Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Fall Travel: Sunshine on California's Coast

Morro Bay State Park in coastal California
Yesterday as I was pedaling around my California beach town, I saw lodging signs for discount off-season rates going up on Labor Day afternoon. Summer may be over, but now is actually a better time for coastal California travel. During fall, you can save money and avoid the huge crowds of summer while still reveling in golden sunshine.  

September is often the sunniest month along California's coast from Santa Barbara, north of Los Angeles, all the way up to Oregon. The marine layer of coastal fog that sometimes lingers from 'May grey' and 'June gloom' into July and August rolls away. Ocean waters cool down even in Southern California as autumn arrives, but the beaches are usually balmy enough for lazing on the sand into late October.

Punta Gorda Lighthouse on California's Lost Coast


Autumn is great for food and wine lovers too, with coastal California even more bountiful than in spring. A short hop inland from the coast, fat clusters of grapes almost bursting with juice swell the vineyards, while apples are ripe enough to pick from valley orchards. Plan your trip around a harvest festival at biodynamic wineries and family farms.

Make lodging reservations in advance for fall travel. Even though it's off-peak season and sometimes polite bargaining is allowed for walk-in guests, you'll need to book ahead to take advantage of online promotional discounts. Getting a room reservation also ensures that you'll have a place to stay in wine regions near the coast, where harvest festivals can easily book out every room for 50 miles around. 

Bewitching coastal California towns to make your fall vacation base camp include Santa Barbara, Cayucos in San Luis Obispo County, Pacific Grove on the Monterey Peninsula near Big Sur, and Trinidad just south of Redwood National & State Parks. For hidden coastal lodgings that are one-of-a-kind, check out my anti-hotel top 10 list for coastal California.

Related links:
10 Steps to a Perfect Day in Big Sur
Coastal California: The Anti-Hotel Top 10 List
Edible Travels: Farmers Market Finds (Even in Winter!)

Photo credits: Sara J. Benson & Michael Connolly Jr.

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