Mission San Miguel Arcangel was founded on July 25, 1797 by Father Fermin Lasuen, Presidente of the California Missions Chain. Named for Saint Michael the Arcangel, it was the 16th mission founded in the 21 mission chain in Alta California.
Mission San Miguel's appearance is much the same as it was when founded. The inside of the mission has never been repainted. The pictures and the colors you see are the originals that were created and painted by Indian artesans under the direction of Esteban Munras. Today it is still a parish church.
Just about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco you can find a great beach to relax and enjoy the Pacific Coast. This beach has motels that are more budget minded than the expensive Santa Barbara area, and there are less people. This route on highway 101 is a more scenic trip than highway 5.
The fancier motels with a pool will run $135 a night while the others are much cheaper. You won't find the budget motels in Santa Barbara.
The beach has a flatness that you can walk a ways out when the tide is out. It also provides tide pools at the north end along the cliff. There is a pier at the center of town, and you will find the usual eateries, but nothing overly expensive, however.
There are many places to rent boogie boards, and surfboards, and even fishing equipment. The town has at least 3 Italian restaurants, many Chinese restaurants, barbecue restaurants, and the usual pizza hangouts.
In the south end of Pismo are two state run campgrounds with good access to the beach. These campgrounds have hot showers and flush toilets. Like all California State Campgrounds you will need a reservation. Google California State Campgrounds.
I have included some photos of things we like to do at Pismo. Tide pools, and hundreds of pelikans. There is a pelikan reserve north of town. Drive down and see it up close and personal.
Avila Beach is an unincorporated town, about 8 miles north of the Pismo Pier. Here you will find the Port San Luis Pier, which has been active as a public pier since 1873. The harbor is tucked away in a lovely bay surrounded by hills, where you can enjoy a leisurely walk out over the water. This pier is both an area for commercial fisherman, as well as a popular place for sports fisherman. Located on the pier are a couple of fish markets, where you can purchase fresh fish and crab, depending on the season. One of these markets also has an outside café. There is also a small business where you can purchase a few souvenirs. At the end of the pier is the Olde Port Inn restaurant. We did not visit the pier during mealtime, but we checked out the menu. It was quite pricey, although it looked like it could be very good. Sunset Magazine said that they had the “Best food when it comes to serving fresh seafood.” I plan to have lunch there next time we are in the area.
Something that was really startling was that near the end of the Port San Luis Pier in Avila, just outside of the restaurant, there was a narrow set of stairs that led to a small dock under the pier. You could hear splashing and barking below. As you descended these stairs, there was a sign that read, Warning, Sea Lions Bite. We were surprised to see a number of large sea lions lying all over this little dock, and another swimming along the side. There were none lying just below the stairs, but the other end of the short dock was quite full of these large mammals. We didn’t linger very long, we were afraid that the swimmer might just decide to haul out onto the dock where we were standing. It wasn’t the safest place to be, but quite interesting. If you have children watch them carefully if you venture below.
For a view from the upper dock of a Sea Lion and her calf, see photo two.
To reach San Luis Obispo , you will take a lovely drive up into the mountains along hwy 227. This is a very nice town, with many stores and restaurants in the down town area. Every Thursday night from 6 – 9 the town closes a number of blocks for their Farmer’s Market. The flyer we read about it said that blocks 800 and 900 in the downtown section were closed, but when we went, there were two additional blocks closed off. This is the largest Farmers Market in the area. Locals told us to arrive an hour early to obtain a reasonably close parking spot. The market is set up along Higuera Street, where you can find booths by area restaurants, along with items from bakeries and farms, such fresh flowers, fruits, nuts, honey, vegetables, and herbs. We arrived at 5:00 and walked around town, purchasing some books in the bookstore. We then ate our dinner on the street. I had barbecued pork ribs and a baked potato with sour cream and chives. My husband had a shredded pork barbecue sandwich with cole slaw. His was strange, however, the cole slaw was on top of the barbecue IN the sandwich bun. He couldn’t even pick it up and eat it like a sandwich. Mine, however, was quite good. For dessert we purchased delicious euclairs at one of the booths along the street. We purchased tomatoes and Satsuma mandarin oranges, which were delicious, and small and easy to peel. We also purchased four fruits that were a cross between a grapefruit and a tangerine, which were sweet and wonderful, and a large bag of fresh salad greens.
One of the things I really enjoyed about the Port San Luis Pier in Avila was viewing the seabirds and mammals. Standing on one of the roofless fish market walls was a brown pelican. (See photo 2.) The lady running the counter stood sat near-by. I had a feeling this pelican was use to getting discarded fish and fish pieces from the market, as he paid no attention to us. As I gazed out across the water I saw a sea otter diving for his dinner. He came up with a nice tasty mollusk. A seagull that had been keeping an eye on him wanted the meal also. The otter, did not guard his catch very well, but floated around on his back with the mollusk on his chest. This was a mistake, with a quick flutter of wings, the seagull made a meal of the otter’s catch instead. (See photos 4 and 5 for later pictures of this story.) I then spotted a number of sea lions swimming along side the pier. They were interested in us, and would come right up to the pier and stare at us. (See photo 3.) I bet that they received some tasty meals from fisherman along the dock, and were hoping for a hand out.
For a short video of sea lions checking us out as we walked along the pier, check out my Avila Beach Sea Lions video.
Take a day trip to Morro Bay. Although this is a pretty touristy town, it has a great view across its harbor. With beaches, nature trails, bird watching, kayaking, restaurants, shops, 18-hole championship golf course, and a number of festivals through out the year, the town draws a number of people year round. Located north of Pismos along the Pacific Coast, this town is also a working fishing village. Morro Rock, seen in the photo, is its most famous landmark. Morro Rock is made of igneous rock, and is thought to be the remains of volcanic activity. Located in the town is Morro Bay State Park, which sits on a shallow lagoon within view of Morro Rock. This Park offers a small marina, a campground, hiking trails, a small museum, and bird watching. See my Restaurant Tips for the Giovanni Fish Market and Restaurant, which is a favorite eating spot for tourists and locals alike.
I understand that there are a number of more secluded, and beautiful beaches in the area, but the only one we saw on our outing to Morro Bay, was the nearby public beach. Even in off season it was a popular place for sunbathing, walking dogs on leashes, and picnicking. Of all the beaches I have visited in California, however, I though this was the least attractive. Looking toward the sandy beach direction, the skyline was not particularly pretty. Looking in the other direction, toward Morro rock, it was more interesting, but there was no sand here, only large rocks. If you like birds and small furry creatures, there were a large number of gulls on the rocks, and California ground squirrels living within their crevices. (see photo 2 and 3)
Like any beach town, Pismo has more than it's fair share of nutty and outrageous signage, colorful and crazy and an assault on the eyes. Here are some photo examples of colorful outdoor artwork which leaps out for your attention.