The Central Coast Treasures of Avila Beach
One-Stoplight Beach Town Offers a Family-Friendly, Quick Trip
Ever since relocating to Southern California a few decades ago, I’ve made the road trip to and from my Northern California hometown more times than I can remember. But it wasn’t until this fall that I exited the highway at Avila Beach. I’m glad I did. With family in tow, a long weekend in this quiet beach town — just 100 miles from Santa Barbara — produced a much-needed mental reset brought on by comfortable lodging, sightseeing discoveries, and plenty of food-based indulgences.
Pulling into town on a Thursday evening, we hung a left at Avila Beach’s one and only stoplight to arrive at Avila Lighthouse Suites, which commands a wide view across San Luis Obispo Bay. Late out of the gate from Santa Barbara, we had missed our reservation in nearby Oceano for a show at The Great American Melodrama & Vaudeville, and as we checked in and set out on foot for dinner, I may have pinky promised my daughters a return trip for its rollout of A Christmas Carol. After toasted flatbread chicken-pesto sandwiches at Old Custom House, we hit the sack, looking forward to the morning’s two-wheeled tour.
The bicycle may be the greatest form of transportation. But when you’re in semi-lazy vacation mode, why even pretend you want to do any actual pedaling? Enter Pedego Electric Bikes, provider of our fully powered quiver — beach cruisers for my better half and our 12-year-old, plus a sturdy two-seater for me and our youngest — upon which we experienced more fun than can be reasonably described within the confines of this article. All smiles at 10-15 miles per hour, we hummed along Bob Jones Trail for lunch at Avila Valley Barn, a produce market with hayrides, free-ranging fowl, and hungry goats looking for a handout. The crisp crunch of fresh cabbage topped the warm pulled pork of my open-face sandwich.
That evening along the waterfront, we discovered that the whole of Avila Beach finds collective joy in cruising the farmers’ market, swaying to live music, and deep-sixing happy-hour specials. A few blocks from the action, we dined on crab cakes, bread-bowl chowder, and baked sea bass at Ocean Grill.
Our Saturday began with Mexican mochas at Kraken Coffee Co., named after that sea monster from Clash of the Titans, an old favorite of the café’s owner. Then we drove to nearby Edna Valley for an early lunch. With great fondness I remember the Toscano panini — lean ham, sharp provolone, pepperoncinis, and pesto from locally grown basil — at The Gourmet Deli, part of Sextant Wines. We made it back to town for octopus feeding time at Central Coast Aquarium, and tied off our day on Hanford Pier for Alaskan cod, Delaware oysters, and steamed clams at Mersea’s.
Sunday morning arrived all too soon, and with the Central Coast blue and tranquil in the rearview mirror, we checked out with breakfast burritos and platter-sized pancakes at Rock & Roll Diner in Oceano. We’ll be back, Avila Beach. We pinky promise.
For more on the region, visit highway1discoveryroute.com.