24 Hours in San Luis Obispo County
If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen that last weekend was a whirlwind. My friend from high school got married on Friday. Saturday morning I had a flight to San Luis Obispo at 5:40 AM for my boyfriend’s grandparents’ 60 anniversary party, and I flew home on Monday at 6 AM. To say I’m tired would be an understatement!
Still, I had a great time! I wanted to write a travel diary of sorts on this trip. Even though we were technically in SLO County for 48 hours, we only got one real free day to ourselves so most of this post will focus on what we did then.
We flew into San Luis Obispo Regional Airport (SBP), which was a life saver on this short trip. It was actually cheaper to fly here than either San Francisco or LA and saved us several hours of driving. The airport is only 15 minutes from Pismo Beach, and we enjoyed seeing the vineyards as we were landing.
The airport has direct flights to a few big hubs (we flew in through Dallas and home through LAX), but is so small that we showed up 30 min before our flight Monday morning and were at the gate and on the plane 10 minutes later (though to be fair, we did have TSA Pre Check which helped hasten the process).
Where We Stayed
We initially stayed at an Air BnB in Atascadero. Brian’s grandparents live in Paso Robles and there were enough family members with cars so we didn’t have to worry about getting rides. We didn’t get a chance to explore Atascadero but Paso Robles was really pretty! Of course, I was mostly at the anniversary party but passing through, it was really beautiful. Apparently, when we came, the weather was experiencing a freakout and it was cold and rainy - in the 60s - which is unseasonably cold for the area. Still, when I left DC, it was 80 degrees and humid so it was nice to have a bit of a respite from the weather.
On the second day, we stayed at a little inn in Pismo Beach. To be honest, this was completely a last minute decision. We were told we could continue to stay at the Air BnB in Atascadero but after touring the cute little beach town, we wanted to stay. The inn was called The Beach Walker and while it’s no five-star resort, it was comfortable enough. Really though, we only stayed out until 10:30 or so because we had that early flight. It’s pretty inexpensive and only two blocks away from the beach so if you want ocean access, this is a good place to stay.
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Where We Ate
Though most of the food we ate was at the potluck party in Paso Robles, we did get a few hours to ourselves. After breakfast provided by the party, we had lunch at Avila Beach. There’s a really cute old school fish market at the pier called “Olde Port Fish Market” and it was so fun to walk through and see the sea lions. We ate at Olde Port Inn which is located right on the pier by the fish market. They had these awesome tables with clear glass that had cut out bottoms that gave you a view directly into the ocean! It kind of felt like we were eating on a glass-bottom ocean tour boat. I had the clam chowder and it was amazing! I also was able to sample some of the other dishes that people at our table got like the dungeness crab quesadilla (SO delicious!), calamari, and jambalaya. I highly recommend it!
Brian and his family used to spend every Thanksgiving at Pismo beach. His family would rent houses in Oceano but Brian fondly remembered the grownups taking a taxi on one of the nights and heading to Harry’s Night Club and Beach Bar for a fun time. Since Brian was never old enough to go at the time, we thought it’d be fun for both of us to go this time around. I’ve maintained that I’ve aged out of night clubs but this place didn’t have a super young crowd. They had live music - two bands, in fact! - and they were both quite good! We were able to chat with some of the locals. Coming from a big east coast city where people tend to keep to themselves, it was nice to meet friendly people in California.
We didn’t eat here, but Brian did point out the Splash Cafe in Pismo Beach which is famous for their clam chowders. Though I personally can’t say how delicious the food is there, I trust Brian’s food senses.
We also got ice cream and saltwater taffy at Tomasco’s Saltwater Taffy. I got a mint chip ice cream cone and it was fun walking with it around the beach (despite the cold). I’ve never been much of a taffy person but Brian assured me that his taffy was delicious.
What We Saw
The majority of my sightseeing was done in Avila and Pismo Beaches. Unfortunately, it rained for most of that time and it was rather chilly so we tried to duck into warmer and drier spaces. As I said earlier, there’s a really cool old-school fish market at Avila that had some of the biggest and freshest fishes and crabs I’ve seen. Walking along the pier, we were able to spot a a colony of sea lions on a boat, taking in the sun.
On Pismo beach, we took in the ocean with some ice cream and saltwater taffy. There are LOTS of little hotels, motels, and inns by the beach. It was kind of kitschy but I really appreciated it because it added character. With all the palm trees and the brightly painted California-style buildings, Pismo was a really cute coastal town that I would totally move to if I could. Though it was too cold to go near the water, it was nice to soak in the (brief moments of) sun and smell the salty ocean air.
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What I Packed
As usual, I packed my belongings in my London Fog suitcase. Since I was only in California for the weekend, I really didn’t pack all that much and I didn’t check any bags. I should also note again that the weather in SLO County that weekend was unseasonably cold - Brian and his cousins commented that it felt like a Californian January rather than May. I saw that we would be in for chillier temps so I tried to pack accordingly. I did bring one dress (My Sezane Gloria dress) that I brought just in case the weather got nicer but ended up never wearing because it was too cold. Still, it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it (my packing philosophy). Hover over these photos to see the brands!
There you have it! Everything you need to know about my brief but wonderful trip to the beautiful central Californian coast!
Have you been to SLO? What was your experience like? Let me know in the comments!