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The Central California Coast is known for it’s amazing wine region and beaches. It’s about four hours from Los Angeles making it the perfect spot for a long weekend trip or stop on a California road trip. California is one of my favorite states and surprisingly easy to get a cheap flight to from DC. It was a great spot for a wine weekend girls trip! Below is how we spent our weekend on the Central Coast.
Also, in comparison to Sanoma and Napa Valley, this region is affordable. At least half the price. So if you’re looking for a more affordable California wine trip, this is it!
When I first met Francesca and Shannan on Instagram, I instantly knew we would end up being friends! Not only did we all love to travel, but we’re all teachers as well. No better combo than three teachers who love to travel. We started a Facebook group together for Traveling Teachers and so only naturally, we had to go on a trip together! We chose the Central California Coast for a girls trip and I’m so glad we did.
This itinerary starts in San Luis Obispo and moves south from there. If you’re coming from Los Angeles, this means your longest driving day is the first day, if you’re coming from San Francisco, this means your longest driving day is the last. It starts in the most northern spot of the trip and goes south. However, you could do this trip in either order!
You’ll definitely need a car to make this trip possible, but either way you decide to drive north or south, you’ll get the chance to make some great stops along the way.
Where to Stay
We chose to stay a few different places around the Central California Coast on our trip. Below are my recommendations for where to stay.
The Kinney San Luis Obispo – We stayed here for one night and really enjoyed it. It was such a cute hotel and fairly priced when splitting the room.
Santa Maria – We spent a night near here in an Airbnb. It’s a great central location near lots of wineries and things to do.
Solvang – This Danish town is so unique. Incredible food, pretty buildings, and located in the southern part of the Central California Coast.
Friday – San Luis Obispo area
I recommend driving up the night before on Thursday evening to maximize your time on this trip. It’s about a 4 hour drive up to the San Luis Obispo area and the worst thing would be feeling too tired by the time you get to the wineries, towns, and beaches! Stay half way in the Santa Maria area.
Our first, and arguably best stop, was Sextant Winery. Sextant Winery is in the Edna Valley Region right near the coast. The founders started their winery back in 2001 and today have two different locations – one in Edna Valley, one in Paso Robles. Their Edna Valley location was such a unique experience! It was the site of a small town back in the days when California was being settled. The original buildings are still there – the town hall, post office, general store, and brothel all make up this unique winery experience.
One of the things I also loved about this winery was that they had a restaurant on site – Gourmet Deli. The food was so good here and it paired perfectly with the wine we were drinking during our tasting. The salads and flatbread were a highlight for me
A tasting here costs $20 for a mixed flight of 5 different wines.
10 am – 5 pm
Sycamore Mineral Hot Springs
As we were driving on Thursday night, I was looking at the map and spotted something with a title “hot springs” on the map. I was instantly interested because HOT SPRINGS? On a relaxing wine trip?! Sign me up, just keep adding on the calming factor to this trip, please.
We looked it up and turns out, Sycamore Mineral Hot Springs were discovered when they were drilling in the area years ago. They have 100 acres that they use for hillside hot tubs. It’s $22 a person an hour and well worth it. You can purchase wine there as well and bring it up to your hot tub with you. It was a great spot to relax after a wine visit and before dinner.
If you choose to stay at the resort there on sight, every room has a hot tub as well which would be so nice to enjoy the mineral water on your own balcony as well. This was definitely a fun hidden gem that we found!
After an afternoon of wine tasting, it was only fair we went to relax on the beach! Sextant Winery was just a 20 minute drive to a quaint and cute beach town called Avila Beach. This small beach town has a beautiful view of the coast, complete with a fishing pier, cute boutiques, and restaurants to try.
We enjoyed some beach time and then headed to grab pizza at Mission Pizza. Everyone I spoke to also recommends the calamari here – so sad I missed that so sharing it with you so you don’t! Mission Pizza is take-out only so what better place to eat your pizza than in a hidden cove?!
We took our pizza up to Pirate’s Cove, just a short drive and walk along the coast. It’s a beautiful location for sunset and we really enjoyed spending our evening here with such a stunning view. We were the only ones there and were able to take in a great sunset.
Be really careful when parking here. The parking lot was full of potholes and we actually needed someone to stay outside the car and guide us into the spot in order not to scratch the bottom of the car.
We purchased a bottle of wine at the winery earlier in the day and enjoyed it there as well. Perfect end to a great day!
Saturday – Los Olivos Area
Dutch Bros Coffee
Would a trip to the Central California Coast be complete without a visit to the famous Dutch Bros Coffee? I have to say, this was a really sweet, but also tasty way to start the say. I asked for mine half sweet and still felt like it was sweet! Would recommend doing that for anyone who is not a sweet coffee drinker.
Hike in Pismo Beach Reserve
Since we spent the night in San Luis Obispo, we wanted to get a great hike in along the mountain ridges. We started off the morning with a quick hike in Pismo Beach Reserve. We chose to hike the Vamanos Canyon to High Road Trail and it was really pretty even though it was so foggy. The trail was just 1.4 miles with a small incline and a great start to the day, I’d definitely recommend!
