Many people travel to the northern and southern California coasts, but often skip the central coast. It is about 300 miles from the Elk Grove area. To give you a comparison on the distance, it is about the same distance as it is from Elk Grove to the Grapevine if you’re traveling to Southern California.
We drive through the central valley, using Interstate 5 and often stop at Harris Ranch for lunch on our way. It’s about 180 miles and a good place to stop and stretch your legs and grab some food. The food is very good. They also have a gift shop as well. If you happen to own a Tesla, they have a Supercharger there. It’s a convenient location for those traveling to and from So Cal.
After leaving Harris Ranch, you continue south on I-5 for another 34 miles to Kettleman City and Highway 41. Highway 41 will take you west towards the central coast. It is mostly a 2 lane road, with the occasional passing lanes. Before you get to Highway 101, you will pass through Paso Robles.
Paso Robles is quickly becoming a destination for wine lovers. There are over 200 wineries in the area. If you’re an RV owner, or renting one as we did a few years ago, there is a great RV resort called the Wine Country RV Resort. It’s a very nice RV campground that is right across the street from the Ravine Waterpark.
Paso Robles is home to Justin Winery, maker of the very popular Isosceles wine. You can’t buy it at the stores. You have to be a wine club member to buy it. Justin is one of our must visits when we go to the central coast. With over 200 wineries you can’t go wrong and it gives you a reason to keep coming back.
Our final destination is the Pismo Beach area. It is a fairly small town right on the coast. For our most recent trip we stayed at Avila Beach, just a couple of miles up the coast from Pismo. Very small, quiet town, that most people don’t know about. Most travel by without even noticing it. We stayed at the Avila La Fonda Hotel. It is a small 28 room hotel, one block from the ocean. The hotel has underground parking. There are only two floors. The rooms are good size and most come with a large jacuzzi tub in the room. Our favorite thing about the hotel is the extras it comes with. There is a nightly manager’s wine reception with appetizers, from 5 pm to 6:30. The appetizers are enough to be your meal.
After that it is a great idea to go take a walk near the beach. There are quite a few shops along the waterfront area, as well as restaurants. There is small park near one end of the beachfront. When you come back to the hotel in the evening, you are greeted with the smell of pie. Every night at 8 pm pie is served in the kitchen. There are usually 5-6 different kinds of pie, also vanilla ice cream and chocolates if that is more your style. The smell is incredible. Trying to get to your room without stopping for a piece of pie is nearly impossible.
In the morning when you wake up you are greeted with the smell of fresh baked croissants and coffee. When you step out of your room, the aroma hits you. Every morning at 7 am croissants are available, along with juice and coffee. These aren’t your ordinary croissants you get at Starbucks or the store. These feel like they weigh about a pound each. They are incredible.
The food doesn’t stop there. Every day at noon they have nacho bar. Cheeses, salsas, guacamole, and other toppings. You can literally stay here and never have to pay for food. There are good restaurants nearby, Ocean Grill, Custom House, a pizza by the slice place. All within a block of the hotel.
Avila Beach gets it’s name from Miguel Avila who was granted the area in 1842. The area was a shipping port in the late 1800’s and 1900’s. The Avila Beach Pier was closed in 2015 due to concerns about the structure. There are plans to renovate the pier and re-open it. Less than 2000 people live in Avila Beach. The town is now known more for being a tourist attraction. The weather is a little warmer than other nearby cities because of nearby Point San Luis which shelters the area from the winds. The water is also warmer because of the geography of the area.
The area is also a good home base to visit other parts of the Central Coast. You can head north towards Big Sur and also see Heart Castle. 90 miles to the south is Santa Barbara. On the way to Santa Barbara, stop in at Solvang and take in their Danish charm with many shops and restaurants.