Must-See Small Towns on Your Next California Road Trip
April 4, 2019
California’s biggest cities–and biggest tourist destinations–are spread out along its glorious Pacific Coast, making a coastal road trip an amazing way to explore the state. Not only will you get to experience the different attractions and atmospheres of both NorCal and SoCal, you’ll see the glorious scenery of the coast, from rugged rock formations to broad beaches of picture-perfect golden sand. You’ll also see vineyards, rolling hills, and rugged mountain ranges as you drive parallel to the Pacific.
Whether you travel up or down the coast on US-101 or CA-1, take an epic journey all the way between San Diego and the redwood forest, or cover a shorter section, perhaps between Los Angeles and San Francisco, a California road trip is a vacation you’ll never forget. To make it even more memorable, stop to explore some of the smaller towns on or near the coast. Many smaller places you’ve never heard of offer major amounts of charm and enticing attractions of their own.
A quirky little town in the midst of the Santa Ynez Valley wine country, Solvang is inspired by the Danish homeland of its founders. Windmills, timber-clad buildings, and Danish bakeries abound in the heart of the village, which is small enough to explore fully on foot. Stop in at a few tasting rooms to sample local wines (there are 120 wineries and vineyards in the vicinity) and peruse the boutiques and gift shops for authentic Danish goods and other souvenirs. Another unusual attraction just outside Solvang is Ostrichland, a farm where visitors can meet and feed resident ostriches and emus.
The small town of Ojai, tucked in the hills of inland Ventura County, showcases the beauty of California just a few miles away from the coast. Unspoiled mountain vistas draw visitors who enjoy hiking and horseback riding, as well as artists whose works are shown in the town’s many galleries. Wine-tasting rooms and an acclaimed farm-to-table restaurant scene are also among Ojai’s attractions.
At the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge, in Marin County, is the tiny shorefront city of Sausalito. Famous for its houseboats, which inspired Otis Redding to write “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” waterfront cafes, and pretty hillside houses, Sausalito has enough charm to entice crowds of day-trippers from San Francisco to cross the bay by bridge or ferry. Most spend their time in Sausalito just strolling around, stopping for a leisurely coffee or two, and watching the world go by. If you want a little more activity in your day there, consider a tour of the famous Heath Ceramics factory.