photo of Central Coast

Peachey Canyon Vineyard in the Central Coast, California. (Malcolm Carlaw/Flickr)

What to do in Central Coast

For many, the Central Coast recalls a California of an earlier era, with its sleepy beach towns, down-to-earth locals, food straight from the farm, and respite from the big-city scene. The Central Coast is sandwiched between the Monterey Bay area to the north and the megalopolis of Los Angeles to the south, forming a mellow middle ground of state coastline.

At the northern end of the region, San Luis Obispo serves as county seat to a host of small beach towns. To the south, Santa Barbara and Ventura have beaches of their own, and serve as the gateway to Channel Islands National Park. Both regions have nearby wineries to explore. Wherever you base yourself, the pace is slower here than in the SoCal cities, and you'll have better beach weather than the cold, rainy climes common to San Francisco. Here, even many winter days come with clear blue skies.

The beaches have a more rural feel, and on a weekday, you might see more sea creatures than beachgoers. The beach folk you do see will likely be working up a sweat—whether in-line skating along a bike path, paddling out through the waves, or cruising the shoreline by kayak. Off the beach, you'll find rugged mountain ranges and valleys filled with farms, ranches, and vineyards. The local horticulture appears on the tables of many area restaurants, which specialize in local wine, produce, and fish taken right off the coast. Feel free to indulge: With roads and trails for cycling and hiking, and waves for riding, you can always work it off the next day.

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