Must-see attractions in Central Coast

  • San Simeon, California / USA - May 12, 2018: Exterior view of Hearst Castle, William Randolph Hearst's extravagant coastal hilltop estate designed by architect Julia Morgan over 28 years.; Shutterstock ID 1297759909; your: Meghan O'Dea; gl: 65050; netsuite: Online Editorial; full: POI

    Hearst Castle

    Central Coast

    Perched high on a hill, Hearst Castle is a wondrous, historic, over-the-top homage to material excess. From the 1920s into the '40s, Hearst and Marion…

  • MONTEREY, CA - APRIL10:  The exterior of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, located at Cannery Row two hours south of San Francisco, is viewed on April 10, 2018, in Monterey, California. An estimated 15 million domestic and international travelers visit California each year generating more than $100 billion in revenue and creating more than one million jobs in the arts, entertainment, recreation, food service and accomodations sectors. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

    Monterey Bay Aquarium


    Monterey is practically synonymous with its world-class aquarium overlooking Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, which protects dense kelp forests and…

  • A coastal path, part of the Partington Cove Trail in Julia Pfeiffer State Park.

    Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

    Big Sur

    If you're chasing waterfalls, swing into this state park named for the daughter of some of the earliest European settlers to arrive in Big Sur. The…

  • Pfeiffer State Beach

    Pfeiffer Beach

    Big Sur

    Pfeiffer Beach is at the heart of what Big Sur is all about – splendid, unusual scenery that's inspired generations of artists, writers, and travelers…

  • Train tracks in Santa Cruz, California, USA.

    Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

    Santa Cruz

    The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk has been an Americana classic like few others for over a century. Now as in 1907 when the amusement park first opened, the…

  • Point Lobos State Reserve near Carmel, CA

    Point Lobos State Natural Reserve


    They bark, they laze and bathe and they’re fun to watch – sea lions are the stars in this state park some 4 miles south of Carmel, along with the…

  • Portrait of John Steinbeck inside the lobby of the National Steinbeck Center in downtown Salinas. The spinach scare is only the latest bad news for Salinas. The biggest city in Monterey County was so broke it nearly shut its libraries two years ago. It s also the least affordable city in the U.S., with the biggest gap between wages and home prices.  (Photo by Stephen Osman/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

    National Steinbeck Center

    Central Coast

    This museum will interest almost anyone, even if you don't know anything about Salinas’ Nobel Prize–winning native son, John Steinbeck (1902–68), a…

  • USA, California, Pacific Coast, National Scenic Byway, Big Sur, Point Sur State Historic Park, View to Point Sur Lighthouse

    Point Sur State Historic Park

    Big Sur

    A little over 6 miles south of Bixby Bridge, Point Sur rises like a velvety green fortress out of the sea. It looks like an island, but is actually…

  • Gray Whale Display Skeleton

    Seymour Marine Discovery Center

    Santa Cruz

    This educational center is part of UCSC’s Long Marine Laboratory. Interactive natural-science exhibits include tidal touch pools and aquariums, while…

  • Father Junipero Serra Founded The Carmel Mission With The Help Of The Local Indian Population, Carmel, California. (Photo By: Education Images/UIG via Getty Images)

    Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo


    Carmel's strikingly beautiful mission is an oasis of solemnity with flowering gardens and a thick-walled basilica filled with Spanish Colonial art and…

  • Waves at Partington Cove.

    Partington Cove

    Big Sur

    This is a raw, breathtaking spot where crashing surf salts your skin. On the steep, half-mile dirt hike down to the cove, you’ll cross a cool bridge and…

  • Monterey, CA -18 February 2018. The Monterey State Historic Park is composed of a number of significant historic houses and buildings interspersed throughout Old Monterey.

    Pacific House


    Find out what's currently open at Monterey State Historic Park, grab a free map and buy tickets for guided walking tours inside this 1847 adobe building,…

  • UC Santa Cruz Silicon Valley Campus - Santa Clara, California, USA - June 29, 2019; Shutterstock ID 1438419443; your: Bridget Brown; gl: 65050; netsuite: Online Editorial; full: POI Image Update

    University of California, Santa Cruz

    Santa Cruz

    Check it: the school mascot is a banana slug! Established in 1965 in the hills above town, UCSC is known for its creative, liberal bent. The rural campus…

  • The Tor House And Hawk Tower Were Built And Lived In By Poet Robinson Jeffers, Carmel, California. (Photo By: Education Images/UIG via Getty Images)

    Tor House


    Even if you’ve never heard of 20th-century poet Robinson Jeffers, a pilgrimage to this house built with his own hands offers fascinating insights into…

  • The Mystery Spot, Santa Cruz, California USA

    Mystery Spot

    Santa Cruz

    A kitschy, old-fashioned tourist trap, Santa Cruz's Mystery Spot has scarcely changed since it opened in 1940. On a steeply sloping hillside, compasses…

  • Garden at Monterey State Historic Park.

