By Greg Aragon
Sometimes I hear of a new hotel from a friend, an email tip, or a news release. And once in a while, if I’m lucky, one will catch my eye while driving. The latter was the case, when a friend and I were recently heading home from a trip to Hearst Castle. As we approached the seaside city of Pismo Beach, I noticed a little inn squeezed between the Pacific Ocean and a giant, jagged rock standing along the 101 Freeway.
This scene was too beautiful to resist, so I pulled off the freeway to investigate. My suspicions were confirmed when we checked into charming room at The Tides Oceanview Inn & Cottages, located about a hundred yards from a bluff overlooking the beach.
To quote the hotel’s website, “the Tides Inn is an affordable Pismo Beach hotel perched on the bluffs of Pismo Beach, featuring sweeping ocean views of California’s golden coastline. Centrally located off of Highway 101, we offer a convenient, budget-friendly destination for everyone traveling to the coast.”
Our room was clean, cozy, and efficient. It came with two queen beds, free Internet, coffee maker, mini-fridge and a couple lawn chairs outside the door, overlooking the property’s green lawn. The room’s best feature was its proximity to the ocean. At the end of the next street over from the hotel is a set of stairs leading down the rocky bluff to the beach. Once acquainted with the room, we took a stroll down the steps and relaxed on the Pismo Beach sand.
It was a sunny August day and the sand was warm and the water cool, so we laid out a blanket and relaxed. After lounging we walked a quarter mile along the sand to the historic Pismo Beach Pier and Downtown. Here we found Pismo Fish and Chips (pismofishandchips.com), where we had a memorable lunch with fresh, white cod fish and chips, a light and delicious crab sandwich, and one of the best jumbo shrimp cocktails I’ve experienced.
After lunch we returned to the sand to look for the legendary Pismo Beach clams. Made famous by a great “clam rush” a few decades ago, the tasty shellfish were once so abundant that an estimated 5,000 people a day would come to town to harvest them. Unfortunately this led to overconsumption and endangered the population, causing an end to harvesting by the early 1990s.
But now Pismo Beach clams appear to be making a comeback of sorts. Officials are seeing thousands of them returning to the sand, but say that people must wait until the creatures are at least 4 ½ inches in length before they can be harvested.
Clams have become such a part of Pismo Beach that each year the city hosts the Clam Festival. Now in its 72nd year, the event will take place the weekend of Oct. 19 – 21. This highly anticipated event attracts visitors from across the state. Highlights of the celebration include a local clam chowder-making contest, a clam dig, live music, a beer and wine pub, surf contest, food trucks, vendors, a family-fun kid zone, and more. Admission is free. For more information on the festival, visit pismoclamfestival.com.
Another exciting fall attraction in Pismo Beach is the arrival of majestic butterflies. Each year thousands of vibrant orange and black Monarch Butterflies flock to the town, seeking shelter from freezing northern winters. From late October to February, the little creatures cluster in the limbs of a grove of Eucalyptus trees at Pismo State Beach. The grove is easily accessible and is located on State Highway 1 at the south boundary of the city limits.
The Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove is one of only five sites in the state that has counts of over 10,000. Spectators come from across California to view the monarchs. Visitors are greeted by knowledgeable and well-informed volunteer docents offering daily talks and information.
The Pismo Beach colony is one of the largest in the nation, hosting an average of 25,000 butterflies over the last five years. For more information, visit monarchbutterfly.org.
The Tides Inn is located at 2121 Price St., Pismo Beach, CA 93449. The property has 23 guest rooms and three private cottages overlooking the ocean. For more information and reservations, call (805) 773-2493 or visit tidespismobeach.com.