WRITTEN BY Alejandra Saragoza
Alejandra is the managing editor of California.com. She's a California native based in the Bay Area and enjoys writing about all things food and travel related. Her work can also be seen in Diablo, T…See full bio
Slow down—way down—in San Luis Obispo (SLO) County, home to miles of pristine coastline and quaint towns that encourage visitors to step out of the fast lane. Whether it’s taking in the region’s agricultural scenery on a farm tour, sipping award-winning wines in lush environs, or going on a scenic drive along Highway 1 and stopping at oceanside destinations along the way, visitors can’t help but unwind as soon as they arrive.
SLO County is the third largest producer of wine in California (preceded only by Napa and Sonoma Counties), and visitors can savor the diverse terroir in numerous tasting rooms that dot the region. Paso Robles, Templeton, and Edna Valley are all acclaimed wine-producing areas that hundreds of hospitable wineries call home. (Many offer tastings for $10 or less—and some don’t charge at all.)
But there’s much more than wine to enjoy in SLO County. Aside from vino, there are also historic landmarks, charming downtowns, and natural wonders worth exploring. Beach bums are bound to love Avila, Pismo, and Shell Beaches, where they can kayak, spot seabirds, surf the day away, or simply lounge on the soft sand. Cayucos and Morro Bay are other adored beach towns, boasting antique shops, dining hot spots, and a plethora of water-related activities such as sailing, fishing, and stand-up paddleboarding.
Outdoor enthusiasts, meanwhile, will find more rugged adventures in Santa Margarita. The Western-inspired town offers horseback riding, hiking trails, and high-flying zip lines—plus fishing and boating on the Santa Margarita Lake. And in nearby Cambria, nature lovers can meander along the pathways winding through towering Monterey pine trees, cycle through hilly terrain while admiring gorgeous coastal views, or search for treasures on the famous Moonstone Beach.
A short drive from Cambria, San Simeon has become another popular spot along Highway 1, thanks to newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst, who chose to build his expansive, opulent estate—Hearst Castle—there in the mid-1900s. The town also attracts visitors who want to explore art galleries, shop at local boutiques, go fishing, and camp for a weekend along the coast.
But San Luis Obispo, the county seat and one of the “Happiest Places in America”, draws all types of visitors with its picture-perfect weather, miles of hiking and biking trails, immaculate beaches, eclectic shops, dynamic nightlife, and lauded restaurants specializing in farm-to-table eats. The coastal gem is also home to the esteemed Cal Poly state university, the Instagram-worthy Bubblegum Alley, and the historic Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa.
Regardless of where visitors go in SLO County, they’re guaranteed to find a mix of activities that provide both fun and relaxation.
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