This one day San Francisco Itinerary is perfect for first-timers visiting the city for a short amount of time. California will always have a special place in my heart. After all, it was what I like to call my first real travel destination. After completing a three-year nursing degree I needed to get out of the UK and explore something other than the anatomy textbooks that had dominated my world as a nursing student. I craved to see what was out there. The notion of stepping onto a plane and in a matter of hours I’d be in another part of the world amazed me and still does to this very day.
During my first visit to San Francisco, I was simply nothing but an excitable twenty-one-year-old. I was just beyond thrilled to be out on my own adventures. That said, it’s no surprise that the majority of the west coast of the USA left me speechless. But like anything some places made left their mark more than others and San Francisco was up there.
I’m not sure if it’s the urban chic vibe or the seaside air that made me fall in the love with San Francisco but I did. I first visited San Francisco during a Trek America Tour in 2015. Even though this city is vast it is possible to see a lot of San Francisco in a short amount of time. This one day in San Francisco Itinerary is perfect for those just passing through the city. Hopefully, though, you’re lucky enough to be stopping for more than one day.
Let’s just get straight into it shall we and start with the main attraction? The Golden Gate Bridge.
There’s just something about travellers and bridges. They seem to get everybody all het up and excited, me included! The impressive Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is no exception. This amazing suspension bridge was built way back in 1933 and functioning by 1937. This epic structure stretches to 1.7 miles long connecting San Francisco Bay to the Pacific ocean. With burnt orange architecture, The Golden Gate bridge is pretty beautiful and I’m sure one of the most Instagrammed bridges in the world!
Best Ways to See the Golden Gate Bridge
There’s plenty of options when it comes to seeing the bridge up close and personal depending on what you like doing. For me it wasn’t ever going to be a choice, I was always going to walk the bridge. Walking is the best way to explore any place in the world. But don’t worry if you don’t fancy the walk or can’t for health reasons then you can drive over the bridge and take in the views from your very own passenger seat! You can also cycle the bridge too (definitely going to do this myself when I visit next)! You can check out where and how to hire a bike here!
Weather in San Francisco
If you’ve researched the weather in San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge, in particular, you’ll have seen a lot of fog! Unfortunately, the fog is a little like rain in the UK. Constant and annoying with very little you can do about it. Because of where San Francisco is located on the coastline, much like the whole of California, it suffers from fog, especially in the summer months. So just be prepared for some fog! But try not let it haze your views too much (pun not intended)! On day one we arrived at the bridge to thick fog clouds and on day two we were enjoying a cruise under the bridge with the clearest of blue skies!
Top Tip: Arrive at the bridge early in the morning for sunrise and you’ll have a beautiful experience and so much longer to spend exploring!
Lunch – Grab a bite to Eat at Fisherman’s Wharf
Fisherman’s Wharf is a little bit like the hub of the city and foodie heaven! Filled with food to die for, entertainment, drinks and shops all tied together with a warm community feel. Fisherman’s Wharf is the place to be to grab a bite to eat whether its breakfast, lunch or dinner you’ll find plenty of options! The main attraction on the wharf is seafood but there’s plenty of other genres of cuisine to get stuck into too! But if your open to trying new foods and your into fish then you’ve got to try the famous clam chowder served in a hot crusty bread roll. Or bun, bap or cob whatever you call it where you are! It is seriously good!
Watch the Sea-Lions on Pier 39
After you’ve enjoyed your chowder and other culinary delights on the Wharf head down to pier 39! You might be wondering what the hype is with pier 39 especially if you don’t know much about San Francisco. Well, I can tell you-you’re in for a treat especially if you’re an animal lover! Pier 39 is home to hundreds of sea lions, sometimes up to 900 at a time! The sea lions started arriving at the pier after an earthquake in 1989 and have come back for the winters ever since! It was such an experience watching them up close and personal from just metres away. I think it was possibly one of my favourite things about the unique city of San Francisco.
Afternoon – Visit Alcatraz Island
One of the things that had me falling in love with San Francisco is its chic urban feel. But what’s also great about this versatile city is that its also riddled with history! If you’re into history then you must catch the ferry across to Alcatraz Island. Even if you’re not a history buff Alcatraz is well worth a visit.
Alcatraz was once home to some of Americas most deadly criminals and still stands as It did then which is pretty cool to see. There are a couple of options to exploring the island you can simply just walk around, take a guided tour or an audio tour, the choice is yours! I didn’t know very much stepping onto the ground where the most dangerous people once walked about Alcatraz so opted for the audio tour! You need around three hours on the island but is definitely worth it and the views of San Francisco City from the island are spectacular! You can check out tickets here!
