Central Coast Outdoors

Enjoy the outdoors together, while maintaining social distance.

The open spaces of California’s Central Coast make it safe and easy.
Consider these suggestions from each of the four Regions of California’s Central Coast.

VENTURA REGION

CAMARILLO
Bike or hike Hill Canyon. Hill Canyon is a gorgeous 4-mile trail with approximately 250 feet of elevation change. The trail is great for hikers and bikers of all levels but can be strenuous at times. Enjoy the beautiful mountain views and soak in the fresh Camarillo air among nature. Afterward, maybe stop by Camarillo Certified Farmers Market. Over the years, the Camarillo Certified Farmers Market has become a community meeting place where people from all walks of life shop, socialize and celebrate “the Good Life” and our agricultural heritage. Stroll through the aisles of organic produce. fresh baked goods or hand-crafted artisan offerings being sold at this charming farmers market every Saturday morning.

If you’re looking for the perfect spot to dine where you can enjoy the fresh air, restaurants throughout Camarillo have been working diligently to offer safe and delicious options to dine out. From Relm Wine & Beer Bistro, Twisted Oak Tavern, Slate Bistro, Braxton’s Kitchen and many more. You can’t go wrong with any of these options.

HERITAGE VALLEY
It’s well worth the experience to see the natural wonders of Southern California’s last pristine agricultural valley, Heritage Valley with its working ranches, farms, apiaries, fruit stands, and wineries. Soar above the valley in a hot Air Balloon, take a hike, dive into the punch bowls and explore the Sespe wilderness and Los Padres National Forest.

OXNARD
In Oxnard, anything’s possible. Imagine launching right from a boat up and into the clear blue skies, capturing view of the Central Coast shoreline from up to 1,000 feet up. Even greater than they physical lift of a parasail is the emotional lift that the serenity of soaring brings. No experience required. Just visit Channel Islands Parasail at Marine Emporium Landing in the beautiful Channel Islands Harbor.

If you’d prefer to stay grounded, Sea Dog Yoga offers fully licensed and insured Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) Yoga Instruction. Deepen your appreciation and connection with the natural marine environment and foster a deeper sense of self through yoga asana. Sea Dog Yoga also offers paddleboard instruction and guided stand up paddleboard tours of Channel Islands Harbor.

Channel Islands Sportfishing provides access to renowned fishing around the waters of Channel Islands National Park. Fishing enthusiasts love having access to the thriving marine habitat that surrounds Anacapa Island, Santa Cruz Island, Santa Rosa Island, San Miguel Island, and San Nicolas Island, as well as the coastal waters between Santa Barbara and the Ventura County line near Malibu.

VENTURA
Think of Ventura as The Louvre, but without a ceiling and unamused security guards. Happier still, touring Ventura’s explosively creative street murals is often easily walkable, and certainly easily bikeable (rent a bike at Ventura Bike Depot). Start anywhere but finish with the mural of the Shinto goddess Amaterasu, for she shares a parking lot with Fluid State Beer Garden—some of Ventura’s best pizza.

COVID has wrought so many changes—and here’s a happy one. Five blocks of Ventura’s downtown Main Street are now closed to motor traffic so that restaurants can move outside. The result? Yes, restaurants are drawing sorely needed customers. But with live music and tables simply for lounging, there is a decidedly European feel in the salt air.

So many hiking options, all within ten minutes (or less) of downtown. Hike in the hills just above town: Grant Park offers stunning seascape views; the Ventura Botanical Gardens offers the same views and lovely Mediterranean gardens. The Ventura River Estuary is a quiet secret. And newly opened Harmon Canyon is a hiking (and mountain biking) gem; the first large-scale, publicly accessible hillside nature preserve in Ventura.

From roughly June through mid-September, Blue whales (averaging 95 feet, the largest creature on the planet) and Humpback whales appear off the coast of Ventura. Beginning in mid-December, Pacific Gray whales appear, migrating to Baja California, Mexico. And, in any season, there’s the chance of Orca whale sightings and the high likelihood of a dolphins; sometimes, goose-pimpling pods numbering in the hundreds.

There is no wilder—or socially distant—escape closer to civilization. The five islands of Channel Islands National Park have been called the “Galapagos of North America.” Yes, there are rare plants and animals found nowhere else. But there’s also world class hiking, sea kayaking, scuba diving, camping and more, only an hour from Ventura, courtesy of Island Packers.
TIP:  Get the Channel Island National Park app before you go. Enrich your visit with the official, free app from the National park Service (NPS). Digitally explore the park – by map or by topic of interest. Get information about visitor centers, events, services, and self-guided tours and trails throughout the park. The app is free on the on the App Store and on Google Play.

