Nothing says “fresh start” like a good, old-fashioned road trip. These destinations are all unquestionably awesome, so buckle up, crank the tunes and pack snacks.
Drive time from Newport Beach: 6-7 hours
Pro tip: You’ve seen the photos and heard the tales but to experience Big Sur in person is to realize even the hype doesn’t do this place justice. While typical stops include Nepenthe, McWay Falls and a photo-op by Bixby Bridge, we recommend finding the road down to the purple sands and rocky arches of Pfeiffer Beach. There’s scant cell service as you traverse the bending byway, (and don’t trust GPS), so if you’re drinking northbound, find the sign on your left-hand side for Sycamore Canyon Road, mile marker 45.64. It’s just after you pass the turn-off for Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.
Drive time from Newport Beach: OK, visiting Catalina isn’t technically a road trip, but can you blame us for adding this tropical oasis to the list? (The sail from Balboa Peninsula’s Fun Zone to Catalina takes just over an hour.)
Pro tip: A quick ride on the Catalina Flyer gets you to Avalon, one of Catalina Island’s two small cities. From there, book yourself a jeep tour, which sounds touristy but is completely worth the ride. The jeep tour will take you up a steep path that offers postcard-worthy vistas of the Pacific Ocean and a chance to taste the delicious, warm chocolate chip cookies at the famed Airport in the Sky.
*NOTE FROM THE CATALINA CHAMBER* The Catalina Flyer is out of service until at least March 2019. Guests can use the Catalina Express out of Long Beach or Dana Point until then.
Drive time from Newport Beach: 7-8 hours
Pro tip: Wine. A trip to Napa Valley is a trip to taste, sip and experience one of the finest wine countries in the world. If you’re looking for a tucked-away mountain winery, head to Kuleto Estate Winery. The winery is so remote, you have to radio from the bottom of the mountain upon arrival, because only one car can shimmy up the road at a time. Once at the peak, the views are otherworldly, as is the award-winning juice.
Drive time from Newport Beach: 5-6 hours
Pro tip: Of course, there’s the skiing and snowboarding on Mammoth Mountain but fresh powder aside, channel your inner nature lover with a trip to the burbling geysers of the Hot Creek Geological Site. Then, feel small among the snowcapped views at Minaret Vista, feel young at the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in nearby Bishop, Calif., feel alive as you fish the pristine wilderness of Convict Lake and feel full after devouring the jumbo pretzel from Yodler Restaurant & Bar, a chalet-style eatery at Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort.
Drive time from Newport Beach: 2-3 hours
Pro tip: Ojai is more about rest and relaxation than it is about a raucous good time. Visit (or stay at) the Ojai Valley Inn for an award-winning spa experience and meals orchestrated by master chefs and sommeliers. For weekday fun, make your way to the Ojai Deer Lodge on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. for trivia night under the twinkling lights of the patio. There’s also wine to be tasted in Ojai, and the Topa Mountain Winery is as majestic as it sounds.
Drive time from Newport Beach: 1 hour 40 minutes
Pro tip: If you’re looking to avoid the glitz of Los Angeles but seeking urban clime, San Diego is a worthy metropolitan option with a whole lot to offer. The famed Gaslamp District—a 16-and-a-half-block, rectangular-shaped region in Downtown San Diego—is a local go-to for vibrant adventures of the food and cocktail variety. Gaslamp District is lined by charmingly restored 19th-century buildings, intimate dive bars and secret speakeasys. (Channel your inner prohibitionist at Vin De Syrah or Trailer Park After Dark.) And during the day, take a quick trip to La Jolla, where the beach is glittery-blue, and the food fresh and delicious. Shorehouse Kitchen is an always-on-point, casual beachside café for a memorable weekend brunch.
Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara Wine Country
Drive time from Newport Beach: 2-3 hours
Pro tip: While Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone provides plenty of street art and seasonal eats, (Barbareño restaurant is the new, local darling for dinner), a short, one-hour drive to the Santa Ynez Valley affords plenty of opportunities to taste the fruit of the Central Coast’s vines. (Discerning movie buffs will recognize the scenery as the rustic, rolling-hills setting for popular wine dramedy, “Sideways.”) Coveted Central Coast wineries include Fess Parker and Foxen, the latter of which is dog-friendly and replete with bucolic charm. On your way back to Santa Barbara, dine in Los Olivos, a tiny town that packs a big farm-to-table punch. Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Café is a dog-friendly lunch retreat that won’t disappoint.