California Central Coast
A tranquil expanse between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the romantics and fairytale-like Central Coast is often called California's Middle Kingdom. Dramatic seascapes, coastal resorts, and pastoral inland agricultural communities, make this region an idyllic destination.
Sunshine: Spring through fall, the sun shines 80 percent of the time. Summer fogs can be thick and cool; autumn brings "Indian summer", when temperatures can reach into the high 80s.
Life in the Central Coast is contemplative and unhurried, which is probably why it has long lured metropolitan denizens looking for a place to kick back. Among them, of course, was William Randolph Hearst, who expanded his family's oceanfront campsite above the sleepy little village of San Simeon into an enormous art-filled Mediterranean villa.
Today his Hearst Castle is a must stop for visitors. To its south lies San Luis Obispo, an attractive town built around the adobe walls of Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolusa. From here to Santa Barbara are oak-studded hills and ocean-facing valleys that, in summer, trap heat during the day but are relieved by cool marine influences at night-perfect conditions for growing grapes for the peppery reds and luscious whites in the wine regions of Paso Robles and the Santa Ynez Valley. On a clear day, from the coastal cities of Oxnard and Ventura, you can see the Channel Islands, a great place to spot migrating gray whales in December and January.
To the north of Hearst Castle, through Big Sur and on up to Monterey, are long, glorious stretches of nothing but scenery, The driftwood-clogged beaches are breeding grounds for elephant seals. Formidable stands of rainy redwood groves grow here, while fog-shrouded bridges span narrow ribbons of highway.
Getting Around The Central Coast
|Monterey Peninsula (MRY)
Hwy. 68 and Olmsted Rd., Monterey 93940; 831/648-7000 ; served by national, commuter airlines; taxis, major car rental agencies.
San Luis Obispo County Regional/McChesney Field (SBP)
903-5 Airport Dr., San Luis Obispo 93401;
805/781-5955 ; served by American Eagle, America West Express, Skywest United; major car rental agencies.
Santa Barbara Municipal (SBA)
500 James Fowler Rd., Goleta 93117;
805/967-7111 ; served by national, commuter airlines; Santa Barbara Airbus, airport transport from LAX and within Santa Barbara, limousines, taxis, major car rental agencies.
Santa Maria Public (SMX)
3249 Terminal Dr., Santa Maria 93455; 805/922-1726 ; served by Pacific Skyway, Skywest/United Express; Avis, Budget, Hertz, Thrifty car rental agencies.
2889 W. 5th St., Oxnard 93030; 805/382-3022 ; served by United Express and America West; airport transport, Hertz, Budget America Leaseline car rental agencies, taxis.
Amtrak 800/872-7245 ; Amtrak staffed stations/ticket offices in Oxnard, Salinas, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara.