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One Tank Trip for Central California Camping
Ocean Mesa Campground
There are some that say Central California is paradise. Rolling hills, mild temperatures, incredible beaches make this area a draw for surfers, shoppers, golfers and wine enthusiasts alike. The breathtaking beauty of this region, and relaxed pace makes it the perfect place to relax and unwind.
Today, we start our Central California RV camping journey in Santa Barbara. This part of the California Coast is sometimes referred to as the “American Rivera”, and with the low ridge of hills with spectacular views of the harbor nearly surrounding the city, it's easy to see why. Sightseers will love exploring the Old Spanish Presidio and Mission Santa Barbara in the older area of the city. And being in the heart of wine country, there is a long list of local wineries worth a visit to taste some of the best wines in the world.
Heading out on Hwy-1 N, which has some spectacular views of the Pacific and is one of the most scenic drives in the country, will lead us to our next one tank trip stop, Pismo Beach. A scenic, sleepy seaside town, with unspoiled beaches and rolling sand dunes makes Pismo a top destination for sun worshipers and outdoor enthusiasts. One of the most heavily fished of the central coast piers - with clamming opportunities below - the Pismo Beach Pier also offers an incredible 360-degree view of the Pacific Ocean. California's largest Monarch Butterfly Grove is also located in the city, and if you visit between November and February you will get the chance to tour local eucalyptus trees inhabited by thousands of beautiful Monarchs.
Heading a little further north on Hwy-1 will bring you to Morro Bay. In the heart of the region known as California's Natural Escape, Morro Bay has unlimited outdoor recreation opportunities, including surfing, kayaking, windsurfing, bicycling, and golf. The sentinel of this historic fishing village is Morro Rock. A volcanic peak, which stands 576 feet high, and is over 21 million years old, the peak also acts as a preserve for the peregrine falcons that nest on top. The town is also home to the Morro Bay National Estuary, a bird sanctuary that is home to more than 250 species. Some of the best and freshest seafood can be had here at many local area markets and restaurants due to Morro Bay having one of the largest, and most productive commercial fishing fleets. Eat up! It doesn't get better than this!
Back on the road and continuing our scenic drive on Hwy-1 N, our next location is Big Sur. There are few places left in the world left like Big Sur, and visitors here are in for a spectacular and rare treat. Big Sur boasts a population in the neighborhood of about 1,000 people year-round, which is surprising given the beauty of this area. Big Sur is also devoid of the usual urban areas, due mostly to the land along the coast being privately owned. The environmentally conscious residents have worked hard to keep Big Sur unspoiled, which allows it to retain its isolated and frontier mystique.
Back to our scenic drive along Hwy-1 N, and just a short, but beautiful trip away lies Carmel. Carmel-by-the-Sea is an area steeped in Bohemian History. Long known as a haven for artists, residential districts have no streetlights or sidewalks, and many homes lack street addresses. Carmel is home to numerous art galleries that showcase original works by established artists. We highly recommend the walking tour through Carmel's eclectic gardens, courtyards and area artist's residences. Like much of the rest of California, Carmel enjoys a moderate year round temperature, which makes it perfect for several outdoor activities, including golf and scuba diving.
Continuing on Hwy-1 N, less than 30 minutes away is the city of Marina. Home to an environmentally sensitive habitat, this oceanfront city is well known for its fabulous dunes where hang gliders lift off on their aerial journey above the Pacific Ocean. There are several outdoor activities to keep you entertained, including surfing, fishing, bird and whale watching. Once home to the Army training base, Fort Ord, today the 8,000 acres of the former base are considered public land, and intricate trails running through the area can be enjoyed on foot, bike, or horse.
Back to beautiful Hwy-1 N, we continue our one tank trip on to Santa Cruz. This serene city boasts one of only two oceanfront amusement parks in California, and draws adults and children to the many attractions of the seaside park. Within the park is an old fashioned wooden roller coaster, The Big Dipper, which is one of the most famous coasters in the country. And, if you can manage to keep your eyes open and keep your heart in your chest, you'll see a breathtaking 20-second view of the hills above Santa Cruz, as well as the Pacific Ocean from atop the Big Dipper. A popular destination for surfers, thousands have been known to converge on Santa Cruz for the annual surf competition. It is a heart pounding, nail biting competition for those that are lucky enough to watch the incredible towers of waves, and those brave enough to ride them.
For our last Central California RV camping stop, we continue on Hwy-1 N to beautiful Felton. Surrounded by beautiful redwood groves and forests, most of them over 1500 years old, Felton welcomes visitors from across the globe that come to marvel at the beauty of the area. Many visitors come to take advantage of several outdoor opportunities including biking, fishing, shopping, and yes, even train rides. Here, visitors have the chance to ride one of the oldest and most historic rail lines in California, which transports you back in time. Opened in 1875, the route was designed to carry picnickers and tourists to the Big Trees and Santa Cruz. The Steam Train narrow-gauge excursions to Bear Mountain are equally popular, and most of these engines date back to the 1890s.
From the coast to the redwood forests, Central California is full of delicate and incredible beauty. Many come for the peace and quiet and for the laid back, slower pace, but whatever the reason, you're sure to discover something to bring you back again and again.
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Woodall's Recommended California RV Campgrounds