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Central Coast State Parks

Central Coast State Park Overview

Central Coast

California State Parks are responsible for almost a third of California's scenic coastline. CA State Parks on the Central Coast include underwater preserves, parks, redwood forest, plant and wildlife reserves, state beaches, recreation areas, wilderness areas and lighthouses. Below you'll find a list of popular CA State Parks and ones we personally recommend from Natural Bridges in Santa Cruz to El Capitan in Santa Barbara. Camping in California is a popular activity with RV parks, redwoods, beaches and conveniences like flush toilets, running water and firewood.

An entry fee is required at almost all California State Parks. It may be beneficial to purchase a yearly California State Park Pass if planning to make multiple visits to CA State Parks. Several discounts are available including passes for Day Use, Veterans, Handicapped, Surfing, Seniors and more.

Santa Cruz

Natural Bridges State Beach is located just west of Santa Cruz. It features huge rock formation arches that rise from the ocean, a very large sandy beach, tide pools and coastal meadows. Amenities include picnic areas, restrooms, barbecues and a Visitor Center. The Seymour Marine Discovery Center is situated next to Natural Bridges. From mid-October through February, over 100,000 Monarch butterflies make their home in the Monarch butterfly preserve that is located in the park.

TIP: Want to try surfing? Go to a pier where there are lifeguards or try a surf school like Santa Cruz Surf School.

Natural Bridges State Beach
Swanton Blvd. & W. Cliff Drive
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(831) 423-4609

Map  |   Hotel  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


New Brighton State Beach is located off PCH (highway 1 - Pacific Coast Highway) in Capitola. It features picnic areas, swimming, fishing, camping and a nearby forest of Monterey pine and Coastal Live Oak. New Brighton is a great choice for camping on the beach.

New Brighton State Beach
1500 Park Avenue
Capitola, California 95010
(831) 464-6330

Map  |   Hotel  |   Camping  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


Sea Cliff State Beach is located off PCH (highway 1 - Pacific Coast Highway) in Aptos. It features a large sandy swimming beach. A pier ends at a partially sunken, concrete ship that used to be a source of entertainment. On the ship was a dance floor, café, swimming pool and carnival concessions. Today the ship is inaccessible but makes for good fishing off the pier. Camping includes RV camping only... no tents.

Sea Cliff State Beach
201 State Park Drive
Aptos, California 95003
(831) 429-2850

Map  |   Hotel  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


Manresa State Beach is located off PCH (Highway 1 - Pacific Coast Highway) west of Watsonville. It features picnic areas, camping, swimming, fishing and clamming. Manresa is a good option for camping on the beach.

Manresa State Beach
Ellicott, California 95076
(831) 761-1795

Map  |   Hotel  |   Camping  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


Watsonville

Sunset State Beach is located off PCH (Highway 1 - Pacific Coast Highway) in Watsonville. It features pine trees, sand dunes, camping and ocean-side picnicking. Bordered by large agricultural fields west of the city of Watsonville, Sunset is a year-round destination for locals and tourists alike. Sunset is a good option for camping on the beach.

Sunset State Beach
201 Sunset Beach Road
Watsonville, California 95076
Reservations: (800) 444-7275

Map  |   Hotel  |   Camping  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


Salinas River State Beach is located between Monterey and Santa Cruz off PCH (Highway 1 - Pacific Coast Highway) in Moss Landing. It features a wide sandy beach backed by sand dunes, farmlands and estuary. Activities include swimming, hiking, fishing, bird watching and horseback riding.

Salinas River State Beach
Moss Landing, California 95039
(831) 649-2836

Map  |   Hotel  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


Monterey

Monterey State Beach is located off Highway 1 from the Seaside Del Rey Oaks exit. It includes two long sandy beaches, sand dunes and an underwater preserve. Activities include swimming, fishing, hiking and kayaking. The Monterey Bay Coastal Trail connects Monterey with Pacific Grove and Seaside. Check out our Cool Towns page for more details on Monterey.

Monterey State Beach
Canyon Del Rey Boulevard
Monterey, California 93940
(831) 649-2836

Map  |   Hotel  |   Website  |   Other Ideas

  • Seaside is located north of Monterey at the end of Canyon Del Rey Boulevard. Seaside is part of Monterey State Beach and features a large sandy beach. Park in the parking lot at the end of Canyon Del Rey Boulevard. No facilities.
    Map

  • Houghton M. Roberts is located north of Monterey at the end of Sand Dunes Drive. Houghton M. Roberts is part of Monterey State Beach and features a large sandy beach. Park in the parking lot at the end of Sand Dunes Drive. No facilities.
    Map


Point Lobos State Park is located south of Carmel off Highway 1. Half of it is underwater and favored by scuba divers and snorkelers. The other half includes picnic areas and hiking & jogging trails on rocky picturesque headlands. The main attractions at Point Lobos are Whalers Cove, Bluefish Cove and an old abalone fishing village. Other activities include hiking, fishing, picnicking and sightseeing. Check out our Cool Towns page for more details on Carmel.

