The Lay of The Land: The Central Coast Beaches
Dive into pure play on the coast with 80 miles of pristine beaches, 4,000 acres of wind-swept dunes, and a year round mild climate.
Miles of ocean and jutting cliffs mark the scenic Highway 1 route to Hearst Castle, William Randolf Hearst's opulent estate.
Insider Tip: Explore the Castle's 127 acres of lush gardens, pools, and stunning architecture. See elephant seals at Piedras Blancas rookery, just north of San Simeon.
Located off Highway 1, this hidden gem boasts a beautiful setting, locally owned boutiques, art galleries, and plenty of charm. Meander along Cambria's secluded Moonstone Beach and discover colorful agate keepsakes in the rough.
Insider Tip: Get back to nature at Fiscalini Ranch Preserve: Splash through tide pools and spot whales and otters. In the spring, don't miss the beautiful wildflower displays. Avila Beach's Bob Jones Trail journeys through streams and wildflowers to lapping waves.
Say hello to a tiny town (population: 19) with big personality.
Insider Tip: Glass blowers sell their art in rustic shops. Sample local wines while taking in the centuries-old rural ambiance.
A laid-back getaway known for its old-fashioned charm and sandy, dog-friendly beach.
Insider Tip: Meander through the picturesque downtown, where you'll find Ruddell's Smokehouse and Brown Butter Cookie Company.
A fishing town where sail-boats bob in the harbor and the majestic Morro Rock rises from the water.
Insider Tip: Kayak or paddleboard to view otters, sea lions, whales, seals, and dolphins. Next, hit the Embarcadero for shopping and waterfront dining.
Los Osos / Baywood Park
Located on a tidal estuary, Los Osos is awash with wildlife. Montana de Oro State Park is alive with geo-graphic and animal diversity - all visible as you hike the bluffs, splash through the surf, or wade through tide pools. Hike to the top of the state park Valencia Peak for panoramic coastal views.
Insider Tip: At the Elfin Forest Natural Area nature preserve, find prehistoric sand dunes and groves of miniature trees - some up to 400 years old.
Known for its white sands and fine dining, this beach town has calm waves and is great for family fun.
Insider Tip: Walk the Hartford Pier, one of the last drive-on piers in California, and view boats unloading the fresh catch of the day.
Recharge at this slow-paced, secluded beach.
Insider Tip: Comb the beach for shells and keep an eye out for sea lions, whales, and dolphins.
This classic beach town has 23 miles of white, sandy beaches, a 1,200-foot-long fishing pier, and a year-round Mediterranean climate with sunny skies and warm temps extending into the fall.
Insider Tip: See thousands of butterflies at the Pismo State Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove.
Cars, trucks, and ATV's drive freely on this laid-back beach. At night, bonfires light up the sands.
Insider Tip: Grover Beach's Amtrak station is just steps from the beach and Monarch Grove Winery tasting room.
In this quiet beach town, sand dunes are beloved by off-roaders, equestrians, and bird-watchers.
Insider Tip: Drive or horseback ride on California's only drive-on beach, then explore the dunes.