Wind down a small staircase at the green end of a bluff near San Simeon and you could find yourself beachside and face to face with a ferociously bellowing 1500 pound elephant seal. Then try not to show any fear nor make any sudden movements as you slowly slink away.
All right, this image doesn't describe one of the best beachwalks on the Central Coast, rather a tiny sampling of the sights and sounds you might find on one of them.
And no they aren't nearly as death defying as I've made them appear.
Some of the best are as follows.
From the pier at Pismo Beach to the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area at the end of Grand Avenue in Grover Beach there is a stretch of wide completely California-esque coastline that curves slowly westward allowing for an outstanding panoramic view of the white cliffs and caves studding the area 90 miles north of Santa Barbara. While walking, near sunset or early morning is the best time, look for whole sand dollars and the famous Pismo Beach clam, of which there is festival every year at the end of October.
The sand on this stretch is soft yet springy and makes for an excellent walking surface as far as beaches go. Likewise the locals and tourists seem to have a shared sense of the tranquility and value of this spot on the coast which manifests in many beach bonfires and bbq's after work hours on permitting days near the end of the week. Also, there are plenty of dives and restaurants for any type of refreshment on Dolliver Street in Pismo or stop into Fin’s Restaurant on Grand Avenue for cheap, better-than-good food and beverages.
South about 30 miles is the last California outpost Jalama Beach which provides a challenge to even fit walkers and hikers alike because of partially protruding stretches of wavy shale beachfront and the at-times extremely windy forecast. Braving the ruggedness of the location one finds a beauty seemingly untouched by tourists and the largest state population in the country. In fact Jalama Beach, which has shared scenes in the movie Sideways and other documentary features is a location not always given credit as one of the great beaches in California but head out there and you'll see that it is much deserved of the accolades. If you're up for more than just a stroll or a dayhike, try a two-to-four night adventure which will allow you to take in the vast and unexplored feel of this lonely, magical and unique place.
Farther south, closer to the city of Santa Barbara, is Refugio State beach, which makes it on this short list because it is, well, short. The crescent-style cove setting -a camping favorite- is just a nice homely place to walk for the day. Yes, there is a small fee but if you are traveling through this area as a newbie then you should take the time to explore this true slice of the Central Coast landscape. Refugio, on sunny and rainy days has a Jalama-like isolated feel to it that borders on tropical -think a Mediterranean Hawaii- and pure California -think slightly warm yet crisp air at sunset. Walking this beach-in-a-room route from north to south in the cove will leave the day you spend doing it as an indelible memory.
No matter where you choose to trek on the Central Coast you can be assured that there is no other place like this in the world and that is always worth the time spent.