Visit Lombard Street
If history isn’t for you then you should definitely go and check out the more chic and quirky things to do in the city including, going on a hunt for the steepest and windiest road ever! It’s pretty special! Lombard Street is one of San Francisco’s most photographed places and you can see why! Now everywhere you go in San Francisco is steep but this street is one of a kind! It’s so steep that some of the houses look like they are on tilt! But it’s definitely worth checking out whilst you’re in town! If you’re really good with your time you could head here straight from Alcatraz Island to see both!
As your day draws into a close your probably heading back on the road gutted you didn’t see more of this great city! Or you’re here for the night?! GREAT! Because there is plenty of things to get up to in San Francisco on a night time too! Unfortunately, I ain’t much of a clubber so I haven’t got a list of the best bars or clubs for you! But I do have some better alternatives!
Catamaran Cruise at Sunset
Remember those lyrics ‘As Sunday sun falls down on San Francisco Bay..’? I hope I’m not the only one who occasionally listens to Beautiful South or you’re going to think I’ve gone insane! Anyway, what better way to finish off the day than with a sunset cruise under the Golden Gate Bridge? I can’t really think of one, provided you get a clear evening!
Unlike the night we arrived our second night in this city was crystal clear which made for a spectacular sunset! The only downside to a catamaran cruise is that they can be expensive we paid about $50-100 USD for ours but it was totally worth it! Included we got drinks and a buffet for dinner and brilliant views of the city and the iconic bridge! It’s the perfect way to round off your day in this stunning place! If San Francisco hasn’t captured your heart yet it’s sunsets might just do the trick!
Now I’ve got another option if a sunset cruise isn’t your jam. If you’re a sports lover then you’ll love this option! Its time to get down with the locals and enjoy an American evening of sport at the home of the San Francisco Giants! Go watch a baseball match at the AT&T Stadium. Now coming from the UK baseball isn’t a sport that I was familiar with and I was amazed when we went to watch the Giants Vs LA Dodgers.
As someone not particularly into sports other than yoga and climbing, I was a little apprehensive to whether I would enjoy it! That said the atmosphere was so amazing that it didn’t matter that I didn’t have a clue what was going on in the actual game! Grab your travel friends, a beer and an obligatory hot or corn dog and watch the crowd go wild as the score changes! You can check out the San Francisco Giants website here for upcoming games and events!
Extra Time? Yoga on the Beach
I don’t know what kind of trip you’re taking whilst in San Francisco. Maybe it’s a week-long holiday in the bay? Or perhaps it’s a five-hour slot you’ve crammed into a big American road trip? Whatever the case even though most of us see travel as a luxury it can be hard work! Travel can easily take a toll on our bodies and our mind’s too! Let’s face it driving 8 hours every other day is no one’s idea of fun right? It’s important when travelling to take care of yourself, body and mind! If you’ve got some spare time in San Francisco then hit up your inner Yogi! It may take up a little bit of time in this one day San Francisco itinerary but I think it’d be worth it! Take one of the outdoor yoga classes that take place along the beach front! You can even take some classes for free! Take a look at here at the timetable.
Other Things to Do in San Francisco for a One Day San Francisco Itinerary
Visit Golden Gate Park
Ride the Cable Car
Shop at Westfield
Hop on Hop off Alcatraz bus
Cycle Bay Bridge
No matter which one day San Francisco itinerary you decide to follow it will be a blast. San Francisco is definitely one of my favourite cities in the world and I can’t wait to return one day. Hopefully, you’ve got more than just one day to enjoy this beautiful city! If you enjoyed this post then please share it with your friends!
The West Coast of America will always hold a special place in my heart. After years of living vicariously through others, I decided enough was enough. At twenty one I took the matter into my own hands and decided to go on an adventure of my own. At twenty-one and by myself there was only one place I was going to go. America. I don’t know why but I’ve always put America on a pedestal of being the capital of adventures, a ‘pinch me kind of place’. It didn’t take long for the flights to be booked and trip organised, I was going on a road trip of the West Coast of America! It was ultimately the start of my passion for travel, which has consistently grown bigger and bigger with every year that’s followed. In this post, I want to talk about where I spent the majority of my time, California. My road trip lasted three weeks in total but 14 days was in the sun-drenched state of California. In this post, I’m sharing an epic California Road Trip Itinerary 14 days!
