California's Historical Gems
Total Mileage/Average drive time
202 miles, 3 hours, 42 minutes
Travel up Highway 101 and discover California’s Central Coast, containing a wealth of historical gems like the largest concentration of missions in the state, charming villages filled with European heritage including a landmark castle, an emerging wine region and amazing one-of-a-kind meals.
1. Ventura - Starting Point
The San Buenaventura Mission is one of the most beautifully restored missions in the state. Though small, this Spanish mission, designated as the Mission by the Sea, is filled with history and offers self-guided tours of the museum, garden, stone grotto and chapel. Shop for interesting items at the mission gift shop. The mission is located on Ventura’s historic Main Street, which is lined with quaint shops and fine restaurants.
2. Santa Barbara - 34 miles, 37 minutes
This is the queen of the California Missions—Old Mission Santa Barbara is rich with diverse history and provides inspiration among the tranquil grounds. Tours may be self-guided or docent-led, and encompass the magnificent church, serene gardens, historic cemetery, renovated mausoleum, rustic chapel and fascinating museum. This is the only California mission with a burial crypt room. After visiting this historic site, take time for the wonderful restaurants and fabulous shopping in nearby downtown Santa Barbara.
Ocean Mesa at El Capitan
Santa Barbara, (866) 410-5783
3. Solvang - 33 miles, 44 minutes
Step back in time and experience the peaceful life of the quaint Danish village of Solvang (Danish for “sunny fields”), with its rolling hills, Danish architecture, amazing Danish eateries and traditional windmills. Tread the cobblestone streets to the Hans Christian Andersen Museum and explore Andersen’s life through letters, photos, artwork and hundreds of volumes of his stories. Take a horse-drawn Honen for a sightseeing tour of downtown, including the statues of Hans Christian Andersen and the Little Mermaid.
4. Buellton - 4 miles, 6 minutes
It began as Andersen’s Electric Café in the 1920s but quickly became known as the “Home of Split Pea Soup” before the store’s name was changed to Pea Soup Andersen’s Restaurant in the 1940s. Although there are several dishes on the menu, it’s Andersen’s split pea soup that sells over 1,000 bowls a week in their cozy, old-fashioned dining room. Be sure to check out their bakery with fresh Danish desserts. The amazing gift shop has everything for visitors, from books to children's toys to clothing. It's a great stop on the 101.
5. Paso Robles - 92 miles, 1 hour, 27 minutes
Gorgeous rolling vineyards scattered amid amazing and quirky winery architecture intoxicate visitors traveling to the 200-plus wineries in the area. Robert Hall Winery is composed of elegant architecture with a massive underground wine storage cavern that can be toured. Vina Robles features arched stonework throughout in the classic California mission-style inspired by touches of Europe. Wild Coyote has a one-of-a-kind adobe tasting room with a Native American teepee and picnic area by the pond. Denner Winery is a modernist structure built into an existing hillside that takes advantage of the gravity flow to make wine.
Vines RV Resort
Paso Robles, (855) 467-2100
6. San Simeon - 39 miles, 48 minutes
Built upon “The Enchanted Hill,” Hearst Castle was the home and mansion of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst and includes 165 rooms and 127 acres of gardens, terraces, an airfield, and the world’s largest private zoo, all affording breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. Several tours of the castle are available that highlight the opulent rooms and suites, massive wine cellar, historic gardens and the famous Neptune and Roman pools. In the spring and fall, take the evening tour to experience the castle as visitors did in the 1930s. Historic paintings and sculptures are found throughout the property, making this an unforgettable visit to the home of a newspaper baron who dramatically reshaped America’s media landscape.