Guides

7 Secret Stops To Make On Your California Road Trip

They’ll make a visit to The Golden State the best you’ve ever had.

While cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco tempt you to stay put with everything to see and do, there’s nothing as quintessentially Californian as a road trip.

The Golden State is brimming with charming small towns, epic scenery and some of the best national parks in the country, and there are plenty of off-the-beaten-track spots that’ll make a visit the best you’ve ever had.

#1 Cabazon dinosaurs

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No drive from Los Angeles to Palm Springs would be complete without a quick stop to say hello to Dinny the Dinosaur and Mr Rex. The two giant dinosaur statues, located off the Interstate 10, were built between 1964 and 1988 (and once appeared in a Coke commercial, NBD).

Now, like most kitschy roadside attractions, they make primo Instagram fodder.


#2 The Integratron

Dreamt up by aeronautical engineer George Van Tassel – who apparently received instructions on how to build the Integratron during a UFO encounter – it’s now owned by two sisters who host spiritually-healing sound baths within the wooden dome. The structure’s perfect acoustics allow sound to be amplified, bouncing around the room in a way that provides sonic rejuvenation.

#3 Pioneertown

After you’ve made your pilgrimage to Joshua Tree, swing by Pioneertown. In 1946, a group of Hollywood actors looking for a way to avoid the commute from home to the “office” dreamt up this Wild West town, which now boasts a lo-fi hipster hotel.

Though it seems like a deserted Movie World set, people do live here and, if you come on the right night, you can have a pretty rowdy time at local bar Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace.

#4 Ano Nuevo Coast Natural Preserve

The Ano Nuevo Coast Natural Preserve offers views across the North Pacific Ocean and an easy hike to an overlook where the local northern elephant seal population spend their days. Arguably the best time to visit is during spring and summer, when you can see the colony lazing on the beach waiting for their annual molt to end. You can spot nearby Ano Nuevo Island from the overlook, too, which was once occupied by people, but has since been claimed by the elephant seals and their sea lion friends.

FYI: The nature preserve is closed during the first two weeks of December, when the seals arrive back on the beach and begin forming harems before breeding season.


#5 The Winchester Mystery House

The Winchester Mystery House was creeping out travellers long before Helen Mirren was serving you spooky big-screen realness in Winchester.

The story goes that wealthy widow Sarah Winchester, who was being haunted by the spirits of victims of Winchester Rifles, moved to a small place in San Jose and began renovating erratically on the advice of a psychic. As a result, the house boasts over 160 rooms, 10,000 windows and so many bizarre design features – from staircases to the ceiling, to doors leading to nowhere. It has to be seen to be believed.


#6 Badwater Basin

If you need any further proof that the Great Outdoors is amazing, consider Badwater Basin. It’s the lowest point in the United States, located within the beautiful wasteland that is Death Valley National Park, but is staggeringly close to California’s highest point, Mount Whitney (seriously, map it). In one day, you could hit both the highest and lowest points in The Golden State.

Add that to your road trip bucket list, stat.


#7 Amboy Ghost Town

Amboy is one of countless small towns along Route 66 which fell into disrepair after large interstate highways made it unnecessary for travellers to pass through. Not far from the Mojave National Preserve, it’s home to Roy’s, an old diner and gas station (which was closed down but now sells petrol again).

The best reason to make the detour, though, is for the photo opps.

(Lead image: Cristofer Jeschke)