Monterey, Pismo Beach, Santa Barbara

My wife and I will be taking a road trip vacation beginning in Monterey on the 28th of July. I am appealing to the locals to see if there are any "must hit" spots for food, drink, local culture, and of course, photos. We are heading up the 101 on the way up and making our way down the 1 to Pismo Beach stopping in Morro Bay and at Hearst Castle. Our last over night stop will be in Santa Barbara on Friday the 3rd of August. I am looking forward to TONS of photo stops at scenic areas etc. Any tips or pointers would be greatly appreciated!
I'm not currently a "local" but lived there for 4 years back in the 80's!! There are a ton of great spots ranging from the touristy - "Solvang" - to the rugged - most of the coastline. But, since you mentioned drink ... let me put in a plug for some rather unique friends of mine.

I was stationed at Vandenberg AFB, north of Santa Barbara. We met some folks there that were (at that time) just getting a small winery going. They are located just off US101 at Buelton. Over the years, they grew slowly and at some point in time, they decided to grow and specialize in an Italian style wine rather than the typical French styles. Although they remain small in size and capacity, their wines are excellent.

The name of the winery is the Mosby Vineyards, and it's owned by Bill & Gerry Mosby. Their website can be found at

I know that they occasionally sponsor weekend festivals and I would highly recommend attending one if it works with your travel dates. (When I lived there, we used to help them on those weekends. They would have a "Santa Maria-style" BBQ and wine tasting that combined made for a wonderful day!!)

I am not much of a wine "connoisseur;" I just know what I like. Most French-style reds are just too sour for me, but Bill's Italian style reds, especially one he calls Dolcetto, are flavorful without being "sour." Hard to put into words.

However, if you're used to the "Big Boys" wineries, this may not be the place for you as it's a small family operation. But for a great outing where you can probably talk to the owner about his wines, I'd highly recommend it.

(And, of course, I am not an employee or anything!!)


If you go to Pismo, check out a restaurant called "Brad's." Some of the best tri-tip sandwiches i ever had. They have a huge outdoor BBQ pit, and just tons of meat being BBQ'ed, its great.
I think my wife mentioned that place. I love BBQ and especially tri-tip so that will be a must hit spot for sure. I will take a pic for everytone :)
As far as wine, Mosby is indeed an awesome little winery. You might try B&E in Paso, too, and Foxen is a beautiful spot. Cambria also has some seriously nice vistas. (Watch out for ground squirrels in the road!) Justin is fabulous, too. And Robert Hall is very impressive. Tobin James is awesome. All of these wineries combine fantastic wine and incredibly wonderful tasting rooms.

I highly recommend stopping in a roadside vege stand and buying some avocados, a tomato, some basil, a lime and an onion and making homemade guacamole.
Missions and other places.

Along Hwy 101 are a string of California missions.

Ventura, Santa Barbara, Lompoc, San Luis Obispo, San Miguel and
my favorite is Mission San Antonio de Padua.

I like it because it's off the beaten path, smack dab in Fort Hunter Liggett
military base. You'll need to show your I.D., current auto registration and
proof of auto insurance to enter the base.

Also nearby the Mission, is "The Hacienda". It was designed by Julia Morgan
for W.R. Hearst. It's now a hotel for visiting military and the public. I stayed
there once and it's okay, the rooms could be cleaner, but I enjoyed the
novelty of it and enjoyed photographing the building.

My pics of MSAdP. Click the "Map This" button to see Google Maps of the location.

From San Antonio de Padua you can drive the narrow Nacimiento-Fergusson
Road. It's a bit of an adventure driving over the Coast Range to the
Pacific Ocean.

Another route would be Carmel Valley Road. I have to say, I've never
driven this route, but it's on my to do list.

San Luis Obispo has a Farmer's market every Thursday night that's very
popular with locals.

Along Hwy 1 there are some stops off the top of my head:
- Point Lobos State Park
- Garrapata State Beach, there's also a trail that goes inland called the
Soberanes Canyon Trail. If you stay in the canyon it takes you into
a neat forested area.
- Nepenthe. A restaurant perched on a hill with a super deck that
gives you a nice view of the Big Sur coastline. It's a nice place to
take a break.
- Point Sur Lighthouse. Check the website for tour times. No reservations and limited group size.
- Bixby Bridge
- Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park to see McWay Falls.
- Elephant Seals at Piedras Blancas. Just north of Hearst Castle.

There are many more places, but I haven't discovered them yet.

You'll have a great time exploring, enjoying great food and shooting.

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Wow thanks that was great, I am trying to do a bit of research and see what I come up with, trying to hit the best places, by best I don't mean the most crowded. Since this isn't an exclusively photo related excursion, the wife wants a bit of time to relax. My philosophy is that you can nap by a pool at home, what makes a pool 600 miles away more interesting? I may sneak off and take some small trips when I can, I am doing my best to plot my route hitting as many places as I can along the way :)

Keep the ideas coming!