1. Home
  2. Travel
  3. California Landmarks

California Landmarks

Originally Published in MotorHome Magazine

Stretching along 650 miles of California’s historic El Camino Real
(Highway 1), 21 Spanish missions dot the landscape from San Diego to
Sonoma. Whether travelers share the faith represented by these Christian
church complexes or not, they will appreciate the effort and suffering
that went into these historic landmarks, and they will marvel at the
architecture, innovation and beauty of the buildings. Each mission in
the chain along the “King’s Highway” tells a story, revealing secrets of
the Spanish conquerors, the plight of the Native Americans, the spread
of Christianity, and the innovative systems of farming and irrigation
brought from Spain.

One of the most prosperous missions was the ninth and final one founded
personally by Father Junipero Serra; Mission San Buenaventura in the
town of Ventura, produced a bounty of fruits and
vegetables, thanks to the excellent climate and water provided by the
Ventura River. The mission was dedicated on March 31, 1782, but burned
to the ground several years later. A larger stone church was erected in
1809, but it, too, suffered extensive damage due to an earthquake.
Repairs to the buildings followed and during the next several decades,
it became a parish church for the townspeople. Today, visitors will
discover the original design once again, due to a 1957 effort that
restored the historic landmark according to notes and drawings.

Father Estevan Tapis is credited with founding the last mission in Southern California, Mission Santa Ines.
Completed in 1804, this complex flourished amid the fertile Santa Inez
Valley, growing crops and raising cattle. Today, the towns of Solvang
and Buellton are close by, and ranches and vineyards continue to prosper
in the lush landscape. In 1834, the padres were ordered to open the
doors of the mission to Mexican settlers and share their bounty; the
complex was later sold to a settler and it wasn’t until years later that
the church regained control. The buildings have been restored, the
chapel is intact and a gift store on the premises offers books and
mementos. Parking is abundant.

For more information: www.californiatourism.com and www.ca-missions.org

Complete Chain of 21 Missions

  • San Diego de Alcala
  • San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo
  • San Antonio de Padua
  • San Gabriel Arcangel
  • San Luis Obispo de Tolosa
  • San Francisco de Asis
  • San Juan Capistrano
  • Santa Clara de Asis
  • San Buenaventura
  • Santa Barbara
  • La Purisima Concepcion
  • Santa Cruz
  • Nuestra Senora de la Soledad
  • San Jose
  • San Juan Bautista
  • San Miguel Arcangel
  • San Fernando Rey de Espana
  • San Luis Rey de Francia
  • Santa Ines
  • San Rafael Arcangel
  • San Francisco Solano

Subscribe to Wildsam Magazine today, Camping World and Good Sam’s magazine of the open road.

Just $19.97 for a year’s subscription.


Please login or register to view archived articles.

Sign In

Do not have an account? Create New Account