Point Lobos State Park
Highway 1
Carmel, CA 93923
(831) 624-4909

Map  |   Hotel  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


Big Sur

Andrew Molera State Park is located off PCH (Highway 1 - Pacific Coast Highway) in Big Sur. Popular activities at this Andrew Molera include camping, hiking, horseback riding, fishing and beach combing. The Big Sur River runs through the park where seasonal bridges are installed during the wet season. A primitive walk-in campground offers 24 campsites in this relatively undeveloped park. The stables at Andrew Molera offer horseback riding on the beach.

Andrew Molera State Park
47555 Highway 1
Big Sur, California 93920
(831) 667-2315

Map  |   Hotel  |   Camping  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


Pfeiffer-Big Sur State Park is located off PCH (Highway 1 - Pacific Coast Highway) in Big Sur. It hugs the ocean at the mouth of the Big Sur River. A lush redwood forest provides habitat for black-tail deer, gray squirrels, raccoons, skunks, and birds, such as water ouzels and belted kingfishers. The Big Sur Lodge and campsites along the river accommodate visitors. Popular Sykes Hot Springs can be accessed by hiking the strenuous 10-mile Pine Ridge Trail from Big Sur Station. Activities include camping, hiking, swimming, picnicking and horseback riding.

Pfeiffer-Big Sur State Park
47225 Highway 1
Big Sur, California 93920
(831) 667-2315

Map  |   Hotel  |   Camping  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


McWay Fall, Big Sur - photo courtesy of L. Thompson

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is located off PCH (Highway 1 - Pacific Coast Highway) in Big Sur. Spectacularly beautiful McWay Fall drops 80-feet onto the sandy beach below. Part of it is an underwater preserve. Popular activities at Julia Pfeiffer Burns include camping, hiking, fishing, scuba diving and beach combing. Camping is available at two primitive walk-in campsites.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
47555 Highway 1
Big Sur, CA 93920
(831) 667-2315

Map  |   Hotels  |   Camping  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


Limekiln State Park is located off PCH (Highway 1 - Pacific Coast Highway), 2 miles south of Lucia, in Big Sur. It features breathtaking views of the Big Sur Coast, California Redwoods, rugged coast and cultural history of limekilns. Activities include camping, fishing and hiking.

Limekiln State Park
63025 Highway 1
Big Sur, California 93920
(831) 667-2403

Map  |   Hotel  |   Camping  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


San Simeon

Roman Pool at Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle State Park is located off PCH (Highway 1 - Pacific Coast Highway) in San Simeon. Construction originally began on this mansion in 1919. It was the home of William Randolph Hearst who made his fortune in the newspaper and movie industries. The mansion contains 115 rooms, guest houses, roman pools, and museum quality antiques & sculptures all atop a 250,000 acre ranch. Past guests include Winston Churchill, Charles Lindbergh, Charlie Chaplin and more.

William R. Hearst State Beach is situated adjacent to the castle and is a classic, Northern California, picturesque coast of sandy beach dotted with rocky outcroppings. There is a pier that provides opportunities for deep-sea fishing from charter boats. Activities include swimming, fishing, kayaking, sunbathing and picnicking with barbecue grills provided. A concession stand rents equipment like body boards and kayaks.

Blog Check our Hearst Castle blog for more details on visiting Hearst Castle.

Hearst Castle State Park
750 Hearst Castle Road
San Simeon, CA 93452
(800) 444-4445

Map  |   Hotel  |   State Website  |   Hearst Castle Website  |   Other Ideas


Interpretive boardwalk through San Simeon wetlands

San Simeon State Park is located off Highway 1 just north of Cambria. It includes sandy beaches, coastal wetlands, a freshwater creek and coastal bluffs. An interpretive trail follows the creek through the wetlands to picturesque vantage points. Activities include camping, hiking, fishing, surfing, wildlife viewing and more. San Simeon is a great choice for camping on the beach.

