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© J. McPhail

Mission San Miguel near Paso Robles, one of the California Missions.


 

Scenic Drives  · Central Coast

Central Coast - Hearst Castle - Cambria - Morro Bay - SLO - Pismo Beach

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.

Central Coast Scenic Drives

Visitor Info
San Luis Obispo
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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 the south.

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.

   


 
© Celso Diniz
The pools at Hearst Castle feature real antiquities as well as copies. This outdoor pool at Hearst Castle San Simeon has an outstanding view of the coastal landscape.

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