Description - In this breathtaking region, redwoods march down to the sea while waterfalls and natural preserves scatter the landscape. Maybe it's the curvaceous roads looping in and out along the Big Sur coast. Or the vision of sea otters lazily floating on their backs alongside the renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium. Or, farther south, the smell of orange blossoms wafting over the moon-shaped Ojai Valley, a land so golden that it served as Shangri-la in Frank Capra's movie adaptation of Lost Horizon.
Copyright: California State Parks
Ocean view at Monterey State Beach
Whatever the reason, life here is contemplative and unhurried, which is probably why the Central Coast 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.
- 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. As onetime resident Henry Miller wrote, this is "the face of the earth as the creator intended it to look." Farther inland is a different paradise, the Salinas Valley, which has retained its agrarian roots, remaining much the way it was when John Steinbeck wrote East of Eden. And beyond the valley is the growing town of Gilroy, which every July hosts an annual Garlic Festival, where you'll find jelly, bread, and even ice cream made from the bulb.
The Los Padres National Forest stretches through the mountains of the Central Coast, including much of the Big Sur Coast. The Central Coast also includes numerous state parks, state beaches, state historic parks, state reserves. Channel Islands National Park lies off the southern end of this region.
Recreation - Popular activities in the Central Coast region include: swimming, boating, fishing, surfing, wind surfing, horseback riding, climbing, hiking, road biking, mountain biking, picnicking, and camping.
Climate - Climate in the Central Coast Region is greatly influenced by proximity to the coast. The ocean has a moderating influence, with areas close to the coast experiencing cooler summers and warmer winters than areas further inland.
During spring and fall the sun shines most of the time in the Central Coast Region. Summer fogs can be thick and cool, especially close to the coast, while fall brings "Indian summer" when temperatures can reach into the high 80s. Most of the precipitation comes in the winter in the form of rain, turning the golden hillsides green.
The Central Coast Region stretches along the coast from about 60 miles north of Los Angeles to about 50 miles south of San Francisco. It includes the area from Ventura to Monterey Bay. The main highways accessing this region are Highways 1 and 101 running north/south.