Between Solvang and Santa Barbara, US-101 follows the coast past some of California’s most beautiful beaches. Dropping through a steep-sided canyon, US-101 reaches the coast at Gaviota State Park, where a small fishing pier and campground are overwhelmed by the massive train trestle that runs overhead. Continuing south, US-101 runs atop coastal bluffs past prime surfing beaches, usually marked by a few VWs pulled out along the west side of the highway.

Midway along this stretch of coast, some 22 miles north of Santa Barbara, Refugio State Beach has groves of palm trees backing a clear white strand. There’s also a small store (spring weekends, daily summer) and a number of attractive campsites with hot showers. Reservations for camping (800/444-7275) at Gaviota or Refugio, or at any California state beach, should be made in advance.

Map of Pacific Coast through California's Central Coast.
Map of Pacific Coast through California’s Central Coast.