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Lakeside, California
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Northridge, California
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West Sacramento, California
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Temecula, California
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Morro Bay, California

California’s Central Coast

Fulfill your California dreams along a stunning coast

From soaring cliffs and hidden beaches in Big Sur to rustic Spanish-Mediterranean architecture and chic wineries in Santa Barbara, California’s Central Coast mesmerizes visitors with its surreal scenery and iconic attractions. Get behind the wheel and cruise along Highway 1 for the road trip of a lifetime.

Cruising the Coast

Spanning 350 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles, this road takes motorists to some of the most gorgeous stretches of coastline in the world. Along the way, stop and appreciate a Pacific sunset, take it easy in charming beach towns, dine at world-class restaurants serving local wine and cuisine and explore a plethora of state and national parks.

Play in Monterey Bay

From the north, begin your road trip in laid-back Santa Cruz. Here, you can surf the town’s renowned waves, ride the iconic Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster built in 1924 or uncover a lighthouse at the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum. Venture west and you’ll stumble upon Natural Bridges State Beach, home to picturesque natural arches and the Monarch Butterfly Natural Preserve. Stick around to see shore birds, migrating whales and playful seals. You’ll find lots of culture in this cool college town, where students at the University of California Santa Cruz cheer on their quirky mascot, the Slug.

Continue your journey to Monterey and stop by Fisherman’s Wharf for fresh oysters and crab cakes. While you’re here, kayak in Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve for exceptional bird-watching and wildlife viewing. One of the top attractions here is the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Teeming with sharks, jellyfish, penguins, otters and loads of fish species, this aquarium delights visitors of all ages. Fans of John Steinbeck will want to visit Salinas for the Steinbeck House and National Steinbeck Center to delve into the famous novelist’s life and works. Cannery Row, once the stomping grounds for some of the author’s most famous characters, is now a trendy district with shopping and dining.

Bridge along the California Coast.

Get Lost in Spectacular Big Sur

Depart Monterey and you’ll quickly wind up in awe-inspiring Big Sur. South of Carmel-by-the-Sea, this area looks like it’s straight out of a postcard, with its idyllic beaches, lush redwood forests and dramatic coastal cliffs. Keep your eyes peeled for rare California condors flying over Andrew Molera State Park, or trek through an extensive network of hiking trails in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Follow the Valley View Trail to reach the majestic Pfeiffer Falls and take in sweeping views of the seaside and river valley at Valley Overlook. You can also work on your tan and meander along golden stretches of sand at Garrapata State Park, another popular stop within this 90-mile stretch of rugged coastline.

Rest and Relax in San Luis Obispo

Once you exit Big Sur, it won’t take long to reach Hearst Castle. First, take a  stop in San Simeon to see huge elephant seals lazing on the bluffs overlooking the ocean. From the Heast Castle Visitor Center, shuttles transport visitors to the lavish estate, built by publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst in the heyday of sensationalistic journalism. Take a tour through the sprawling estate’s 165 rooms to see European antiques, and walk through 127 acres of picturesque gardens, pools and terraces. You’ll even find captive zebras on the ranch lands by the mansion.

Next, make your way to Cayucos, a quaint surf town with opportunities for fishing, surfing, kayaking and hiking. In San Luis Obispo, check out photographs, paintings and sculptures by local artists at a handful of art galleries. On Thursdays, the town hosts a farmers’ market, so you can enjoy delicious food stalls and free entertainment. The University of San Luis Obispo enhances the city’s cultural cred.

Morro Bay

With a lively waterfront and a mesmerizing natural setting, Morro Bay, about 13 miles west of San Luis Obispo, provides a compelling slice of California beach life. Since the early 20th century, Morro Bay has fostered its beach holiday credentials with aplomb, and tourism continues to be the town’s major calling card.

At the entrance to Morro Bay’s harbor, a stunning bay unfurls south from the 580-foot Morro Rock, one of nine peaks that encompass the Nine Sisters and forms part of the natural bay habitat of Morro Bay State Park. A pristine saltwater marsh on the bay’s northeast edge gives refuge to a flourishing bird population.

Vineyards on a slope.

Wine and History in Santa Barbara

Featuring historic Spanish architecture, romantic wineries and sun-soaked beaches, the Santa Barbara area is the perfect destination to get away from it all. Get a feel for its old-world charm by visiting the Santa Barbara Courthouse and Mission Santa Barbara, one of the best-preserved Spanish missions.

Dive into the town’s creative side at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, and learn more about its colorful past by joining a Red Tile Walking Tour. Wine lovers will want to stroll along the Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail. The route covers over a dozen wineries, allowing you to sample everything from Pinot Noir and Syrah to Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. All wineries are just steps away from downtown and the waterfront, so you can always hit the beach after sampling the area’s vintages.

Embrace Island Life in Ventura

Finish your Central Coast adventure in the laid-back beach town of Ventura. From here, you can hop aboard a concessionaire boat to rugged Channel Islands National Park in the Pacific, an hour off the mainland.

Nicknamed the Galapagos of North America, this remote park encompasses five islands and is the place to go if you want to camp, hike, dive, kayak or view wildlife in peaceful solitude. After returning to Ventura, lift a margarita in one of the town’s charming restaurants.

For More Information

Central Coast Tourism Council

www.centralcoast-tourism.com

California Tourism

877-225-4367

www.visitcalifornia.com