Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, the 'Crown Jewel of the California State Park System', preserves a stunning rocky coastline with hidden coves, pocket beaches and the Monterey Cypress, one of only two places naturally grown. The adjacent Point Lobos State Marine Reserve protects the waters which include vast kelp forests. Spend the day hiking, snorkeling and swimming among this gorgeous coast.
Highway 1 through Big Sur is known as the 'Most Beautiful Drive in the World'. This 90 mile stretch from San Simeon to Carmel is 'The Greatest Meeting of Land and Sea' on Earth. The Santa Lucia Mountains drop majestically to the ocean creating a dramatic rocky coast. Vista points at each bend provide stunning overlooks to get out and enjoy the view. Drive slow and spend the day admiring one of California's great wild places.
The Guadalupe Nipomo Dunes are the largest coastal dune ecosystem in California at 18 miles long. Several opportunities are available from relaxing at Rancho Guadalupe Dunes County Park, off-roading at Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area and camping at Pismo State Beach. Native American Chumash used the site as a fishing village and hunted alongside wild grizzly bears.
Cecil B. DeMille filmed his famous epic 'The Ten Commandments' in 1923 and buried the gigantic sets after filming. Excavated pieces of 'Egypt' have been discovered in the shifting sands. This National Natural Landmark also preserves many endangered plants and animals. Enjoy exploring these wild, uncrowded dunes.
Bishop Peak is the highest of the 'Nine Sisters' volcanic plugs at 1,559 feet. The rocky peak resembling a Bishop's miter was named during the Mission days. Run as a natural reserve, ecosystems include chaparral, grassland and oak woodland making it important for conservation. A moderate 4.4 mile out and back hike will bring you to the top with sweeping views of San Luis Obispo and its valleys.
Rancho Sierra Vista Satwiwa in the Santa Monica Mountains preserves sacred Native American land of the Chumash and Tongva/Gabrielino. The iconic Boney Peak provides a dramatic backdrop for this once village called 'Satwiwa' or Bluff where 150 archeological sites have been discovered. The area was first visited by Europeans in 1769-70 during the famous Portolá expedition and again in 1774 during the Juan Bautista de Anza expedition. Enjoy miles of trails and Spring wildflowers in a landscape largely unchanged.
Hearst Castle is the former estate of famous newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. Julia Morgan designed it between 1919-47 and is known for designing more than 700 landmark California buildings. She was the first woman admitted to the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, France. Mediterranean Revival is the main architectural style with influences of Spanish Colonial, Beaux-Arts, Italian Renaissance and Gothic.
Hearst called his ranch 'La Cuesta Encantada' (The Enchanted Hill) with its dramatic mountain to ocean vistas. He entertained Hollywood & Political elite including Charlie Chaplin, Bob Hope and Franklin D. Roosevelt. The castle has been open to the public for tours since 1958 where visitors can tour a small selection of the 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms and 127 acres of landscaped gardens and pools making it one of the busiest destinations in the state.
Ventura Harbor Village is the place to be in Ventura. With its boutiques and restaurants, spend an hour or a day strolling the yachts and gorgeous sandy beaches. The Village also serves as the gateway to Channel Islands National Park with an informative visitor center.
El Camino Cielo or 'Trail to the Sky' is the most beautiful drive in Santa Barbara. Winding through the Santa Ynez Mountains of Los Padres National Forest, the road soars 4,000 feet above the city and provides stunning panoramic vistas and access to hiking trails. Sandstone canyons, towering peaks, chaparral and pine forests combine to create a diverse ecosystem.
Estero Bluffs State Park preserves a coastline with a dramatic meeting of land and sea. Bluffs covered in grassland lead to rocky coves with endless ocean vistas. Cottontail rabbits, mule deer, seven butterfly species, brown pelicans, harbor seals and the endangered sea otter can all be spotted enjoying the coast. Enjoy a hike through miles of secluded ocean-front trails.
Mission La Purisima Concepción was the 11th of the California Missions established on December 8, 1787. At its peak, the Mission controlled 470 square miles with 24,000 cattle and sheep making it famous for hides and blankets. Today, state runs the site as a State Historic Park and is the most complete mission. The Civilian Conservation Corps and National Park Service meticulously restored the structures and dedicated it on December 7, 1941 allowing visitors to travel back to the 1820's in an authentic setting.