GETTING THERE With no nonstop flights from John Wayne Airport, driving the four hours up Highway 101 is your best bet. Stop in Los Olivos to visit the lavender field at Clairmont Farms, which showcases five acres of Grosso variety lavender.
LODGING Book a spa tub suite as far in advance as possible at Anderson Inn ($239 and up) because this family-owned-and-operated hotel has only eight rooms. The relaxed setting offers vibrant coastal decor and stunning views of the sea. Or stay 10 minutes away at Pier View Suites ($299 and up) in Cayucos. Rooms are available with an ocean-view balcony, fireplace, jetted tub, bathrobes, and a gourmet kitchen.
OCEAN ADVENTURES Put on your captain hat and rent an electric boat from Bay Cruisers ($75 per hour) to get up close to sleepy sea lions and sea otters in the waters of Morro Bay. Or if you prefer having a guide, explore with Sub Sea Tours ($7 and up) on a 21-passenger vessel with an underwater viewing room. Paddleboards and kayaks also are available at several locations on the bay ($12 to $18).
DINING For breakfast, head over to Frankie and Lola’s Front Street Cafe for the Fried Green Tomato Benedict ($11), a new take on an old classic, with grits, fried green tomatoes, poached eggs, and creole hollandaise with a spicy kick. Or try the French Toast Brulee, Souffle, Flambe ($7)—a unique and indulgent treat made from French bread soaked in custard, then baked, and topped with caramelized praline topping. For lunch or dinner, drive to Schooners Wharf in Cayucos for the Island Style Ahi ($25), crusted in sesame seeds and served over wasabi mashed potatoes. Also try the Basil Beach cocktail ($10) with Ketel One Vodka, lime, ginger, St. Germain, and basil. While in Cayucos stop at the famous Brown Butter Cookie Company and treat yourself to an Original Brown Butter Sea Salt cookie that’s melt-in-your-mouth delicious ($1 to $2 each).
WORTH A VISIT Drive 20 minutes north to Cambria and take a romantic one-mile stroll along Moonstone Beach Boardwalk, surrounded by wildflowers and ocean views. Then head to the Village Shops for antiques, gifts, or produce at the Friday farmers market.
SIDE TRIP Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort and Spa ($169 and up) is two miles inland from Avila Beach. All rooms come with private balconies and mineral-water hot tubs. If you can’t stay the night, day rates are available for the private, hillside mineral-water hot tubs and oasis waterfall lagoon. Plus, all spa treatments include 30 minutes in the hillside sulfur tub. Don’t worry—the smell isn’t overpowering, and the skin-soothing benefits are worth it.
Just 30 miles north of Morro Bay, you’ll find the iconic Hearst Castle ($12 to $25), known for its grandeur and 127 acres of sprawling gardens, fountains, and pools. The Neptune Pool has been drained for restoration and conservation, giving visitors a chance to see the marble floor. Keep your eyes peeled on the way to the castle—Hearst once had the largest private zoo in the world, and wild zebras still roam the hills of San Simeon.