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    Beginner's Guide to California

    Beginner's Guide to California

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    Where urban glitz and glamour is as accessible as remote desert outposts… California, one of the most diverse environments on Earth, has everything you have ever dreamed of in a destination. From world famous national parks to some of the best shopping and nightlife in the world, the Golden State won’t disappoint. The best way to explore this larger than life region is to rent your own wheels, hit Highway 1 and feel the wind in your hair. Bliss…

    Discover Natural Wonders

    Yosemite National Park

    Arguably the most famous of them all, this UNESCO World Heritage site rates as most locals’ favourite place in the state. At over 3000 square kilometers, this park is home to the stunning Yosemite Falls, the highest measured waterfall in North America and 6th in the world. Black bears and Peregrine Falcons call Yosemite home, as do thousands of squirrels who like to hover around the canteens waiting for a tourist to indulge them. Although the squirrels are adorable, it is forbidden to feed them.

    Joshua Tree National Park

    The iconic namesake of one of U2’s best albums is an oasis for star-gazers with one of the clearest night skies on Earth. Falling stars and diverse constellations are commonly seen, so make sure you stick around after dark to catch a glimpse. The twisted Joshua trees, granite rock formations and the odd coyote will make you feel like you’ve stumbled upon another frontier.

    Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park

    Everything here is big! Sequoia is home to the General Sherman giant sequoia tree, the largest tree in the world with a circumference of over 30 metres and height of over 80 metres. If hiking is your thing, then consider Mt Whitney, the US’ highest mountain outside of Alaska, flanks the western side of Sequoia. You will need to apply for a permit in advance to hike to the peak.

    The neighbouring parks are located in the Southern Sierra Nevada area, approximately 320km north of Los Angeles. Kings Canyon was formed from glacial action in the Ice Age. These parks are smaller and less crowded than Yosemite, which is great if you want to escape the tourist trail. Elevation can range from 396m to 4400m above sea level, meaning temperatures can vary greatly on any one day, so dress in layers for comfort.

    Discover Cities that never sleep

    Los Angeles

    This city lives at the speed of light. It is brash and loud and everyone is in a rush.

    The eclectic beach culture ranges from the hippy meets punk regulars of Venice Beach, east of Downtown L.A., to Zuma Beach at Malibu, one of the largest state beaches in SoCal (Southern California).

    Downtown LA may be the main commercial hub of the city, but don’t let that put you off. This area is host to some unique attractions. Chinatown and Little Tokyo are here and don’t miss cocktails in a vibrating waterbed pod at the Rooftop Bar of the Standard Hotel.

    Beverly Hills needs no introduction. After a few hours window shopping and celebrity spotting on Rodeo Drive, head to the Farmers Market for a delicious lunch. From humble beginnings in 1934 the Farmers Market has grown into an outdoor village with over 85 stores. Many of the restaurants here feature open kitchens so you can watch the chef at work.

    After dark head to West Hollywood for the best nightlife in LA. Sunset Strip (a 1.2km stretch of Sunset Boulevard) is where you’ll find infamous bars the Viper Room and Whiskey A Go-Go. This area is home to the who’s who of LA, including Cameron Diaz, the Hilton sisters, Keanu Reeves, John Frusciante and Michael Buble.

    “Welcome to Hollywood! What’s your dream? Everybody comes here; this is Hollywood, land of dreams” The line from Pretty Woman encapsulates all that is wonderful about Hollywood. Visit the Hollywood Walk of Fame to see over 2,000 celebrity names immortalised in the sidewalk on Hollywood Boulevard. See what happens on a real life movie set at Universal Studios. To get up close and personal with your favourite celeb, Madame Tussauds Hollywood is a must.

    San Francisco

    San Francisco’s striking beauty will draw you in – widely accepted as California’s most handsome city, a visit here is a must do on any California itinerary.

    Catch a cable car from Union Square, San Francisco’s premier shopping and entertainment district, to Fishermans Wharf and sample the world famous clam chowder on offer at Pier 39.

    Spend a morning cycling north across the Golden Gate Bridge, one of the seven wonders of the modern world, to Sausalito. This divine village boasts the best view of the city. Bicycles can be rented from Fishermans Wharf.

    Haight-Ashbury was at the heart of the hippy movement. Once home to The Grateful Dead (710 Ashbury St) and Janis Joplin (112 Lyon St) these infamous streets are now full of vintage clothing, books and record stores and fantastic cafes and bars. When you are done trawling the shops take a stroll around Buena Vista Park, one of the oldest parks in the city.

