From the wooded hiking trails of Paso Robles to the smashing surf of Pismo Beach, San Luis Obispo County has always been an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. But thanks to the explosive growth of the region’s wine and beer industries, the county is now a thriving hospitality hub that offers luxury and budget accommodations as well as a vibrant restaurant scene.
Life in the northern part of the county revolves around Paso Robles, which grew around healing hot springs in the 1800s. Cowboys and farmers dominated here until winemakers began to explore the region’s varied terroirs. By the mid-2000s, the area achieved acclaim for its robust and rich wines. The region’s 200-plus wineries line Highway 101, and they range from sprawling estates to urban collectives like Tin City, which also offers beer and cider options. Their success ushered in the wave of high-quality eateries that surround Paso Robles’ central square.
A quick drive west through wine country leads to the coastal communities of Cayucos and Cambria, which make great jumping-off points for exploring Hearst Castle. But plenty of old-timey fun awaits even closer to Paso Robles, in the towns of Templeton and Santa Margarita. There, you’ll find Wild West storefronts, saloons, museums, farm tours and off-road adventures.
Down the Cuesta Grade, San Luis Obispo offers a thriving downtown that surrounds its namesake mission and buzzes with students from Cal Poly, especially during the Farmers Market every Thursday. The Edna Valley’s estate wineries, where Pinot Noir and Chardonnay shine, lie just a 10-minute drive away, as do the beaches of Avila and Pismo, where you can shred the sand in dune buggies.
Regions’s Top Grapes
Lush with black cherries, black currants and structured with ageworthy tannins, these Cabs compete with the world’s best.
Charred meat, blackberry and black pepper mesh with caramel deliciousness in bombastic, attention-grabbing Syrah bottlings from Paso. Cooler Edna Valley examples show savory herb notes.
Edna and Arroyo Grande Valleys offer fresh and sprightly styles. Some Pinot Noir producers make more powerful bottlings, too.
From rich, creamy and vanilla-laced to delicate, chalky and citrus-driven, these Chardonnays retain high acidity thanks to their proximity to the coast.
This historic workhorse, often from old vines, makes both big, juicy, blackberry-laden Zinfandel bottlings and more reserved, nuanced, earthy versions.