    Monterey State Historic Park


    Old Monterey is home to an extraordinary assemblage of 19th-century brick and adobe buildings administered as a state park and linked by a 2-mile self…

  • USA, California, Santa Cruz County, Big Sur, Pacific Ocean, Natural Bridges State Beach, Natural Bridge in the evening light

    Natural Bridges State Beach

    Santa Cruz

    Great for sunsets, this sandy beach fronted by a natural sandstone bridge is a family favorite and tops for wildlife viewing. Scan the bay for whales,…

  • Mission San Antonio De Padua

    Central Coast

    Remote and evocative, this historical mission sits in the Valley of the Oaks, once part of the sprawling Hearst Ranch landholdings and now inside the…

  • Andrew Molera State Park

    Big Sur

    Named after the farmer who first planted artichokes in California, this oft-overlooked park is a trail-laced pastiche of grassy meadows, ocean bluffs and…

  • Pinnacles National Park

    Central Coast

    A study in geological drama, this park's craggy monoliths, sheer-walled canyons and twisting caves are the result of millions of years of erosion. In…

  • Los Padres National Forest

    Big Sur

    The tortuously winding 40-mile stretch of Hwy 1 south of Lucia to Hearst Castle is sparsely populated, rugged and remote, mostly running through national…

  • Firestone Walker Brewing Company

    Central Coast

    Beer lovers can witness the magic happen on guided spins around the massive Firestone Walker brewery. Tours leave daily from the visitor center (reserve…

  • Big Basin Redwoods State Park

    Central Coast

    A 45-minute drive north of Santa Cruz into the mountains via Hwys 9 and 236, this state park protects over 18,000 acres of redwood forest and 80 miles of…

  • Mission San Juan Bautista

    Central Coast

    Founded in 1797, this mission claims the largest church among California’s original 21 missions. Unknowingly built directly atop the San Andreas Fault,…

  • Bixby Bridge

    Big Sur

    Less than 15 miles south of Carmel, this landmark spanning Rainbow Canyon is one of the world’s highest single-span bridges. Completed in 1932, it was…

  • Piedras Blancas Light Station

    Central Coast

    Of the many lighthouses on California’s coast, few have such an evocative natural setting as this 1875 light station – one of the tallest on the West…

  • Jade Cove

    Big Sur

    In the waters of Jade Cove in 1971, local divers recovered a 9000lb jade boulder that measured 8ft long and was valued at $180,000. People still comb the…

  • Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa

    San Luis Obispo

    Those reverberatory bells heard around downtown emanate from this fifth California mission, founded by Padre Junípero Serra in 1772 and named for a 13th…

  • Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

    Big Sur

    Big Sur's largest state park was named after the area's first European settlers who arrived in 1869. It has hiking trails looping through stately redwood…

  • Monterey Museum of Art


    Downtown, MMA Pacific Street is particularly strong in California contemporary art and modern landscape painters and photographers, including Ansel Adams…

  • Limekiln State Park

    Big Sur

    Two miles south of Lucia, this park gets its name from the four remaining wood-fired kilns originally built here in the 1880s to smelt quarried limestone…

  • Sand Dollar Beach

    Big Sur

    The tortuously winding 40-mile stretch of Hwy 1 south of Lucia to Hearst Castle is sparsely populated, rugged and remote, mostly running through national…

  • Montaña de Oro State Park

    Central Coast

    Wind-tossed coastal bluffs with wild, wide-open sea views make this park a favorite spot with hikers and mountain bikers. The northern half of the park…

  • Ragged Point

    Big Sur

    Your last – or first – taste of Big Sur’s rocky grandeur comes at this craggy cliff outcropping with fabulous views of the coastline in both directions,…

  • Big Sur Discovery Center

    Big Sur

    From the parking lot at Andrew Molera State Park, walk 0.125 miles south to this educational nature center to learn all about the endangered California…

  • Morro Rock

    Central Coast

    Chumash tribespeople are the only people legally allowed to climb this volcanic rock, now the protected nesting ground of peregrine falcons. You can laze…

  • Dali17


    Escaping WWII in Europe, Spanish surrealist artist Salvador Dalí lived and worked in the Monterey and Carmel area in the 1940s. Comprising over 300 Dalí…

  • Stevenson House


    Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson came to Monterey in 1879 to court his wife-to-be, Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne. This building, then the French Hotel…

  • Studios on the Park

    Central Coast

    Artists from around the Central Coast work and display their art at this collection of open studios on the eastern edge of Paso Robles' town square. Up to…