California’s coast had a great effect on us on this leg of our trip! It was amazing to us that in a few short weeks, we had seen coffee ground-like sand of Pacifica, fine white sand of Carmel, rocky beaches in Monterey, amazing sights of Big Sur, and on this trip, a pebble filled beach at moonstone beach in Cambria, and huge sand dunes in Oceano!
We stayed at the Pacific Dunes Ranch RV Resort in Oceano. This campground was right in front of huge sand dunes, and has a horse stable across the street that adults and kids over 7 can go for a horse ride on the beach (for additional fees). Our kids loved playing on the sand dunes, and if we had sleds, they could have sledded on them! 70 degrees, sledding on sand, that is what I call a December to remember! It was great exercise even just walking the dunes, and I would guess that it was about 3/4 miles of big sand dunes from our RV park to the beach. This beach is the only ATV beach in California that I know of, so there are a lot of vehicles on the beach so not a peaceful sitting beach, so we never ventured quite that far. We instead drove down the road to Pismo Beach, a surfing area, and further down the coast to a couple more beaches.
There was a beautiful Monarch Butterfly Grove in Pismo Beach that had an estimated 12,000 butterflies when we were there, though, we saw what felt like hundreds to us. There were more butterflies there than the butterfly grove we had visited in Monterrey, and it was beautiful to see all of the butterflies flying and hanging on the eucalyptus trees, giving them the look of fall orange leaves! Right behind this butterfly grove is Pismo Beach State Park camping area, which could be a cool place to camp!
We attended church at Mountainbrook Church that sits in the mountains in San Luis Obispo (SLO). We then went and explored the town of San Luis Obispo, had lunch, saw the bubblegum alley (where Ellie added her gum to the wall while not touching others), exchanged smiles with the actor Jason Segel walking down the street, went to the hip Scout Coffee shop, and to Barnes and Noble, and some of the boutique shops in this cute town.
We then headed to the Avila Valley Barn where there was a petting zoo of animals you could buy a bag of veggies to feed, which the kids really enjoyed. This was also a spot where people could buy fresh produce, baked goods, and Christmas Trees. It was decorated nicely for Christmas!
Next, we headed about 1 hour north of SLO to San Simeon, where we heard there were Elephant seals, an animal which I had done a report on for some reason back in elementary school. The place is called the “Friends of the Elephant Seals” and there are volunteers there who will educate you and answer questions about the seals if you like. This was a very interesting place! It was fun to watch the seals. The ones coming out of the water would flop a few feet with blubber blubbering, then rest, flop then rest. Conserving energy for their time of fasting on the beach. Then there were the males trying to prove they were the best, and either attract mates, or spur on other males to spar by letting out their massive burp like sounds that made us laugh. It was gross and fantastic all at the same time. The new seals would flop over to the groups of resting, fasting, energy saving seals to look at them and cuddle up, and the other seals would look at them with a “Get away from me” type look, or a bark, and inch away a bit.
Since it was the beginning of December, the larger males were coming to the beach to spar and prove who was the strongest. There were a few large males with the long faces, some large still growing males, and females and younger elephant seals with the, in my humble opinion, cuter faces. David and I could have stood there and watched these seals interact, and mostly just lay there, all day. Depending on the time of year you come to this beach, there will be different amounts of elephant seals and we heard in a month in January, there would be even more than the many that were already there. The sun was starting to go down, and Hearst Castle was right up the road. We drove in to Hearst Castle area, but the park we could access was a parking lot and information center that looked like you could get rides up to the castle, and we unfortunately didn’t have the time. Has anyone else gone to Hearst Castle? Please comment with what it was like if so, because we are bummed we missed it!
We stopped on the way home to see the sunset at Moonstone Beach in nearby Cambria, which was a beautiful site. This was the beach with pebbles, and you may even find a moonstone there.
On another day, we took the kids to Dinosaur Caves Park. A small park that had a lot of history, where the kids enjoyed playing in the Shell Beach area. While there, we went for a walk that did not disappoint. Besides Big Sur, this was the most picturesque place we had been so far and felt like a hidden gem. There were paths with wildflowers leading up to the cliffs. Us adults could have sat on the benches here and walked around this area most of the day! It is a great place to bring a picnic and eat with views of the ocean and cliffs! We saw a couple of people reading in the nearby gazebo. It was beautiful, and the first, well 2nd time, that we envied a house because their views were amazing! The other time we envied houses were those hidden in the cliffs in Big Sur! To have that kind of view would be amazing…but we will pass on those mortgage payments and keep moving along.