Follow the magnificent Hwy. 1 along 101 miles to experience these nine dazzling spots including a luxurious castle and lackadaisical wildlife.
1. Sip Wine
Why go: Located in the coolest wine-growing region and producing Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and aromatic white wines, Arroyo Grande is two miles from the beach and Edna Valley is about five miles.
Tip: Stop at the tasting room of Edna Valley's Baileyana. It’s housed in Independence Schoolhouse built in 1909. Created 30-plus years ago by Catharine Niven, Baileyana is run by the family’s second and third generations.
2. Stroll in Montana de Oro State Park
Why go: An absolutely gorgeous 8,000-acre state park tucked along the Pacific Coast in Los Osos, you’ll find secluded beaches like Spooner’s Cove and gorgeous hiking and mountain biking trails.
Tip: Park in the beach parking lot below Spooner Ranch House, a visitor center and park headquarters. The Bluff Trail begins across from the visitor center. It's a relatively flat dirt/gravel trail that runs along the park’s rugged cliffs.
3. Experience Sand Dunes
Why go: If you have a four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive vehicle, visit Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area. It’s the only beach in the state parks system where vehicles are permitted.
Tip: For more solitude, head to Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center, one of the largest intact coastal dune ecosystems on Earth.
4. Relax at Avila Beach
Why go: This is the warmest, most protected beach in San Luis Obispo County.
Tip: Board a trolley to Point San Luis Lighthouse. Fares include the cost of docent-led tours in the Lighthouse & Head Keepers Quarters.
5. Taste Fresh Food
Why go: In Cayucos, enjoy a farm-to-table dinner at The Grill at the Cass House or spend the night in this five-room boutique hotel. You’ll be greeted with a glass of wine when you check in.
Tip: Taste fresh-baked cookies at Brown Butter Cookie Co., a local favorite.
6. Get Artsy in Cambria
Why go: This adorable town is packed with art galleries and restaurants.
Tip: Spend the night before touring Hearst Castle. It’s just a 10-minute drive to or from the castle. Cambria Beach Lodge offers a hip take on the classic roadside motel.
7. Explore Hearst Castle
Why go: In 1919 media mogul William Randolph Hearst hired architect Julia Morgan to build a grandiose 165-room home on top of a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The European castle-like complex includes a twin-towered main building, three guesthouses and 100-plus acres of elaborate gardens.
Tip: Once part of the world’s largest private zoo, zebras graze the property close to Hwy. 1.
8. See Seals
Why go: Observe elephant seals on the beach five miles north of Hearst Castle in San Simeon.
Tip: Order a burger made with beef from the Hearst Ranch at Sebastian’s General Store built in 1852 at the height of the area’s whaling industry. Sample wine from the Hearst Ranch Winery in the tasting room.
9. Get Million Dollar Views
Why go: Stand 400 feet above the Pacific Ocean at Ragged Point and look for whales.
Tip: The Ragged Point Nature Trail is an easy stroll. Experienced hikers should consider the Ragged Point Cliffside Trail, which changes 400 feet in elevation and brings you to a black sand beach and waterfall views before ascending back up the cliffs.
For more information:
California Highway Discovery Route