Navigation Menu

We all love an epic road trip, and as far as choosing the perfect destination, California is one of the most diverse states in the world. Byways and highways wind through dramatic scenery and connect some of the biggest cultural hubs in the United States.

But road trips aren’t ever about getting from point A to point B, they’re about the stop offs and itinerary you create inbetween. Whether you’re simply looking for some time to relax and recharge, or you want to embark on an adventure before you’re stuck behind a wheel for several hours, California has plenty of stop-offs to keep you entertained.

Once you’ve picked out a car hire and completed your ESTA registration, these are the stop-offs you need to be looking out for.

Great Stop-Off Points for a Road Trip Through California

Pismo Beach

If you’re a foodie but also want a relaxing break from driving, Pismo Beach is the place to be. Voted as the 5th best destination in California for foodies, you’ll be highly impressed by the seafood and clam chowder on offer here.

Just 3 hours away from LA and San Jose, this is the perfect stop-off for those who need that extra stop to recharge before embarking on the rest of their journey. Here, you can enjoy a spot of golf, or alternatively delve into some horse riding or scuba diving!

There is also plenty of sightseeing to be done at Pismo Beach if you want to truly dig under California’s skin.

Seafood Pexels RF

Hearst Castle

If stunning architecture is more your thing, make sure you include Hearst Castle in your Californian itinerary.

Hearst Castle brings the beauty of Rome to America, with the authentic architecture boasting all things Roman and cinematic history. The estate’s magnificent main house, “Casa Grande,” and three guest houses are of Mediterranean Revival style, while the imposing towers of Casa Grande were inspired by a Spanish cathedral.

The blending of the architectural style with the surrounding land, and Hearst’s superb European and Mediterranean art collection, was so seamless that world-renowned architectural historian, Lord John Julius Norwich, was moved to say that “Hearst Castle is a palace in every sense of the word.”

After you’ve spent time at the castle, if you’d like to sample some of California’s stunning nature, consider digging the rugged coastline and meeting a range of wildlife including elephant seals and birds.

Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle

Photo credits: Justin Vidamo / Ann Larie Valentine via Flickr CC

Sierra City

Despite being a small destination with a mere population of 221 in 2010, Sierra City has a lot to offer. With the highly praised mountains and stunning natural gardens, a stop-off here will be well worth it.

If you’d like to experience some of the state’s history first-hand, we suggest visiting the Yuba River, along with other beautiful landscapes to immerse yourself into the Californian Gold Rush era.

If you’re tired of sitting behind the wheel on straight roads and are looking for a bit of adventure during your travels, this is the place to be – a hidden gem of California.

Albany Bulb

Are you a fan of abstract architecture and sculpt work? If so, Albany Bulb is the perfect place to stop.

While not as elegant as the above destinations, Albany Bulb is certainly a destination that you don’t want to drive by, as you can find some highly interesting artwork here.

Sitting on the east side of San Francisco Bay, this former landfill has now become a canvas for artists to express themselves, where talented locals will sculpt impressive pieces for your observation. You never know what you’ll find!


Amazon Book California

California’s Best Road Trips

Amazon Book California

Lonely Planet Coastal California

Amazon Book California

101 Coolest Things to Do in California


Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; a website dedicated to opening your eyes to the wild & natural world.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

If you enjoy getting social, you can follow their journey on FacebookTwitterYouTubePinterest and Instagram.


  1. Road trips are definitely how we love to enjoy the world! And you’re right, it’s all about where you stop and the different cities (and locals) you get to know. We’ve been several times to California but I didn’t know Pismo Beach, Sierra City or the Albany bulb. Definitely bookmarking this so we can include them in our itinerary for our next trip!

    • Us too! And totally, the stopoffs and the towns you visit inbetween are always the best memories! Glad we could give you some new ideas for stop offs on your next California trip :)

  2. On my bucket list is to drive the Pacific Coast Highway from San Diego to San Francisco, so this post is right up my alley. I’ve also wanted to visit Hearst Castle. It seems so out of place, but I’d still love to see it for myself.

