Curtis Winery, Santa Ynez Valley
Although the area around the Napa Valley and Sonoma is considered to be the centre of the California wine industry, the Santa Ynez valley is catching up fast. Fess Parker, who played the lead in the 1955 movie ‘Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier‘ has a winery in the valley. In 2007 we visited the Curtis Winery. The soil and climate in the valley are well suited to Rhone-style wines, and the vineyard has been making wines in this style since 1995. We came away with a box of six bottles, only to realise that the ban on liquids meant that we could not take them home as hand baggage. Fortunately they got back to the UK undamaged in checked baggage.
Morro Rock & harbour, Morro Bay
Morro Rock is one of the most recognisable landmarks along this stretch of coast. It was named El Moro (crown shaped hill in Spanish) by Portuguese explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo in 1542 because he thought it resembled the turbaned head of a Moor. You can drive to the base of the rock and walk round it but climbing it is prohibited in order to protect the peregrine falcons that nest there. The sheltered bay was used for supplying local ranches in Mexican times, and in 1870 Franklin Riley founded the town to export dairy products by sea. With a population of just over 10,000, the sea remains important for Morro Bay as its main industries are tourism and fishing.
Alisal Road, Solvang
A windmill? Have they included a picture of the Netherlands by mistake? No this isn’t the Netherlands, it is Denmark but California style. In 1911 a small group of Danish settlers seeking a more benign climate moved to California from the mid west. They built a Danish town at this spot which is off Route 1 to the west of Santa Barbara. OK, Solvang has become slightly Americanised, but the Danish culture is still strong. The town also has some Spanish culture in the form of Mission Santa Inés, founded in 1804 as part of the California Mission chain.
Madonna Inn, San Luis Obispo
San Luis Obispo is about half way between Los Angeles and San Francisco. It is named after Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, founded in 1772, which still stands in the city. Here also is one of the most unusual motels in the world. As owner of a construction company, Alex Madonna spent much time staying in bland motels so he decided to build one that was both fun and really special. The Madonna Inn opened in 1958 and by the mid 1960s it had grown to 109 rooms each with a unique theme. Madonna used his engineering skills to build some rooms with rock walls and waterfalls.Click Tab 2 to see our room, the famous Caveman Room.
South Central Coast
This page covers the coastal area between Santa Barbara and the southern end of Big Sur at San Simon. Here much of Route 1 runs inland, only touching the coast at intervals. The coast is scenic but there are also some very interesting places in the towns close to the coast as well as the Santa Ynez Valley wine making area.
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Nitt Witt Ridge, Cambria
The coastal town of Cambria hides a secret. in 1928 Arthur Harold Beal, otherwise known as Captain Nitt Witt or Der Tinkerpaw, bought a 1 hectare (2.5 acre) plot to build his equivalent of Hearst Castle. All he lacked was the money, but Beal was resourceful. He collected junk, trash, and recycled goods and used them to build his castle. It is even rumoured that he worked for a time a Hearst Castle and collected bits from there. Beal continued to add to this unique structure until his death at the age of 96 in 1992. After Beal’s death the property deteriorated but it was bought in 1999 by Michael and Stacey O'Malley who have looked after it since then. Just like Hearst Castle, Nitt Witt Ridge is now a California Historical Landmark.
Gold Rush Steak House, Madonna Inn, San Luis Obispo
Once you have become accustomed to the quirkiness of your room, you may want to eat. The Gold Rush Steak House at the Madonna Inn is as kitsch as the rooms. With shocking pink booths and decorations that are well over the top, you could be forgiven for thinking that you were dreaming. We visited in early January and were unable to tell what decorations were permanent and what (if any) were just for the Christmas season. The food that we were served was absolutely excellent, so provided your appetite is not affected by the decor we can recommend it.
To move forwards or backwards through the California Coast trail click the arrows above, or select your next destination on the Minimap.