Old West Cinnamon Rolls in Pismo Beach
If the coffee wasn’t enough sweets for the day, We made a stop at Old West Cinnamon Rolls. These cinnamon rolls were huge and absolutely so delicious. The crispy, carmelized sugar really put them over the top plus they had a bunch of different flavor options to choose from. We split one because they were so huge!
Located just outside Los Olivos, Fess Parker was such a beautiful experience – We loved this winery! Reserve ahead and enjoy a 90-minute wine experience, seated on the scenic veranda at Fess Parker Winery. You can get wine flights, by the glass, or by the bottle. There were also some extra special tastings built into our wine flight experience which we appreciated!
We probably spent closer to 2 hours here which none of us complained about because we were just enjoying ourselves and they were so busy. On weekends they also have food trucks and allow picnics on their lawn when you buy a bottle of wine. I loved the views of the mountains around this winery and their shaded outdoor patio.
$15 for a basic tasting, $25 for an enhanced wine tasting
10 am – 5 pm
Los Olivos – Stolpman Vineyards and Blair Fox Cellars
The town of Los Olivos is like no other small town I’ve visited! It’s lined with wine tasting rooms and cute spots for a bite to eat. You can easily walk from winery to winery grabbing a tasting or drink at each one. Some wineries require reservations and others can get really crowded, so making a reservation ahead of time is best!
Stolpman was located right in the heart of town under beautiful trees that give you plenty of shade on your visit. Reservations are required for tastings as they are only doing service on their patio which is pretty small!
11am to 5pm $20 Deposit per person
Most tasting rooms here close at 5 pm so be prepared for an early evening! We ended up getting to fit in a second winery here because Blair Fox Cellars.
Blair Fox Cellars is a boutique winery with a tasting room in Los Olivos. They had amazing sparkling wines that we enjoyed glasses of to end off the day. We loved how cute and comfortable their indoor space was. We went after 5 pm and were the only ones there!
12 – 6 pm on Friday & Saturday, 12-5 pm Sunday – Thursday
Dinner at Pico
Pico is located in Los Alamos near Los Olivos. Pico was founded in 2016 by winemaker Will Henry and restaurateur Kali Kopley as a destination for eclectic California cuisine, with influences from Europe, Asia, and the American South. They create innovative food from local ingredients, carefully sourced from farmers and wines to pair with the food perfectly. Because of this, the food was fresh and delicious! We loved the pastas most.
In the evening, we headed back to Santa Maria and our Airbnb. I’d also recommend staying in Solvang as an option as well.
Sunday – Solvang & Santa Barbara
Morning in Solvang
Solvang is a Danish town located south of Los Alamos. It’s a great spot to stay the night and spend the morning. We grabbed coffee, got pastries at Mortensen’s, and did some shopping for fun European goods. Not only was the food here delicious, but the town is just so cute. There’s something really beautiful about seeing Danish architecture in Central California!
If you have more time, Ostrichland is located near Solvang and is between Solvang and your next stop - Santa Barbara! This would be especially fun with kids or for animal lovers.
Santa Barbara Funk Zone
We continued driving south and headed to Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara looked beautiful from the photos I saw and I wanted to make sure I got to visit on this trip. I’m so glad we did! The Ynez Mountains give Santa Barbara a dramatic backdrop. Downtown, Mediterranean-style white stucco buildings with red-tile roofs reflect the city’s Spanish colonial heritage. It really is stunning.
We first grabbed lunch at Shalhoob’s Brewing. This barbecue spot serves up relaxed and delicious barbecue on their patio. The two barbecue tacos and elotes I got were more than enough food! We ended up taking leftovers home too!
Walk to Stearns Wharf
From the Funk Zone, it’s a 15 minute walk down to Stearns Wharf. So many cute shops, cool murals, and wine tasting rooms. We made several stops at a really cool vintage shop and boutiques we found along the walk. The Funk zone is a really cool area of Santa Barbara!
Once down by the water, we walked out onto the pier and were able to get a great view of the mountains. It was such a clear day the water had the prettiest blue color. At the end of the pier is also the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center. We saw lots of families walking in to this museum and it looked like a really cool place to check out as well.
10:00 AM–5:00 PM, last entry at 4 pm.
Old Mission Santa Barbara was established in 1786 and was the tenth of the 21 California Missions to be founded by the Spanish Franciscans. It is also the only Mission that has been under the continuous guidance of the Franciscan Friars since its foundation in 1786, and it has the oldest liturgical choral singing tradition of any California mission.
It’s history is tumultious as California Missions were used to house Indigenous people and force them into labor as well as Christianity. This is well documented and shared about in the Mission. It’s important the real history behind a place being shared.
We also got to visit during the rose season and enjoy the beautiful rose garden! Lots of people were having picnics, hanging out outside, and enjoying the nice Central California Coast weather.
Open 7 Days a Week from 9:30 AM – 5:00 PM
$15 to visit
After our afternoon in Santa Barbara, it was time to head back. This girls weekend on the Central Coast was so much fun. I highly recommend this trip to anyone looking for a weekend getaway for wine in California.