Santa Barbara and the Central Coast: Places to Explore


Pismo Beach

About 20 miles of sandy shoreline—nicknamed the Bakersfield Riviera for the throngs of vacationers who come here from the Central Valley—begins at the town of Pismo Beach. The southern end of town runs along sand dunes, some of which are open to cars and off-road vehicles. Sheltered by the dunes, a grove of eucalyptus trees attracts thousands of migrating monarch butterflies from November through February. A long, broad beach fronts the center of town, where a municipal pier extends into the sea at the foot of shop-lined Pomeroy Street. To the north, hotels and homes perch atop chalky oceanfront cliffs.

Fewer than 10,000 people live in this quintessential surfer haven, but Pismo Beach has a slew of hotels and restaurants with great views of the Pacific Ocean. Still, rooms can sometimes be hard to come by. Each Father's Day weekend the Pismo Beach Classic, one of the West Coast's largest classic-car and street-rod shows, overruns the town. A Dixieland jazz festival in February also draws crowds.

California Welcome Center (333 Five Cities Dr., Pismo Beach, CA, 93449. 805/773–7924.)

Pismo Beach Visitors Information Center (Dolliver St./Hwy. 1, at Hinds Ave., Pismo Beach, CA, 93449. 800/443–7778 visitor center; 805/773–7034 visitor information. Weekdays 9–5, Sat. 11–4.)