Tavern.

a rocky path through a fern-lined canyon
Fern Canyon is draped in bright green ferns. Photo © Igors Rusakovs/123rf.

Day 5

Start your morning with a tasty crepe from Arcata’s Renata’s Creperie and Espresso before hitting U.S. 101 North on your final day. About 20 minutes north (15 miles), exit to the scenic coastal city of Trinidad. Have your camera handy for photos of Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse, Trinidad Head and Trinidad State Beach.

Another half hour up U.S. 101 (26 miles), turn onto Newton B. Drury Scenic Drive to explore Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. If you have the energy, drive out Davison Road to Gold Bluffs Beach, where Roosevelt elk roam the sands, and continue on the dirt drive to hike the one-mile round-trip Fern Canyon Trail, which passes through a steep canyon draped in bright green ferns.

Head back out to U.S. 101 to drive the 45 minutes (38 miles) to Crescent City, where you can get a hotel room and a full night’s sleep.

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Pinterest graphic with photo of Bixby Bridge and Santa Monica Pier

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Excerpted from the Sixth Edition of Moon Coastal California.


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