Reader Travel Guide: Central Coast (1 of 2)

Beach camping, surfing, wine tasting, Spanish missions, and... ostriches. Plan your Central Coast road trip adventure here.


  1. Day 1: Make the 3-hour drive up to the "American Riviera," Santa Barbara. (TIP: for an actual 3 hours, leave late or early to miss L.A. traffic. Or take your time with our L.A. guide.)
  2. (Side trip: Ojai Valley – make a late afternoon stop for the "world's greatest" open-air bookstore, a sunset hike to see the "pink moment" (story below), and farm-to-table dining options.)
  3. See Santa Barbara's mission and State Street, and grab a bite to eat.

    Still daylight left? Head just 45 minutes further up the PCH (story below) to the Danish town of Solvang. 
  4. Day 2: Old-world Europe abounds in Solvang; there's plenty to see in the town itself – including another mission – and nearby wine tasting opportunities abound. (Check off your Sideways scenes here.) 
  5. Get a nice meal in Buellton or Solvang before you head for the great outdoors tomorrow. Oh, and don't forget about OstrichLand...
  6. Day 3: It's a twisty-turny hour drive to Jalama – but worth it for the reasons below. (Make sure to see our writers' tips on securing your oceanfront camping spot.)

    Pristine beach camping and no-crowds surfing... enjoy.
  7. Jalama Beach Campground Site 15 Panorama
  8. Day 4: Don't turn back yet... there's much more Central Coast to discover! 

    From Jalama, it's an 1.5-hour drive to Avila Beach. 
  9. Enjoy spectacular views of the harbor and a fresh-off-the-boat seafood lunch at Olde Port Inn on Avila Pier (above)

    Fifteen minutes up the road, San Luis Obispo is worth a pit stop to see the legendary Bubblegum Alley (there's a mission there too).