The Back Roads of Buellton


Buellton is a small town off Hwy 101 in the heart of Santa Ynez Wine Country. Yep, more winery’s to visit…oh darn!!! The Santa Ynez Valley is producing some amazing wines but it is often overshadowed by Napa and Sonoma who seem to get all the hype. While Buellton itself has very little charm (in my humble opinion), the location couldn’t be better for exploring this stunningly scenic area. All you wino’s will remember that this region was made famous after it was featured in the movie Sideways and many people like to visit the different spots that were in the movie.

With only four days to explore the area, visiting the Sideways haunts wasn’t high on the agenda. Honestly, we were feeling a bit wined out but hey, when in Rome… We decided the best way to spend our four days was to intersperse some wine tasting with some back roads driving and a few trips to the beach. We are definitely water people so any excuse to get our feet in the sand is gonna happen. Bentley was in total agreement about the beach too.

Our first stop after we got set up at the the Flying Flags RV Resort was the Figueroa Brewing Company in Buellton. In need of a brew and some chow, this was the perfect place to spend a few lazy hours, listening to some local music and sipping some local beer. We sat with some nice locals who shared their deep fried Mac and Cheese bites with us and we talked about beach fishing. Wish I had gotten the guys name but what a sweetie, he offered to lend us some fishing gear and told us all his favorite spots.

Cold brew and music… a great way to soothe the driving aches away!

We promised Bentley a trip to the beach so we took a drive looking for a dog friendly beach, which in California isn’t always easy. Most state parks don’t allow dogs on the beach – not sure why, seriously, the birds poop everywhere and don’t pick up so what the heck. Thanks to a nice ranger at the Refugio State Beach, we found a place to bushwhack down to a deserted beach. Bentley wore himself out frolicking and running so he barely had the energy to bushwhack back up to the car. A tired dog is a happy dog for sure!!!!!

Yikes that was a steep climb!!!

Feeling rejuvenated and ready to taste more wine, our plan was to visit the tasting rooms the next day in Los Olivos which is just 6 miles north of Buellton. This tiny historic town is home to about 1,400 people and has all the charm that Buellton didn’t get. Dozens of wine tasting rooms, great restaurants, boutiques, art gallery’s, hotels and Airbnb’s make this a great destination. If only they had an RV park, we might never have left!!!

Los Olivos …you are a charmer!

In 1885, Alden March Boyd, of Albany, New York, paid $8,000 for 157 acres, together with the original and only dwelling house in the area. What an investment!!! He planted five thousand olive trees and called it Rancho De Los Olivos.  We saw plenty of olive trees still being farmed but grapevines have definitely become a primary crop in this area. There are however, several places to taste olive oil that is being made locally.

Olive orchards at Rancho Olivos (photo courtesy of Rancho Olivos)

Foxen Canyon Wine Trail starts in Los Olivos and stretches north, winding its way through beautiful wineries and vineyards. Even if you are not that into wine, this beautiful area is a feast for the eyes. Driving the backroads in the Santa Ynez Valley and finding all the hidden gems can be a great way to spend a day, or two, or three….we spent hours just toodling around through the rolling hills.

With such lush grass, that’s one happy cow, yep, its a female. I checked it out!!!

From Los Olivos, a great driving loop on Hwy 154 /256 takes you through some incredibly beautiful country. You can stop along the way in the sleepy little town of Santa Ynez or the super touristy town of Solvang. Just be advised that the mega tour buses roll into this little Danish town and traffic can get backed up…we were there during the week but I can only imagine what its like on a busy weekend. My idea of hell actually…

We have been to Solvang when we were living in SoCal so we didn’t feel the need to relive that with a walk down memory lane. Solvang means “sunny field” in Danish in case you were wondering. This hamlet was founded in 1911 on almost 9,000 acres of the Rancho San Carlos de Jonata Mexican land grant, by a group of Danes who traveled west to establish a Danish community far from the midwestern winters. Boy, did they find a paradise for sure.

We did however find a neat mission just on the edge of Solvang, where we were able to take Bentley for a nice walk while we explored the grounds.

Solvang for sure!!!

We lived in SoCal for 5 years and Santa Barbara was one of our favorite beach towns. Many times, we hopped the Amtrak Train from Glendale and rode through the rolling hills, coffee and newspaper in hand. A walk on the beach, lunch on the pier or at one of many awesome restaurants, then back on the train we would go. Great day trip, so we had to revisit SB for at least one afternoon.

Oh Santa Barbara, we missed you!!!

Santa Barbara is just 43 miles from Buellton so we of course took a longer scenic loop and made a stop to hike at Cachuma Lake. This is a holding reservoir for water in Santa Barbara County and thanks to the record rainfall in Cali this winter it was full, lush and green.

Could this be a prettier area to hike???
Back in Santa Barbara, we found plenty to keep us busy for the afternoon.
Farmer Market…oh yeah. Fresh heirloom tomatoes…oh yeah!!!
I LOVE LEGUMES….so many to choose from…oh yeah!!!
So much fresh produce, we also scored some awesome small artichokes and beautiful strawberries….OH YEAH!!!

Another great drive we took from Buellton was to Jalama Beach County Park. Finally a beach where dogs are allowed to put their paws on the sand…well, at least while on a leash with their humans. If you walked far enough down the beach you could accidentally, not on purpose of course, drop the leash and let Fido run free. Shh….

Getting to Jalama Beach is an adventure in itself …A sign 4.5 miles south of Lompoc off Highway 1 will direct you onto Jalama Road. We followed this scenic, often narrow and windy 14.5 mile road to the coast. The park entrance will be at the end of the road, seriously this is the end of the road. Jalama is subject to high winds and rough surf but boy is it beautiful. There is also a rustic campground, store and grill that serves a mean cheeseburger.

A true gem, this funky little store was a hoot to poke around in while I waited for that awesome cheeseburger.

I hope that cute pooch got a bite of their burgers!

If you don’t mind a funky, rustic vibe and a hell of a drive if you have a big ass RV, this would be a great place to stay for a few nights. Think big ole bonfire on the beach at night with very few people around. The cabins in the picture above sit high up on the bluff with an awesome ocean view. There are also some non-beach RV sites up there.

Back in Buellton, we still had some wine tasting left in us so we decided to finish our four, whirlwind days with a cruise down Foxen Canyon Road. Back Roads Rule!!!

Tiny little grapes starting to set already.

I was fascinated by the wine growing AVA’s and the influence the ocean has on farming in these wild hills and canyons. Pinot Noir loves the cool affect that the ocean can bring in but there are also hot areas like Happy Canyon that support growing the Syrah grape varietal. The microclimates in this area are crazy.

Zoom in to check out the different grape growing areas and their varietals.

This beautiful area of California deserved more than a four day stop and it sure kept us busy. No shortage of things to see and do, no shortage of great restaurants and certainly no shortage of world class wines. Our four days of backroad adventures were definitely a 10!

Delicious oysters at Industrial Eats in Buellton.
Just a few bottles to add to our wine rack!

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