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Carson (California)

California, Los Angeles, San Francisco

Hidden gems on the drive from L.A. to the Bay

I've driven from Los Angeles to the San Francisco a million times. I usually stop for gas and food some where in between Buttonwillow and Santa Nella and just keep going.

Lately I've been wondering about what I'm missing out on. Any suggestions on what interesting places and things to do you think are worth a short look-see en-route? 


Any little gems along the I-5? All the answers below are a great reminder to take the 101 from time to time. I'll still probably still take the 5 a lot and any little thing along there would be appreciated since that'll be the way I go most of the time. Any fruit stands? little restaurants where the staff is especially nice or a an area where it's nice to rest

6 Answers

top answer by
Jim from San Diego

If you have traveled between Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay many times on the central coast, I-5 route, slow down a little, and take the coast highway, Highway 101 to Santa Barbara, then Highway 1 up to Santa Cruz. Along the way, you will go through Vandenberg Air Force Base, past Santa Maria, through San Luis Obispo, then you pass close to Hearst Castle, (definitely worth a side trip), and along one of the most beautiful scenic coastal highways in the world. Before you get to Monterey, stop at Nepenthe Restaurant at Big Sur. This is a stunningly beautifu place to stop and have a tasty lunch and take in an unbelievably dramatic scene. Then on to Monterey, Carmel By the Sea, and Santa Cruz (the brussels sprout capital of the world).

I understand being in a hurry and taking I-5 and have done it many times. The coast is rich with beautiful scenery, and every time I have driven the coast, I love it and do not regret the extra time spent in such beautiful scenery.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Los Angeles (city)
  2. Santa Barbara (city)
  3. Santa Cruz (city)
  4. Vandenberg Air Force Base (attraction)
  5. Santa Maria (attraction)
  6. San Luis Obispo (city)
  7. Hearst Castle (attraction)
  8. Monterey (city)
  9. Nepenthe Restaurant (restaurant)
  10. Big Sur (city)
  11. Monterey (city)
  12. Carmel By the Sea (city)
7 thankscomments (4)

answered by
Courtney from Los Angeles

I absolutely LOVE Cambria. It's a funny, quirky little town on the coast that reminds me of the fictional Vermont town that was the setting of The Newhart Show. So many funny, eccentric characters here--it really feels like a sit-com come to life. I stayed at the Burton Inn and thought it was great--the rooms were very big and the tub had a great Jacuzzi. The owner also has two adorable little dogs who I was tempted to steal. 

I would also try Lombardi's Pasta Familia for dinner. Not a to-die-for meal but reliable and decent. 

I also really liked this little English-themed tea room called The Tea Cozy. It looks like kind of place where Charles and Camilla might share a spot of tea on a rainy day. Good food, although light--all finger sandwiches and that kind of thing (don't expect hearty burgers or anything like that). 


 My favorite store there is a yarn shop called Ball & Skein & More. The owner's name is Oz and he's a riot. He's a very nice guy and a total character who's really worth meeting. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Cambria (city)
  2. Burton Inn (attraction)
  3. Lombardi's Pasta Familia (restaurant)
  4. The Tea Cozy (attraction)
  5. Ball & Skein & More (attraction)
5 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Jeff from Portland

Besides the amazing drive up Hwy 1 alone, some of the things I think are worthwhile to check out.

Depending on how long you want your stops to be and if you want to give wine a shot, stop by the Lompoc Wine Ghetto and do a little tasting. One of my favorites there is Black Sheep Finds.

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and the Golden Arch Door. It is beautiful especially if you can see it near sunset, it is amazing. If you like photography, it is one of the best photos you can get.

In San Luis Obispo, if you want a great sandwich place to swing in, check out High Street Market & Deli - the prefect California Deli. 

Carmel By the Sea is a great town to just sop in and spend a couple hours walking around. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Lompoc Wine Ghetto (attraction)
  2. Black Sheep Finds (attraction)
  3. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park (attraction)
  4. San Luis Obispo (city)
  5. High Street Market & Deli (restaurant)
  6. Carmel By the Sea (city)
4 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Tina from Los Angeles

Hey Supun!

Although it's a little out of the way, it really is worth the time to visit San Simeon - it's a beautiful city with an amazing beach. Also, it's home of the historic Hearst Castle which you MUST check out once in your life. There is a small price to pay to reserve a tour, but it's a must see!

Also, I stopped by Cambria and grabbed lunch at a really small restaurant with a live band called Indigo Moon Cafe (1980 Main St, Cambria, CA 93428).

Here are a few iPhone photos from my trip: 

Below is the indoor pool at the Hearst Castle which is made with 24k gold! Stunning!

Below is the outdoor pool at the Hearst Castle. Absolutely incredible. 

Here's the only photo I had from the Indigo Moon Cafe. Through the window you can see the live band and the very cozy, backyard style seating. 

Hope this helps and hope you enjoy these places if you get the chance to go! 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. San Simeon (city)
  2. Hearst Castle (attraction)
  3. Cambria (city)
3 thankscomments (3)

answered by
Clément from Nice

Have you tried to take the 1 ? This is the most beautifull road ! Stop at Big Sur and Morro Bay ;)

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Big Sur (city)
  2. Morro Bay (attraction)
1 thanks

answered by
Bo from Philadelphia

McWay Falls

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. McWay Falls (attraction)

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