    San Francisco’s Chinatown is one of the largest outside of Asia at nearly 8 blocks. Pagoda-style roofs and ornamental balconies surround temples, museums and the best Chinese food in California. Green Tea Ice-cream is a must-try!

    Unique Locations

    Highway One

    Get into gear to experience the twists and turns of Highway 1 from Los Angeles to San Francisco and discover the wild and natural face of California.

    Santa Barbara

    Known as ‘The American Riviera,’ Santa Barbara is a place to relax, walk barefoot on the beach and build up an appetite. The local wines provide the perfect accompaniment to the excellent fresh local produce. After taking in the city and its beautiful Spanish style architecture, it’s worth a trip up the upmarket coast, home today to many stars from Whoopi Goldberg to John Cleese.


    The aroma of chocolate, bakeries, coffee and beer garden flavour the quaint streets of Solvang – the Danish capital of America!
    Old-world buildings dot the flower-lined streets to create a walkable village where you can browse the local art galleries, boutiques, gift and antique stores.

    San Simeon

    San Simeon was once a castle, once a bustling whaling station, but these days you can marvel in disbelief at the grandiosity of Hearst Castle – William Randolph Hearst’s sprawling mansion complete with 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, 19 sitting rooms, and 127 acres of gardens.


    Nowhere is evidence of California’s Hispanic heritage richer than in Monterey. Monterey is a magical combination of small town openness and great restaurants and attractions, including the aquarium and Cannery Row. The city has numerous restored adobe buildings from the Spanish and Mexican periods, and it’s well worth spending a few hours wandering about the town’s historic quarter.

    San Jose

    Packed full of fine restaurants, funky old bars, historic buildings and excellent museums, San Jose is a culturally diverse city with plenty to distract the visitor.

    Napa Valley

    When you think of American wine, you think of Napa Valley! Home to some of the world’s premier wine producers, top restaurants, plush resorts and breathtaking scenery, it’s like nowhere else on earth. A perfect place to relax and unwind.


    Sip and savour the Sonoma Valley – located only 45 minutes north of San Francisco, the birthplace of California’s wine industry is home to more than 40 premium wineries, all a stone’s throw apart on a 17-mile span of enchanting country lanes. There are plenty of wine-themed activities from cave tours to barrel tastings and tram rides through the vineyards.

    Santa Rosa

    Santa Rosa, the largest city in Sonoma County, is nestled in the centre of famous Sonoma Wine Country. This warm and friendly city is an urban blend of art and culture, food, wine and recreation. Take a stroll around downtown Santa Rosa, and have a look at the charming central Old Courthouse Square and historic Railroad Square.

    Palm Springs

    There are very few days without sunshine in Palm Springs, which is one of the reasons it has become a golf-lovers paradise with over 116 courses. People come here to relax, wine and dine, play sports and sit by the pool. If you love a good spa, Palm Springs is the place to bliss out thanks to thermal well that produce pure mineral water. There are so many to choose from depending on your style of relaxation.

    Death Valley

    Scary name, but a wonderful experience! Death Valley is the lowest, driest place in California and one of the hottest places on earth. Its spectacular desert scenery, glimmering salt pans, steaming hot springs, rare wildlife, and undisturbed wilderness make Death Valley a unique adventure.

    Lake Tahoe

    Beautiful Lake Tahoe is a large freshwater lake in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Come in the winter to ski and snowboard or come in the summer for fishing, hiking, bicycling, and water sports. There are also some interesting cultural and historic sights to inspect, as well as a good dining and nightlife scene.

    When to go

    California is blessed with a temperate climate year round. Long, mild summers and short winters allow travellers the option to travel whenever suits. Temperatures in Los Angeles range from 8 degrees to 28 degrees throughout the year with hot dry summers.
    San Francisco enjoys 7-20 degrees and a trademark blanket of cool marine fog from May to August.
    Most Californians will tell you that September and October are the best times to visit their home state, with the Autumn (Fall) cool providing a lovely vista in which to enjoy California.

    Getting there

    A myriad of airlines fly to California from Australia. Fly direct to Los Angeles on Delta, Qantas, United Airlines or V Australia. Alternatively United Airlines will take you direct to San Francisco. Your personal travel manager can assist you with booking the right airline for your trip.

    Fast Facts

    Area: 263,460 Km2
    Population: 38,756,666 (2008 estimate)
    Languages: English (official)
    Capital: Sacramento
    Local Time: GMT – 8. Pacific Time Zone.
    Currency: United States Dollar
    Exchange Rate: $AUD1: 0.92 USD
    Electricity: 120 Volts at 60 Hz

    Plan your trip to California today with your local, personal travel manager.


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