Last updated: 05:00 AM ET, Wed November 04 2015

Opinion Home | Are We There Yet: Tips For Family Trips

  • Janeen Christoff | November 4, 2015 5:00 AM ET

    Plan the Perfect Family Reunion on the Central Coast

    Plan the Perfect Family Reunion on the Central Coast

    PHOTO: California's Central Coast. (Photo courtesy of Thinkstock)

    California’s rural and rugged Central Coast is still a surprisingly isolated spot full of protected natural areas, quirky attractions and delicious food and wine. San Luis Obispo County's Highway 1, spanning 101 miles of prime Pacific coastline showcasing 10 rural destinations from Ragged Point to the Guadalupe Dunes in Nipomo is conveniently located midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

    The highway follows the Pacific Ocean along the coastline passing lush farmland, rolling hills, wineries and famous attractions such as Hearst Castle. The area offers a ton of activities for families and is an ideal spot to reconnect on a multigenerational vacation – without being too far off the grid.


    There are a number of ways to experience the Central Coast. Places such as Avila Beach and Cambria have a number of small hotels. There are a variety of campsites with group camping and vacation rentals are fairly easy to find.

    Some of the best options for families are the Avila Lighthouse Suites in Avila Beach, Calif. They offer larger rooms that are spacious for families and the property is located right on the boardwalk, a short walk from coffee houses, cafes and shops. There is also a nice park right at the beach and access to a variety of activities.

    For the adventurous, San Simeon State Park campsite offers an ideal spot for a reunion. The large campsite offers more than 100 campsites for trailers and RVs that are up to 35 feet long. Don’t have a motorhome? You can rent one and have it delivered directly to the campground. One of the highlights of the campground is its beautiful 3.3-mile trail that runs through the San Simeon Natural Preserve and the Washburn campground.

    Young explorers can also take part in their Junior Ranger program with fun activities around the campground. The beach is within walking distance but the water is cool, so it’s better for kite-flying and beachcombing than swimming. Surfing is popular in the area – make sure that you have a wetsuit.

    No matter whether you are camping or staying in a hotel, reservations are essential. The coastline is fairly remote and very popular and, especially during peak holidays, it’s not uncommon for both campgrounds and hotel accommodations to be fully booked.

    Coastal Adventures

    The Central Coast is full of fun things to do from the adventurous to the cultural. Hearst Castle, located in San Simeon, Calif., is one of the area’s most popular attractions, as is the gorgeous Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park located just south of the artsy town of Big Sur and north of Ragged Point. But for somewhere as isolated as the Central Coast, there are a number of one-of-a-kind activities that are less well known.

    For families who are up for an adrenaline rush and some bonding time, Margarita Adventures offers zipline adventures that can also be combined with other adventures such as ATV riding, kayak tours and wine tours. Their private group packages are also great for large family reunions.

    The Lost City of Cecile B. DeMille is probably one of the area’s quirkier attractions. It is an old movie set from the filmmaker's silent movie era version of “The Ten Commandments." It is one of the largest film sets ever constructed, and DeMille ordered the set dismantled and buried in the dunes of Guadalupe-Nipomo. The buried set was forgotten about until the 1980s when film buffs unearthed it after finding a clue to where the structure was buried in an autobiography of DeMille’s life. Artifacts can be seen at the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center.

    There are also a number of opportunities to combine learning with sightseeing around the coast. Stewardship Travel Activities are highlighted in each region with 70 regional activities, tours and learning experiences that engage visitors in local culture, heritage and ecological practices while on vacation that include activities such as planting trees, participating in beach clean-ups, citizen science projects with biologists from the Coastal Discovery Center in San Simeon and more.

    Food and Wine

    From picnics on the beach to fine dining at some of the region’s best wineries, visitors are spoiled for choice when it comes to drinking and eating. Wine lovers will be happy to know that there are two distinct wine trails: Pacific Coast Wine Trail and the Avila Wine Trail.

    The Pacific Coast Wine Trail includes wineries nestled in quiet towns along the coast from Morro Bay to Hearst Castle in San Simeon with stops in Cayucos, Cambria and Harmony. The Avila Wine Trail includes award-winning wineries located in downtown beachfront wine tasting and the See Canyon and Avila Valley wineries just five minutes from the beach.

    Sebastian General Store off Highway 1 past San Simeon and near the entrance to Hearst Castle is a great place to stop for tasting Hearst Ranch wines. They have excellent lunch options such as burgers with Hearst Ranch beef and you can take your food to go and picnic on the small beach tucked away among the cypress trees.   

    For more information on traveling the Central Coast, visit

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Janeen Christoff Are We There Yet: Tips For Family Trips

Janeen Christoff Janeen Christoff caught the travel bug while living in London, England. After two years on the road, she settled in Los Angeles and focused her writing on what she loved best — exploring the world. Today, she’s a well-traveled mother of two, the managing editor of Agent@Home and Vacation Agent magazines, an adventurer and a world wanderer. Want to know where she is headed next? Check out her blog at
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