(Australian Associated Press)
It’s impossible to escape Hollywood’s reach when you visit California.
Such is the power and influence of this television and movie monolith that you are forever walking in the steps of screen stars and celebrities, or walking into them, without having to go near Los Angeles
Even 850km north of LA in the cool new wine region of Mendocino on the Pacific Coast, Hollywood has waved its famous wand and scattered its glitter far and wide.
The award-winning 1978 movie Same Time Next Year screens on a loop at the cliff top Heritage House luxury hotel where actors Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn met for their annual affair.
James Dean stayed just down the road at the Little River Inn when it was the headquarters and casting office for the Mendocino set of his 1955 movie East of Eden.
In Mendocino village, the facade of Blair House, a Victorian-style bed and breakfast, is familiar to Murder She Wrote fans as the home of Angela Lansbury’s Jessica Fletcher. Nine episodes of the TV series were also shot in Mendocino.
Drive two hours down Highway 1 towards San Francisco and you can taste wines at a vineyard owned by Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola. Coppola’s wines are on the menu at San Francisco’s iconic Palace Hotel and you can chance a sighting of the director, his daughter Sofia or son Roman at Columbus Tower, home to his film studio American Zoetrope and Cafe Zoetrope on the ground floor.
San Francisco has been a favoured playground of Hollywood actors and directors for decades. Marilyn Monroe married Joe DiMaggio at San Francisco’s City Hall in 1954 and posed for photos on the steps of the Saints Peter and Paul catholic church in North Beach.
Endless car chases have been staged on the roller coaster-steep Streets of San Francisco and included in the 1970s TV cop show of the same name, starring Michael Douglas.
Thousands of other San Francisco locations continue to feature on the big and small screen. Alcatraz Island, which has a must do night prison tour, was the setting for Clint Eastwood in Escape from Alcatraz.
Some other big movies to use San Francisco as a backdrop include Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, What’s Up Doc starring Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal, Mrs Doubtfire with Robin Williams, the James Bond thriller A View to a Kill, Basic Instinct starring Sharon Stone, Star Trek II IV and VI, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator Genisys, Milk with Sean Penn, Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn in The Internship, Blue Jasmine starring Cate Blanchett and Big Eyes with Amy Adams.
If you want some face time with a Silicon Valley mogul to secure financing for your new app, head to Philz Coffee house where the tech tycoons drop in for a mint mojito iced coffee.
Philz coffee is the unofficial fuel of Silicon Valley and there are outlets throughout the bay area. Philz’s fans include Mark Zuckerberg, who made it the house coffee on Facebook’s campus, and Rapper Snoop Dog who invested in the business.
Keep an eye out for the rich and flattered if you go to the In-N-Out Burger chain, known for its old fashioned hamburgers that were served at Vanity Fair’s 2015 Oscar after party. Beyonce, Miley Cyrus and Josh Duhamel have also been photographed carbo-loading on In-N-Out fare.
About 200km down Highway 1 from San Francisco you’ll want to stop at Monterey’s historic Cannery Row once lined with sardine canneries and made famous by John Steinbeck’s book and the Marilyn Monroe movie Clash by Night.
Heading further south towards LA no trip to California is complete without doing the 140km Big Sur scenic coastal drive that starts at Carmel-by-the-Sea, the well-heeled village that boasts a Tiffany store on the main drag.
It’s home to Doris Day, aged 91, Clint Eastwood was the mayor for two years from 1986 and its palatial homes and surrounding prestigious golf courses are paved with affluence and influence. The place to stay is the cliff top Hyatt Carmel Highlands which has stunning views and breakfasts.
Hollywood reportedly made Big Sur’s Pfeiffer Beach famous with one of the sexiest beach scenes in movie history featuring Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr rolling around in their swim suits and kissing in the sand and surf in the romantic drama From Here to Eternity.
The Big Sur drive is bookended by the beach town of San Simeon and Hearst Castle, the majestic mansion built by Hollywood and media mogul William Randolph Hearst. Endless funding and exquisite taste created a privileged playground where elegance and indulgence compete for dominance in every room, hallway and garden nook.
It was here that Hollywood and hedonism met for famous weekend parties in the 1920s and 30s attended by Charlie Chaplin, Gary Cooper, Joan Crawford, Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Greta Garbo, Cary Grant, Jean Harlow, Buster Keaton, Carole Lombard and David Niven.
If you want to pay your respects to James Dean, drive 130km from Hearst Castle inland to Cholame where the screen dream died aged 24 in a 1955 car crash at the State Route 46 and 41 junction, now marked by a memorial sign.
The nearby Jack Ranch Cafe is a good place to recover and reload.
And so onto Santa Barbara, dubbed America’s Riviera due to its Mediterranean climate, Santa Ynez Valley vineyards where the wine movie Sideways was filmed, and its geographical beauty which flows from Pacific Ocean to the Santa Ynez Mountains.
Hollywood stars flock here to escape the heat, paparazzi and money madness of LA, 150km further south. Local residents include Oprah, Ellen Degeneres and her Australian wife Portia DeRossi, Rob Lowe, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Costner, Tom Cruise, Whoopie Goldberg, Jennifer Lopez, Julia-Louise Dreyfus and Steven Spielberg
The place to stay is The Biltmore, a sprawling oceanfront Spanish style palace that takes celebrity security and secrecy very seriously. It must be famous, even the new-money Kardashians stay here.
From there it’s only 90 minutes to Beverley Hills where Hollywood hits you in the face at every turn.
Qantas flies twice-daily to Los Angeles from Sydney, daily from Brisbane and 10 services weekly from Melbourne.
Qantas will fly non-stop Sydney to San Francisco five times a week from December 18.
Heritage House Resort has great views and luxurious cabins
Little River Inn boasts a great restaurant and bar with a golf course attached to the accommodation
The Palace Hotel is historical luxury in the city, complete with the best breakfast room in the state
The Hyatt Highlands Inn has great facilities, views and a quality restaurant and bar overlooking the Pacific
The Four Seasons is absolute luxury sitting on the pristine Butterfly Beach
For famous movie sites in California visit:
* The writer travelled with assistance from Visit California.