California’s amazing Central Coast region lies roughly between San Francisco and Santa Barbara.
Travelling the region by car, I took in absolutely spectacular coastal views while in locations like Big Sur, stayed in charming towns like Carmel-by-the-Sea, experienced five-star hotels, sipped at wineries, relished fantastic dining, and even toured a castle – all while enjoying the fresh sea air. Believe me, along the central coast, relaxing, unwinding and indulging is easy!
Carmel-by-the-Sea – An Artistic Beachside Town
Known for its artistic beginnings, the seaside town of Carmel, located approximately 120 kilometres south of San Francisco, has a more European style than other American cities. Strolling down the main thoroughfare, you’ll find boutique shops, art galleries, cafés and plenty of excellent dining options. Of course, as with many of the coastal towns, one of the main attractions is the beach, so be sure to include a visit.
Big Sur – Big Mountains, Amazing Coastline
Travelling south from Carmel, you’ll quickly come into Big Sur Territory. Big Sur is the name given to the region where the Santa Lucia Mountains rise up from the Pacific Ocean. Driving through Big Sur, you’ll encounter some amazing coastline, and there are lots of lookout points, so getting photos is easy. Within the mountains, there are plenty of hiking and camping opportunities, but for those of us who prefer the finer things in life, how about a stay at the award-winning Post Ranch Inn?
The view of the Bixby Bridge in Big Sur is one of the most incredible sights on the central coast.
The Stunning Post Ranch Inn
Located about 50 kilometres south of Carmel, and 500 meters above sea level, The Post Ranch Inn is a true five-star hotel. It is nestled into the cliffs of Big Sur, built into and around the existing environment. There are breathtaking views of both the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Lucia Mountains, and of course, you can be pampered in the full-service spa, dine on award-winning cuisine at the in-house restaurant, the Sierra Mar, or just relax in the infinity pool, with its panoramic views of the ocean.
Nepenthe Restaurant – Dining With a View
Just down the road from the Post Ranch Inn, you’ll find Nepenthe Restaurant. It’s very popular with those travelling through Big Sur and has been family owned and operated since 1949. Here, they’ve got everything down to a fine art. It offers great food and friendly service, and as it’s situated just above the Pacific Ocean, you’ll find amazing views to go with your amazing food. There’s also a souvenir shop, which is definitely worth a look too.
Hearst Castle – Opulence Defined
If you’re unable to stay at the Post Ranch Inn, but still want a taste of luxury living, a visit to Hearst Castle, about 100 kilometres South of Nepenthe Restaurant in San Simeon, is a must. It was originally built for newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, but was subsequently donated to the state of California. There are various tours you can take through the castle, and it is amazing to think that someone used to actually live there. It’s a great way to experience true opulence.
Paso Robles – Fine Wine Country
Just an hour’s drive from the magnificence of Hearst Castle, you can tantalize your taste buds in one of the Central Coast’s many wine regions, Paso Robles. It’s home to over 100 wineries, so there’s plenty to choose from. When you’re done, remember, it’s only a short trip back to the coast.
If you travel south for another two hours, you’ll find yourself in beautiful Santa Barbara. Truly a great place for travelers to unwind, with top class hotels, restaurants, performing arts and not forgetting an abundance of luxury and boutique shopping – a lovely way for me to end my Central Coast sojourn.
The Summerland Winery Vineyard in Paso Robles offers stunning views of the rolling landscape.
More experiences nearby
Dine with a View in California
The Treasures of Gold Country
Explore California’s Wine Regions
Where to See National Parks Adventure
TripAdvisor's Top U.S. Destinations
Plan a Camping Trip You'll Never Forget
Pony Express National Historic Trail
Top Cycling Spots in the USA
7 Cool College Towns in the USA
7 Great Beach Towns To Visit In The USA
7 Spots for Family Fun Around the USA
9 Weekend Getaways From 9 U.S. Cities