Summer is a great time to be outdoors, and to visit local public parks and beaches. Some of my fondest childhood memories involve beaches, enveloped by the aroma of suntan oil. Public open spaces still allow kids and adults alike to enjoy themselves, regardless of age or income. They can also help us to connect with nature. (For more on this, check out an earlier post on Forest Bathing).
Today I pay tribute to parks and beaches I enjoyed during the ten months that I spent in California –specifically in San Luis Obispo County. Here are four of my favourites, in no particular order.
1. Avila Beach and the Bob Jones Trail
From left to right: Main pier at Avila Beach, plus two views from along the Bob Jones Trail. Photos by L. Tate, 2018
Where else can you combine a south-facing ocean beach, a beautiful walk, and the chance to visit a few wine-tasting venues? If you park your car at the eastern end of the trail, you can access all of the above and get some exercise at the same time. The main part of the beach is now quite upscale, but it wasn’t always this way. Since the 1920s, through to the 1990s, Avila Beach was an important petroleum port, which meant that much of its harbour was highly contaminated. It also didn’t help matters that it was (and still is) located close to the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. Still, an extensive clean-up process helped redevelop and reclaim the beach for the public. While the main commercial street is quite manicured, the beach is still relaxed and beautiful. There is an even more relaxed beach further to the west, where dogs and families with kids seem to be running endlessly.
2. Lopez Lake Recreation Area
Lopez Lake, June 2018. Photo by L. Tate
This lake is not far from the small town of Arroyo Grande. The Lake itself provides much of the drinking water for nearby residents, and is accessible to boaters and campers. When we visited in early June we saw a pack of turkey vultures strutting around, taking a drink and a rest break. Equally pleasant is the drive out there, through some of the less travelled back roads of the county. Here is a link for more information and another for camping reservations .
3. Stadium Park
One of the views from Stadium Park. Photo by L. Tate, 2018.
Stadium Park is an alpine hiking area located in Atascadero, one of the more northern, non-coastal cities in San Luis Obispo county. Having hiked here several times, I can attest to the lovely views within the oak meadows, and of the larger region. It is a peaceful spot, and a great spot to de-stress. To learn more, check out this newspaper article giving more information plus directions.
4. Morro Bay Beach
Morro Bay at sunset. Photo by L. Tate, 2018
I lied a little bit when I said that there was no order to this listing of parks and beaches. I have saved the best for last with Morro Bay, and confess that it was my favourite place to go on the Central Coast. While not as warm as Avila Beach, it was peaceful, friendly, and scenic thanks to a large rock created by tectonic activity millenia ago. On my many visits here, I noticed that locals always loved to gather here around sunset: to jog, play with their kids, or just witness the spectacular sunset that would inevitably arrive. And not far from the main beach, closer to dusk you can watch otters raft up together in the kelp before they go to sleep. Learn more at this website. http://www.californiasbestbeaches.com/morro_bay/morro_bay_beaches.html
Whether you plan to visit during the summer, or to extend your sense of summer by visiting California in the Fall, the four parks and beaches described above are wonderful places for enjoying time outdoors in a relaxed and beautiful setting. Of course there are more, and I would love to hear of other Central Coast favourites from those of you who have spent time there.