Our scenic drive of the Central Coast explores the stretch of
Highway 1 between Hearst Castle and Santa Maria, including San Luis
Obispo (SLO). Rolling hills, wide beaches and quiet little towns
mark the coast. SLO is home to a mission and Cal Poly with a real
downtown to stroll.
This part of the coast offers warm weather, few crowds and the most
visited park in the state (San Simeon/Hearst Castle). There is an
expanding wine region with many tasting rooms to visit – many wine
lovers use SLO as their base while visiting.
Print our free map of the Central Coast.
SCENIC DRIVES: California’s Central Coast combines wide beaches,
small towns, rolling hills, vineyards and wineries with friendly,
low-key attitude towards visitors. The best known attraction is
San Simeon, "Hearst Castle," the crown jewel of the California’s State
Park System. Book a tour or two of this monument to unlimited money,
energy and ego – it is totally fascinating with excellent exhibits,
tours and a view you won’t forget.
The main route for this drive is Highway 1 along the coast.
Travelers coming from the south may be on 101. Starting from the Big
Sur coast in the north, just after your pass the lighthouse, watch for
cars on the side of the road during the winter months. Visitors come to
observe one of the rare beaches where the very boisterous and amorous
elephant seals mate and raise pups before returning to the deep ocean.
High on a hill, Hearst Castle is easy to spot – don’t be surprised
to see a zebra or two grazing in a roadside pasture. The little artist
community of Cambria has many services for visitors – many on the main
road through town.
SIDETRIP: Take Highway 46 inland through rolling hills and old
ranches to explore the local wineries clustered in this area. Many San
Luis Obispo County wineries offer tours and tastings to visitors in an
uncrowded, unhurried atmosphere. Just north, the 16th California
mission, from 1797 can be seen in its relatively unrestored state.
Nearby, Paso Robles is the main town with visitor services.
Heading south on Highway 1, Morro Bay is unmistakable with huge,
volcanic, haystack-shaped Morro Rock dominating the horizon. The
fishing village of Morro Bay offers plenty of visitor services and
hikers will want to check out trails at Montana de Oro State Park to
Continue inland to San Luis Obispo (S-L-O for short), a lively and
charming college town (Cal Poly) centered on a California mission,
Mission San Luis de Tolosa. Surrounded by ranches, farmland and
wineries, there is enough going on to attract visitors all year long.
Visit the pier at Avila Beach and continue to Pismo Beach, famous
for allowing cars and other vehicles to cruise a section of the 23-mile
long beach. Hikers can head south to Oceano Dunes.
Continue on Highway 1 (or 101 to visit the Solvang and Santa Ynez) on the way to lovely Santa Barbara.