The old adage that says, “It’s not the destination…it’s the journey,” is never truer than experiencing the drive north or south on the 101 Freeway through San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties. The drive, in and of itself, is pure eye candy for nature lovers. Magnificent mountain ranges, ocean views, rolling hills lined with vineyards, and wildflowers are only the beginning. Almost every exit offers a copious amount of things to see, do, sip and savor. Don’t forget to bring your camera and binoculars. The beaches, wineries and wildlife are picture-worthy. Dolphins, elephant seals, whales and, dare I say, the occasional shark are frequently seen.
Each town along this stretch of heaven offers experiences for every age to enjoy. Avila Beach, located just 10 miles south of San Luis Obispo, is at the top of the list of must-experience beach towns.
Recently while in Avila, some friends and I checked out a cool little wine bar called The PierFront Wine and Brew, at 480 Front St., that offers one of the best views on the coast. The staff makes every traveler feel right at home. What could be better than meeting friends at PierFront or chatting it up with locals on the waterfront?
Hang Out and Enjoy the Breeze
Mermaid artwork adorns the walls from local resident Ana Greene and the floor plan features interspersed couches in colors of sea foam green and subtle blues. Avila Beach competes with Newport Beach in terms of grace but still maintains an element of charm that is all its own.
The selection of wines at PierFront are predominantly from the local Paso Robles wine region. Try a glass of the DAO Pessimist, which is fruit-forward and a crowd-pleaser.
It was about this time that the owner, Britaney Bagliazo, brought out the cheese board covered in an array of amazing-looking cheeses. Cambezola and manchego, gouda and white cheddar were plated with colorful dried fruits and crackers. This was an impressive charcuterie platter. “I wanted to create a place for locals to hang out and enjoy the sea breeze. I love owning this place in paradise. Tourists come in and we’re able to share some places to visit that they typically wouldn’t find. Plus, my staff is incredible.” said Bagliazo.
At this time, another couple happened to enter with their dog, a large, goofy golden retriever. Bagliazo kindly brought out water for the dog as she took their order and returned inside to help other customers. Our new friends told us that this was their first time visiting Avila Beach from Los Angeles and joked that they may never go back home.
You Won’t Ever Want to go Home
If timed correctly, you can sip in blissful satisfaction while watching the sun make its graceful descent, turning the sky glorious shades of blue, red and orange.
These new friends ended up joining us out on the patio and told us more about their day and how much they enjoyed walking the Bob Jones Trail. For the uninitiated, it is a 3-mile walk from the trailhead parking lot to the Avila Pier. It winds through beautiful oak trees and a golf course with a river’s curvaceous silhouette. If you are a bird watcher, you’re in for a special treat. You will most likely see spotted heron and white egrets, which are frequently seen in North American wetlands.
Personally, my absolute favorite part is when I am near the golf course and walk on the green suspended bridge over the stream. Relaxing and just watching the cadence of the river can spontaneously inspire gratitude for the simple pleasure of being there.
Are you hungry? The pier at the end of the road in Avila, is Harford Pier. I have been going there for years and can guarantee that you will see seals frolicking in the water and laying on huge platforms squawking and basking in the sun. Harford is one of the best destinations on the coast with a visually spectacular bay, where wildlife is abundant and the pier itself is the place to buy seafood, moments after taken off the boat. It is common to see crab cages being loaded onto the pier and dumped into huge bins.
“It’s not the destination…it’s the journey.”
At the tip of the pier, you will find Olde Port Inn, which offers delicious food and fine, but casual, dining with views that can’t be beat. They also have tables that allow you to see straight through to the ocean below as you dine. Try the cioppino and crab cakes.
In the course of my travels, it still surprises me to experience new emotions in familiar places and how nature can truly soothe the soul.
Life is short. Get out there with friends and wine, dine and explore. No matter how busy you are, there is time for a half-day mini vacation.