Whether you’re a long-haul road-tripper or a local on a weekend getaway, California’s Central Coast offers endless opportunities for breathtaking photo ops. Travel influencer and photographer Allison Anderson recently embarked on a solo trip to capture this stunning stretch of coastline on film. In her travels, she explored Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Barbara, stopping at wineries and bistros along the way. Anderson spoke to us about her memorable journey through this part of the Golden State.
What were three highlights of your trip?
What were some of the best things you ate along the way?
I had an amazing breakfast at Helena Avenue Bakery in Santa Barbara—the Wildflower Ricotta and Honey on Sourdough was so good. I also had one of the best desserts of my life at Mistura in San Luis Obispo—it was a chocolate globe that cracked open to reveal a fruit dessert!
What were your impressions of wine-tasting in Paso Robles?
There are enough wineries in Paso Robles that you could spend a month there and only scratch the surface. Each place I visited was unique. The tasting deck at Hubba Wines is super cute and a great spot to go with friends. Lunch and tasting at Niner Wine Estates was exquisite (get the cheese board!), and touring Clos Selène and learning its romantic story was really special.
What were some gems you found while exploring downtown SLO?
Which outdoor excursions did you enjoy most?
I loved e-biking through Santa Barbara with BCycle. It was so easy to rent a bike and begin cruising through the city or along the beach, and a great way to sightsee! I also loved the sunset cruise with Celebration Cruises. There's nothing quite like a California sunset.
What did you like most about the hotels where you stayed in each town?
The Piccolo in Paso Robles was chic and perfectly located for exploring downtown Paso Robles. They even have a champagne vending machine in the lobby! In San Luis Obispo, the Granada Hotel & Bistro’s 1920s charm makes this historic hotel unlike anywhere I've ever stayed—truly an experience.
Who doesn't love a hotel room with an ocean view? Santa Barbara’s Mar Monte Hotel sits right on the water and has a couple of restaurants on site, perfect for brunch and dinner.
Did anything surprise you about any of the destinations?
I was really surprised I hadn't heard of Paso Robles before. It's the perfect spot for a weekend getaway to wine country and I would go back in a heartbeat.
Did you meet any locals who gave you intel?
I chatted with a lot of locals about how things have changed in the past year and a half. I love that Santa Barbara closed off State Street for outdoor dining. The restaurants now all flow out into the sidewalks and it creates a really cool vibe.
Any advice for people wanting to replicate your trip?
Definitely rent a car to get around. Also, the Sensorio Field of Light isn't open every day, so check ahead to make sure there are tickets available for the days you're visiting.