Plan the Ultimate California Central Coast Road Trip

February 10, 2021

Whether it’s your family summer vacation, a weekend girls’ trip, or a getaway with your sweetheart, it’s never too early to start planning your perfect vacation!

Look to the coast and start planning your California Central Coast road trip. The Central Coast offers pristine weather, scenic coastal views and more than enough activities to keep you busy between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Read on for a mini-California Central Coast road trip itinerary and some not-to-miss spots along the Central Coast to help you get inspired for your next getaway.

Make Santa Maria Valley your home base, jumping off point, and the place to rest your head at night, as you enjoy all the California Central Coast has to offer.

Don’t miss the marine life on the coast of northern San Luis Obispo County

The northern coast of San Luis Obispo County is the gateway to Big Sur and Monterey Bay. This region is home to all types of marine wildlife and many federally protected marine areas. The Piedras Blancas Light Station near San Simeon is part of a California Coastal National Monument. Nearby Ragged Point offers stunning scenic coastal hiking. If you’re lucky, you may spot a group of elephant seals!

1.5 hours north of Santa Maria Valley

4 hours north of Los Angeles

2.5 hours west of Bakersfield

4 hours south of San Francisco

Visit Historic Mission San Miguel

Founded in the late 1700s, Mission San Miguel has been a historic hallmark of the Central Coast for more than 200 years. The mission is located in the town of San Miguel, just north of Paso Robles. It features a guided museum and gift shop.

1 hour north of Santa Maria Valley

3.5 hours north of Los Angeles

2 hours west of Bakersfield

3 hours south of San Francisco

See the majesty of Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa

This beautiful Spanish mission is located near Santa Maria in the town of San Luis Obispo. The mission was built in 1772 and has since been restored to maintain its original beauty. Today, the mission is an active Catholic church and features a beautiful garden, museum and guided tours.

30 minutes north of Santa Maria Valley

3.5 hours north of Los Angeles

2.5 hours west of Bakersfield

3.5 hours south of San Francisco

Perch on Pismo Pier

Pismo City Beach lines the downtown district of the city and is home to the famous Pismo Beach Pier. This iconic oceanside landmark is popular for walking, fishing and photography, and it juts out nearly 1,400 feet over the Pacific Ocean!

20 minutes north of Santa Maria Valley

3 hours north of Los Angeles

2.5 hours west of Bakersfield

4 hours south of San Francisco

When you make Santa Maria Valley your launch point for your California Central Coast road trip, you’ll get so much more, for less. There’s so much to see and do from here. Plan your trip with our itineraries or explore lodging options.

Taste your way through Santa Maria Valley’s wine country

The Central Coast is known for its thriving wine country. Santa Maria Valley alone is home to more than 30 winery tasting rooms and the majority of the wine growing region in Santa Barbara County. Santa Maria Valley is the perfect home base for exploring Central Coast wine country.

3 hours north of Los Angeles

2 hours west of Bakersfield

4 hours south of San Francisco

Tour the only California mission with hiking trails – La Purisima

This historic piece of Spanish and Chumash culture boasts more than 25 miles of trails on 2,000 acres for visitors to explore. The mission has trail maps available at the entrance station adjacent to its visitor center and gift shop.

30 minutes south of Santa Maria Valley

3 hours north of Los Angeles

2 hours west of Bakersfield

4 hours south of San Francisco

Get in touch with Danish culture in Solvang

Located in the Santa Ynez Valley, the small village of Solvang is known as “a little slice of Denmark in Southern California.” The city features architecture, food and art inspired by Danish culture. Don’t miss the Elverhøj Museum of History & Art, which explores the city’s Danish heritage.

40 minutes south of Santa Maria Valley

2 hours north of Los Angeles

3 hours west of Bakersfield

4.5 hours south of San Francisco

Experience the American Riviera in Santa Barbara

No California Central Coast road trip is complete without a stop in Santa Barbara, often called the American Riviera. Santa Barbara offers guests a chance to take in the scenic coastal and mountain views paired with a thriving arts and culture scene.

1.25 hours south of Santa Maria Valley

1.5 hours north of Los Angeles

2.5 hours west of Bakersfield

5 hours south of San Francisco

Witness the stunning architecture of Old Mission Santa Barbara

This large mission, located in Santa Barbara, features many hallmarks of traditional Spanish culture paired with modern flair. It is home to the St. Barbara Catholic Parish as well as traditional Franciscan Friars. The mission also hosts a museum, library and gift shop.

1.5 hours south of Santa Maria Valley

1.5 hours north of Los Angeles

2.5 hours west of Bakersfield

5 hours south of San Francisco

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In Santa Maria Valley, there’s so much to do from here. Hit the road and explore it all with our 24 hiking trails, 34 tasting rooms, seven unique AVAs, 13 beaches, and a growing selection of local breweries, all within a beautiful 30-minute drive. There is no need to venture far if you are looking for sand dunes, cycling and authentic Santa Maria Style dining. You’ll find it’s the perfect home base, where you can eat, drink and do more for less.

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