Road trip through the wonders of California’s Central Coast

American Road Trips, Riel articles & publicity — By on July 2, 2010 at 7:30 am
Big Sur

Big Sur, California

It’s true that Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco get much of the attention, but don’t dismiss California’s Central Coast as a travel destination. The region has an abundance of natural wonders and you can piece together quite an enjoyable road trip there. It’s not an exaggeration to say the 280-mile journey from Santa Barbara to Santa Cruz is one of the most beautiful drives in the country. What’s more, the attractions are numerous enough so that you can turn this trek into either an adult-friendly or a kid-friendly adventure.

I recently published an article on that outlines such a road trip. Here is an excerpt that covers the early portion of the journey, from Santa Barbara to San Simeon.

Santa Barbara, which lies between the Santa Ynez mountains and the sea, is often referred to as the American Riviera for its Mediterranean climate and appearance. You’ll delight in the beaches, of course, with at least 10 to choose from, including popular East, Goleta and Leadbetter beaches. But you’ll also appreciate the restaurants and shopping in Santa Barbara.
If you like history, then be sure to check out Old Mission Santa Barbara, one of the most beautiful sites on the California Missions Trail. Or, if you have children with you, consider a visit to the Santa Barbara Zoo, where kids will love the zoo train, carousel and giraffe feeding, not to mention the views over the Pacific Ocean.
When you’re finally able to tear yourself away from Santa Barbara, just point your car north. If you’re interested in some unique non-coastal attractions, then in less than an hour you’ll stumble across the Danish replica village of Solvang, as well as the distinctive park known as OstrichLand, where you can see and feed a collection of ostriches and emus.
Eventually, though, you’ll make your way to the lovely town of San Luis Obispo, where you can kick back in an eclectic and appealing college town. While you could spend more hours at a nearby beach, you might enjoy even more the chance to sip wine at a vineyard, check out an olive oil tasting at an olive farm, enjoy some of the region’s miles of hiking and biking trails, or make time for more history at Mission San Luis Obispo.
Just north of here is San Simeon. There, you’ll find the remarkable Hearst Castle, an opulent 90,000-square-foot mansion that belonged to William Randolph Hearst. Of course, you may be just as amazed by the thousands of elephant seals that converge on nearby Piedras Blancas beach.
You can read the entire story here, and you can follow the route with this Google map.


View Central Coast of California in a larger map

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  1. Have you ever checked out the new “Hearst Wine” just below the castle on SLO San Simeon Road?

  2. Ken Shoufer says:

    Nice post. It’s been way too long since I explored the central coast. I prefer to go during the off-season though because of the crowds.

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