When presented with the opportunity to come to live along the California coast, we were excited but surprisingly unaware of how much the ease of access to the Central Coast would ultimately influence our lives. Both originally Midwesterners but having met and lived in the Phoenix area, we knew Coastal California was going to be our place. What we didn’t know much about was Ventura County. I think I’d heard about the Ventura Highway in an old pop song, but that was about it. Until then, our Coastal California reference point had been a couple of business trips to Los Angeles, and the occasional weekend getaway to the San Diego area.
Needless to say, once here, our new home didn’t disappoint. We repeatedly had to pinch ourselves as we explored everything from Santa Barbara to Simi Valley. Yet, being active, outdoor people, probably our most pleasant surprise has been the accessibility of the Central Coast to the north.
We now understand how different our lives would have been if we had landed in Los Angeles or San Diego rather than here. Being able to hop into the car and head north, not having to deal with Los Angeles traffic, has been a game-changer.
At first, it was Santa Barbara, a destination in and of itself. As time marched on, that expanded to the little Danish town of Solvang, and eventually onto Pismo Beach – also great destinations. And then, of course, there is San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay, and San Simeon, but we found our special place to be the little coastal village of Cambria.
Close enough for an overnight getaway and yet, far enough to feel like one, Cambria, particularly Moonstone Beach, has an allure that keeps bringing us back. If it’s overnight, Cambria is our landing spot, and Room 15 at the Little Sur Inn is our preferred home away from home. Once there, many are interested in visiting the Hearst Castle, just a few minutes to the north. But for us, if we have an extra night or two, the crowned jewel of the California coast lies ahead.
The first time we drove the Big Sur Coast, the magnificence reached inside of us, and though we have now spent so much time there we could map it in our sleep, it never gets old. The drive itself is worth the trip, but there is so much more. Rustic campgrounds, world-class hiking trails, and coastal redwoods are all part of the drama created by the Ventana Mountains as they meet the sea. Hungry? There are a few cliffside restaurants along the way with views that will stay with you for a lifetime. All of this and so much more is an easy day trip from Cambria or San Simeon.
On those occasions when we get that extra night, we are always happy to land back in Cambria for dinner and another evening to spend in this amazing area. Then it’s up for a morning jog along the Moonstone Beach boardwalk, breakfast, and a spectacular 2 1/2 hour drive home. None of which would be so easily accessible to us if our starting point was 60 miles to the south and buried in Los Angeles traffic.