Last-Minute Road Trip: Our Central Coast Itinerary

Road trip to Central Coast // (c) 2013 Janeen Christoff


After five days on the road driving around California’s Central Coast in a rented RV, we headed home. As we left the Pacific Coast Highway, trading ocean views for rush hour traffic, we realized that our return was bittersweet. I would miss the refreshing breezes California coastal cities such as San Simeon, Cambria and San Luis Obispo, but I really wanted to take a hot shower and enjoy some air conditioning.

Our final itinerary ended up being ideal. We began in Los Angeles and left with the kids in the evening, putting them to bed in the motor home. We arrived in Avila Beach and found a free, safe place to park overnight. Avila Beach offers free parking along the shore from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. Since it was the Fourth of July, we headed out early in the morning to get parking. When we arrived at the beach, there were only two other RVs parked along the water; by 8 a.m., it was getting difficult to find parking; and by 10 a.m., the coastline was packed with holiday revelers. The Central Coast is often foggy in the morning, but the clouds lifted by 11 a.m., and we enjoyed a sunny Fourth on the beach, wrapping everything up with a campfire on the beach.

On day two, we headed North to Cambria and San Simeon. Since we were traveling last-minute, we weren’t able to get a reservation at the San Simeon Creek Campground. As many of the state parks do, however, they offer first-come, first-served spots. We arrived at 9:30 a.m. and were 13th on the waiting list but the park ranger said that our chances were good — they have almost 300 campsites. Sure enough we got in at 11:30 a.m. and had a gorgeous campsite at the top of the campground with views of the Pacific from a bluff and shaded by trees. It was only a short walk to the beach, and the three-mile San Simeon Creek Trail loops around the campground and is easily accessible. We stayed for two nights, exploring tidepools, beach combing on Moonstone Beach and exploring the town of Cambria. We could have easily stayed one more day and gone to Hearst Castle, visited the elephant seals or shopped in Cambria.

We headed out from San Simeon around noon to camp close to home in Malibu on our last night. The drive was beautiful, however, the campground, Malibu Creek State Park, was set back from the ocean and wasn’t quite as spacious as our site in San Simeon. Still, it was clean and was only a short walk to the ocean. From Malibu, we drove home in order to return our RV by 11 a.m. that morning. When we stopped for coffee at Starbucks, we knew we had returned to reality.

Cruise America

Malibu Creek State Park

San Simeon Creek State Park

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