Miles of stunning beaches uninterrupted by humans, waves crashing on rocks and into tidal pools filled with little critters, misty mountains and mesmerizing sunsets, saved my sanity during the lock down. California certainly has it’s share of stunningly beautiful destinations! Now that travel has resumed and summer is approaching, let me inspire you to book your vacation or adventure to one of these captivating small towns that move at a deliciously slow pace. Then sip and explore your way through the boutique wine region of San Luis Obispo Coast. Fun Fact… San Luis Obispo County is known as SLO County, suggesting that we should “SLO” down and enjoy the 80 plus miles of stunning beaches, beautiful hotels, delicious farm to table food, and world class wine! (Road trip anyone?) Summer is almost here and it is a beautiful time of year in SLO County. Think barn dance, outdoor movies, free concerts and beach bonfires during sunset. Contact me here to book your summer vacay before everywhere is booked up!
COVID & The Lockdown.
When we went on lockdown in 2020, I could feel the beginnings of a panic attack start in my stomach and with every month that went by, it became more and more pronounced.
For someone who traveled since I was two, this nightmare seemed never ending and I had to go somewhere, anywhere as it felt like the walls were starting to close in. I packed my bags and headed North up the California Coast. As the sun rose, the sky changed to beautiful pink, orange and purple colors and I could feel the stress disappearing with the morning mist. I found a few places to stay, triple sanitized, got delivery, and breathed.
The beautiful, unspoiled and sometimes foggy beaches stretched endlessly without intrusion, and I passed through delightful but quiet, small towns. Deserted mountain trails were covered in a misty blanket, with no another person in sight. The sunsets were even more beautiful in the clear sky and the colors mesmerizing. Nature was resetting and so was I. There is nothing like a global pandemic to make one step back and rethink your life! My journal was actually in use for once and a new vision for my life started to take shape. It was time to share my passion for travel and be an inspiration for those hesitant to explore our beautiful and exciting world.
When Countries started opening up, domestic travel was trending. Travelers where cautiously optimistic, families wanted to reconnect, and couples who postponed their weddings, were ready to get married! Many felt traveling domestically was easier, and less drama as no one wanted to get sick and be stuck in another country unable to get home until quarantine was over.
Discovering Cali’s Central Coast.
When hotels re-opened, it was time for another discovery trip to the Central Coast. This time to see which accommodations and venues survived COVID and are ready for guests, families or weddings. I headed to Pismo in search of a wedding venue and accommodation for a couple and their family, and stayed at the lovely Cottage Inn. (Review coming soon)
I arrived in Pismo as the sun was about to sink into the ocean and headed straight for the world-famous Pier. I stood at the railing, took a few deep breaths of salty sea air and watched the sun dip in the ocean. It felt as though time slowed especially so the sun could show off those last magical golden moments. I could see several beautiful hotels perched on the bluff with the most incredible ocean views. Many with access to the beach, and some pet friendly.
On the Pier there is a food truck called Sunsets that has some yummy beverages and good food, but I walked over to Wooly’s right next to the parking area and had a cocktail with appetizers while I watched all the beach activities, and admired the gorgeous sunset. If you want something a little more in the fine dining category, The Oyster Loft is right above Wooly’s and it has great seafood.
One trip turned to out to not be enough, so I headed back to SLO County a few more times. For my next trip I chose the Tides Ocean View Inn and Cottages, and I was not disappointed with that view! (Review coming soon).
Pismo is great for family travel with lots to do, as it has an outstanding selection of outdoor activities. For beach lovers surf camp at the Central Coast surf school will be a hit, and the hiking trails during sunrise or sunset with those ocean views are just breathtaking. You can also mountain bike on some of the same trails and they are all in the most beautiful surroundings. Don’t forget the Monarch Butterfly Grove and Meadow Creek Trail where you can see beautiful wildflowers.
If you are thinking about booking a wine tour or wine trail in the area, do add Pismo Beach as a stopover for two or three nights, but I recommend at least a week or more to fully enjoy all that charming little town has to offer. The wine bar, Tastes of the Valleys on Price Street and Giuseppe’s Italian Restaurant next door are also highly recommended.
San Luis Obispo County is a fabulous wedding and honeymoon destination as the area is so diverse. A couple could have their wedding at the beach, and go on to honeymoon in the mountains, or stay at a winery.
I found a beautiful venue called the Chapman Estate that is currently being renovated and perfect for small elopements or weddings. I will be posting more pictures next week but for now let me just say that it is very budget friendly, with fantastic ocean views and gardens for beautiful wedding pictures! There are several hotels nearby for family, friends and the “after party.” Contact me here for info and bookings.
San Luis Obispo City.
My next stop was San Luis Obispo City and as I got closer I noticed mist just rolling in over the mountains which gave it an almost surreal look and feel. It has a very different vibe than the beach towns, but just as captivating. As with most smaller towns it has a slower pace and an authenticity that is not often evident in larger cities. They are known for their warm and friendly locals, enticing regional cuisine, local art and crafts, and fascinating history and San Luis Obispo City is no exception.
I checked into the Apple Farm Inn for a couple of nights and found it absolutely delightful! (Full review coming soon.) Not only is the hotel lovely, but what makes it unique is their marketplace and wine cellar where you can taste and purchase wines and spirits from the local wineries and distilleries, as well as culinary and skin care items, art, beer and mixers. The rooms at the Apple Farm Inn are about to be renovated and I cannot wait to see those when they are done! Their restaurant is open daily for breakfast and lunch, and now also for dinner on the weekends. The food is really good and don’t forget to ask for one of their unique cucumber or kumquat vodka cocktails from Re:Find local distillery to go with dinner. I also tried Petra Mediterranean Pizza and Grill one evening which was quite good as fast food restaurants go.
Novo is another crowd favorite restaurant located in downtown San Luis Obispo. The food is locally sourced and outstanding, and the hand selected craft cocktails are delicious, as is the award-winning wine list. I loved the ambiance and intimate friendly environment. Definitely recommended.
Activities for the Active Traveler.
There are many activities and adventures to keep you and the family busy year round in SLO County. The beautiful Hearst Castle that has just reopened should be a must on your to-see list and if you are an ATV fan, head over to the Oceano sand dunes, and you can even camp out on the beach. If you are into mountain biking you will love the Montaña de Oro State Park, and standup paddelboarders should definitely take a trip to the beautiful Morro Bay. My next adventure there will definitely include whale watching at the beautiful Avila Beach. For those in need of rest and rejuvenation, there are several amazing wellness retreats. SLO County and SLO Wine country has so much more to explore and that will take another few trips to the Central Coast to see and experience it all.
SLO County has more than 250 wineries spread among two wine grape-growing regions, San Luis Obispo Wine Country and Paso Robles, so there is no shortage of tasting experiences to be had or places to stay. They have one and two-day wine tasting trails including my favorite; the sparkling tasting trail. More than 40 wine grape varieties grow in SLO CAL, and these can be sampled at over a 100 tasting rooms, each with its own character and vibe.
If you are into wine bars, then the new Region Bar in the SLO hotel is not to be missed. They serve some of the community’s best kept secrets and hard-to-find, independent wines. You can enjoy over 100+ wines by the taste, glass, or bottle.
SLO Wine Country is a boutique wine region where “The coast meets the vines.” It includes Paso Robles, also a gorgeous destination for wine aficionados. It is known for it’s world class wine and food, and there are a variety of beautiful lodgings from historic Inns to luxury resorts and rustic vineyards, yet still with that small town charm. If having a wedding at a winery is on your must-do list, head up to Paso for a look see. You won’t be disappointed. Paso Robles will be another post I look forward to writing soon.
Traveling by Road or Train.
For a different kind of adventure if you don’t feel like driving up to SLO Cal, you can always go by train and rent a car when you arrive. The Pacific Surfliner travels from San Diego to San Luis Obispo and offers coach and business class seating.
The drive from San Francisco is about 3 ½ hours and the same from Los Angeles. If you forgot to pack something don’t panic as there are several large chain stores nearby that will have whatever you need, and also smaller shops with specialty items that are often locally made. Do support them where you can.
Hopefully this post has inspired you to head up to the stunningly beautiful Central Coast of California. When you do, contact me HERE if you need help with inspiration. There are several other beautiful towns in SLO Cal County such as Morro Bay and Avila Beach, so follow me here for travel inspiration as I explore Cali and more, to bring you the beauty in your own backyard.
I want to thank Micki from Pismo County for showing me the beautiful Chapman Estate and Eric and Jacqui from the SLO Chamber and SLO County, as well as Nataly from Turner PR who all jumped in and gave me a lot of really helpful info. Much appreciated.
Thank you for spending time with me. If you have questions, feel free to complete the contact form below. See you next time.