Kristen Bor is the founder of Bearfoot Theory, an outdoors-focused website for “everyday people.” In addition to giving tips about her favourite destinations and gear, the travel blogger shares highlights of her adventurous life on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. Recently, Bor and two of her Bearfoot colleagues travelled to California’s Central Coast, where she explored Ventura, Santa Barbara, Ojai, San Luis Obispo County, and more. Read her Central Coast Road Trip Itinerary or check out her Channel Islands Guide to get ideas for your next trip to this special part of the Golden State.
1. What were the top three highlights of your trip to California’s Central Coast?
During our bike ride from Ojai to Ventura, Shelley, the owner of Ventura Bike Depot had strongly recommended we visit the Art City Gallery, located just around the corner from her bike shop. We wandered into this indoor/outdoor art gallery and studio and were not disappointed. There we saw some incredible stone sculptures, picked fresh fruit off a tree, and met a local artist-in-residence, Ramon, who showed us around. It was so worth the stop.
Avila Beach Paddlesports was another highlight that almost didn’t happen. It was a pretty windy day and the conditions nearly deterred us from an incredible sea kayaking trip to the Port San Luis Lighthouse. From the scenery to the marine life, it was one of the best days on our road trip.
Bob’s Well Bread Bakery in Los Alamos lived up to all the hype and more. As you travel up the Central Coast you’ve got to stop here and experience Bob’s. Everything from the food to the location and the vibe of the place is a ton of fun.
2. Can you tell us a bit about your bike ride in Ventura/Ojai?
The bike ride follows the Ventura River Trail which takes you from downtown to Ventura and out to Ojai. It’s also a part of the Rails to Trails Association. This is a beautiful route that is well-marked and easy to follow, so you can tune out and just enjoy the scenery. If you can, go during the spring while everything is green and it isn’t too hot yet. We rode past gorgeous rolling hills and vineyards, saw some wildlife, and took in all the history and culture of the place.
Oh, and stop at the Ventura Spirits Company if you’re there on a weekend!
3. What were the best things you ate and drank on this trip?
California is known for its fresh food and delicious meals, so the entire trip was chock full of good eats. However, Bob’s Well Bread Bakery was a standout, as were the overstuffed tacos at Beach House Tacos on the Ventura Pier. If you want to chow down on quintessential healthy California food, go to Food Harmonics in Ojai. Empty Bowl in the Santa Barbara Public Market has amazing Asian food. Go to Zaytoon for its outdoor dining atmosphere and really good Lebanese dishes that are great for sharing.
4. What did you do in Santa Barbara?
A highlight while in Santa Barbara was our spur-of-the-moment drive up to Chumas Painted Cave [State Historic Park]. Here you’ll get to enjoy panoramic views of the city and coast from a really unique vantage point that’ll help you avoid the crowds.
From the afternoon until sunset, we were at Hendry’s Beach and went up to the bluffs at Douglas Lookout. You wouldn’t think you could be there for so long but the colours and the clouds just wouldn’t stop changing! Mother Nature was really showing off for us that day.
5. Can you describe your perfect day in Ojai?
There’s so much to enjoy in Ojai. If you had to narrow it down, it would have to include morning coffee and pastries at Beacon Coffee, followed by an afternoon exploring Lake Casitas. Then, head back into town to browse the shops (Fig + Bungalow are a must-see) and sample some wine. End the day at one of Ojai’s eateries for dinner—you can’t go wrong!
6. What was your favorite part about your time in Cambria?
Cambria’s Moonstone Beach is pretty magical. It’s a great spot to roll out a blanket and watch the sunset with friends. We didn’t get to spend a lot of time exploring the downtown area, which had such a unique local culture and would love to go back to experience it again.
7. You did some activities out on the water in Avila Beach as well. Any highlights?
The best was sea kayaking at Avila Beach, for sure. It’s a hidden gem with turquoise waters and a white sand beach that you can pull your kayak up onto and explore the Port San Luis Lighthouse. Plus, it’s a treat to hang out with Vince and Emily, the owners of Avila Beach Paddlesports. They are so passionate about the area and can give you so much great inside knowledge. Not to mention, Vince is an incredible marine life photographer—he’s known to be the local whale whisperer!
8. What tips would you give for someone wanting to copy your trip?
Leave yourself enough time to stray off the beaten path and go explore. Don’t worry about sticking to a timeline. The Central Coast of California has so many great spots worth seeking out and the locals are full of great information—they call it SLOCal for a reason! Talk to people, hang around, and soak it all in! There’s nothing like immersing yourself in a new place to really get the full experience.