Pismo Beach (California Central Coast)

January 2019

In the winter, it’s fun to take our RV for short trips to familiar hangouts, and Pismo Beach is one of our favorite areas. Here are a few highlights of our recent trip:

1. Visiting elephant seals at Piedras Blancas (about an hour north of Pismo on Highway 1). At this time of year, females are giving birth to pups (we saw several newborns).

And males may engage in fights or posturing for dominance.

2. Hiking or biking the Bluff Trail at Montaña de Oro State Park. Beautiful cliff and ocean views make this a stunning walk or bike ride at any time of the year.

There is also a lot of bird activity, both on land and in the water, so bring binoculars or zoom lenses. (In the spring, this is a great wildflower hike as well, but not much right now.)

3. Biking or walking the Bob Jones City to the Sea Bike Trail in Avila Beach. There is a great Park and Ride just off the 101 freeway, and then you hop on your bikes for an easy ride down into town and the San Luis Obispo Bay where Avila Beach sits.

4. But don’t stop there. We rode our bikes just a little way further west on Avila Beach Drive, heading to the Port San Luis Pier, where we were treated to the best sea otter show we have ever seen. Moms were teaching otter pups to crack open shells and eat what was inside, and we watched spellbound for at least 30 minutes.

5. Walking along Pismo Beach, and exploring “downtown” Pismo Beach, including the Pismo pier, where there was a high surf advisory and we could feel the pier shaking as each wave rolled in.

6. Visiting the Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove (late October-February), where the monarch butterflies seek shelter from cold winter weather. This year had a disappointing number of monarchs, but they are beautiful nonetheless.

Board walking and beach walking at Oceano Dunes and Oso Flaco Lake. This complex is part of the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area, but the portion we visited does not allow motor vehicles, so it’s a better place to hike.

We parked at the end of Oso Flaco Lake Road, and then walked about a half-mile along a dirt road to where the boardwalk/bridge begins and continues over the lake.  This is a great place to watch birds (see below), and if you only go this far, it’s still a great nature experience.

If you continue past the lake, there is a boardwalk all the way to the sand, where you can beach hike among the dunes as much as you like.

8. What else can you do near Pismo? If the weather is good, there are great hikes in the area. Wine tasting in nearby Paso Robles is always fun, and you can rent kayaks in Morro Bay and explore that protected space (it’s also a good place to get up close and personal with sea otters).  And beyond Morro Bay, there’s Cambria, Hearst State Park (good for spotting otters from the bridge or viewing elephant seals on the beach), and of course, gorgeous Highway 1 (Pacific Coast Highway).

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