San Simeon State Park
Van Gordon Creek Road at San Simeon Creek Road
Cambria California, 93428
(805) 927-2020

Map  |   Hotel  |   Camping  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


Morro Bay

Morro Bay State Beach is located off Highway 1 at the southern end of Morro Bay. It features a lagoon and natural bay. Morro Bay's most prominent landmark is Morro Rock. Activities include camping, sailing, kayaking, fishing, hiking, wildlife viewing and more. An on-site museum has exhibits of cultural history, Native American life, geology, and oceanography. Morro Bay also offers a marina and an 18-hole public golf course. To the south is a popular estuary for bird watching. Morro Bay is a great choice for camping on the beach.

Morro Bay State Beach
Morro Bay State Park Road
Morro Bay, California 93442
(805) 772-2560

Map  |   Hotel  |   Camping  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


Spooner's Cove

Montaña de Oro State Park is located off Highway 101 just south of Morro Bay. Views of Morro Bay and the coastline are spectacular from many of the hiking trails. The beautiful Spooner's Cove is easily accessible and located halfway into the park, adjacent to the campground. Several hiking trails lead to large coves and sandy beaches. Activities include primitive camping, hiking, surfing, horseback riding, swimming and picnicking.

Montaña de Oro State Park
Los Osos, California 93402
(805)528-0513 or (805)772-7434

Map  |   Hotel  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


Pismo Beach

Pismo State Beach is located just south of Pismo Beach and the Pismo Beach Pier. To the north is a wide sandy beach, pier and thriving seaside community. To the south is a wide sandy beach, camping, Monarch Butterfly preserve and off-roading in the Pismo and Oceano Dunes. Popular activities include surfing, fishing, butterfly viewing, off-roading and camping. Pismo Beach is a great place for driving off-road vehicles or horseback riding on the beach. The coolest part is that you can drive on the sand since most of the shoreline is an OHV park. The sand is so compact that even 2-wheel drive vehicles can head out on the beach. Several campgrounds are available along the sand dunes.

Pismo State Beach
555 Pier Avenue
Oceano, California 93445
(805) 489-2684

Map  |   Hotel  |   Camping  |   Website  |   Other Ideas

  • Grover is located off Highway 1 from Grand Avenue. Grover features a huge white sand beach backed by sand dunes. Restrooms available.
    Map

  • Oceano Dunes is located off Highway 1 from Pier Avenue. Oceano Dunes features a huge white sand beach backed by sand dunes. Restrooms available.
    Map


Santa Barbara

Gaviota State Park is located off Highway 101 in Goleta, approximately 30-miles northwest of Santa Barbara. It's a popular spot for camping, hiking, swimming, picnicking and fishing. A pier on the west end of the beach is used by divers and surfers. A Southern Pacific railroad trestle crosses the creek above the day-use parking lot. Hiking trails lead to a natural hot spring and offer views of the coast and Channel Islands. Gaviota is a good option for camping on the beach.

Gaviota State Park
10 Refugio Beach Road
Goleta, California 93117
(805) 968-1033

Map  |   Hotel  |   Camping  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


Refugio State Park

Refugio State Beach is located 20-miles west of Santa Barbara off Highway 101. This California State Beach is a popular park for swimming, picnicking, fishing beach and horseback riding. Camping is available directly adjacent to the ocean. A bike trail connects Refugio east to El Capitan. Refugio is a great choice for camping on the beach.

Refugio State Beach
10 Refugio Beach Road
Goleta, California 93117
(805) 968-1033

Map  |   Hotel  |   Camping  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


El Capitan State Beach is located west of Santa Barbara off Highway 101. This is a very popular spot for camping. State park camping is offered among sycamore trees and several creeks flowing to the ocean. A day use area includes picnic tables, barbecues and trash cans along the shore. The beach is a long stretch of sand with boulders and tide pools at either end. A bike trail connects El Capitan to Refugio to the west. El Capitan is a great choice for camping at the beach.

El Capitan State Beach
10 Refugio Beach Road
Goleta, California 93117
(805) 968-1033

Map  |   Hotel  |   Camping  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


Carpinteria State Beach is located south-east of Santa Barbara and offers a long sandy beach and tide pools. camping, swimming, surfing and tide pool exploration are popular activities. Carpinteria is a good option for RV camping on the beach.

Carpinteria State Beach
5361 6th Street
Carpinteria, California 93013
(805) 968-1033

Map  |   Hotel  |   Camping  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


Oxnard

McGrath State Beach is located 5-miles south of Ventura off Highway 101. A nature trail leads from the ocean and sand dunes, up the mouth of the Santa Clara River, to an estuary preserve. camping, surfing, fishing and bird watching are popular activities.

McGrath State Beach
2211 Harbor Boulevard
Oxnard, California 93030
(805) 968-1033

Map  |   Hotel  |   Camping  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


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