The weather is still perfect, even if many things have changed. You’ll want to check ahead to see where beaches are open, but just about any spot along the West Coast has vistas that will take your breath away. Although we can’t travel to Italy right now, we can go to California. With its Mediterranean climate, great wines, mountains and endless coastline, it’s basically the Italy of America.
Starting from the south and working up the coast, you first encounter the Mexican-influenced culture and laid-back California vibes of San Diego. In a matter of minutes you can go from the beach to lush gardens to desert. On the way to Los Angeles, you can head inland to the resorts of the Palm Springs area, where a dip in the pool on a hot day makes everything right. Right now you have to get takeout (or sit outdoors at select places), but you can still eat your way through L.A. with food from just about every culture on Earth.
You can also use the nation’s second largest city as a base to escape into nature with an autumn expedition through the Channel Islands with Lindblad Expeditions. Channel Islands is one of a whopping nine national parks to be explored in the Golden State. Back on the mainland, there’s a lot of territory to cover between Southern California and the Bay Area, but every inch of it is gorgeous. Hug the coast, and you get the beauty of Santa Barbara—a key stop on Backroads’ fall West Coast Beaches & California Cool itinerary—and Big Sur, where the Post Ranch Inn is ready to welcome guests. Inland, you have the majesty of Sequoia and Yosemite national parks.
Once you reach the Bay Area, you’ll find a center of tech, history and culture that give way to the wine paradise of the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. For a socially distanced stay just outside San Francisco, Cavallo Point in Sausalito is right across the Golden Gate Bridge, and there’s an array of Virtuoso-preferred hotels in the heart of wine country. From there, the Pacific Coast Highway leads up to Oregon with Point Reyes National Seashore, Redwoods National Park and a relaxing stay at The Inn at Newport Ranch to guide the way.
Oregon’s tall firs and picturesque Cannon Beach make for one of the prettiest drives in the country, while the Willamette Valley wine scene, Mt. Hood and Multnomah Falls draw visitors to the Portland area. Follow the Columbia River up to Astoria, which you can do on UnCruise Adventures and American Queen Steamboat Company river cruises, and you’ll follow the path of Lewis & Clark while enjoying some of the fine craft beers the West Coast offers.
Just across the river you’ll enter Washington, where the natural paradise of the Olympic Peninsula and San Juan Islands surround Seattle, one of America’s most spectacular cities. The Emerald City boasts four Virtuoso-preferred hotels and some of the best views you’ll find anywhere. Sadly, you can’t cross over to Canada just now but there’s plenty of America to rediscover on your tour of the West Coast.