SANTA BARBARA REGION

SANTA BARBARA
The Santa Barbara Adventure Company is another exciting way to interact with the wildlife of the region up close. The popular sea cave kayaking tours allow guests to float through kelp forests in the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. Santa Barbara Adventure Company also offers kayaking options like their Fun Paddle Kayak, Sunset Kayak, or Coastline Kayak.  Or maybe you’re interested in surf lessons or Stand Up Paddle Board.

On land, try their Mountain To Shore Bike Tour.  Or explore scenic wine country on their Wine Country By Bike Tour. For a perfect way to see the valley and visit three wineries (plus lunch and points of interest), try their Wine Country Shuttle. And, if you’re looking for a way to reward or motivate your team, consider Santa Barbara Adventure Company for Corporate Team Building.

SOLVANG
Solvang, dubbed the “Danish Capital of America”, has turned Copenhagen Drive into an open-air pedestrian promenade for you to enjoy dining al fresco and to move about safely.

LOMPOC
One of the top attractions in Lompoc are its murals , which have turned Old Town Lompoc into an outdoor art gallery. 40 murals can be found on street corners, in alleyways, and on sides of prominent buildings

A scenic 30-minute drive from Lompoc is Jalama Beach County Park. Enroute, working ranches, vineyards and hillside vistas are around every bend, culminating in an overlook before descending toward the beach. Jalama Beach is ideal for surfing, kite surfing, bird watching, nature photography, fishing, hiking and camping. It’s open year-round.

SANTA MARIA / GUADALUPE
Santa Maria Valley is home to multiple unique and wonderful golf courses. Take on the challenges that each course presents and take in both the beautiful landscapes as well as the scenic views of the valley.

Just 12 minutes from Santa Maria, the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes are the second-largest stretch of dunes in California and the largest intact coastal dune ecosystem on Earth. The stunning scenery of the dunes has played host to movie classics like The Ten Commandments (1923) and modern films like Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Sideways, and Hidalgo.

SAN LUIS OBISPO REGION

ARROYO GRANDE
Lake Lopez – a place where friends and family can go out and appreciate all of its accommodations nearby, services, zip lines, 1,000 acres of lake surface, and its well-known Mustang Waterpark located at the heart of Lake Lopez in Arroyo Grande.

SAN LUIS OBISPO
There are so many outdoor options to be found in San Luis Obispo. Mountain biking on Cerro San Luis Obispo is an excellent choice for intermediate and advanced mountain bikers. TIP: Park at Madonna Inn and take the path to the trailhead (and stop at the Copper Café for lunch!).

Create your own historic bike tour in downtown San Luis Obispo by beginning at the Visitor Center on Monterey Street. Admire historic sites and brightly colored Victorian houses on Garden Street.

From the Insta-worthy SLO Irresistible mural at the Creamery Marketplace, to the individualized utility boxes and uniquely designed life-size cow sculptures from the previously hosted CowParade event, San Luis Obispo public art will grab your attention at every turn. Even parking garages have been decorated by local artists.

San Luis Obispo wineries are open, with plenty of outdoor space for sipping while you enjoy the scenery! Make a reservation at the Malene Airstream trailer, sit outside at Stephen Ross’s Sippin’ Sidewalk or enjoy Twilight at Tolosa on Friday’s to wind-down your week.

PASO ROBLES
Paso Robles Wine Country provides guests a wonderful, safe, outdoor tasting experience. Looking for a unique adventure? Sip a glass of wine at the renowned art exhibit Field of Light at Sensorio or zipline above vineyards with Margarita Adventures and end with a wine tasting at Ancient Peaks Winery.

Paso’s iconic Downtown City Park now offers free private, physically distanced farmhouse style tables with bistro lighting Thursday – Sunday providing a comfortable space to enjoy takeout (plus wine, beer and cocktails!) and safely hang out with friends and family. Paso has also increased the dining and tasting space for downtown businesses with parklets extending into the streets for beautiful summer nights in Paso al fresco style!

Jump on the saddle and experience Paso Robles Wine Country from a whole new perspective—on horseback! With many hillside paths, ranch trails and vineyard excursions, guests will have a unique experience suitable for all ages and riding experience levels. You can even stop for a glass of wine along your tour!

CAMBRIA

Take a walking tour of Cambria. Cambria is brimming with historic architecture dating back to the 1800s, with an eclectic and charming collection of architectural styles. Victorian architecture, popular when Cambria was becoming a bustling mining town, was the inspiration for many of the buildings still standing today. Interpretations of the historic style are mixed with more modern influences to create a quirky and welcoming characteristic of Cambria.

