Whether you’re new in town or you’ve lived here all your life, Central California is full of fun things to see and do from taking a drive up Highway 1 to enjoying one of our beautiful, local hikes. If you want to get outside and explore our Central Coast community this spring, check out my top-ten list of must-do outdoor activities below:
Morro Rock Beach
Head up to Morro Bay to see the iconic Morro Rock! One of the landmarks of the Central Coast, Morro Rock formed 23 million years old from the plug of a long-extinct volcano. A California Registered Historical Landmark, Morro Rock is a popular place for wedding photos, commercial shoots, and local events. But the beach is a great place to relax on a warm spring day with your family. Bring a picnic lunch, bathing suits, and surfboards!
While not exclusively outdoors, Highway 1 takes you through some of the most scenic coastline in all of California! Pick it up from San Luis Obispo and follow it north through Morro Bay, Cayucos, Harmony, Cambria – all the way up to San Simeon and Hearst Castle. Along the way, make plans to stop and enjoy the ocean views, unspoiled beaches, tide pools, wildlife, and of course, our great coastal towns!
Dinosaur Caves Park
Dinosaur Caves Park is the perfect place to spend a fun day in the sun. Named for a large concrete dinosaur that was built at this location in the 1940s, this 11-acre park in Shell Beach features a playground, picnic tables, walking paths, and grassy areas. Visitors should note that you can’t access the beach from the park, but you can enjoy gorgeous views of the coastline!
Reservoir Canyon Trail
Reservoir Canyon Trail is 5.35 miles round-trip with an elevation gain of 1,325 feet. This hike starts off fairly easy and gradually gets more difficult towards the end. Many say that the last mile of the trail is one of the most challenging in the area! But the views from the summit are well worth the effort. This trail also features a waterfall, Reservoir Canyon Falls, which you can view by taking a short detour towards the beginning of the hike. This is a great hike to do with family or a group of friends on a Saturday morning in the spring or summer.
South Palisades Park
Want to go tide pooling? Then head to South Palisades Park! Enjoy a picnic in the park on the bluff and then go down to the beach at low tide to explore the unique rock formations and tide pools on the beach. The stairway to the beach is located off Beachcomber Drive. Parking is free in this area!
Fisherman’s Beach is the smallest beach in Avila and Port San Luis Harbor. This beach was once called Dog Beach by locals because it was a leash-free beach for many years. However, it’s important to note that dogs are no longer allowed on Fisherman’s Beach. (Although they are allowed on nearby Port Beach!) You can also go RV Camping on the beach, which is a fun thing to do in the summer – imagine waking up with the beach at your feet!
Hardford Pier is one of the two public piers in Avila Beach. It may be a bit off the beaten path, but it’s not far from the busier Avila Pier! Hardford Pier is a working pier that’s home to a seafood company, but the main attraction is the Olde Port Inn. Olde Port Inn is a great little seafood restaurant at the end of the pier that is definitely worth checking out, at least for the view! You can also fish from the pier if you have a license.
Lopez lake is located just 10 miles from Arroyo Grande! This beautiful lake is surrounded by rolling hills, trees, and shrubbery. Lopez Lake is a great place to go if you enjoy hiking, camping, boating, and wildlife. It makes a great weekend getaway that is not too far from home!
For an exhilarating outdoor adventure, go off-roading in the Oceano Dunes! This sandy 5 ½ mile stretch is best explored from the back of an ATV! You can also go surfing, swimming, and horseback riding in the area. To make a weekend out of it, stay at the nearby campgrounds.
Bishop Peak is the tallest of the Nine Sisters and offers visitors an excellent hiking experience. With an elevation gain of 1,175 feet the trail is just 4.2 miles round trip. While somewhat challenging, this hike isn’t as hard as some others in the area which makes it a great choice to enjoy with family or out-of-town guests. From the top, you’ll enjoy panoramic views of Cal Poly, the Santa Lucia mountains, downtown San Luis Obispo, and more.
Where is your favorite place to spend time outside on the Central Coast? Leave me a comment below!