Northern California had been a land of adventures for us all, stretching our minds and our bodies! As we travelled cross-country from Yosemite to the California Pacific coastline we started to relax into our road trip. We were now into week 2, body clocks had adjusted, currency got to grips with and the pace and rhythm of our days as a family started to stabilise, we were in the holiday groove!
It was a long trip from Yosemite to Pismo beach (211 miles) which with a stop was around a 5 1/2 hour drive. A very straight road that charges it’s way through lots of flat almost desert like environment interspersed with vineyards and raisin farms! Take note that there are very few places to stop and refuel/feed the family until you get to Paso Robles where you intersect with the main highway 101 that runs the length of California so be prepared! After you head off from Paso Robles (a service station like you imagine on the set of a wild west film) you head straight through the mountains and down towards the Pacific ocean. That first glimpse of the Pacific was amazing, there is something mind-boggling about the scale of the ocean. I am a big fan of being near the water (I put it down to being Cancerian…:) it is my happy place and after the mountains and cities I was glad to be nearing the coast.
So Pismo Beach then, selected as a stop over for us on the way to Southern California but a place that is much more than that. A gem of a town with a laid back attitude to living and people to match. Whilst there is loads to do in the area, Hearst Castle and the vineyards a short drive away we wanted to relax and enjoy the simple things in life. Our days were spent at the pool, on the great beach and exploring the various parks (Dinosaur Caves park was fab). We also headed to Avila Beach ten minutes drive from Pismo with a great beach, lovely cafes and an upmarket but not pretentious feel. Check out our “finds” from three nights in Pismo…
1. Get a little sand between the toes!
There is the beach in downtown Pismo and also one further north near the main hotels that’s great for surfing and paddling. The coastline is rugged and so make sure you have competent swimmers. If you head to Avila the beach is calmer and probably better suited to families. There is also great play equipment at Avila and delis and ice cream shops to make an afternoon of it. Pismo beach has a retro feel with beach bars and a pier (which was under renovation when we went). Don’t forget to head to the beaches at sunset too, some of the best sunsets I have ever seen.
2. Keep your eye out for Whales (from the comfort of your hotel balcony!)
We had just arrived at our apartment at Pismo Lighthouse Suites and headed out onto the balcony only to see spouts of water and black tails of whales passing by. I have never seen the kids so still as we all sat and watched for the next movement! There were a large number and I have only ever seen this before in Hermanus in South Africa. We were thrilled to have had this chance to watch them, when we were least expecting it! The apartments themselves are a great find with good-sized rooms, coastline location and amazing games deck that kept the children occupied day and night. Oh, and I can’t go without mentioning the amazing cookies at reception and coffee on tap… it’s the little things when you are a mum:)
3. Hang out with the locals at Wooly’s bar and restaurant
Casual food in a casual setting , watch the sun go down and the surfers catch their last waves. The locals hang out here , with their dogs in tow, ultra friendly and a sensible price. Get there handy to grab a table on the outside decking for the best of the views. Other recommendations I have had but didn’t manage to visit are the Splash Cafe for its Clam Chowder and the Ventura Grill which is next to the Lighthouse Suites hotel we stayed at. Beware, it is popular so book in advance to enjoy this restaurant on a cliff overlooking the sea.
Pismo and Avila were a lovely surprise, places that you relax into and their laid back and authentic seaside feel make you feel at ease, somewhere you can be yourself.