California Dreaming

Adventure Travel, Bike, Food & Wine, Lost Girls, United States — By on August 12, 2008 at 2:28 pm

California SunsetI am in love. You know the feeling, that I’m-so-excited-to-be-alive/ butterflies-in-my-stomach/ nothing-can-get-me-down sensation. However, this high is not for a person, but a place. California’s Central Coast is better than being a single woman landing in Rome if you enjoy breath-taking scenery; outdoors activities such as surfing, biking, and hiking; and laid-back vibes. I came here to cure a case of writer’s block and to visit my sister, who is a nurse in the college town known as San Luis Obispo and who lives in nearby Shell Beach. SLO, as it’s called both for the obvious moniker and for the in-no-hurry mentality of the locals, is about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. There’s so much stuff to do here that I was able to sample only a few of the highlights. Here’s a virtual tour of a few of my favorite things:

Mr. Rick's BarBeach bars. Mr. Rick’s bar in Avila Beach has ocean views, pool tables, and karaoke. They even have a movie screen so you can watch music videos as you dance-or mimic them. Can you guess what my sister and our new friends are reenacting here? Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” of course!

Organic eats. The biggest social event around is the farmer’s market that happens everything Thursday on Higuera Street in downtown SLO. The entire street closes to traffic for a block party filled with fresh produce, barbecue, and live music.

Coastal TownExploring coastal towns. Once an old whaling station, Cambria is a picturesque little city about an hour north of SLO and is an inspiring place to chill out and write-or shop. It’s filled with sidewalk cafes, art galleries, antiques, and historic buildings such as the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse.

Morro BayGetting there on two wheels. My new way to get around town is on a bike. Luckily, Kate had an extra set of wheels for me, so we pedaled the 50-mile round-trip route to the fishing town known as Morro Bay. You can rent kayaks and dive here, but we only had enough energy to refuel with halibut fish tacos and a glass of chardonnay at Giovanni’s Fish Market and Galley.

Roadtripping. When my sister had to fly back to New York for a wedding, I stayed behind in her apartment to write by myself and watch her dog, Lulu. With the famous natural wonder, Big Sur less than a three-hour drive, I decided that Lulu and I could use a change of scenery. I had a hike planned for us on Ewoldsen Trail but the area was shut down due to the forest fires. Still, every (hairpin) curve along the way on Highway 101 revealed awe-inspiring views.

Olde Port InnWining and Dining. If you make it to the Central Coast, you have to eat at the Olde Port Inn. Seriously, I insist. Located at the end of the pier at Port San Luis, it was started by a fisherman who felt happiest sitting in that spot over the ocean and wanted other people to be able to experience it, too. When my sister and I arrived, we heard a sound strangely similar to barking dogs (about as harmonious as me attempting karaoke. Ha!). We quickly ran to the edge to discover these elephant seals who made their home on the wooden slabs. After that detour, we were seated inside the cozy eatery to watch the sunset over the harbor. Fresh seafood dishes such as classic clam chowder, crab quesadillas, and the Fisherman’s Plate (a combo of grilled fish, shrimp, scallops, and calamari) make it worth the trip-with or without the added bonus of seal sightings.

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  • Camels & Chocolate says:

    I hear ya, Holly! I am totally in love with California, too! And I think the Central Coast is among the most beautiful parts!

  • Not Goth says:

    Welcome to California!

    I dont want to be pedantic but its Morro Bay not Morrow.

  • The Lost Girls says:


  • Squeegee Beckenheim says:

    As a native New Yorker, I was born to hate California- but one trip to Orange County and it’s been impossible to not plan a move. I give myself two years before I’m a permanent OC’er.

  • TravelsInStiletto's says:

    The state’s spectacular cities hold their own allure, and each has a distinct personality. Up in San Francisco, you’ll find a fascinating mix of architecture and people, and you can visit the Golden Gate Bridge, more than 65 museums, and ride the cable cars. If you stay in one of our California hotels in Los Angeles, you can spend your time in outdoor pursuits like surfing, golf, or rock climbing, or visit famous spots like Hollywood and Disneyland.
    Down in San Diego, you can visit the famed San Diego zoo, home of the giant pandas. You may choose California lodging near the Hillcrest area, filled with vintage shops and quirky buys. Or you can choose one of our California vacation rentals in the downtown area, which is located on San Diego Bay, where you can check out some of the seventy miles of beaches.

  • Keren Moran says:

    As a girl who has never left Australia, your travel jounalism gives me itchy feet. SLO is definately on my “when i travel the world to do list”. Meanwhile, I’m content with my upcoming (first time) trip to Perth, which almost feels overseas from Sydney. Continuing with the glass-half-full thing, SLO has inspired me to get into bike-riding a bit more, to enjoy the outdoors and appreciate organic produce. Cheers girls.

  • says:

    See… Now what am I going to do?! How am I not supposed to find some extra vacation days to get to this area and write myself?! I’ve been daydreaming about a solo writing road trip to this area of CA for months now. Thanks for nothin’!;-)

  • bellereve_ says:

    I love the Central Coast. I’ve been going to Cambria, SLO, and Big Sur since I was eighteen months old.

  • Travel Hip. TV says:

    Cali is wonderful. I love to watch the sunset from the Montage in Laguna. There’s nothing like a sunset, sand, surf and champagne!

  • Mike Melton says:

    Wow, I just checked out your site today, because of the post on Rolf Potts site. I was loving your posts, and then I came to this one…I live in SLO! Next time you come through SLO you should check out Black Horse Espresso in Downtown SLO, its a great place to get your caffeine fix and free WiFi.

  • Mike Melton says:

    Sorry for the repetitive use of SLO … I’m ashamed.

  • Holly says:

    Thanks for the tip! I actually just laid my laptop out on a table by Barnes & Noble and Jamba Juice near the shopping center in downtown SLO. I'll definitely check out this place next time I'm in town (which will hopefully be soon!).