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Why go?

A tour which starts in LA and ends in San Francisco - or vice versa - is highly recommended to experience California’s central coastal route, one of the most beautiful in the world. The gentle stretch, which culminates in the Monterey Peninsula, is packed with family attractions.

Younger kids will love splashing around on the beautiful beaches, which range from wide-sprawling vistas to little bays, while tweens and teens can explore the natural wonders on hikes or horseback.

Activities

Heading north from Los Angeles, stop at Pismo Beach, which has eight miles of towering sand dunes with buggies for hire to explore them, and horseback riding along the sands.

But it’s not all about the beach; not to be missed is Hearst Castle, a fairytale hilltop mansion filled with treasures accumulated by the newspaper magnate who inspired Citizen Kane. There are spectacular pools, home movies featuring Hollywood’s greatest names and so many funny anecdotes, older kids will enjoy a visit as much as adults. Stop over at nearby San Simeon where there’s a good range of accommodation. 

Just south of Monterey is Big Sur, a great place to hike, with some of the best scenery in the area and plenty of trails to follow. There's a range of lodging, from campsites to luxury hotels, and you can refuel at one of the family-friendly inns.

Next up is Monterey’s famous Cannery Row, which houses a spectacular indoor-outdoor aquarium, while nearby Pacific Beach has great beaches, and there are more in Carmel village, with its elegant little shops.

Here kids will love visiting the Cypress Inn for 'Yappy Hour' - Doris Day’s dog-friendly hotel whose owners love to socialise with their pooches over an afternoon cuppa.

Don’t miss: Visiting the vineyards, this area is home to some of California’s first-rate estates and many of the wineries have activities to keep children occupied while you indulge. 

The lowdown

Travel time: Flights from London to San Francisco take 10 hours and 55 minutes, it's then a 2 hour drive to Monterey Peninsula. Flights from London to Los Angeles take 11 hours and 22 minutes, which is just over 5 hours from Monterey Peninsula. 

How to there: British Airways flies from London Heathrow to San Francisco; from £564 for an adult return, and London Heathrow to Los Angeles; from £564 return. Virgin Atlantic flies from London Heathrow to San Francisco; from £563 for an adult return, and London Heathrow to Lost Angeles; from £563.

Best time to go: Monterey Peninsula has fairly consistently good weather, with a yearly average of 20°C, July to September is peak season, while between December and March you’ll have a chance of seeing the grey whale migration.