Road trip! Lucky for us, we live in California where the options are endless and the coastal views are a dream. We love driving down the beautiful California coast with many amazing stops along the way South. We’ve made a couple trips to Central California and there’s always more to see, do and experience.
Below are our recommended stops that we’ve visited. Let us know where your favorite California road trip destinations are in the comments below.
Driving thru Big Sur is one of the most scenic drives along the California coast. It has an abundance of breathtaking views and miles of trails to explore. This drive along Highway 1 is not for the faint of heart, with many sections of the one lane road winding along the steep cliff side. Stay safe and drive carefully and you’ll be rewarded with a front seat view to some of the best scenes California has to offer.
Bixby Bridge is one of the most photographed bridges in California due to its aesthetic design and beautiful surrounding. Before the Bridge was built, the Big Sur area was totally blocked off during the winter months. Bixby Bridge has the longest concrete arch span (360 feet) on the California State Highway and is one of the tallest single-span concrete bridges in the world. Make sure to stop by on your road trip to snap a pic!
McWay Falls is located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and is one of two waterfalls in California that flows directly into the ocean. The picture perfect cove and turquoise blue water can have you staring for hours! Make sure to explore the rest of the beautiful park as well. You can picnic, whale watch (depending on the season), and hike through the beautiful area.
Owned and operated by the lovely Georges, Rosehaven Cabins is the perfect Big Sur Getaway. Each cabin has it’s own charm with a different layout. You’ll enjoy the outdoor bathroom with clawfoot bathtub, perfect for your bubble bath in the middle of a redwood forest. After drying off, cozy up inside and cook up a warm meal. There is no TV or cell phone service out here…just the way it should be if your goal is to get away from it all!
Big Sur Roadhouse is located right off Highway 1 and is a great place to sit back, relax, and grab a drink and some grub before hitting the road again. Their beautiful interior is sleek but welcoming with a choice of big cushy sofas or a table where you can sit and stare out the window. They also have a great outdoor patio surrounded by trees and lined with twinkling lights. Their simple menu is sure to hit the spot and would beat out anything you can whip up over a campfire.
Pfeiffer Beach is located in the heart of Big Sur area, 1/4 mile south of the Big Sur Ranger Station. The beach is famous for its beautiful views, purple sand, rock formations, and caves. You can spend hours here wandering the sands and listening to the waves crash as you wait for an epic sunset. Make sure to bring the pup too since this beach is dog friendly.
Just before you hit the more popular Pismo Beach and San Luis Obispo area is the cute beach town of Cayucos. It has a beautiful beach with a nice pier, swings and a playground. There are lots of cute shops to walk around to visit.
Make sure to pop in Hidden Kitchen for a delicious, organic, and gluten free meal. They are open every day of the week except for Wednesday from 9am-3pm with a Walk Up Window or patio seating with views of the ocean (currently inside dining closed due to covid). A must try is their blue corn waffles which comes in sweet or savory and their superfood smoothies. They were all so tasty we couldn’t decide which one was our favorite!
Morro Bay is graced by their beautiful iconic rock just off the coast of the bay. They have a nice dock side area with lots of restaurants with ocean views and small shops to browse.
We had the pleasure of visiting Morro Bay Oyster Company and had a behind the scenes look at how they operate their oyster farm to get their famous Pacific Gold Oysters- some of the best oysters we’ve ever had! Morro Bay is the perfect place to farm these delicious oysters for a deep and meaty oyster. They also have a shop at the dock side where you can get fresh shucked oysters to enjoy.
Be sure to also stop by Giovanni’s Fish Market located at the end of the dockside with perfect views of Morro Bay Rock. They are a family owned business of over 35 years that have a restaurant with tons of seafood cooked in different ways as well as a market that provides fresh seafood for you to cook at home. They also offer shipping anywhere in the US. We grabbed a glass of wine, bbq oysters, and some clam chowder to enjoy watching the boats and sea lions swimming in the harbor!
