Everyone needs to get away once in a while. Even those of us who live in beach towns like Santa Barbara. Sometimes – yes, it may seem hard to believe – we need to take a break from our own shores and search out a new adventure to keep things interesting.
Day trips are the best way to squeeze a little extra magic into your week. But where, exactly, should you go? For a quaint, seaside escape, look north to Pismo Beach. It’s just an hour-and-a-half drive from Santa Barbara, but you'll feel like you’re a world away. Perhaps best known for the tasty clams found buried beneath the sand, this Central Coast destination has a welcoming, small town feel.
Visit the wide, welcoming shores of Pismo Beach — Photo courtesy of Adrienne Bassett
The drive there is a relaxing journey in itself. Simply cruise up US Highway 101 and soak in the sites. You’ll see vineyards, cattle fields, foothills and ocean views. And you'll drive through the Gaviota Tunnel, made famous in feature films like The Graduate, Wayne’s World and Sideways.
If you’re in the mood for a little bargain shopping, take the 4th St. exit to visit the Prime Outlets of Pismo Beach, where you’ll find great deals at the Nike Factory Store and Levi’s Outlet, among others. Otherwise take the Price St. exit to arrive in the heart of downtown Pismo Beach.
Amble up Pomeroy Avenue in downtown Pismo Beach to peek in local shops and restaurants — Photo courtesy of Geneva Ives
Pismo’s downtown district is just a few blocks wide, ideal for exploring on foot. For a quick tour, Pomeroy Avenue has the most shops and restaurants. There are surf stores, souvenir spots and a shop featuring beautiful hand-blown glass ornaments. You can also snack on bugs at Hot Lix, a candy store famous throughout California for its unique insect delicacies (don’t worry, they have more traditional candy, too).
When you’re hungry for something more substantial, make a beeline for the Splash Café. Their clam chowder has won more awards than most A-list celebrities, and they’ve got the line out the door to prove it. Be patient because the food is worth the wait. In addition to their thick, heavenly, more-like-gravy-than-soup chowder, Splash Café also serves up tasty burgers, sandwiches and fried seafood. Fish n’ chips, anyone?
Fried calamari and chips at the Splash Cafe — Photo courtesy of Geneva Ives
Walk off your meal by strolling Pismo’s charming wood promenade and pier. Many people come here to do a little recreational fishing; you can rent a pole on the wharf for the afternoon if you’re so inclined. Pelicans flock to this area, and visitors frequently report dolphin and whale sightings. Surf competitions are also common in Pismo, making the pier a great place to post up and watch professional surfers catch some waves.
Pelicans sit pretty on the Pismo pier — Photo courtesy of ampersandyslexia
Before you leave, set aside some time to visit the beach. Pismo State Beach boasts a wide, even shoreline with plenty of room for every kind of activity, from skimboarding to digging for the legendary Pismo Beach clam. There are swings right in the sand for little ones to enjoy. A trip to the beach is certain to tire everyone out, just in time for the ride home.