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Friday: Spend a Weekend Riding History on California’s Highway 1 Discovery Route

by Rina Nehdar

Feb 25, 2020

Photo: Rina Nehdar

Destinations / North America

Tucked into the central coast of California is a trail of history waiting to be found by your kids. The Highway 1 Discovery Route through San Luis Obispo County snakes along the winnowy Pacific Coast Highway, CA-1, between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The more than 100 miles of mostly protected coastline begins after a four-hour drive from San Francisco at Ragged Point, or about three hours from Los Angeles at Nipomo. The trail features 10 cities, connected by cliffs, carved by a moody ocean, and a slower pace of life. There are plenty of reasons to stop and walk into the past, preserved by those whose hearts still live there. Nature lovers will linger on the many trails to hike and picnic areas. We drove from Los Angeles with two 9-year-old boys to explore this part of the state.

 

Here’s part one on how to make the most of your weekend pioneering, with a closer look at our itinerary for Friday:

 

We drove the US 101-N for 2.5 hours in the late morning to avoid as much of Friday traffic as possible. We stopped for lunch at Mersea’s on Port San Luis Pier. It’s a casual restaurant at the end of the wooden pier with a window cut into a section of its floor so kids can get a good peek at what’s beneath. While you wait for your food, kids can get their jitters out, running alongside the wooden planks and spying on the many sea lions barking below the walkway. Outdoor tables serve as more comfortable vantage points to the struggles for territory on the shady plank beneath the pier. Oysters, clam chowder and fish n’ chips were big hits, but the sea lions stole the spotlight.

 

About 10 minutes north along Highway 1 Discovery Route, we found our way to Avila Beach and the Central Coast Aquarium where Danielle, a volunteer, explained about the various sea life displayed in small aquariums designed to mimic each animals’ natural habitats. We got there in time to watch the feedings and got an inside look into the behavior of the fish.

 

Danielle told us about the Avila Beach Farmers Market, every Friday 4–8 p.m., with live music and many worthwhile food offerings. Just around the corner, we found Avila Beach Pier and the farmers market starting at the foot of it. She was right, people brought lawn chairs and flip-flops to spin and shake their hips to the sounds of live folk-rock. The entire promenade lit up with activity, people enjoying dinner at outdoor restaurants, many shopping at the stalls, tasting fresh rolls, taking home recently cut flowers and stuffing their bags with local produce. We left as the sun started to fade into the ocean to check into our spacious beach house-like room in Cambria, about 45 miles north up Highway 1, at the Fogcatcher Inn. Our room offered plenty of space to move around, with its high ceilings, fireplace and chairs sitting in front. Situated across the street from the beach, a path carved out of the hillside led to the sand where a magical array of driftwood teepees waited for miniature adventurers to have a clubhouse meeting.

 

Fogcatcher Inn. Photo: Rina Nehdar

 

Dinner was at the deservedly busy Moonstone Beach Bar & Grill with an open view of the ocean from nearly every area of the eatery. I ordered the Candied Walnut Gorgonzola Salad and Oyster on the Half Shell to start and, while my head was turned, the boys devoured the salad — I never got a bite, they loved it, which is not a normal occurrence. The freshly shucked oysters were plump and juicy and the accompanying cocktail sauce kicked them up. We finished our meal with lobster tails — fresh and firm, yet tender; we dipped them into the salty liquid butter. If you go, arrive early because they don’t take reservations.

 

Running around on the boardwalk. Photo: Rina Nehdar

 

Check back tomorrow for part two, and a look at our itinerary for Saturday.

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