San Francisco ignites the imagination like few other global cities. Iconic sights like the Golden Gate Bridge, shrouded in fog; bustling, pier-side Fisherman’s Wharf; as well as notorious prison island Alcatraz all conjure up grand fancies of the ultimate urban getaway.
But few venture further afield, beyond the well-trodden city, to explore the wonders of dramatic coastlines, great redwood forests, premier wine regions and historic towns off the beaten track.
Spend a few days living it up in the Bay City, before embarking on your quintessentially Californian road trip.
Set off from San Francisco at daybreak for the ride of your life on Highway One. Christened the All-American Road, the famous highway cuts right through the city and merges with I-280 for a few miles to Daly City; before splitting west for a scenic, winding cruise along the breathtaking Big Sur coastline.
Fly across the world in comfort
Daunting, long-haul flights with multiple connections to the US will soon be a thing of the past with United Airlines’ new daily nonstop service between Singapore and San Francisco on the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, starting from June 3.
The only nonstop service to the US from Singapore, the 13,592-km trip will be the longest scheduled 787 flight operated by any airline. (Flying times for the new service will be approximately 15 hours, 30 minutes eastbound and 16 hours, 20 minutes westbound).
It will save travellers up to four hours’ journey time each way as compared to existing flight options.
The 787 Dreamliner, the world’s most advanced passenger airplane, promises greater comfort for travellers with features such as improved lighting, bigger windows, larger overhead bins, lower cabin altitude and enhanced ventilation systems.
Its use of lightweight composites, modern engines and improved aerodynamic design, also allow it to fly farther, faster and more efficiently.
United’s Boeing 787-9 aircraft operating the new service will have 252 seats — 48 in United BusinessFirst and 204 in United Economy, including 88 Economy Plus seats with increased legroom and personal space.
Upon arrival at Monterey County, head to the Cannery Row, a picturesque waterfront street anchored by the Monterey Bay Aquarium and dozens of specialty shops. Restaurant-hop your way through delectable arrays of fresh, sustainable seafood, prime meats and local produce from the Salinas Valley, uncover local artists’ galleries and sample intoxicating, handcrafted wines in intimate, little tasting rooms.
Savouring a cup of hot, hearty clam chowder, wander along Fisherman’s Wharf and watch as sea lions and otters frolic, or pop into another beachside eatery to satiate your craving for more fresh Monterey Bay seafood.
If you’re a golfer, tee off at one of Pebble Beach’s eight championship golf courses— enjoy the crisp, clipped greens, or just hang around the 19th hole and you might chance upon a pro.
Yosemite National Park and Central Valley
With the United States National Parks Service (NPS) celebrating its centennial year, there’s no better time to visit one its proudest crown jewels — the Yosemite National Park.
Towering majestically east of Central Valley, the 3,027 sq km park is best known for its thundering waterfalls. It is a shrine to nature in its most multi-faceted glory — here, you can lose yourself in unfathomable valleys, vast meadows and get up close and personal with ancient giant sequoias (coast redwood).
Hike the 8km Pohono Trail from Tunnel View to Crocker Point for sweeping views of spectacular rock formations such as Half Dome and El Capitan; and during summer months, wind down your trek with a lazy float down the Merced River on a rented raft from the Curry Village Recreation Center. For a grand finale, drive to Glacier Point to catch the golden sunset casting a magical pink glow over the valley.
In honour of the NPS Centennial, entry to Yosemite will be fee-free from Aug 25 to 28.
To experience nature in all its unbridled beauty, head north to uncover one of the state’s best-kept secrets — the Shasta Cascade region. Covering a fifth of California, yet with less than 3 per cent of the population, the vast, isolated, unspoiled expanse is nature’s playground — a land of massive glaciers and fiery volcanoes, tumbling world-class rapids and grand, old redwood forests.
Start the drive from Sacramento, where restored 19th-century saloons and shops hark back to the capital city’s pioneer days, and wend your way north-east to where the earth steams at Mount Shasta and Lassen Peak in the Lassen Volcanic National Park to witness boiling pools, roaring fumaroles and bubbling mud pots. Find cooling respite amid the beautiful, cascading Burney Falls at the McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park.
For some R&R, rent a houseboat and spend a day adrift on the sparkling Shasta Lake, before coasting west through miles of dense redwood forestlands to former Gold Rush boomtown Eureka, now rejuvenated with art galleries and craft breweries.
The world-renowned sun-dappled Napa Valley, with its first-class wines, magnificent vistas and Michelin-star dining is every wine connoisseur’s dream.
The epicentre of fine wine production in the US is home to more than 500 wineries, including top-rated ones with unique settings such as the William Hill Estate Winery, Schramsberg Vineyards, O’Brien Estate, Stony Hill White, Castello di Amorosa, Mumm Napa and V. Sattui.
But there’s more to the region than just bacchanalian intoxication. Invigorate your senses at a luxurious spa retreat or get away from it all at a remote vineyard setting to experience the essence of joie de vivre.
Wine aside, there are a multitude of ways to tour the valley — by the Napa Valley Wine Train, a wine trolley, hot air balloon, or a bike tour — to soak in its spellbinding sights and vibrant arts scene.