- 57 miles (91 km)
- One hour to drive or two hours to see the entire Byway.
Wine, culture, history, and spectacular rugged coastal scenery make San Luis Obispo North Coast Byway a destination in itself. Peruse art galleries, dine on expertly prepared seafood and backpack through riparian forests as you explore the varied attractions on offer along the way.
. Bring your mountain bike or backpack to fully experience the region's rugged natural beauty and mild weather, perfect for an afternoon in the outdoors. Montana de Oro State Park features a seven-mile stretch of pristine beach, for example, and the area surrounding Morro Bay bristles with oceanside forests and protected wildlife areas. The Morro Bay Estuary hosts a multitude of birds during the winter as a vital stopover on the Pacific Flyway. The William R. Hearst Memorial State Beach draws ocean enthusiasts of all stripes, including sea kayakers, deep-sea fishermen,swimmers and sunbathers.
Spend evenings in the city enjoying the area's mild evenings and fine dining. Visit the Mission De San Luis Obispo at the center of the city, exploring the gardens and walking the intricately decorated halls of this historic building. While in the San Luis Obispo, experience the city's thriving downtown area and the historic railroad district. Be sure to visit the weekly farmers market every Thursday evening, a lively community affair that runs from barbecues to live music and fresh produce. Cap off the evening with a visit to one of the local wineries, and then stroll among the downtown shops and art galleries before slipping into a nightclub or watching the sun set on the beach. For a quieter atmosphere, relax in Harmony, a small coastal town started by dairy farmers and full of local artisans and their shops.
While driving San Luis Obispo North Coast Byway might only take a couple of hours, the relatively short distance packs in several weeks' worth of possibility. From primitive camping around the fire to plush hotels and five star restaurants it would be easy to linger on in these parts
Points of Interest Along The Way
Cambria is home to gourmet restaurants, art galleries, wine tasting, and gorgeous coastal scenery.
Elfin Forest (CA)
The 90-acre elfin forest represents a complex and rich assortment of natural communities. These include coastal brackish marsh, riparian woodland fringe, pygmy oak woodland, grassland,coastal dune scrub, and oak manzanita association. The area has been documented to support 150 species of plants, 25 species of mammals, over 110 species of birds, and 11 species of reptiles and amphibians.
The Elfin Fores is located on the southeastern shore of Morro Bay
Harmony, a tiny community located in the rolling hills of Harmony Valley, is a cultural landmark that resembles much of the area in the late 1800s and the dairy culture that was prevalent at the time. The town is now home to artisans including glassblowers,potters, quilters and other art crafts who sell the products of their talents. The town also offers eateries and wine and cheese tasting. The town draws travelers off of the highway for short stopovers to enjoy what it has to offer.
Representative of "Old California", this small town originally operated as a creamery from 1869 until mid-1955. Although many milk processing plants operated in the area, none operated as long or as successfully as did the Harmony Valley Creamery Association. This cooperative was an integral part of the area for almost 90 years.The Swiss dairy farmers were the backbone and steadying influence of the community because they dominated the dairy industry.
Approximately 25 miles north of the City of San Luis Obispo.
Hearst Castle (CA)
In the Santa Lucia Coastal Range overlooking the Pacific Ocean,Hearst Castle is a magnificent estate of 165 rooms and 127 acres of gardens, terraces, pools and walkways. The castle was once the home of newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst, and the last great estate produced by America's Gilded Age. The Castle was relinquished to the California State Park System, and is a State Historical Monument.
Hearst Castle is located on Highway 1 outside of the community of San Simeon. It is situated on a hilltop overlooking the Pacific Ocean in the Santa Lucia Mountains, five miles inland and 1,600 feet above San Simeon Bay. The castle is adorned with decorative elements primarily from southern Europe. An impressive collection of Spanish and Italian antiques and art grace the elegant rooms of the castle, and can be seen today in tours available through the California State Parks service.
Just north of Cambria.
This national trail commemorates the route followed by a Spanish commander, Juan Bautista de Anza, in 1775-76 when he led a contingent of 30 soldiers and their families to found a presidio and mission near the San Francisco Bay.
Along the trail route, the visitor can experience the varied landscapes similar to those the expedition saw; learn the stories of the expedition, its members, and descendants; better understand the American Indian's role in the expedition, and the diversity of their cultures; and appreciate the extent of the effects of Spanish colonial settlement of Arizona and California.
The trail travels through San Luis Obispo County.
Los Padres National Forest (CA)
Los Padres National Forest encompasses nearly two million acres in the beautiful coastal mountains of central California.
One of California's oldest communities, San Luis Obispo has its beginnings in the founding of the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa in 1772 by Father Junipero Serra. Today Mission de San Luis Obispo serves as the cultural and literal center of the City of San Luis Obispo.
Mission San Luis Obispo was founded on September 1, 1772 by Father Junipero Serra, Presidente of the California Missions Chain. It was the 5th mission in the 21 mission chain in Alta California. It was named for Saint Louis, Bishop of Toulouse. It is the only mission with an L-shaped church. The mission site was selected as it is midway between San Diego and Monterey. Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa has always been the center of the community. The entire city of San Luis Obispo and even the county was built up around the mission. The mission has been the center and focal point of the city since the very beginning.
Downtown in the City of San Luis Obispo.
Montaña de Oro State Park features over 8,000 acres of rugged cliffs, secluded sandy beaches, coastal plains, streams, canyons, and hills, including 1,347-foot Valencia Peak. Naturalists and backpackers enjoy the solitude and freedom found along the park’s trails. There are also mountain biking and equestrian trails. The best-known beach is Spooner’s Cove, across from the campground. The park’s name, "Mountain of Gold," comes from the golden wildflowers that bloom in spring. Wildlife in the park includes black tailed deer and the black oystercatcher. The park includes primitive and equestrian campsites.
This unit of the park system faces the ocean just south of Morro Bay.
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (CA)
The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS) is a Federally protected marine area offshore of California's central coast. Stretching from Marin to Cambria, the MBNMS encompasses a shoreline length of 276 miles, and 5,322 square miles of ocean, extending an average distance of 30 miles from shore. The MBNMS was established for the purpose of resource protection, research, education and public use. It is home to numerous mammals, seabirds, fish, invertebrates, plants, and other life forms in a remarkably productive coastal environment. In short, a rich diversity of living organisms. Additionally, the environment of the MBNMS is a fascinating mixture of active tectonic plates, dynamic ocean currents, and coastal scenery that is unsurpassed.
32 miles north of the city of San Luis Obispo.
Morro Bay (CA)
Morro Bay allows visitors to enjoy the city's Embarcadero along the water's edge of Morro Bay Harbor. The area's shops, restaurants, and views allow visitors to experience the city's past and present with its thriving fishing culture.
Golfers will delight at Morro Bay's famed Championship 18-hole oceanside golf course. Water sports like kayaking, sailing, and surfing are all within grasp of every visitor. Horseback riding, rock climbing, and hiking are some of the most popular activities on land. Morro Bay truly has something for everyone's interest.
Northwest of San Luis Obispo.