FOR most Aussies travellers visiting Los Angeles, the obvious sightseeing options involve following the tourist trail to West Hollywood, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills or Disney’s Anaheim.
But the City of Angels serves as a gateway to southern California where there are loads of other places to see.
1.Santa Barbara (below) rests at the heart of the American Riviera 150km west of Los Angeles — catch a train along the coast — and though the spot offers a casual seaside vibe mixed with old-money charm there’s a flourishing food and wine scene, an abundance of historic Spanish architecture, and sensational shopping.
2. Laguna Beach, halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, has 20 coves and beaches along its 11km stretch of southern Californian coast. But the attraction for art lovers is the 100 galleries and studios that help make this walkable destination a celebrated artists’ colony.
3. Abandon the asphalt and climb aboard a boat for an hour-long cruise across the Pacific Ocean to Santa Catalina Island (below). Avalon, the main town, offers charming streets and ample water sports while the rugged interior promises adventures sure to get the adrenaline pumping.
4. Palm Springs is the flavour of the month. This desert destination, 170km east of Los Angeles, is made up of nine resort communities and its elegant “modern’’ buildings constructed during the boom years after World War Two are attracting a new generation of architecture-loving travellers.
5. Motor 190km south from Los Angeles to San Diego and discover a playground on the north side of the Mexican border that’s ideal for a sea-and-sand holiday. It also has SeaWorld, the San Diego Zoo, outlet shopping, and grand Hotel Del Coronado.
6. Perched on a plateau high above Santa Barbara, The Belmond El Encanto (below) is five-star hotel offering a serene stay in salubrious surrounds. It makes the most of its stunning position with its restaurant’s alfresco tables and swimming pool positioned to look across the rooftops to the deep blue in the distance.
7. A two-hour drive east from LAX takes travellers to Big Bear Lake. This fishing utopia at the heart of a year-round resort in the mountains offers hiking and biking during the warmer months and snow sports when the white stuff falls.
8.The Langham Huntington (below) is the grand old dame of southern California hotels — the sprawling Spanish-style estate celebrated its centenary in 2007 — with the location at the base of Pasadena’s San Gabriel Mountains, in LA’s northeast corner, promising a city escape without much more than 30 minutes on the freeway.
9. Those really looking to abandon the tourist track should make for Idyllwild, 200km from Los Angeles in the San Jacinto Mountains near Palm Springs. It’s a sleepy hamlet, nestled into a pine forest home, where shops and restaurants are still owned by the locals.