California has mountains to offer as a state and could appeal to anyone and everyone. It’s home to the big cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco plus so many other gems. Relax in the beach paradises of San Diego, Santa Barbra and Santa Monica. Then pull on your hiking boots and pitch up the tent in one of the world’s best national parks, Yosemite. I only have one outstanding wish when it comes to California and that’s to do it all over again.
California Road Trip Itinerary 14 Days
Starting Destination: Los Angeles Finishing Destination: Los Anegles Distance: 1200 Miles/1931 Km Time: 14 Days Road Trip Type: Loop
California Road Trip Destinations:
Day One Los Angeles
Los Angeles. The number one spot on a lot of peoples California Road Trip Itinerary including mine. As an avid watcher of Laguna Beach and The Hill when I was a young teen I could not wait to visit this famous city. My belief about LA is simple. I think you should go and experience it but I don’t think many go back. As cool as it was to walk the walk of fame, stand where so many stars have stood and of course see that famous sign up in the hills, I’m in no rush to return to LA. That said if I was to do this road trip all over again I would probably go back and see if my mind could be changed. After all, I was only twenty-one and I definitely appreciate more now than I did then.
My opinions aside Los Angeles should be on every California road trip itinerary especially if you’ve got 14 days. The international airport is the most sensible to fly into for the road trip so it makes sense to see it whilst being so close!
Things to See and Do in Los Angeles
Hollywood Walk of Fame
It just has to be done. The Hollywood Walk of Fame is an iconic space known all over the world. For the rich and famous it’s an honour to have your name placed on this side-walk because let’s be honest that’s exactly what it is. The Hollywood Walk of Fame was established in 1958 and the first permanent star was awarded to actress Joanna Woodward. The walk of fame is now 1.3 miles long and goes past the famous Chinese Dragon Theatre too. It does feel pretty cool to stand where some of the worlds best actresses, actors and performers have stood! The walk of fame is, of course, free and a great way to spend the morning whilst exploring more of Hollywood Boulevard.
See the Hollywood Sign
Okay, when I do eventually get back to California and if we visit LA then the one thing I want to get closer to is the Hollywood sign! You can hike close to the sign via Griffith park or the Wonder View Trail. Because I did this road trip as part of a Trek America tour we were on limited time and had to see the sign from quite far away. We viewed the sign from the Hollywood Highland mall and although it was cool it was WAY too far away!
Did you know that the sign originally read ‘Hollywoodland’ about some houses being built beneath! Of course, it wasn’t long before it got linked to the ‘Hollywood’ film industry!
Drive to the Coast to See Venice Beach Via Beverly Hills
Spend the afternoon in Los Angeles on the legendary Venice Beach! If you’ve not heard of Venice Beach then perhaps you’ll have heard of Muscle Beach. Muscle Beach is located on Venice Beach and very fun to visit. It was quiet when were there but when it’s busy be prepared to be surrounded by bodybuilders and a lot of hot bods! As well as Muscle Beach the streets that line Venice Beach are packed to the brim with shops, cafes, bars and indy sellers.
The beach itself is gorgeous and the sunset on Venice Beach is mesmerising. Take a picnic, have a swim in the ocean, catch an LA sun glow and enjoy. Stroll up and down the beach taking it all in. I loved this part of LA. Be aware of pickpocketers on Venice Beach too especially on the side-walks. There are also street sellers offering you anything and everything so just be mindful of where your bag/purse is as a lot of robberies are reported in this area.
If you don’t drive through Beverly Hills then did you even go to LA? Although you can hardly see anything because of the tall hedges and steel gates it’s worth going for a nosey. If there’s time then hit up the shops at Rodeo Drive and feel like a complete star!
Other Things to Do in Los Angeles
Explore amazing views from Griffith Park
Watch a show at Hollywood Bowl
Take a free walking tour
Watch a baseball game at the LA Dodgers stadium
These are just a few more ideas/things to experiance in LA during this California 14 Day Road Trip!
Los Angeles to Death Valley – Day Two
Death Valley National Park
Tittering on the edge of the state of California is the incredible Death Valley. Death Valley is awesome paired in with Las Vegas which we did but I’ll be creating another post on the whole road trip as we went quite far our of California! But without visiting the crazy Nevada desert Death Valley is a must-see place on any California road trip.
The crazy landscape that is Death Valley
Death Valley is a land of the extraordinary. Where heat and humidity reach a whopping new level and the meaning of ‘mind-blowing’ is taken to another level. I recommend spending a whole day exploring Death Valley even though you could spend a lot longer in this vast land. The most popular area to visit and where we too went was to Badwater Basin. Death Valley is most famous for its salt formations and Badwater Basin brings you right into the heart of it.