San Luis Obispo Area
A not so sleepy beach town, Pismo Beach is a great place for surfers, foodies, and vacationers alike. With a beautiful beach in the center of town and delicious cafes on every street, Pismo Beach makes a perfect getaway. Grab some clam chowder, rent an ATV, or have a day full of sun and sand!
Old West Cinnamon Rolls has been a family run business for over 40 years and 3 generations. Betty created her original recipe, which is still a worldwide favorite today. Their cinnamon rolls are ooey, gooey goodness and don’t overlook the cream cheese frosting!
Splash Cafe is known for it’s clam chowder. On the weekend expect a line out the door, but it usually moves pretty swiftly. Grab a table at the restaurant, or take it to-go and enjoy your lunch on the beach.
Take a walk on Pismo Beach or stroll along the Pismo Beach pier for some sunshine. Located right next to downtown, its an easy walk and one of Pismo Beach’s main attractions. There is plenty of beach for both humans and dogs to enjoy!
A fun stop along the coast is Avila Valley Barn. We went for a visit around Halloween and they had goats and cows to feed, pumpkins everywhere, fresh grilled corn, bbq, and an amazing farm store that sold everything from fresh organic produce, to freshly baked pies, to local cheeses, plants, and merchandise. They have different activities available year round so be sure to check in to see what they have when you go for a visit.
Just a short drive from Pismo Beach you’ll find Oceano Dunes State Recreational Area. You can drive your (4 wheel drive) car directly onto the beach for camping or a day of ATVing and sand buggy riding. There are also many rental shops nearby that rent out ATVS of all types and speeds.
Paso Robles is an up and coming wine area with plenty of beautiful wineries to visit and delicious wines to taste. Many wineries have live music throughout the week, so be sure to take a look at what’s going on the days you visit! You can read our full Paso Robles Guide HERE.
Solvang is a small town located in the Santa Ynez Valley. Established as a Danish town, many of the buildings were built to reflect traditional Danish style architecture. Replicas of famous Copenhagen landmarks can be seen throughout town. Stop by a winery or one of the many Danish bakeries for a delicious treat. There is also a miniature horse farm in the area which is worth checking out.
Santa Barbara has grown to be more than a college town these days. The beaches have always been picture perfect and the food and wine scene is making its mark as well. Located in the middle of California, Santa Barbara is the perfect place for an overnight stay or a weekend getaway from both Southbound and Northbound Californians!
Corazon Cocina is located in downtown Santa Barbara’s Public Market. It’s honestly some of the best Mexican food we’ve had. Their Watermelon Ceviche had the perfect blend of flavors, and we loved their hearty tacos, the Norteno is perfection!
Mission Santa Barbara is located on the original Mission Road running along the coast of California. The early missionaries built three different chapels during the first few years, each larger than the previous one. Built in 1786, this mission was the tenth mission to be founded. The mission itself is wonderfully up kept with tours given daily.
Known as a small artist community, Ojai is the great for a zen getaway. Coffee shops, artist galleries, and peaceful hikes through the mountains will be sure to keep you occupied for a few days.
Ojai Caravan Outpost is the place to go if you love Airstreams as much as we do. This is truly trailer camping at it’s finest. The Airstreams are decked out with everything you need, including a record player so you can spin your favorite tunes. The outpost also has regular full sized bathrooms and showers if you prefer to bathe in a more spacious environment versus inside your trailer. Every night they build a campfire, it’s a great place to gather, warm up and meet some fellow travelers.
Beacon Coffee is for coffee and tea lovers. They are serious about their beans and take special care while roasting. It’s the best of the best and always sourced responsibly! They also bake outstanding pastries, both savory and sweet. The cafe is spacious and warm, the perfect place to spend a morning in Ojai.
Bart’s Books is a charming Ojai favorite. This bookstore is unlike any other you’ve been to…it’s an open air, outdoor store. They offer a wide variety of rare and captivating books along with the classics.
Orange groves can be found throughout Ojai. Find a public orchard and wander in and out of the rows and rows of orange trees!
Ojai Meadow Preserve has lovely walking trails and some small ponds with lots opportunities for bird watching. It’s also a great place to catch the sun setting over the mountains while taking the dogs out on an evening walk.