By Greg Aragon
If I close my eyes I can almost see the old wooden pier standing in the sea and hear the rocks rolling in the waves outside my window. I can almost feel the refreshing ocean breeze filter through my beach-front room and I can almost taste all the wonderful food I had during my recent getaway to Avila Beach.
It all began last week when a friend and I drove about three hours north of Los Angeles to the charming little beachside town, where we checked into Avila Lighthouse Suites (www.avilalighthousesuites.com) and set up camp for a couple nights.
Located across from the beach, Avila Lighthouse Suites is a bright and cheerful boutique hotel reminiscent of a Californian watercolor painting. The hotel’s exterior is highlighted by an iconic wooden tower, sitting above an outdoor heated pool and spa, a small putting green, and a life-size chess board in a spacious plaza.
Inside, the hotel’s 54 guest rooms are modern and comfortable. Our suite boasted a separate bedroom with two queen beds, a large flat screen TV, and a fireplace; a living room with sofa bed, chair, office desk, and another fireplace; a full sized kitchen with a large refrigerator and all the amenities.
Our quarters also came with free wireless Internet and a large private balcony overlooking the pool and the Avila Boardwalk and beach. From the balcony we watched boats sail past the pier, people relaxing in the sand, and all the action on the boardwalk. The lanai was also a great place to unwind at night with a bottle of wine.
Once settled in the room, we walked about 100 yards to Blue Moon Over Avila (www.bluemoonoveravila.com) for a classy seaside dinner. Led by Chef Anthony Minniti Jr., the restaurant features a rotating menu of seasonal and signature dishes along with imported beer and wine selections. Chef Minniti has spent the last fourteen years at various restaurants on California’s Central Coast, serving some of the region’s most discriminating food and wine connoisseurs.
Our meal at Blue Moon Over Avila began with onion soup à la Lyonnaise, with caramelized onions in beef broth with spices, croutons, cream, and gruyere cheese. For the main course I had filet mignon in a cabaret wine reduction, with veggies and twice-cooked potato. My friend had a jumbo shrimp cocktail. With dinner we sipped local wine from California’s fertile Central Coast vineyards, and admired stunning views of the Avila pier and the Pacific Ocean.
After dinner we headed back to Lighthouse Suites and soaked in the jacuzzi. In the morning I worked out at the fitness center and then enjoyed the hotel’s free continental breakfast. We then drove a couple miles down the coast to Port San Luis Harbor, where we strolled along the 1,320-ft-long Harford Pier. Originally built in 1878 by John Harford, this massive dock is one of the last piers that the public can still drive a car on. There are about 10 parking spots at the end for local businesses.
On the pier we saw fishermen preparing their daily catch, while giant pelicans watched over them, and we encountered a herd of sea lions jostling for sleeping spots on the wooden deck below. While here we had a plate of fresh ceviche and an order of deep fried Washington oysters at Pete’s Pierside Cafe & Fish Market.
Our next stop was historic Point San Luis Lighthouse (www.pointsanluislighthouse.org). Founded in 1890, the Point San Luis Light Station has served as a beacon over San Luis Bay for 128 years. The two-story main keeper’s structure is sometimes considered Prairie Victorian in its design, as well as considered Prairie Gothic.
The Coast Guard still maintains a light at the station, which blinks every night and is visible up to 17 miles away. The rest of the station is operated as a historic site open to visitors who can reach the property by trolley, by hiking with the Pecho Coast Trail Guides, or by kayaking to Whalers Beach. The park is open from sunup to sundown.