Disclaimer: The following post is in partnership with Visit SLO CAL®. As always, all opinions are my own!
Have you ever been to SLO CAL®? San Luis Obispo County, aka SLO CAL, is located off of Highway 1 halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. It’s the perfect road trip stop, filled with adventure activities, wineries, beautiful beaches, and delicious dining. And, lots of amazing photo spots! From locations like Hearst Castle to the Madonna Inn and the Oceano Dunes, there’s something for everyone in SLO CAL, and plenty of Instagrammable spots to stop by!
No trek along the Pacific Coast Highway would be complete without a stop and photo op at the outrageously decadent Hearst Castle. Set on a hilltop with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, the Castle features 42 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, multiple swimming pools, a tennis court, movie theater, airfield and, in its day, the world’s largest private zoo. Newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst and San Francisco Architect Julia Morgan broke ground on the Spanish Colonial Revival project in 1919. While construction continued for almost thirty more years, the Castle was never completed. A variety of tours are conducted daily beginning at 9am. While the inside of the Castle is breathtaking it is rather difficult to capture pictures inside while on tour. But, once your tour is complete, you’re free to wander the magnificent grounds where you’ll find plenty of photogenic spots for the perfect selfie.
Since the castle is high up on a hilltop, there are lots of sweeping views to photograph along the grounds. With its ornate architecture, there are also many facades that make for great photo spots, such as the rear staircase at Casa del Sol or the front of Casa Grande (which is modeled after Spanish church towers). Another can’t-miss spot is the outdoor pool. What makes Hearst Castle so interesting is that much of the design contains authentic pieces, such as real Egyptian stone figures, or the real ceilings from European churches and monasteries. With his vast wealth, Hearst was able to purchase pieces that would be impossible to today, which is what makes it all so unique.
Address: 750 Hearst Castle Rd, San Simeon, CA 93452
Book a Tour: Hearst Castle Website
To many the mere mention of the words San Luis Obispo conjure up images of the iconic Madonna Inn. Built in 1958, the rockstar of motor inns features 110 very unique, themed rooms with names like Caveman, Cloud Nine, Irish Hill and Safari. Many rooms feature waterfall showers, rock fireplaces and eclectic European furnishings – while all feature a whimsical, vibrant color palette. If you’re fortunate enough to snag a room at the kitschiest of all hotels, be sure to share your shots as they’re guaranteed to get a like. If not, still stop and grab a shot in front of the famous pink Madonna Inn sign!
Address: 100 Madonna Rd, San Luis Obispo, CA 93405
Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa
One of the top tourist attractions in the city of San Luis Obispo, the mission was the fifth California mission founded by Father Junipero Serra in 1772. The historic landmark is an excellent example of Spanish mission-style architecture, featuring a stucco exterior, red tile roof, and beamed wooden ceilings. This style of architecture is still quite popular today in California and the Southwest. The mission is open every day, boosts an active parish, and is free to the public to visit! The most iconic photo spot here is in front of the entrance, but make sure to check out the garden as well. While you’re here, make sure to walk down the street to another famous Instagram spot in the town of San Luis Obispo - Bubblegum Alley!
Address: 51 Palm Street, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
Montaña de Oro State Park
The rugged coastline of crashing waves and sandy beaches and tide pools make Montana de Oro State Park a must for capturing that spectacular sunset ‘gram. Montana de Oro, or Mountain of Gold, is aptly named for when the spring wildflowers turn the hillsides golden. Be sure to make time for relaxing a bit on Spooner’s Cove Beach, the best known beach in the park, or seek out your own stretch of sandy beach for a quiet picnic. There are loads of amazing Instagrammable spots inside the State Park, so just make time to explore for a few hours and hike down one of the many trails. Don’t miss the Morro Dunes and the views from the cliffs above Spooner’s Cove!
Oceano Dunes Natural Preserve
Calling all thrill-seekers looking to play in nature’s biggest sandbox! Located just three miles south of Pismo Beach, Oceano Dunes is one of the largest coastal dunes left in California. It is also home to the only California State Park to allow vehicles to be driven on the beach. If you don’t have an ATV, no worries, as SunBuggies and ATVs can be rented and beach wheelchairs are available for loan. How cool is that? Fun Fact: Scenes from the Ten Commandments and Pirates of the Caribbean were filmed in the dunes. For one of the best photo spots, park at Oso Flaco Lake and take the trail and boardwalks from there to the dunes. We went for sunset and it was spectacular!
Central Coast Trailrides
Saddle up and grab the reins for a trail ride through the vineyards of the Paso Robles wine region. Central Coast Trailrides offer exceptional guided horseback tours. Choose between a leisurely ride through the colorful vineyard of Cass Winery, the hilly picturesque terrain of the historic Halter Ranch Vineyard, or the woodsy trails found throughout the pristine Calcareous Vineyard Estate. Also, plenty of adorable shots to be had with your sidekick. And, did we mention the complimentary wine tasting with every trail ride? You can’t come to SLO CAL and not visit a winery after all, and what better way to do it than on horseback!
Book a Tour: HERE
Pismo Beach is THE classic California beach town boasting an ample supply of long white sandy beaches. Capture amazing shots of surfers from the recently renovated wooden pier as the waves crash beneath you. Stroll the rows of quaint beach cottages or grab a bowl of award-winning chowder at Splash Cafe or fish and chips from Wooly’s. Before settling in for a spectacular sunset, do a little wine tasting at Tastes of the Valleys. Voted as one of the top 20 wine bars in America by Wine Enthusiast Magazine, this gem of a wine bar offers more than 1,000 wines by the glass! Also, make sure to stop by Old West Cinnamon Rolls, a local favorite. Get a classic cream cheese iced cinnamon roll or try one of their other flavors, like pecan or walnut. There’s a reason people line up around the block for this place!
To surf or not to surf, that is the question when visiting Cayucos by the sea. This popular surf spot, located just 20 minutes north of the town of San Luis Obispo, offers a unique photo opportunity from the 953-foot Cayucos State Beach Pier. Whether you’re a surfer or not, Cayucos and the surrounding area sports some of the best surf shops in California. And remember, it’s never too late for a surf lesson or two!
Monarch Butterfly Grove
Every year from October to February more than 25,000 stunning orange and black Monarch butterflies flock to the Eucalyptus groves of Pismo State Beach. Seeking refuge from the harsh northern winter, the Monarchs journey 2,500 plus miles in search of their winter home. The Monarch Butterfly Grove is the largest Monarch colony in California and one of the largest in the U.S. What could possibly be more Instagrammable than 25,000 fluttering Monarch butterfly wings! Beyond the butterflies, you can also take a beautiful walk to the beach here, where you’ll find a makeshift swing tied to a tree that’s another great photo spot.
Address: 400 S Dolliver St, Pismo Beach, CA 93449
Info: During the season the Docent Trailer opens at 10am and closes at 4pm daily. Daily talks happen at 11am and 2pm, weather permitting.
There are loads of other amazing photogenic locations in SLO CAL that I didn’t get to during my trip. Some other spots you can seek include Bubblegum Alley, the Fremont Theatre, Morro Bay, and many more. Do you have a good addition to this list? Let me know in the comments below!
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