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Who doesn’t love a good road trip! Kicking back listening to your favorite tunes, munching on gas station snacks, and leaving all your worries at home as you hit the open road.

As far as road trip scenery goes, California has a fantastic mix of perfectly sun-kissed beaches, natural landscapes and attractions which will constantly see you pulling over to the side of the road. So if you’re ready to plan your next road rally, consider cruising down California’s coast.

Byways and highways wind through dramatic scenery here, and connect some of the biggest cultural hubs in the United States. Southern California is one of the most iconic destinations for a road trip, so we’ve deiced to center our focus on hidden gems of the North.

Here are six fantastic spots you may not have thought of between Santa Rosa and Los Angeles.

6 Stops to Include on Your California Road Trip

Wine Country

An Authentic 13th-century Tuscan-inspired Castle in Napa Valley. Visting Castello di Amorosa.

Let’s get this party started in wine country. Sonoma County is home to over 400 wineries with Healdsburg Wineries and vineyards among the most popular.

Are you in Tuscany, France or California? You may wonder when you gaze upon the beautiful estates and expansive vineyards of Sonoma County. They are so breathtaking that pausing your road trip in Sonoma County is a must.

Touring the wineries is a unique and thrilling activity that includes more than just wine tasting (though that is pretty amazing by itself). The food pairings and walking tours are entertaining and educational.

As far as food goes, gourmet chefs prepare balanced pairings that tempt the taste buds and satisfy even the pickiest connoisseur. But if you’re starting to see dollar signs and think this region is only for the rich and famous, think again.

There are numerous locations throughout Sonoma County where you can enjoy free wine tasting and discounts when purchasing wine. Be sure to check each winery website so you can schedule ahead if needed. Next, lets head south to San Francisco.

Take The Stairs

San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge RF

Now that you’ve been in the car for a couple of hours, it’s time to get out and stretch your legs in San Francisco.

On Moraga between 15th and 16th Avenues, you will find a 163 step staircase adorned with mosaic tiles. No, an artist was not commissioned to complete this treasure, it was created by over 300 neighbors who worked together on this masterpiece.

This is no time for cardio stair-stepping though. Slow down and study each unique stair. You will enjoy pictures of flowers, fish, moons, suns, and both vibrant and soft colors.

If you want more of this artistic splendor, walk along 16th Avenue to Kirkham. Here you will find another set of gorgeous mosaic stairs called the “Hidden Garden Stairs.

Another great way to stretch your legs is by actually walking across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.  Take care to watch out for cyclists who share the pedestrian walkways, and then make a stop at the visitors center. You’ll find yourself at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which has a beautiful waterfront promenade.

Don’t Be “Picky”

Picking strawberries fruit RF

As you say goodbye to San Francisco, enjoy your beverage of choice but take it easy on the snacks so you are hungry by the time you arrive in Santa Cruz.

Just off Highway 1 in Davenport is Swanton Berry Farm. Here you can pick your own strawberries, olallieberries, kiwi, and artichokes. If you happen to visit during the winter, don’t despair. You can still eat delicious treats like homemade pies, shortcakes, soups and warm cider.

Whether you’re hungry or not you won’t be able to resist farm fresh fruit and homemade cooking.

The Butterfly Effect

Pacific Grove is the next stop on this California Coast road trip. Monterey is home to a Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary where you have the chance to see (look but don’t touch) thousands of Monarch butterflies who are migrating to warmer weather.

This unique scene is a breathtaking and colorful display of nature’s true beauty. The butterflies huddle together to keep each other warm so you can plan to see mobs of them hanging from eucalyptus branches.

It’s a rare sight to behold and one you don’t want to miss.

It’s Getting Hot in Here

Road trips can be a recipe for stiff muscles. If you’re feeling a little sore, then make sure you stop at the naturally heated mineral springs near Pismo Beach.

Luckily the 135-degree water that just took a journey from deep inside the Earth has been cooled a bit with fresh water to a comfortable 104 degrees.

The mineral pools are thought to be therapeutic and healing. At the very least, they are relaxing. It’s worth noting that children have to be at least 8 years old to participate.

Hawkeye, Radar and Houlihan

If those names aren’t ringing a bell you’ll want to skip this stop. However, if you immediately recognized the character names from M*A*S*H, then this next point of interest will be a real place of nostalgia.

Park in Malibu State Park and take one of the short Malibu hikes to the outdoor filming set of TV’s hit show M*A*S*H. Enjoy awesome photo ops in one of the two jeeps or on the helipad. There are also iconic signs and memorabilia to see.

This is a fun “must stop” for any fan of the show.


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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; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 50+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.



  1. How cool would it be to see the film set for MASH Meg? A fave show as a little kid. My Grandma Biddulph watched it every weekend. Or, during the week. I forget; 40 years ago LOL.

    • Right!! One of mine too, funnily enough I also watched it when over at my grandparents place … small world :D!

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