SAN SIMEON
Bring your fluffy best friend along for the adventure to pet-friendly San Simeon. Spend the day playing on the ample sand of San Simeon Cove – a dog’s heaven – where your pet can run freely on the shore. Take off to explore the coastline on the Junge Ranch Trail and explore fascinating tidepools and endless views. Refuel on the oceanfront patio of El Chorlito Mexican Restaurant with your pup.

Visit the northern elephant seals at the Piedras Blancas Rookery just south of Point Piedras Blancas and six miles north of Hearst Castle. The rookery offers the best viewing location along scenic Highway 1 for these fascinating creatures as well as other wildlife. There is abundant parking, easy access on large viewing boardwalks, and it’s all free!

MONTEREY BAY REGION

CARMEL-BY-THE-SEA
Originating as an artist haven, Carmel-by-the-Sea is home to outdoor art such as Cypress Inn’s mural honoring Charlie Chaplin in a pink heart, Forest Lodge’s mural portraying theoretical physicist Albert Einstein, and the new Carmel Shell mural showcasing Carmel’s symbol of home, shelter and recovery on a pale pink background. Visitors will have plenty to see in this walkable, one-square-mile-village.

At the foot of Ocean Avenue in Carmel-by-the-Sea is Carmel Beach, one of the most iconic spots on California’s Central Coast and is rated “One of America’s Top Beach Towns.” Carmel Beach attracts visitors and locals alike to take in the majestic scenery and incomparable sunsets. Just above the famous white-sand beach is the Scenic Bluff Path, offering trail-goers a casual walk or run along the jagged coastlines surrounded by Monterey cypress and landscaped gardens. Carmel Beach is open for walking, running and surfing, no gatherings or lounging is allowed at this time.

Carmel-by-the-Sea’s best kept secret are the hidden passageways and courtyards allowing for visitors to embark through one of the most famous artist colonies in the world, established by creatives like Jack London and George Sterling. Explore the 41 secret passageways that lead to magical courtyards while admiring the village’s one-of-a-kind architecture that effortlessly combines modern-day with old-world European elegance. Some passageways and courtyards feature shops, galleries, and restaurants.

Experience Carmel-by-the-Sea’s rich art culture as they stroll through the enchanting village. For a guided experience through the art town, Gael Gallagher’s Carmel Walks provides a leisurely two-hour guided walk through secret passageways and courtyards, and by storybook gardens and cottages.

Carmel-by-the-Sea restaurants and bars—despite boasting among them some of the world’s landmark establishments—remain pleasantly undefined. The town’s charming eateries feature a full range of international, regional and local cuisines, all benefiting from their proximity to the bounties provided by the Monterey Bay and Salinas Valley. Taken together, Carmel restaurants have a hallmark blend of Old World elegance and modern charm, all with an artistic flair. There are many restaurants open that provide outdoor dining, take-out and/or delivery options.

MONTEREY
Hike in Monterey County! Home to some of California’s most iconic parks including Point Lobos State Reserve, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and Pinnacles National Park, Monterey County provides a variety of options for hiking, biking, rock climbing, stargazing and reconnecting with nature. Explore less-populated trails off of iconic Highway 1 including Limekiln State Park, Andrew Molera State Park, Palo Corona Regional Park, and historic Fort Ord National Monument bordering Marina, Seaside, and Salinas.

GILROY
Enjoy fine wine in the sunshine! Many of the 35+ award-winning wineries along the Santa Clara Valley Wine Trail are now offering creative ways to enjoy wine tasting and stunning vineyard views while maintaining safe social distancing guidelines. Download the Wine Trail Map at VisitGilroy.com or stop by the California Welcome Center Gilroy to plan your tasting tour. Reservations may be required.

Get up close and personal with the world’s biggest birds! Gilroy Ostrich Farm is one of California’s largest ostrich farms—and a great open-air place to explore with your family. As you tour the farm, you’ll learn all about these fascinating creatures and also visit with alpacas, sheep, pigs, and more. Tickets can be purchased online or at the California Welcome Center Gilroy.

Looking for a new kind of outdoor adventure? Saddle up and experience the historic Mt. Madonna Park on horseback! Mount Madonna Stables is a beautiful family-owned ranch nestled in the mountains west of Gilroy. They offer several different guided trail rides (for riders of all levels) that include majestic redwood groves, grassy meadows full of wildflowers, and the fascinating ruins of Henry Miller’s former home.

 

Download or request a Central Coast Visitors Map here.
To further assist you in planning your Central Coast Road Trip, check out helpful Itineraries here.
Discover all of California’s Central Coast Regions here.

August 2020