Driving up the coast to Pismo Beach was just unbelievably beautiful. Imagine verdant hills on your right and rocky cliffs on your left overlooking the largest ocean on the planet. Our plan is not to travel longer than three hours and this leg was about 1 1/2 hours thus, we took our time and enjoyed the ride.
The five cities are comprised of Arroyo Grande, Oceano, Grover Beach, Shell Beach and Pismo Beach. All the these cities run into each other and each is very special in their own way. AG, as known to the locals, is usually referred to as Vintage California while Oceano is known for its sand dunes and for having the only state beach on which vehicles are allowed. Grover is known for having the only train station in the area and Shell is a gorgeous oceanfront community with breathtaking stretches of coastline and beachfront parks. Pismo is a really cool town with an amazing pier, surrounded by lots of excellent eateries and surf shops.
While in Pismo, Jackson absolutely loved his morning beach walks. He constantly pulled me toward the beach and his nose would get to work as soon as he reached the sand. However, driving the beachfront in Oceano was actually fun, although I was a bit nervous. The last thing I wanted was to get stuck and have to get towed out. Driving on the sand was a new experience for me. We drove for a while and decided to park the truck on the soft sand and began our walk. We did have to look both ways as vehicles were coming from both directions. We were fortunate to see horses being ridden beachside and of course, Jackson had something to say about that too!
Many had told us we would not have direct access to the beach from the campground we had chosen, however, I did not find that to be the case. The campground had not one but three beach accesses thru the dunes which were covered by dosanthemums, better known as ice plants. A small trail had been cut out to provide access. As we wandered up and down the dunes, the walks to the beach were not strenuous.
It was exciting to have been able to have dinner with new friends, Kathy and Victor Mayeron, whom we met while wintering in Arizona.
We visited the Monarch Butterfly Grove because it happened to be practically next to the campground knowing fully well that the season ended in February, but since it was open year round, we were hoping against hope. We did see three lonely Monarch butterflies fluttering around. During season however, thousands of colorful Monarchs cluster in the limbs of Eucalyptus and Monterey Pines giving them the appearance of having orange and yellow leaves.
With that excursion a bust, we decided instead to drive up to Avila Beach, yet another small coastal town which offers the magnificent 1.5 mile Bob Jones Trail and mineral springs.
There are so many beautiful coastal towns in California, yet Morro Bay was different in that it is a waterfront town full of unique boutique shops and a plethora of restaurants to choose from all along the waterfront. It is mainly known for Morro Rock, an ancient volcanic mound with a height of 576′, where falcons usually nest. We drove to the rock and although it was disappointing that we did not see any falcons, it was exciting in that we were able to see many sea lions and sea otters freely swimming along its shore.
During the entire stay in the area, the weather was either cool or gloomy, sometimes both. The locals call it May gray and June gloom, however, we were so happy our last weekend broke the norm, it happened to be Mother’s Day weekend and it was glorious. There was not a cloud in the sky. As we walked the beach we noticed that lots of people were setting up tents and umbrellas anxious to soak up the sun. Everyone intending to go in the ocean, whether surfing or not wore wet suits, little children included. It’s a good thing because the water is really cold and although normal to the locals, wearing wet suits on the beach is not something we are accustomed to seeing.
Food in this area cannot be more fresh and we experienced a complete range from elegant dining to family-run cafés where regional wines were made available.
Our last venture was to visit San Luis Obispo. It is one of the most populous towns in the area and home to Cal Poly, California Polytechnic State University. So in addition to it being a college town, SLO, has one of the most charming shopping districts I have seen. The tree lined downtown provides both shade and uniqueness. We came across an alley the locals call bubblegum alley, which could be, depending on your outlook, either a work of art or just plain disgusting. People come from near and far just to affix their chewed gum on the alley’s walls.
On our last night in Pismo we were fortunate to see a sunset. These gloomy days with lots of cloud cover rarely afford the opportunity for beautiful sunsets.
We left Pismo and took off on probably what will be our shortest drive, a whopping 45 minutes to the central coast’s wine country. Stay with us as we have more adventures coming!