Looking to create the perfect California Central Coast itinerary? Here is what we did:
Day 1: Los Angeles to Cachuma Lake
We picked up our Jucy around 10 a.m. and brought it home, packed up our things and headed out after school, around 3 p.m. I would recommend leaving a little earlier as we arrived at Cachuma Lake Recreation Area around 6:30 and would have liked to have a little bit more daylight to set up and enjoy the camp.
Day 2: Lake Cachuma to Pismo Beach
We visited the Nature Center at Cachuma Lake and did the boat tour of the lake for some great wildlife spotting. We saw a red-tail hawk, a lot of swallow nests as well as grebes racing on the lake.
Lunch was at Chomp in Solvang, which is an adorable Danish village in the Santa Ynez Valley. Chomp is the perfect spot for family dining with delicious burgers and fries for both kids and parents.
There’s a giant blackboard sure to keep the kids entertained if you have to wait for a table. We recommend ordering one of their classic milkshakes which are fantastic and so large there was some left to take with us on the ride to Pismo Beach.
It takes less than two hours to drive up to Pismo and we arrived mid-afternoon to Pismo’s North Beach Campground. If you are here during monarch butterfly season, the monarch grove is to the left of the campground. Get a spot on the left-hand side close to the beach and you can take a short walk to the shore for a perfect sunset.
Day 3: Pismo Beach to Paso Robles
After lunch in Pismo Beach, we headed for ice cream in downtown San Luis Obispo at Batch — they serve homemade ice cream sandwiches. Then we strolled by the bubble gum wall, a must-see but kind of makes your stomach turn. Put up your own chewed gum at your own risk.
Next stop — ziplining with Margarita Adventures. This five-line zip over the Santa Margarita Wintery is definitely worth the trip, especially for families with small children. My sometimes trepidatious 6-year-old loved the zipline and the rest of us found each one exhilarating. We followed up our adventure with a wine tasting across the street. Try the rose, it’s delish.
We camped at the Wine Country RV Resort, which is clean and has fantastic facilities as well as a swimming pool. However, in our tiny Jucy camper, we felt a little out of place. A great alternative is a drive to San Simeon and stay at the San Simeon Creek Campground just south of Hearst Castle.
Day 3: Paso Robles to Big Sur
We drove up the stunning coastline between Cambria and Big Sur. Leave early so you have time to picnic, snack and stop at all of the beautiful spots along the way. I recommend stopping at the elephant seals for a short walk, grabbing a snack at Ragged Point, hiking and eating a picnic lunch at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.
There are fabulous state campgrounds along this drive that are all amazing. Kirk Creek is our favorite with stunning views of the sea below and a couple of fun hikes. Watch out for poison oak. Other options include Plaskett and Limekiln campgrounds.
We made the whole drive that day and stayed at Big Sur Campground & Cabins, an idyllic little spot buried in a redwood forest and located along a small river with tubing and a giant playground.
Day 4: Big Sur, Monterey and Home.
We wrapped our journey with a trip to Monterey Bay Aquarium and then headed home. Definitely buy your aquarium tickets in advance to avoid a long line and arrive early to avoid the crowds.