Among the plentiful pleasures of life on the Central Coast is the ease with which we can embark on a weekend getaway. From Capitola to Carpinteria, we’re surrounded by communities that offer familiarly chill vibes yet enough new faces and undiscovered places to make for a memorable two-night escape. Best of all, many are within a 90-minute drive, so you can leave town after a full Friday of work, reach your destination in time for your dinner reservation, and repeat on Sunday, enjoying a day of play before getting home for supper.
My family’s latest lark was to Los Osos-Baywood Park, a quiet, conveniently forgotten coastal enclave due west of San Luis Obispo and just enough off the beaten track of 101 that accidental visits don’t happen. I was reminded of the area during a work stop at the Baker & Brain (bakerandbrain.com) tasting room, where proprietor Melanie Baker enthused about her ’hood’s family-friendly scene. A few weeks later, with the guidance of Highway1DiscoveryRoute.com, we were on our way.
Our home for two nights was the Sea Pines Golf Resort (seapinesgolfresort.com), which, like much of the area, feels stuck in a happy, simpler time. Located near the lonely sand dunes at the southern end of Morro Bay and haunted by hawks, herons, egrets, and other majestic species, it’s home to an executive nine-hole course that’s challenging enough to keep Dad interested, but basic enough to keep my 9-year-old son in the hunt. It’s really quite amazing that a hotel within earshot of the Pacific Ocean can still be had for less than $200 a night.
The resident Clubhouse Grill is an all-day affair, serving craft beers late into the night as well as big breakfasts like chicken-fried steak and chilaquiles to uplift the slower mornings that may result. We happened to visit during one of its popular Saturday afternoon concerts — it went down right outside our door, so we watched folks of all ages dance on the putting green while sporadically dipping into the comforts of our two-room suite.
My favorite way to get a handle on a new destination is through its food scene, which is relatively thriving in this tiny, two-name town. Our first dinner was at Noi’s Little Thai Takeout, where we watched a multi-ethnic, all-female team hustle in a hot kitchen over pots of various curries, noodles, and rice dishes. It’s BYOB, so we sucked down zesty Chukker cabernet franc and a crisp Tablas Creek white wine over some of the better Thai we’d ever had.
There’s great grub and BYOB wine at Noi’s Little Thai Takeout
Saturday’s lunch entertained the Japanese cuisine at Kuma. (kumabowls.com), which was buzzing inside, even though it looked empty from the parking lot. Fresh tap beer, sports on TV, briny uni slurps, eel rolls, and ramen noodles for the kids did us well.
Our sit-down dinner on Saturday landed at the top table in town, which must be one of the best in all of San Luis Obispo County: the Blue Heron (blueheronbaywood.com), located downstairs from the Back Bay Inn and across from the humorously diminutive Baywood “pier.” “Contemporary coastal cuisine” is the game, from oysters and smoked fish rangoon to quinoa-crusted scallops, but the non-fish dishes are prime too, including house-made pasta and homegrown veggies. The wine list could keep me there for days: bubbles from the Jura and Tasmania, chenin blanc by Thacher, chardonnay by Deovlet, syrah by Stolo, and much more from both near and far. More tempura fish tacos, and that Baywood Burger too, please!
After our golf outing, the whole family headed about five minutes away to El Moro Elfin Forest (elfin-forest.org), where the steady sea influence of wind and salt have sculpted oak trees into fairy-sized warrens. The paths follow a boardwalk, but there are hollows where you can climb into the low branches and hold court like a wizard of the woods.
After a quick sip or two at Baker & Brain, which hosts food trucks serving freshly baked goods on the weekends, a trip to Montaña de Oro (parks.ca.gov) is mandatory — indeed, this state park is the only reason why most know of Los Osos-Baywood Park. At one popular beach, where kids stand-up paddled in a calm estuary, we jumped over waves to explore the tidepools along a tall, rocky spine that extended toward the sea.
On Sunday, our energies were reserved strictly for the water: a canoe paddle across Morro Bay, courtesy of Sub Sea Tours & Kayaks (subseatours.com). As we slipped past fishing trawlers, sailboats, big yachts, and a playful sea otter toward the sandy dunes across the bay, I hummed the theme to Jaws, a soundtrack that my family quickly rejected.
Upon returning to the harbor an hour later — windblown but not shark-bitten — we sipped on sour beers and chowed on mussels and fried artichoke hearts at The Libertine Brewing Company (libertinebrewing.com). Then I bought a wide-brimmed, hipster-ish hat that was handmade nearby. It’s an enduring reminder of our weekend away in a community just enough apart, but so close to home.
See Highway1DiscoveryRoute.com for more details, reservations, and travel tips.