    • It’s one of the most incredible drives we’ve done, so I can highly recommend it! Hearst Castle does seem a little out of place – I remember being surprised when I heard that one of the regional attractions was a castle. Felt more like our European roadtrips than being in California! But stunning :)

  3. I haven’t been to California and these places both sound great. Is it possible to overnight there…? I’d like to know more about Albany Bulb and Sierra City too.

    • Absolutely, it’s possible to overnight in each of these areas, there are cute little bnbs and hotels in each region, one or two nights in each is generally enough to see everything :)

  4. Our road trip from San Francisco to LA was what got me into travel blogging! I have to admit I wasn’t a fan of LA, but everything along the way was stunning. I’m now thinking I didn’t eat enough food at Pismo beach though, hmmm time to head back over there!

    • Awesome Tom! We did the same road trip and it was one of the most memorable trips I’ve taken. Sounds like we have a very similar travel personality – LA was cool, and I enjoyed seeing the city, but the small towns and nature along the way was far more of a highlight for me. Food at Pismo beach is reason enough to plan another trip – definitely!

  5. Wooww! Thanks for sharing this post! Wow! So much to do in California!Roadtrip is such a nice thing to do in Pismo beach while savoring a delicious food, Sierra City, and Hearst Castle, indeed a perfect getaway!

    • So glad you enjoyed the post Ghia! Yes California is one of the best places in the world for a road trip – so much to do, and at all stops as you make your way through the state :)

  6. Uff, all of these stops sound like must-sees, Pismo Beach and Hearst Castle especially! I feel a road trip coming on soon!

    • Absolutely – so many incredible places to include in a California road trip. Hope you have the chance to drive by soon!

  7. This whole trip is a bucket list goal of mine! I only went to California on a cruise last year (a co-worked of mine got married on the ship!) and we visited a few major cities in California. I’d love to take a road trip and slowly make my way around. Thanks for the great ideas of places to stop for a while! I actually hadn’t heard of any of them until your post.

    • A cruise sounds fabulous – and a great way to get a taste of the State for sure :) If you do have the chance to visit again, I can highly recommend a road trip – personally my favorite parts of California are once you get outside of the cities. Glad we could set you up with some ideas! Feel free to reach out if you do start planning and have any questions :)

  8. I haven’t been to this part of world yet.
    But road trips are what we prefer as travelers. For me history and architecture interests a lot and often we plan our journey including the Unesco sites in itinerary. Hearst Castle would definitely feature in my plan for this reason. The castle facade is really impressive.

    • If you’re a big road tripper, California is a great introduction to the United States – and if you have a lot of time to explore, you can start in California and work your way up the whole West Coast towards Alaska – there’s some incredible history to be taken in along the way :)

  9. Having lived in Long Beach and taken my kids on the Mission Trail, I have a slew of such places. Agree vehemently with Hearst Castle and Pismo Beach.

    • I would love to spend some time living in California at some point – an incredible place to raise kids too :) Glad you have great memories of our recommended stops Roy!

  10. Great post and loved the suggestions. I have actually been to Hearst Castle and can highly recommend it. We had a great tour. Will have to remember some of these other places the next time we are in CA. Thanks for sharing :)

    • Thanks Samantha, so glad you enjoyed your time at Hearst Castle – it’s one of my favorite parts of California. If you do have the chance to head back at some point, can highly recommend our other stops :)

  11. Hearst Castle is truly amazing, in so many ways.. we loved our trip there years ago and now planning one more with the kids this time :)
    and I have a new place I had not heard about (though am a Californian for two decades now!) – Albany Bulb – and our favorite type of trips are road trips so we will be visiting this soon – thank you!

    • So glad you enjoyed your time at Hearst Castle Vidya – truly is an incredible attraction along that coastline. Glad we could introduce you to Albany Bulb, and give you a couple of idea for your next trip. Happy travels!

  12. I completely agree with you Meg on this one…I did a road-trip almost twice every month during my time in California and each one of them was unique and memorable. Pismo beach looks like the most fun – great beach, great food and lots of sightseeing :)

    • Oh wow, so you’re very well acquainted with this area then Siddhartha :) I would love to spend more extensive time in California – we did a road trip over 3 months but even then didn’t feel it was enough!

  13. This is so much great work!

    • Glad you enjoyed the post :)

Post a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *