Summer on California’s Central Coast
California’s Central Coast is a 350-mile stretch of land that lies southwards of San Francisco, starting in the Monterey Bay region and ending northwards of Los Angeles in the Ventura region. It’s an area popular for road trippers exploring California’s classic beach towns, state parks and dramatic coastline, along with visitors looking to relax and experience world-class wine and farm-to-table food.
Whether you’re looking to soak up the sun in the great outdoors or take it slow and explore the area’s wineries, the Central Coast has something for everyone.
Take a Long Drive
A drive along the Pacific Coast Highway offers sights you won’t get anywhere else in the US. Leave the windows down to let in the salty sea air while you drive along miles of rocky coastline. Plan for a stop in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park to stretch your legs and take a short hike on the Waterfall Overlook Trail to see McWay Falls. This incredible waterfall plunges about 80 feet from the top of a granite wall to the sandy cove beach below. The beach is closed to the public, but it’s worth the 1/2-mile roundtrip hike to see the falls.
If you’ve got the time, you can drive along Highway 1 from Monterey all the way down to San Luis Obispo. Check out this road trip guide from Visit California for more ideas on what to see and do.
Stop and Sip
Venture slightly inland to the center of California’s Central coast to Paso Robles, located along Highway 101. Paso Robles is one of the fastest growing wine regions in California, with more than 40,000 vineyard acres. Called “Cowboy Wine Country,” this area enjoys warm days and cool nights and claims more than 40 wine grape varieties. Home to more than 200 wineries in the area, you’ll want to plan out your tastings. Visit the Paso Robles Wine Alliance for a complete listing of wineries that offer tours and tastings. Purple Cowboy Wines, a part of the Wine Sisterhood family of wines, source grapes from Paso Robles. Stay tuned for more news about an exciting new tasting room where you’ll be able to taste Purple Cowboy and our other Central Coast wine friends in a renovated westside roadhouse surrounded by vineyards.
As you head further south, we recommend checking out the San Luis Obispo area (“SLO” to locals) and visiting our friends at Laetitia Winery. The winery’s proximity to the Pacific coastline not only offers stunning views, but the microclimate (cooled by fog and maritime breezes in the mornings and evenings, warmed by the sun in the day) creates the ideal grape-growing conditions of the Arroyo Grande Valley AVA. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay love this weather!
Originally known for Méthode Champenoise sparkling wines, Laetitia continues to produce seven unique sparkling wines, along with handcrafted Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and more. The property is Sustainability in Practice “SIP” certified, so don’t be surprised to find goats helping out with weed control in the vineyards.
Grab a Bite
Downtown Paso Robles is a fantastic place to stop for a bite to eat after exploring the area. We recently enjoyed lunch at Thomas Hill Organics. This farm-to-table restaurant serves fresh, organic dishes, from creative sandwiches for lunch to locally-sourced meat and seafood for dinner. Ask for a table on the patio!
After your meal, take a stroll through the Paso Robles town square and transport yourself to old cowboy country California. This region was settled by families who received large land grants from the Spanish crown for their service in Mexico (Baja California) and the new land (Alto California). These land grant holders and the cattle ranching culture (in Spanish, cowboys are known as vaqueros) was passed on through generations. Although vineyards have been planted on much of the vast former land grant tracts, the cowboy culture lives on. The large park square comes complete with an old-timey bandstand and historic public library. Keep walking to Main Street to explore boutiques, restaurants and galleries.
Browse the Market
Every Thursday night throughout the year (rain or shine), downtown San Luis Obispo hosts a lively outdoor market where you can pick up fresh fruit, veggies and produce. Considered one of the best farmer’s markets in California, growers hawk their seasonal produce, well-loved restaurants and purveyors take their fare to the streets and local musicians and performers entertain the crowds. Check it out every Thursday night from 6-9pm.
Learn more about the area from these past posts and guides: