Residents of the Central Valley of California, like our friends Monica and Jack, often travel to the Central Coast to escape the heat in the summer and the fog in the winter. January at the Central Coast is the best-kept secret in the world. It was fresh and breezy the day we arrived but calm and close in the 70s the next day.
Here are some spots you might want to check out.
Secret #1 Pacific Plaza Hotel in Oceano
These individually owned properties at Pacific Plaza Hotel each have one bedroom, kitchen, living room, dining nook, and bath. If you don’t want to cook or drive, you can walk to four restaurants within two blocks of the hotel.
For January, the manager ran a special in which guests paid the last two digits of their birth year as rent for the night. This resort offers reasonable rates the rest of the year as well. Bordering on Ocean Lagoon Park, which has a wheelchair-accessible fishing overhang, it is only a short walk from the beach.
Across the street friends with an RV can park at the Oceano Campground in Pismo State Beach. I have stayed there as well and loved the walk to the beach.
Secret #2 Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove
In the thirty years I have visited the Central Coast, I had never seen the Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove. When our friend Scott Wright posted this picture of the butterflies, I knew I had to go there.
A friend asked me why her daughter didn’t see any butterflies in the summer when she was there. It’s closed most of the year because the butterflies are either dead or elsewhere, mostly elsewhere. We learned that summer butterflies hatch, mate and die within about six weeks. Winter butterflies have a much more exciting life.
The Monarch Butterfly Grove is located half a mile south of Pismo Beach just off Hwy 1. If you want to see Monarchs, the season opened October 28, 2017, and closes February 28, 2018. So get there soon.
Barbara, a retired PE teacher, walked around telling people to watch their steps or they would step on mating butterflies. That was her only job. One couple visiting from Oregon asked her a question. Better than a swarm of butterflies landing on your arm that opened a serendipitous opportunity for the six of us to hear one of the best lecturers not on the lecture circuit.
Barbara told us about butterfly sex and other titillating topics for over forty minutes. In this last six-minute video, you will learn about the female butterfly’s health benefits of having sex. Girls listen up.
Secret #3 Drive South on 101
Los Olivos may be the cutest, cleanest town in California. They usually get lots of traffic from Los Angeles. Unfortunately, because of the heart-breaking fire and mudslides in Montecito this year, their tourism business is suffering.
We had the fortune to run into the Santa Ynez Chamber of Commerce President. She served as our YELP. There are twenty-three wineries along the promenade, but only two coffee shops. We weren’ ready for wine at 9:00 am.
- Corner House Coffee shop – The coffee was decent, and the decor was great.
- When we arrived at the coffee shop Stafford’s Chocolates next door was closed, but Monica noticed an open door when we finished and charged over. In the process of learning about the adorable shop, we found the best chocolate I’ve ever tasted. The excellent news is that the chocolates are made in Porterville, which is in Tulare County where we live! I’ll tell you more about this fabulous place, and it’s owner Amy Freedman later. I took a great video and some mouth-watering photos.
- Oak Hill Farm Local Olive Oil Tasting. We tried basil and blood orange olive oil. They are great for salads as well as cooking.
Santa Ynez is cowboyish while Los Olivos is more the Old West revival, according to my real estate husband. There is so much to see here that we only scratched the surface – food.
Laura, from the Santa Ynez Chamber of Commerce, sent us to the Brothers Restaurant at the Red Barn owned by Matt and Jeff Nichols. It was spotless and had the best food ever. I had fried calamari and a chicken sandwich.
After that huge meal, we ambled next door to a dress shop but felt too fat and happy to buy anything.
Father Junipero Sera founded the iconic Old Mission of Santa Barbara, the heart of today’s city of Santa Barbara, in 1786. Do you know how the mission got its name?More important to my husband was to visit the Porsche dealer to unearth a good deal on a used Porsche. Thankfully, the Porsche stayed parked in Santa Barbara.
The last tour of the Mission started at 1:00, and we arrived at 4:30. Except for the gift shop and the entry information, the Mission was closed. We enjoyed the beautiful weather and the golden hour made it the perfect time to capture some photos. You’ve probably seen pictures of this glorious mission, but seeing it in person adds a new dimension. I’ll write more about it in a future post.
Secret #4 The Five Cities Area
Winery Tours are popular just on the outskirts of Pismo Beach to the east. We stopped in to see the Old Edna Townsite. We were thrilled to see our friend Pattea Torrence, who continues to restore the old townsite to its former glory. The day we visited she was busy remodeling this perfect new home for an antique store, or maybe chocolates. mmm
You can find vacation rentals as well as wine tasting. The wine tasting, owned by a separate company, Sextant Wines, disappointed me but I like sweet wines.
Secret #5 Sculpterra Winery and Sculpture Garden
We were on our way home from our short Central Coast trip, and Jack said, “I want to take you to Sculpterra Winery. We wondered why in the world he would be so insistent that we go there. Jack doesn’t usually drink wine.
But wineries on the Central Coast are more than wineries, each one vying for the most unique, most beautiful spot in paradise. I put one picture on Facebook, and the comments started rolling in. You will soon learn why.
If my pictures don’t do this winery justice, and they don’t, you’ll have to go for yourself. Inside we found more treasures, not the least of which was Darren Brown, the photographer-narrator of this YouTube Video. I’ll write more about this fabulous experience in a later post as well.
Hope you enjoyed this quick drive to the beautiful Central California Coast. In the next few weeks, I’ll highlight some of the most enjoyable, unique spots in their own posts.
Have you been to the Central California Coast? Tell me about your experiences.
More Exciting Road or Walking Trips
- Cee Neuner’s Which Way Challenge
- Monday Walks with Jo (This is a stretch to be a walking trip, but we drove and walked. Does that count, Jo?)