As the lowest point you get to in the western hemisphere it’s a very cool place to visit. Out on the salt flats very little can survive meaning you’ll find virtually no animal or plant life at Badwater Basin.
Yosemite could arguably be in the top 5 best national parks in the world. Who said that? Well, me. It’s one of the best national parks I’ve ever visited. The incredible giant sequoias, mountainous landscape and gushing waterfalls are enough to make you fall in love with America. Three days is a great amount of time to spend in Yosemite during a California road trip. Even though I could spend a week, if not more, in Yosemite three days is a great length of time to explore. My top picks whilst experiencing Yosemite National Park are below.
Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoia (Redwoods)
Hike amongst giant sequoias in Mariposa Grove. Home to over 500 mature redwoods this area of Yosemite is incredible. My favourite hike was the Guardians Loop Trail and I highly recommend it. Wind in and out the towering sequoia in awe at how fantastic nature really is. This loop, in particular, is 6.5 miles or 10.5 km so some walking/hiking experience is advantageous. This is where the incredibly famous Wawona Tunnel Tree was found until a storm brought it down in 2012. Now stands The California Tunnel Tree. A great area of Yosemite to be at one with nature.
Waterfalls in Yosemite
There are some awesome waterfalls in Yosemite and I need to go back to see them all! Yosemite falls is super popular but one of the harder walks if you want to reach the top. But if you can’t manage a big hike then you can see the fall from Columbia Rock which is only a 2 mile round trip. The hike to the top of the falls however is an 11.6 km round trip reaching an elevation of 823 metres.
Yosemite is full of unique vantage points. One moment a waterfall stands before you, then a mountainous backdrop then a huge redwood. Honestly, the sensational views in Yosemite just keep on coming. There are so many to explore and a lot can be accessed via car. Half Dome and Tunnel View are a couple of these most popular.
My biggest piece of advice when visiting Yosemite during your 14 Day California Road Trip is to spend as many days there as you can. Especially, if you call yourself an adventure seeker Yosemite will be your haven.
Yosemite to San Francisco – Days 6-9
Ever since being little I’ve wanted to explore the streets of San Francisco. I think it probably began after a slight obsession with the film Princess Diaries! After years of lusting about riding the tram, walking up and down the many hills and of course seeing the Golden Gate Bridge, when I got there it certainly didn’t disappoint. San Francisco stole my heart away. It still stands as one of my all-time favourite cities in the world, probably more so than Sydney Australia!
The urban hip feel that San Francisco has on offer along with its vast amount of history makes it a fascinating place to visit. There is so much to do see and San Francisco but a couple of days is easy enough time to see the main attractions. In fact, you can see a lot of San Francisco in just one day!
Things to Do in San Francisco During a California Road Trip
With three days in San Francisco here are the main things to do and see. A mix of culture, food, history and epic views are what makes this place special. Not to mention amazing sealife and a sunset to impress.
See The Golden Gate Bridge
I think this one may be a given but nonetheless, it has to be the first thing you do in San Francisco. It’ll probably be one of the most memorable sights from this California road trip! I know it’s certainly stuck in my head for all these years. The possibilities are endless when it comes to seeing the bridge. Drive, walk, run or cycle the choices are yours but I highly recommend walking. You get to see life from a different perspective when you walk and the details in the bridge are so worth it.
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Alcatraz Island/Prison is another San Francisco must do! Learn the vast history that comes hand in hand with San Francisco. I enjoyed Alcatraz a lot more than I thought. I recommend booking a ticket in advance and going on the audio tour too. The audio tour gives you all the gory details that you wouldn’t know (unless you’re a history buff) and it is really interesting! The views back to San Francisco are second to none as well.
Fishermans Wharf is the perfect place to try the San Francisco world famous clam chowder! Served in a bread bun it is so delicous! Whilst you’re on the waterfront make sure you head down to Pier 39 to see a colony of sealions too!
Watch the Sunset/Sunset Cruise
The sunset over the Golden Gate Bridge is fantastic! I was lucky enough to go on a catermaran sunset cruise which was nothing short of amazing. If you’ve got a little cash to spare then I highly recommend it! If not just head back to the bridge to watch the sunsetting over the ocean!
