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California Coast in 6 Days

Guest post by l8dybug

Map tips: each color represents a different day. Click a marker to learn more about the spot, and click the star in the map header to save the entire map under Your Places in Google Maps.

Day 1

Flew into San Jose and drove about 3 hours to San Luis Obispo. We took the faster inland route, not the coastal one, because it was a cross-country flight to get there. Stayed at La Cuesta – very nice and great staff.

Day 2

Spent the first half of the day walking around the town. Very easy to get around, lots of artsy shops. Also went to see the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, an old church built in 1772 and set up like a museum.

Attended a wedding in the evening.

Day 3

  • Baileyana, Tangent & True Myth Tasting Room
  • Wolff Vineyards
  • Pismo Beach

So many wineries in the area. We liked the wine at Baileyana better than Wolff.
Pismo was a very scenic beach but was really windy. Temperature was in the high 70s and 80s, perfect.

Day 4

  • Madonna Inn
  • Monarch Butterfly Grove
  • Splash Café Pismo Beach
  • Morro Bay

Our first stop was the Madonna Inn. Every room is decorated like a room from the 60s. Definitely worth a stop, very unique.

The butterfly grove was a little disappointing because there were only about 800 butterflies instead of the normal thousands. The prime viewing season is more towards Thanksgiving. Free to get in, but they take donations and have a souvenir shop. We walked along the path from the grove to the beach and dunes, very pretty. Ate at Splash Cafe – the best clam chowder ever.

Next was one of our favorite places, Morro Bay. Kind of touristy but it was stunning. Morro Bay State Park has a huge rock and lots of sea lions. Should take a walk out on the pier. Lots of shopping and beautiful sunset.

Morro Bay

Drove about a half hour north to Cambria where we stayed at the Castle Inn for 2 nights. Right on the water, great for sunrise and sunset.

Day 5

Went into Cambria and just explored the town on foot. Tons of bicycle groups/clubs in the area.

Day 6

  • Friends Of The Elephant Seal Visitor Center and Gift Shop
  • Hearst Castle
  • McWay Falls
  • Big Sur

The elephant seals were right by the road, worth a stop.

We booked a 2-hour tour for the Hearst castle the day before and it was filling up fast. I’d book at least 2 days in advance in off-season and earlier in peak season (summer). You could spend days there, and I’d say it warrants 2. I wish we had more time, absolutely incredible to see a mountaintop castle worth over 1 billion dollars. Every detail is lavish and even though it was expensive ($30 pp) it was worth it. Even though the tour was for 2 hours, you could explore the outside grounds for as long as you’d like. There are other longer tours to see more of the inside.

Drove up highway 1, and it would be better coming from the north heading south. We were looking over our shoulder for a lot of it.

McWay Falls is the waterfalls that basically goes right into the ocean – such a beautiful spot and right off the road.

McWay Falls

Make sure you don’t need gas between Hearst Castle and Carmel – fill up in Cambria or further north of Carmel if you can.

Drove through Big Sur but didn’t stop. You can drive into the state park to see the big redwood trees but we didn’t have time.

Great drive, the coastline reminded me of Ireland. Want to go back and spend more time in that area for sure. Get a good, detailed map for highway 1 (Pacific Coast Highway).

Ended to San Jose to fly home the next day.

Traveled in October 2019

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