North and South California get all the love. I can’t believe I’ve lived my entire life in California and never really spent time in CENTRAL California. Often on long road trips back home to Palo Alto from Los Angeles I’d drive as fast as I could through this part of the state, eager to make it to either to my old home or my new one.
Well, this trip really changed my point of view of the “middle” of California. First of all, it’s beautiful and soooo charming. I’m really glad we took the opportunity to spend a weekend here. If you’re thinking of making a trip to Central CA, here’s 5 things you should do while you’re around.
1) Visit Hearst Castle
I didn’t really know what to expect from Hearst Castle, I just knew I wanted to go check it out at least once, even if just for photos (lol). It’s really a beautiful example of architecture, and not like anything you’ll really see in the states (kinda reminded me of the Palace of Versailles or something of that caliber).
It was pretty interesting learning about the Hearst family and their part in so much of California's history. Definitely worth going at least once, and the property is HUGE and really cool for pics. They even have some leftover zoo animals from when the family had an exotic animal zoo on the property so you could spot zebras!
2) Taste wine in Paso Robles
I didn’t realize it, but Paso Robles is giving Napa a run for it’s money. We visited Justin Vineyards while there and it was literally breathtaking. There’s one main road that you take where most of the vineyards are. Coincidentally, it’s called Vineyard Drive. Justine, where we went for the day, sits almost at the end of this winding country road. Paso Robles is known for it’s reds - Syrahs and Zinfandels do especially well in the super hot / cold climate, but they also have whites and rosé as well.
Along the same road where most of the vineyards are, there's also such well-known vineyards as Kiamie, Tablas Creek, and others. Major perk other than the vino in Paso Robles is that it’s STUNNING. You feel like you’re so far away from the city and there’s plenty of country-like photo opps to be had.
3) Hang out on the beach
Paso Robles and the other towns that are inland from the coast are especially hot in the summer so you can head to the beach where it’s usually 20 degrees cooler (or even more). There’s lots of surfing and long stretches of sand where we stayed in Cambria, and def stick around for the sunset because they're really pretty here.
4) Drive Up (or down) Highway 1
The "1" is the highway that will take you basically all the way from LA to SF along the coast, if you let it. If you don’t have much time but want to take in the sights, this is the perfect way to see some of the sights and grab some pics in a time crunch. Be aware though that due to heavy rain and mudslides last year taking a mile of the coast into the Pacific Ocean, it is partially closed right now. Right below Big Sur, above the San Simeon area it stops, so if you’re trying to go all the way through from Southern to Northern CA, you’ll have to go around and cut over to 101 in order to do so. The 1 is close at the base of Big Sur which is a total bummer, but they did re-open Bixby bridge so you can get there to see it if you’re coming from Northern CA.
5) Do some hiking
Admittedly, we didn’t get to do a lot of this due to enjoying 1-4 a little *too* much this time around, but there’s some really great hikes in the area that our hotel reception at Ocean Point Ranch told us about. There’s even a path that goes all along the beach you can walk up and down which is especially pretty at golden hour. Not really a “hike” but a great walk/ run path either way. Some other hiking areas that were recommended to us were