Cambria – Located just off of California’s Pacific Coast Hwy 1 is Cambria – a picturesque artists community set amidst the pine trees and foothills half way between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Head to Cambria’s “East Village” for a selection of small restaurants and cafe’s set between gardens and old historical buildings. There is a cute downtown village area with boutiques, antique shops, flower stores and art and jewelry galleries. Cambria has a selection of great hotels to choose from. The FogCatcher Inn has beautifully appointed rooms – I highly reccomend a stay in one of the oceanview rooms. Centrally located, Cambria is a great place to head out on day-trips from. Vacationers can head a short distance to tour either Hearst Castle or to San Simeon, home to one of California’s largest populations of elephant seals. Moonstone Beach is also nearby, which is a great place to walk the beach before dining at one of the delicious restaurants while you take in some amazing ocean views.
Morro Bay – Surrounded with natural beauty, Morro Bay is a great place to spend the day or the weekend. Whether you like shopping, hiking, boating or all of the above, this harbor town has it. Morro Bay’s Natural Estuary has great hiking trails, and is home to the Museum of Natural History and a Heron Rookery Preserve. Continue down Morro Bay’s Coast and you will find more bluff trails, the Elfin Forest and the Sweet Springs Preserve. The entire bay is home to many different species of birds making it a bird-watcher’s dream. Morro Bay also has a great beach, with certain parts that are dog-friendly. Local surfers enjoy “the Rock” – not only does this break have a killer view of Morro Rock, but the water is a few degrees warmer than the surrounding water thanks to the
Avila Beach – For a funky little beach town that’s not much larger than a neighborhood, Avila Beach sure knows how to make headlines. In the late 90′s and into 2000 the community got an almost complete makeover after it was discovered that a Union Oil Co underground pipeline had been slowly seeping oil into the ground for decades. But now Avila is back and better than ever, with a re-vamped boardwalk that hosts a farmer’s market each Friday afternoon, delicious deli’s and an assortment of upscale eateries. Locals and visitors enjoy Avila for its unpretentious and friendly atmosphere where flip flops and sandy toes are practically a uniform. Looking for some great grub? Be sure to wander over to nearby Port San Luis to Fat Cat Cafe – it’s so good that Sunset Magazine wrote about it!
Shell Beach – Unlike the others on the list, Shell Beach doesn’t have a central downtown or main street, per se, and really is more of a neighborhood. If you turn down Silver Shoals Road off of Shell Beach Road, you will dead end into a grassy area on the bluffs of what the locals have dubbed “Silver Shoals Beach.” This park is a great place for picnics and people watching. There is a dirt trail that leads down to the beach where, even on a windy day, is perfect for sunbathing as the sand is protected from the elements by the sea wall behind you. Feel free to bring your furry friend – the crowd is usually mellow and on the younger side so nobody minds that you are voilating the “no dogs on the beach” policy that most California beaches seem to have. If you’re looking to stay in Shell Beach, check out the lux Dolphin Bay Inn – not only is is gorgeous, set atop the bluffs with panoramic views of the Central Coast, but the cast of Pirates of the Caribbean stayed there while they were filming on the nearby dunes!
Pismo Beach – If you want some action, Pismo is the beach for you – there is more going on and much more to do here than at any of the other beaches on this list. Pismo Beach offers great shopping. Vacationers can find everything from surf stores, antique stores, candy shops, souvenir stores and more. Pismo’s sandunes are a great place to camp, go off roading and ride horses. The pier at Pismo Beach is a great place to fish, people watch and get tasty treats including hot dogs, ice cream, and snow cones to name a few. As you stroll the beach, look for the volleyball nets – there is often pickup games and the courts are also the location of tournaments during certain times of the year. You must allot time for a trip to Splash Cafe. Be prepared to wait, but I assure you that even a half hour wait is well worth it. There is a lot to choose from on the menu – and all of it is good – but this place is famous for their clam chowder.