L.A. residents are spoiled. Surrounded by scenic beaches like Venice, Santa Monica, Malibu, etc., it’s no wonder people feel like every day is spring break. But now that time off is around the corner, plan an adventure just three hours north, and you’ll find a different set of breathtaking sandscapes – some unpopulated and serene, others speckled with piers and fishing boats and a bustling few with mating elephant seals, sea lions, harbor seals and views of migrating gray whales.

Begin your journey traveling north up Highway 1. Three words: gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. Driving up the winding seaside road compels you to appreciate just how lucky you are to live in this natural wonderland.

Along the way, there are many places to stop and admire the vistas. One is Point Mugu in Ventura County, and another is the historic pier on Ventura Beach. Grab a basket of fish and chips and a fish taco at Pier Beach Grill all for $10.

A convenient spot to stay while you’re discovering Central Cali’s beaches is the Pismo Beach – Grover Beach Holiday Inn Express (hiexpress.com). Clean, sporting a heated pool and Jacuzzi and centrally located to lots to do, it’s ideal for a mini-getaway. And let me not forget to mention the free continental breakfast (with warm cinnamon rolls) and heated Otis Spunkmeyer cookies upon check-in.

Right down the road is the cozy Quarterdeck Restaurant (goodseafood.com). Steak and seafood have never tasted so good, and the atmosphere is priceless.

Avila Beach, about 10 minutes north of Pismo, is a cute and self-contained seaside city. There’s Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort (sycamoresprings.com), which offer hot tubs in the middle of a woodsy paradise. At only $15/per person per hour, it’s a no-brainer.

A short drive around the bay is Port San Luis Pier, and if you’re lucky you can see sea lions and harbor seals trying to steal fish from the boats.

Next, stop by the Avila Wine & Roasting Company (avilawineandroasting.com) to sample some local varieties. Take a walk down Avila’s main oceanfront strip and dine at Custom House (oldcustomhouse.com). After, sneak through the adjoining door to Mr. Rick’s (mrricks.com) for a post-dinner drink and live entertainment.

One of the must-sees in the area is San Simeon’s Hearst Castle. Drive an hour north of Pismo Beach and take in the magnificence that is Hearst Castle, boasting 127 acres of gardens, terraces, pools and walkways and 165 rooms.

Built by media mogul William Randolph Hearst, it was a playground for a who’s who list of Hollywood celebs and VIPs in the 1930s. You can choose from about five tours, but Tour 1 is for first-timers. And be sure to watch the 40-minute film, Hearst Castle, Building the Dream, before you ascend the Enchanted Hill, which celebrated its 50th year being open to the public last June.

About four miles north of Hearst Castle is a not-to-miss spectacle. Northern Elephant Seals are lounging on the sand, mating and giving birth. They are truly a sight to see – and hear! If you look around for people in blue jackets, you can get the lowdown from Friends of the Elephant Seal docents.

There are so many beaches to see around Pismo, you may have to choose between the lesser of two nirvanas. Two top choices are the stretch by Morro Rock in Morro Bay, where loads of surfers catch waves all day, and the secluded spots in Montaña de Oro State Park.

It’s also fun to stop in the many little coastal towns. We found the Sea Shanty (seashantycayucos.com) in Cayucos, which offered delicious clam chowder and a belt-busting dessert menu.

A final stop: San Luis Obispo’s Madonna Inn (madonnainn.com). Each one if its 110 rooms has its own theme. Do not skip this gem!



For more information, visit SanLuisObispoCounty.com.