California’s Central Coast

From expansive beaches and rugged cliffs to towering trees and endless skies, take one of the world’s most scenic drives, and don’t forget to soak up local life along the way.

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California’s Central Coast is unspoiled nature at its best, and a journey along this legendary stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway (or PCH as it is often called) is meant to be savoured, not sprinted. Start with the dramatic vistas of Big Sur. Located just south of Carmel, this region, bordered by mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west is renowned for its winding turns, steep seaside cliffs and breathtaking views of the rugged coastline. Spend a few hours driving through this scenic area, crossing the incredible Bixby Bridge and stopping at the famed cliffside restaurant and lookout, Nepenthe for a spot of lunch. Those who want to spend more time in the area should turn to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park for beautiful hiking trails and overnight stays in log cabins.

As you continue down the Central Coast and soak in the views of the Pacific Ocean along one of the most photographed sections of California, a stop in the city of San Luis Obispo is a must. Offering a taste of small-town Californian life, this charming city has a bustling downtown, 41.2 miles of bike lanes, dozens of wineries, historic missions and the eccentric Madonna Inn. Known for its SLO CAL or slow-paced, carefree vibe, a stay here is guaranteed to provide rest and relaxation.

Keep taking it easy by heading just outside of San Luis Obispo to the shores of Pismo Beach – you’ll see the coastal hills open to reveal the shimmering turquoise waters and pristine, walkable coastline of this classic beach town as you drive. A popular surf spot that boasts a 365 metre-long pier, this cosy locale also hosts more than 25,000 monarch butterflies during their winter migration.

Finish your journey along California’s Central Coast with miles of sweeping ocean views before arriving at the chic coastal town of Santa Barbara. Enchanting with its tiled terracotta roofs and white stucco buildings, this picturesque and historic place has been settled since the 1700s – first by the Spanish and later by American pioneers – and is situated between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains. You’ll find plenty to indulge in from award-winning wineries and fine dining to world-class shopping, art galleries and the local zoo.

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Things to do in California’s Central Coast

Explore a wide range of activities, excursions and one-of-a-kind experiences in California’s Central Coast, tried and tested personally by our travel experts.

Places to Stay in California’s Central Coast

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Joshua has been travelling to the USA since childhood, visiting his father and four siblings on the west coast. He is fortunate to have travelled to 42 of the 50 US states, and hopes to complete the set by his next big birthday.

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Dominique caught the North America travel bug when she was in her late teens and has travelled extensively throughout the USA and Canada, particularly drawn to the countries' outstanding natural beauty and wildlife. With over 10 years of product and marketing experience in North America, Dominique’s passion for the destination is infectious.

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