17 Day Trips From San Luis Obispo

17 Day Trips From San Luis Obispo

  • Brittany Hensley
  • 05/18/24

San Luis Obispo County, located midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco along the Central Coast of California, is a destination in its own right. It’s the perfect place to visit or live if you love coastal serenity and great entertainment options. But beyond a great place to be, San Luis Obispo County is also a fantastic starting point for adventure. This guide outlines some of the best day trips you can take, offering everything from natural wonders to cultural experiences.

1. Solvang

About an hour from San Luis Obispo County, Solvang in Santa Barbara County offers a unique European experience. Known as the "Danish Capital of America," this quaint town is famed for its distinctive Danish architecture, traditional windmills, and bakeries that offer authentic Danish pastries. Visitors can explore the Elverhøj Museum of History and Art or enjoy a day of wine tasting at the numerous local wineries surrounding the area.

2. Pinnacles National Park

For outdoor enthusiasts living and visiting in San Luis Obispo County, Pinnacles National Park is an exciting day trip opportunity. This national park is famed for its volcanic rock formations, high peaks, and deep caves. Hikers can tackle the challenging trails leading to breathtaking views. The park's talus caves and towering rock spires offer great climbing adventures. The park is also a release site for the California Condor, giving wildlife watchers a rare glimpse of this bird in its natural habitat. The shuttles here are no longer running, so visitors should be prepared to hike.

3. Big Sur

Another spectacular destination for a day trip is Big Sur, about two hours away, renowned for its dramatic coastline and pristine natural beauty. If the Pacific Coast Highway is open, visitors from San Luis Obispo County are treated to some of the most stunning ocean vistas in the country. Key stops include McWay Falls, an 80-foot waterfall that flows into the ocean, and the historic Point Sur Lighthouse, which offers guided tours. To explore the area further, try the hiking trails in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, where the redwood-covered terrain and coastal views are unmissable. Please check road conditions before traveling. Hwy 1 is often closed to the south and north of Big Sur.

4. Monterey

Monterey, roughly two hours from Northern San Luis Obispo County, is a fantastic destination for history buffs and marine life enthusiasts. The Monterey Bay Aquarium provides an in-depth look at the marine habitats of the region. Meanwhile, history enthusiasts can visit the old sardine canneries of Cannery Row, which have been preserved and transformed into shops, galleries, and restaurants. The town also offers a rich history dating back to California’s missionary era, with sites like the Monterey State Historic Park.

5. Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara, just under two hours away, is a great place for a day trip. Known for its beautiful Spanish Colonial architecture, Santa Barbara invites visitors to stroll through the historic mission, wander through boutique shops, and dine at sea-facing restaurants. The Santa Barbara Museum of Art and the MOXI Museum are must-sees, while the local vineyards provide an excellent excuse for a leisurely day of wine tasting.

6. Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle is a national historic landmark known for its opulent architecture and storied past. Visitors can tour the grand estate, which features 165 rooms and 123 acres of gardens, pools, and walkways, all while learning about William Randolph Hearst and his vision for this grandiose project. The castle’s art and antiques make it a treasure trove for history and art enthusiasts.

7. Avila Beach and Hot Springs

Avila Beach and Hot Springs are the perfect place to unwind. Avila Beach offers a tranquil coastal retreat. Beyond the beach, the area is famous for its natural hot springs, which are said to have healing properties. Visitors can enjoy a spa day, relax in the soothing waters, and enjoy the local seafood dining options, making it a rejuvenating day trip option.

8. Cambria

Cambria is known for its picturesque landscapes, historic architecture, and vibrant arts scene. This small community in San Luis Obispo County offers a range of activities, from exploring Moonstone Beach to visiting the local art galleries. The Fiscalini Ranch Preserve provides ample hiking trails with ocean views, making Cambria a serene getaway for nature lovers.

9. Paso Robles Wine Country

Paso Robles is a vibrant wine region in San Luis Obispo County. With over 200 wineries, it offers a robust wine-tasting experience and gourmet dining options that showcase local produce and artisanal foods. The region is also known for its olive oil production.

10. Carmel

Carmel-by-the-Sea, often just called Carmel, is renowned for its stunning white sandy beaches and historic Spanish mission. The town boasts art galleries, cafes, and boutiques that reflect its status as a haven for artists. Its scenic beauty is enhanced by the absence of streetlights and sidewalks outside of the town center, promoting a natural, unspoiled aesthetic that's perfect for leisurely exploration.

11. Ragged Point

Ragged Point is known as the "Gateway to Big Sur" and offers visitors panoramic views of the rugged coastline from its cliff-top perch. This spot is ideal for those looking to enjoy the great outdoors, with opportunities for hiking down to the beach or simply enjoying the gardens that dot the area.

12. Chumash Casino

In Santa Ynez, Chumash Casino Resort is great for anyone seeking entertainment and gaming in an upscale environment. The resort offers a vast array of gaming options, luxury accommodations, and dining experiences.

13. Santa Ynez

The town of Santa Ynez is known for its rolling hills and vineyards, making it a picturesque escape into California's wine country. Famous for its wineries, the area offers wine-tasting tours that showcase the region's best vintages and blends. Santa Ynez also features a variety of charming restaurants and cafes that focus on using local produce.

14. Los Olivos

Los Olivos is a small, charming town celebrated for its relaxed atmosphere and strong community of local winemakers. The town’s main street is lined with tasting rooms, art galleries, and boutiques, inviting visitors to stroll and explore at a leisurely pace.

15. Lake Cachuma

Lake Cachuma offers a peaceful retreat in nature with ample opportunities for wildlife viewing, boating, and fishing. The lake is surrounded by the picturesque Santa Ynez and San Rafael mountains, providing scenic views that are a photographer’s delight. Visitor facilities include picnic areas and campgrounds, making it ideal for a family day out or a quiet weekend getaway.

16. Lake Nacimiento

Lake Nacimiento is popular among water sports enthusiasts for boating, water skiing, wakeboarding, and fishing opportunities. The lake's unique "dragon-like" shape provides plenty of coves and spots to explore.

17. Lake San Antonio

Lake San Antonio is known for its recreational opportunities and its annual events like triathlons and music festivals. The large lake accommodates all kinds of water activities, including boating, fishing, and swimming. Its surrounding area is a natural habitat for wildlife, including bald eagles, making it a great spot for nature enthusiasts.

Connect with Brittany Hensley

San Luis Obispo County is an ideal home base for anyone seeking both relaxation and adventure. If you’re considering homes for sale in San Luis Obispo County or simply wish to learn more about living here, Brittany Hensley is your go-to resource. With expert knowledge of the local real estate market and a passion for the community, Brittany can help guide you to the perfect home in this picturesque region. Reach out to Brittany Hensley today to begin your journey to calling San Luis Obispo County home.

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