Your Santa Barbara to Cambria RV road trip packs a lot of fun into a compact distance. Route 101 follows the same trail that early Spanish settlers named The Royal Road, which connects northern and southern California together. As the road linked Spanish missions in early California, it established a heritage of fine wineries all along the way. When you're halfway into your road trip from Santa Barbara to Cambria, you'll pass through the town of Orcutt. Orcutt's Old Town is famous for its antiques and Santa Maria-style barbecue, so you'll get to shop and snack. If you travel from mid-October through February, you'll want to view the thousands of monarch butterflies as they cluster in the eucalyptus groves of Nipomo.
National parks provide a beautiful stop along your journey, and several are within easy driving range. You'll always have a choice of adding one from RVshare's guide to national parks to your itinerary from Santa Barbara to Cambria.
Channel Islands National Park
The Channel Islands National Park just offshore at Santa Barbara could start your trip off with glorious views of the ocean and opportunities to kayak, swim, snorkel, and explore. Santa Barbara offers private boats and concessionaire boat rentals to journey over the waves to the pristine location that went untouched for many years. Archaeologists discovered ancient artifacts from long ago Native Americans upon the islands that prove that they were visited thousands of years ago. The five islands offer an unparalleled escape into the coastal California of yesteryear.
Pinnacles National Park
Anyone with a passion for rock climbing will be thrilled with Pinnacles National Park, which lies a little over three hours' drive time from Santa Barbara. Fill your day with exploring caves and rock formations erupting from the earth 23 million years ago. Take this opportunity to see the beautiful red rock pillars along with the occasional coyote, mule deer, or even the majestic California condor.
State parks abound on your Santa Barbara to Cambria road trip. You can also find both large and small parks state parks using our guide.
Gaviota State Park
Gaviota State Park is near Santa Barbara, and its 2,800 acres offer prairies, oak forests, and beaches. The commonly occurring wind called the Sundowner stirs the air as it sweeps up the canyon. Be sure to tie down anything light as you experience its power.
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
About 83 miles north of Cambria is the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, which is called the Mini-Yosemite because of its breathtaking views, wildlife, and towering redwoods. Blacktail deer, raccoons, bobcats, and coastal wildlife abound as you hike along the burbling Big Sur River. Prepare for the morning fog that keeps the redwoods green and growing.
Morro Bay State Park
You won't be able to take your eyes off Morro Rock, the towering volcanic peak bursting out of Morro Bay State Park. The lagoon and natural bay attracted Native American settlements hundreds of years ago. The mild climate hovers from 40 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, so you can visit anytime you want.
Santa Barbara County Courthouse
The spectacular sight of the Santa Barbara Courthouse, as seen from the ground level gardens, displays its Spanish Colonial Revival style across a full city block. It's located amid a vibrant downtown scene of shops, restaurants, and bistros. When you climb the building's multiple stories and stop at the open balconies at each corner, you're treated to stellar views of the entire town and the ocean beyond.
Whether or not you claim Danish heritage, you'll bask in it as the Danish speaking descendants of settlers show you around this charming town just outside Santa Barbara. Wineries in the surrounding Santa Ynez Valley offer delicate whites and robust reds to suit every palate. In addition, apple orchards provide opportunities for you to buy from roadside stands or pick your own from the tree. The horse-drawn streetcar ride down Main Street adds a quaint touch to your visit.
The word castle perfectly depicts this glorious home, which was built for William Randolph Hearst over a span of 28 years. The tour showcases broad indoor and outdoor swimming pools in which the celebrities from the Golden Age of Hollywood used to frolic. Antiques covering centuries' worth of culture from around the world adorn the castle. A shuttle bus ride takes you from a sea-level parking lot to the heights where the castle sits. You're sure to spot a zebra or two in the castle's zoo on the way up. Nearby is a state park for settling in if you're traveling by RV.
Monarch Dunes Butterfly Grove
Orange and black monarchs travel thousands of miles annually to escape harsh winters. Every year, the small town of Nipomo hosts uncounted colorful draperies of these voyagers as the fliers line the groves of eucalyptus trees stretching along the Central California coast. Nineteen acres of trees at Monarch Dunes supply shelter from late October to February for these delightful visitors, and human visitors often picnic at tables provided by the grove to enjoy the fluttering sight.
Central California boasts serene mountain towns, mid-sized cities, and lovely beaches. You'll find that this area provides the feel of the Golden State without the crowds. Socialize with your fellow travelers in pleasant, well-run campgrounds with dump stations to prepare your RV for the next leg of your journey.
Get out to stretch your legs at the halfway point of your trip in the pleasant inland community of Orcutt. The part of town named Old Orcutt holds restaurants and a first-rate antiquing scene. After exploring the town, you'll take a turn towards the ocean as you drive Highway 1.
El Chorro Regional Park features a county-run campground within a huge regional park. Many playgrounds and a nearby golf course are among the attractions of this picturesque spot with nature trails.
Santa Maria owns a vibrant winery scene coupled with 13 beaches. You'll want to sample Santa Maria-style barbecue that centers on beef tri-tip, which is grilled to perfection over native California live oak coals. Stop here awhile for a memorable glass of wine while you overlook the sparkling Pacific Ocean.
Camping at Pacific Dunes Ranch and RV Resort means that you'll enjoy their clubhouse, game room, large barbecue areas, and horseback riding along the beach with expert guides.
If you stop by bubbling Arroyo Grande Creek to take in the sights of dunes and coastal prairie, then you'll see why early Portuguese and Spanish explorers admired the temperate area. The town of Arroyo Grande gained fame as one of the Central Coast's "Five Cities," which mix rural, suburban, and urban attractions.
Just outside of Arroyo Grande lies Pismo Sands RV Park stocked with an on-site pool, heated Jacuzzi and horseshoe pits. There is even a camp store and ATV rental for more adventures.
San Luis Obispo
Right before you head from rolling hills to the coast on your way to Cambria, San Luis Obispo calls out for a stop. In 1772, Father Junipero Serra established San Luis Obispo de Tolosa Mission as the fifth in the series of 21 California missions as he trekked northward. The Mission Plaza contains the old mission amid a cluster of shops, restaurants, and nightlife in a two-block area.
Port San Luis RV Campground provides every RV with ocean views, and you can enjoy soothing surf sounds when you park directly on the beach. This campground doesn't require reservations, so it's ready for you when you're ready to park.
Ocean views overtake the scene after you arrive at Morro Bay, famous for its iconic rock that lies just offshore. Taste some fabulous albacore, rockfish, or abalone treats for a leisurely snack at one of the harbor's seafood restaurants.
Avila/Pismo Beach KOA offers just what your road trip itinerary from Santa Barbara to Cambria needs, a clean playground and well-stocked camp store. The whole family can enjoy the nearby beach.