This was our first post-COVID family get away. Actually, it was our first leisure trip together in a while. Over the past few years there were many trips to Arizona to help Lori’s mom and spend time together before she passed away.
We have visited Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Barbara with Indy and wanted to explore somewhere new. So, we looked further north on the California coast. After much research, we decided to stay in Pismo Beach because it is a central location to explore nearby towns like Morro Bay and San Louis Obispo; and it is super close to the Edna Valley wine region. No need to decide between the beach and wine tasting!
Pismo Beach is a small, laid-back beach town that is popular with surfers. In fact, the ISA World Para Surfing Championship was going on during our visit. Pismo is also popular with monarch butterflies who stop by during their winter migration (November – February). I was excited to visit the Monarch Butterfly Grove but a little bummed because the beauties hang out very high in the trees and it is difficult to see them. But still, it was cool to stop by and learn about the western monarch butterfly; and Indy made a few friends.
The downtown area is small and cozy with a few shops (mostly touristy stuff) along with several restaurants, bars, and cafes. My favorite part of the downtown area was the quirky street signs along Prince Street. How can you not feel uplifted after reading messages like these…
- Live in the sunshine, Swim in the sea, Drink the wine
- Sunset is my favorite color
- If you are not having fun, you are doing it wrong
Due to the terrain in this part of the California coast, the beach is not as big as some California beaches. But it is beautiful and a great place to take a relaxing walk. And yes – dogs are allowed on the beach in Pismo (on-leash). I enjoyed watching a Labrador romp in the sand and gleefully jump into a pile of icky stuff and roll around (to his owner’s dismay). The closest beach access to the hotel was two blocks away and down a very long wooden stairway (122 steps – I counted). It reminded me of the stairs in the beach town where I grew up in New York. If you or your dog have mobility limitations, not to worry because the beach access is a lot easier by the pier – just a few steps.
We ate most meals at the hotel, which had a full kitchen (see section ‘Where We Stayed’) a but got take away several times. Our favorite was the brunch at La Bodega (try the Morning Glory – a thin open-faced omelet, fresh Mozzarella cheese, Prosciutto de Parma, fresh arugula and cherry tomatoes, lemon vinaigrette). They even had a homemade biscuit for Indy (he said it was very yummy). The restaurant has a dog-friendly outdoor patio for dinner and weekend brunch.
Edna Valley Wine Tasting
Edna Valley is a good region for wine tasting because it is just 15 minutes from Pismo Beach and many wineries are close to each other. There are also several dog-friendly wineries. One drawback was that the day required a fair amount of advance planning because several wineries required a reservation and some required a deposit (not sure if it is due to COVID or always the case). We went on a Monday and it was very quiet and peaceful – we only met a few fellow tasters.
When we went wine tasting with Indy in Santa Ynez a few years ago, it was a not easy to find a transportation company that allowed dogs in in their vehicles (we did find one that was great). So, we took a different approach this time and hired a designated driver to drive our car. There are several designated driver companies in the Central Coast. We were very happy with Wayne at Destination Drivers! He confirmed several times and arrived on time. He was friendly, brought bottled water, took some great photos for us, and even helped out with Indy.
We started the day at Biddle Ranch and split a flight. The tasting is in a large outdoor garden with lots of tables and couches and a pretty view of the vineyards. (Dog tip: bring a blanket because the ground in the garden is gravel.) Our favorites were the sparkling wine extra brut and BRV red blend.
Next it was off to Baileyana for a reserve flight and charcuterie plate. We liked the Tangent sauvignon blanc and S-Bar pinot noir. Baileyana was Indy’s favorite winery because there was a comfy grassy area beside the table.
The final two wineries we visited did not require an advance reservation – Wolff and Sextant. Both had an indoor dog-friendly tasting room. Our favorites at Wolff were the sparkling cuvee blanc de blanc and petite sirah. Sextant had a yummy zinfandel.
We had an afternoon reservation at Claiborne and Churchill but cancelled it the day before because we didn’t want to have to watch the clock all day.
As you see, Edna Valley offers a wide range of wine options from sparkling to zinfandel.
Morro Bay is 25 miles north of Pismo Beach. You may have seen photos of the famous Morro rock. The town is a bit larger than Pismo with shops, galleries, and museums; but is still intimate. We parked at the Embarcadero near the waterfront and took a short walk. Michael was drawn to Rancho Olivos where we said hi to the sweet resident dog and bought some goodies made with locally grown ingredients: orange blossom honey, blueberry peach jam, lemon olive oil, bleu cheese stuffed olives, and lavender scented lotion and room spray.
San Louis Obispo
The town of San Louis Obispo is larger than Pismo Beach and an easy 20-minute drive away. Lori got a great vibe as we entered the quaint downtown area and knew it was a place she wanted to explore. There is a lot to check out – the mission, art museum, and are several blocks of unique shops and restaurants. We were thrilled to find an authentic Turkish café Lokum which reminded us of the month we spent in Istanbul during our world trip. The pomegranate and pistachio Turkish delight covered with rose petals was beautiful and delectable.
Where We Stayed
We stayed in the beach house at the Tides Pismo Beach. It is two blocks from beach access and a ten-minute walk to downtown and the pier. The ocean view is heaven and the house is spacious, but the interior is a bit worn out and could use a refresh. There is a yard with comfy chairs and a firepit overlooking the ocean, but it is not fenced. The hotel has a designated area for the doggie potty with poop bags and a trash can. At night when we opened the living room windows, we could hear the roar of the waves – ahhh.
Impressions of the Central Coast Trip
Indy gave the trip a paws-up. Michael and Lori are eager to return to the Central Coast and spend more time exploring Morro Bay and San Louis Obispo town.
California Central Coast Travel Resources
- Pismo Beach Visitor Information
- Morro Bay Visitor Information
- San Louis Obispo Town Travel Information
- Veterinarians for any dog emergencies (happily, we did not need them) –
Pismo Beach Vet Clinic and Central Coast Pet Emergency Hospital
- Designated driver for wine tasting – Destination Drivers (ask for Wayne Buckner)