Other Things to Do in San Francisco
Explore Lombard Street
Watch a baseball game at the home of the San Francisco Giants
Ride on the cable car
Shop in Union Sqaure
Enjoy the sights with the hop-on hop-off bus
Hike Lands End
San Francisco to San Jose – Day 10
I feel like San Jose should be included in a 14 day California road trip but I must admit we only drove by. San Jose is a popular city in California. It’s known as the hub of technology and has an abundance of museums, art exhibitions and sports activities to indulge in! I won’t talk to much about it because I can’t but The Crazy Tourist has an awesome list of things to do in San Jose!
Monterey Bay and Big Sur – Day 11
After a couple of days in the cities on San Jose and San Francisco, it’s time to leave the urban lifestyle behind and get to the California Coast. Arguably one of the best coastal highway drives in the world. Take in the mesmerising views as you weave in and out of the ocean.
When you hit Monterey Bay stop the car and go for a gorgeous stroll around the stroll. If you read Of Mice and Men at school then you’ll have heard of John Steinbeck. He grew up in Monterey Bay and you can buy his books in the local stores. Monterey Bay is a gorgeous coastal town with a big fishing culture and scenic views all around.
Credit: Austin Prock
It’s a lot to do in one day but it felt it easy to accomplish. Big Sur is one of the quietest and most scenic places I remember from this trip especially down at McWay Falls. After a short 0.6 mile walk from the car, McWay Falls is a great way to finish off the day. You can only see the falls from above as the beach below is completely private – which leaves some people a little aggy about this spot but I think the beauty will be preserved for a lot longer. We viewed the falls from the vantage point just off from Highway 1 but you can get to other views points in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. That said I do know there have been some track closures in 2019 so check before you go!
San Luis – Day 12
After a three hour drive down from Big Sur stop-over in San Luis and explore the gorgeous town. Known for its beautiful landscape and great farmers markets San Luis is a great day just to breathe. But before you hit San Luis make sure you stop off at the Elephant Seal Beach Vista Point.
I remember our tour guide bringing us to this beach and from the distance I could see a beach full of boulders. Oh, how wrong was I. No on the beach in front of me lay not boulders but Elephant Seals! These seals were almost made extinct because of hunters hunting them for their very oily rubber! But the Elephant Seal made a comeback and you’ll find a whole colony on this beach! Both male and female seals come to this beach throughout the year and thousands are spotted every year! It was truly magical!
Think bikini babes, golden tans, jet skis and drinks on the pier. Santa Barbra the posh end compared to Venice beach if you will. It’s lined with restaurants and bars that lead to the Santa Monica pier, which for me is the highlight.
Grab a coffee or beer and walk down the promenade there are restaurants, cafes and bars if you like. But for me the simplicity of the sea at the end of the pier is all you need. We only had quick whistle stop tour to Santa Barbra at the latter end of our road trip but the snippet I saw was beautiful. Take a great book and dangle your legs off the side of the pier and enjoy
Santa Monica is also a gorgeous coastal town but with a little more to do. It’s great to just take walks along the beach or hit up Pacific Park if you enjoy rides/the fun fair. These two spots are an epic way to finish up a great 14 Day California Road Trip!
Things to Do in Santa Monica
Bike Tour of the City
Looking for a thrill? 26 Mile Bike Path Ride (you might need longer in the area though)!
Enjoy Santa Monica Pier
Visit the City Hall
Final Day of the California Road Trip Itinerary – 14 Days!
So I guess as we reach Day 14 the great big California Road Trip comes to an end! Of Course, if you do have more time then there are some extra places I’ve put below because visiting San Diego was also awesome but it’s a further one hour south of Los Angeles. I would’ve also loved the Joshua Tree National Park to have been in the itinerary too! Another great reason to revisit California right?
Stretch your California Road Trip 14 Days to 15 and see San Diego!
I didn’t really know what to expect visiting San Diego as I thought it would be very residential. When I arrived one of my favourite things happened, I unexpectedly fell in love with the place! If you want my opinion San Diego is one of the most beautiful places in California. It has it all from gorgeous beaches that stretch for miles, museums galore and food to die for.
We spent most of our one day in San Diego lapping up the rays on the beach and walking along the front. This included dreaming about living in one of the million dollar pads that overlook the sea! San Diego definitely has a dreamy feel to it and is so ‘California’! San Diego is what I expect from California.
California Road Trip Itinerary 14 Days – Please Share!
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I hope you enjoyed this California road trip itinerary – 14 days to help you plan and book your road trip! 14 Days is great length of time to visit all the best places California has to offer but if you can stretch it a little further then why not! If you did enjoy this post please share it with your friends!