Whenever you envision places to visit in California, there’s a good chance that Sacramento, San Francisco and Los Angeles come to mind. If you’re considering a road trip within The Golden State, though, you should seriously consider the California Central Coast.

In addition to traveling along beautiful coastlines for 350 miles, this road trip goes through a variety of must-see places, which include Cali’s newest wine capital. If you need a little help with planning, this guide will come in handy.

California Central Coast Road Trip: The Start

Unless you already live in the area, flying into Los Angeles is the best way to start your road trip along the Central Coast. If you didn’t have time to research great places to visit or which car to rent, splurge for the in-flight Wi-Fi to see what might interest you.

We recommend you check out Silvercar, Audi’s newest edition of on-demand rentals. You can ride up the coast in style as their fleet includes the Audi A4 & Q5 models. Book your reservation on the flight and be picked up at the airport when you arrive with their door-to-door service.

MiLLENNiAL was privileged to get to experience this cool ride program as we were on the hunt for the best vehicle to take us up the coast. And we found it in the Audi Q5.

Once you make it to your car, you’ll likely need to grab some snacks before starting your trip. Remember, 350 miles is no drive around the block, and if you’re stopping at Central Coast wineries, it’ll be nice to have something to munch on in between locations.

Rolling Through Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is the first Central Coast region you’ll encounter on your California road trip, and it immediately sets the bar high. If you’re a history buff, you’ll definitely want to stop in the town of Casmalia. This relic from the Old West retains much of its previous aura, and the Hitching Post Restaurant is even in a 120-year old building.

For the first leg of your wine tour, make sure to check out Sunstone Vineyard. It’s been around for nearly 30 years, and the diversity of the wines offered are just one part of why the Central Coast is taking over California’s wine scene.

Millennial Magazine - Sunstone-Winery

Sunstone Winery’s olive oil and balsamic vinegar kitchen. Photo by Sylvia Hysen.

Here are a few more places to check out in Santa Barbara:

  • Mendenhall Museum
  • Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
  • Industrial Way
  • La Purisima Mission

What to do in Paso Robles

San Luis Obispo is the next region of the Central Coast you’ll encounter. While there’s plenty to see here, you should make a point of traveling through Paso Robles. If you’re down for an exciting daylong activity, a trip to The Ravine Water Park is essential.

When it comes to wine tours, Allegretto Vineyard Resort should be at the top of your list. Alan Kinne is an award-winning wine maker who guides handpicking of the vineyard. The best part about this winery is that you can enjoy to your heart’s content and then stay overnight.

Millennial Magazine - Santa Barbara

Photo by Sylvia Hysen

Here’s a few other sites in Paso Robles:

  • Downtown Paso Robles
  • Tablas Creek Vineyards
  • Pioneer Museum
  • Barney Schwartz Park

Monterey and Carmel: The Real Wine Capitals

If any areas could explain why the Central Coast is taking over California’s wine scene, it’s Monterey and Carmel. Located in the Monterey Bay Region, these two cities saw an explosion of newly planted vineyards over the past few years.

Galante Vineyards in Carmel should definitely be on your short list. Its classic American feel is a family tradition since the owner’s grandfather founded the city. There are various events held at the vineyard and it offers some of the best Cabernet Sauvignon in California.

Millennial Magazine - Stay-on-the-trail

Photo by Sylvia Hysen

Since you’re winding down your Central Coast road trip, you should also stay the night at the famed Vagabond House Inn, a true cottage gem, if you’re looking for an intimate hideaway. And be sure to check out Hollywood star, Clint Eastwood’s estate – the Mission Ranch Hotel. The restaurant has an extensive wine list, and with only 31 rooms in the hotel, you’re sure to have your privacy. The property is also home to a beautiful sheep farm overlooking the Carmel cove. Pop in on a Sunday afternoon for brunch and live jazz.

More sites in Monterey and Carmel:

  • Monterey Bay Aquarium
  • Del Monte Beach
  • Carmel River State Beach
  • 17-Mile Drive

The Original Road Trip

California’s Central Coast is often called “The Original Road Trip,” and it certainly has earned this distinction. The coastal roads, countless parks and Pacific sunsets would be enough to attract even the most distant traveler. When you throw in beautiful beach towns and the world-class wine regions, though, the Central Coast is an essential Bucket List item for everyone.