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The Central Coast

Between LA and San Francisco, the four hundred miles of the Central Coast are home to just a few modestly sized cities and lined by clean sandy beaches and dramatic stretches of cliffs and capes. Of the various highlights, Big Sur is one of the most rugged and beautiful stretches of coastline in the world, Santa Barbara is a wealthy resort full of old and new money, and Santa Cruz is a coastal town still redolent of the Sixties. In between, languorous San Luis Obispo makes a good base for visiting Hearst Castle, the hilltop palace of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst. Almost all of the towns grew up around the original Spanish Catholic missions, many of which feature their original architecture – Monterey, a hundred miles south of San Francisco, was California’s capital under Spain and Mexico, and briefly the state capital in 1850.

Amtrak’s Coast Starlight and Pacific Surfliner trains run along the coast up to San Luis Obispo, with the former continuing on to the Bay Area and up to Seattle. Greyhound buses stop at most coastal towns, especially along the main highway, US-101.

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  • Santa Barbara
  • The Big Sur Coast
  • Santa Cruz