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Food and Wine Finds Along the Central Coast

Food and Wine Finds Along the Central Coast
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Take the slow—and delicious—lane on a leisurely, food-centric road trip north from Santa Barbara.

Trip length: 4 days
Total distance: 261mi/420 km

Santa Barbara. Spend the day exploring this seaside jewel, with an inviting beachfront setting and a historic mission, plus exceptional shopping, lodging, and dining. Consider an all-natural, prime-cut steak paired with a local pinot noir, or try ultra-fresh seafood at Rodney’s Steakhouse . INFO Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors Bureau and Film Commission ; 805/966-9222

Solvang (35mi/57km; 46min). Learn about this town's Danish heritage at the excellent Elverhoj Museum. Stop at local bakeries for decadent butter cookies, and visit in-town tasting rooms. Then settle in for unforgettable farm-to-table dining at classy Root 246 . INFO Santa Ynez Valley Visitors Association ; 805/686-0053

Santa Maria (32mi/52km; 37min). Cap off your evening at the Starry Sky Coffee Company , a showcase for local art, live music on Fridays and Saturdays, and flavorful, organic, free-trade coffees. INFO Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce ; 805/928-7559

Pismo Beach (25mi/40 km; 30min). Get tips on everything from secluded beaches to where to ride a horse or try your luck at fishing with help from a travel concierge at the California Welcome Center. INFO California Welcome Centers ; 805/773-7924

San Luis Obispo (14mi/23 km; 17min). Visit this town’s handsome mission, browse appealing shops, and lunch at Novo , with its charming downtown setting on San Luis Obispo Creek; the menu focuses on local ingredients used on globally inspired dishes, such as shrimp avocado spring rolls and lamb kefta with fresh greens and flatbread. INFO San Luis Obispo Visitors and Conference Bureau ; 805/541-8000

Paso Robles (29mi/47 km; 33min). Spend an afternoon visiting the intriguing boutiques, and wine-tasting rooms in and around this historic town. Consider rent a bike to follow country roads heading west, a great way to visit local wineries. INFO Experience Paso Robles ; 805/238-0506

Salinas (100mi/160km; 1hr46min). At the National Steinbeck Center , learn about Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck, and see exhibits covering the agricultural heritage of the region. INFO Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau ; 831/657-6400

Pacific Grove (21 mi/33 km; 33min). Enjoy an oceanfront walk like no other along the unspoiled 4-mile recreation trail that hugs the shore edge of this town. Keep your eyes peeled for harbor seals, sea otters, dolphins, sea lions, and migrating grey whales. INFO Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau ; 831/657-6400

Monterey (2mi/3km; 5min). Old is new at Restaurant 1833 , where stylish dishes (charred baby octopus, horseradish-crusted bone marrow on toasted brioche) and drinks (absinthe nightcaps) are served in a restored adobe home, located in the historic district of this seafarers’ town. INFO Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau ; 831/657-6400

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