Heading To San Luis Obispo
When we planned our 3 week road trip in California, we debated where to stop after as we headed north after our stay in Temecula. We finally settled on a base in St Luis Obispo to explore the California coast around Cambria.
We left Temecula early so that we could get around Los Angeles before the dinner rush hour started. If it was like Toronto, that meant being past by 2pm. We put the route into the GPS and just watched as the scenery rolled past.
We love when we find HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lanes when we are trying to make it quickly from spot to spot. On our trip around Los Angeles, most of the HOV lanes were for 2 persons or more. So we were fine.
But at one point, we slipped into the HOV lane before we realized that it was a 3 person HOV lane. And the lane took you off to another highway. It was over 20 miles before we got off the HOV lane. And then had to backtrack to return to our original path. To make matters worse, the HOV lane at this point was only valid with a transponder that we did not have. We waited patiently to see what this mistake would cost us after the car rental company added their service fee. Ultimately it cost us about $42US (or $55CND) for this slip. Something to watch if you pass on buying the transponder option on your car rental.
There were some lessons learned on our travels to explore the California coast around Cambria.
Lunch In Santa Barbara
On our last road trip in California, we stayed in Santa Barbara. But on this trip, we just stopped for lunch there. We navigated off the highway and headed to the pier.
On our last visit, we had the best seafood on the pier. It was after 2pm when we arrived. But there were still waits to get in to the Brophy Brothers for lunch. But the calamari and fish were worth the wait.
The Courtyard Marriott in St Luis Obispo was right on Hwy 101. It was an easy hop to visit the coast, see this small town or head up to Paso Robles. It was not our normal luxury accommodations. But it had laundry facilities that we needed halfway through our road trip in California. We were all ready to explore the California coast around Cambria.
Seaside Views In Cambria
On our first morning in St Luis Obispo, the clouds were low over the hills. We thought we would have a lazy rainy day. But by late morning, the clouds started to break. So it was time for a day trip to explore the California coast around Cambria.
We headed for the water and just planned to wander along the shore. Our first stop by Morro Bay gave us a great view out at Morro Rock. When we climbed high above the shore later in the day, we could still see Morro Rock out in the water.
We hopped back on Hwy 1 and headed to the water when we entered the Cambria town limits. The area close to the water was densely packed with houses. We saw a few lots for sale. And wondered about how nice this would be to put a house up here on the water.
We found a few coastal access points and parked the car to wander by the water at Shamel Beach. The wind was high and the waves crashed in on the shore. It was easy to see why our friend Amber at WineEatTravel had raved so much about staying in Cambria.
We were glad we planned to explore the California coast around Cambria. We could have spent days just looking at the sea.
The Quaint Town Of Cambria
But we also wanted to check out the tiny town of Cambria. We found the main street area. And further along the main road, Cambria West. There were lots of small cafes and restaurants to choose from.
By luck we picked Linn’s Restaurant. This was the spot where Amber had discovered olallieberries. We had a healthy salad. But could not pass on having a chocolate fudge sundae with olallieberries for dessert. If you have never tried them, you will find them to be a great red berry.
After we ate in the restaurant, we wandered around to discover the other spots that the Linn family set up in town. Of course we picked up a snack to go as well. We saw the “O Man” which was the olallieberry mascot.
Our day to explore the California coast around Cambria brought so many delights.
Mountain Views On The Green Valley Road
When it was time to head back, we chose Hwy 46 to go to Paso Robles. The highway is named the Green Valley Road. And boy did we find out why.
As we climbed higher and higher to almost 1,700 feet we got the most amazing views. Several times we had to pull over to take pics. The green hills were so bright. It looked like what I imagined Ireland to look like. And as we got higher, beyond the green fields we got great views out to the Pacific Ocean.
When we started to come back down, the vineyards appeared. All up the hills and valleys we saw vineyards. It was getting late in the day and most of the tasting rooms closed around sunset. We really did plan to get back for a wine tasting. But we just ran out of time in this region. It was a good thing that Amber shared her Paso Robles wine tasting experience with us.
Head along the Green Valley Road for a very different set of views when you explore the California coast around Cambria.
St Luis Obispo Cow Parade
On our final day in this area, we headed into the actual town of St Luis Obispo. We started in search of food and were happy when we stopped at the Splash Cafe for their famous clam chowder. We had a soup and sandwich combo. When we headed to Pismo Beach later in the day, we needed to warm up. And found the original Splash Cafe location. This time we shared a bread bowl of chowder.
After we ate we walked around the town. We were on the lookout for colourful painted cows. In 2016, St Luis Obispo had a Cow Parade. Dozens of cows were put in the town and around the county. David had a list of locations and had pinned them on his map. We found a few in the town.
We even made a special stop in the tiny town of Harmony (population 18) on our trip to visit the Hearst Castle. David got so excited when he found 4 cows in Harmony. Not just the two that he had expected.
No trip to small town America is complete without an ice cream stop. The Doc Burnstein’s Ice Cream Lab drew us in. David was not leaving without trying the very dark Motor Oil dark chocolate ice cream.
Visit the small towns when you explore the California coast around Cambria.
Finish With A Pismo Beach Sunset
The cloudy skies dissipated through the afternoon. We bundled up in a few layers and headed back to the coast to Pismo Beach for sunset. The winds were high as we walked along the boardwalk before the sun set. It made the waves looked great. I should not have been surprised when we saw surfers heading back in.
David and I headed to different spots to catch the sunset. This would not be one of those romantic ones to view together. He wanted to capture the iconic Pismo Beach sunset pic from the beach. I wanted to watch the sun sizzle out on the horizon. But we both caught the most amazing views.
We liked the funky town of Pismo Beach. The buildings by the beach were colourful and decorated with interesting art. At night, neon lit up the sky.
If you explore the California coast around Cambria, make sure to plan to catch the sunset at Pismo Beach. Maybe you will get a romantic memory!
So Much To See When You Explore The California Coast Around Cambria
It was a long drive to St Luis Obispo from our stay in Temecula. A stop in Santa Barbara for a late lunch put us into our hotel after sunset. And we left early on our last day. We really had a short stop to explore the California coast around Cambria.
We squeezed in what we could to explore the California coast around Cambria. But we saw enough to know that we want to return to this region and stay awhile. The coast always draws us. We wanted to do wine tastings in Paso Robles. And we missed the pink champagne cake at the Madonna Resort. All great reasons to plan a return visit to Cambria.
It was another long drive up Hwy 1 (the PCH) to our next stay in Monterey. And we had planned stop to visit the Hearst Castle.
Did you explore the California coast around Cambria? What was your favourite spot?
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