The Central Coast Ranges are mountain ranges (2,000-4,000, occasionally 5,000 feet elevation above sea level) and valleys. The ranges and valleys trend northwest, subparallel to the San Andreas Fault. The province terminates on the east where stratified sedimentary rocks dip beneath alluvium of the Great Central Valley; on the west by the Pacific Ocean with mountains rising sharply from uplifted and terraced, wave-cut coast; on the north by the San Francisco Bay, and on the south by the Transverse Ranges near Lompoc. The Coast Ranges are composed of thick late Mesozoic and Cenozoic sedimentary rocks. Offshore, the continental shelf is transected by submarine canyons. The Monterey submarine canyon, 10,000 feet deep, is apparently a submerged river canyon. The Coast Ranges are subparallel to the rift valley of the active San Andreas Fault. The San Andreas is more than 600 miles long, extending from Pt. Arena to the Gulf of California. The Salinian block to the west of the San Andreas has a granitic core, extending from the southern extremity of the Coast Ranges to north of the Farallon Islands.

Extensive agricultural plains are found in the interior. These include the Santa Clara Valley, Salinas Valley, and Santa Maria Valley. Principal coastal features include Monterey Bay, Cypress Point, Point Lobos, Point Sur, Point Piedras Blancas, Morro Bay, Pismo Beach, and Point Sal.

A collection of unique aerial panoramas of this region may be seen in the
Central Coast section of the California Atlas of Panoramic Aerial Images.