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10 Things To Do On the California Coast

We lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for a number of years and still visit 2-3 times per year. We were lucky to have the California coast in our backyard to explore. Thinking back, we now present ten things we recommend doing along the coast of California between Los Angeles and San Francisco. A California coast road trip should definitely be on your bucket list.

1. Enter the World of Hitchcock at Bodega Bay

Bodega Bay's claim to fame is as the setting for Hitchcock's The Birds. While birds rained terror upon the town in the movie, the reality is a quaint fishing village that will still manage to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

California Coast Drive - Bodega Bay

2. Sample Seafood at Half Moon Bay

Half Moon Bay is an easy day trip from San Francisco. Take a step back in time and explore quaint shops and restaurants. The seafood is simply outstanding. The giant wooden cap'n may be a little over the top but he sure as heck leads the way to a great fish lunch.

California Coast Drive - Half Moon Bay

SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: If you have time to spare on your California Coast road trip, consider stopping in San Francisco and taking the ferry to Alameda in the East Bay. You'll be rewarded with stunning views of the San Francisco skyline and the San Francisco Bay Bridge.

3. See Otters in Monterey 

I serendipitously pulled off the road at Moss Landing in Monterey and what did I find swimming in the water? Sea Otters! I could have stood there all day watching them frolick. It's not all fun and games though. There is also the question of lunch. I even got to see one of the sea otters toy with and kill a duck! For more about birds and wildlife in Monterey, check out this post.

California Coast Drive - Sea Otters in Monterey

4. Stroll the Beach near Asilomar and 17-Mile Drive

17-mile drive represents California coastal beauty at its finest. You'll pay a hefty toll to drive the route ($10 at the time of writing). Consider staying in the area in or around Asilomar and then getting up early to walk along the beach for free. It's a truly zen experience with the shorebirds running along the edge of the water and the sound of waves crashing in. For more information and photos on walks near Asilomar, check out this post.

California Coast Drive - The Beach Near Asilomar
California Coast Drive - The Beach Near 17-Mile Drive

5. Visit Steinbeck Country

We'll detour inland for just a moment to Salinas, California, birthplace of prolific American author John Steinbeck. Salinas feels like a journey back in time with vestiges of old-fashioned Main St. USA still visible. Get to know Salinas' native son at the National Steinbeck Center. I picked up a copy of Travels with Charley in Search of America when I visited. It was written by Steinbeck later in life describes 3 months of travel all around the United States with his faithful dog Charley. Given how much he seemed to enjoy that trip, I feel like Steinbeck is a kindred spirit.

California Coast Drive - Salinas - John Steinbeck Country

6. Marvel at the Elephant Seals at San Simeon

Continuing further south, we arrive at my favorite place of all along the California Coast: San Simeon. We visited in January and watched the large male elephant seals fight for dominance and the best mating opportunities along the beach. Friends of the Elephant Seal offers plenty of advice on visiting.
California Coast Drive - Elephant Seals at Piedras Blancas

SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Looking for other stunning drives to take around the world? Have you considered an Adelaide to Melbourne road trip along the Great Ocean Road in Australia? Visit scenic places like the Twelve Apostles over the course of about 3 days (one way). You may even spot a koala along the way. Another great scenic road trip is along the East Coast of Taiwan from Taipei to Hualien, the gateway to Taroko National Park.

7. Imagine the Good Life at Hearst Castle

Nearby, Hearst Castle offers a glimpse into the life of the late newspaper magnate, William Hearst. The property was popular among A-list celebrities in the 1920s and 1930s and today offers stunning views.
California Coast Drive - San Simeon - Hearst Castle

8. Taste Wine in Paso Robles

There are a tremendous number of wine regions in California. Paso Robles is lesser known but top notch. Spend a weekend exploring the town and sipping some fine reds.

California Coast Drive - Wine Tasting in Paso Robles

9. Be Transported to Denmark in Solvang

Solvang is a curious place. Windmills greet you on entering the town. Danish bakeries line the streets. An ostrich farm lies just on the outskirts of town. Solvang is unique in all of California and is a good place to stop en route to Santa Barbara.
California Coast Drive - Solvang - Little Denmark

10. Live the Beach Life in Santa Barbara

I used to visit the University of California at Santa Barbara frequently for work. I always marveled at the campus sitting on a cliff overlooking the sea and would think to myself I'd never get any work done if I was a student here! In addition to UCSB, Santa Barbara offers a posh downtown and miles of beachfront walks. Santa Barbara is a city I could imagine retiring to. It's very chill.

California Coast Drive - Santa Barbara

I hope you've enjoyed this virtual tour of the California Coast. Check out the map below and plan your drive along the California Coast. What are you waiting for?


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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: 10 Things To Do On the California Coast
10 Things To Do On the California Coast
Discover top 10 things to do on a drive down the California Coast. Drive the California Coast. Take a California Coast road trip from San Francisco to Santa Barbara.
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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog
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