Winter on the Coast

The Central Coast offers cozy comforts for the chilly season

Winter may have most running indoors to give into the hygge lifestyle, but if you have adventure in your heart, January offers a swell of outdoor activities for those that won’t let a little rain get them down. On the Central Coast, along Highway Route Discovery 1, the temperatures stay moderate even in winter, and outdoor excursions don’t shut down for the season. Plus, local businesses cater to the cozy with fireplaces and comfort food. So, take a drive down the scenic coast and dive into a world full of excitement.

Los Osos/Baywood

After you cruise into town, take it easy. The small communities of Los Osos and Baywood are your oyster, brimming with gorgeous views of rugged bluffs and the roaring Pacific Ocean. Stretch your legs at Sweet Springs Preserve, a half-mile trail winds around a river and ends at the Pacific Ocean. Along the way there is plenty of wildlife, including great horned owls, deer, California quail, and more, plus plaques boasting educational tidbits about the preserve. After you snap some photos, trek back to your car for a bite to eat. The parking area for Sweet Springs Nature Preserve is on the corner of Ramona Avenue and 4th Street

Noi & Doi’s 2nd Street Café is an unsuspecting gem. Situated near the water, the small eatery offers a patio by the Baywood Park Pier as well as take out when indoor dining is closed. If it’s chilly, grab goods to go. The Asian grub ranges from seafood stir fry to rice and protein dishes. If you’re looking for something a little easier, we recommend the tuna melt—a classic done extremely well. While you wait, enjoy the views, or take a little stroll around the neighborhood. 1325 2nd Street, Los Osos

On the way out, take a drive through the rolling hills on scenic Turri Road, just off Los Osos Valley Road.

Avila Beach

Just north of San Luis Obispo sits Avila Beach, a modern coastal town tucked into the curve of the San Luis Obispo Bay. Right on the water, Avila Beach Paddlesports, offers kayak and stand-up paddleboard (SUP) rentals. Staff give you a quick rundown before launching you off the dock into the ocean. We recommend paddling yourself down to the Port San Luis Lighthouse. The route will take you out amongst a gaggle of adorable, fuzzy sea otters before looping you under the dock (past a rowdy group of sea lions) and along the bluffs, where you’ll spot giant rocks decorated with entire families of pelicans that will take off if you get too close. In the distance you’ll see a small beach. Up the steps and along a paved path you’ll quickly reach the lighthouse, as well as a wooden tree swing that sweeps you out near the ocean, before trekking back to the shore. Wetsuits are available upon request for the two-hour excursion. 443915 Avila Beach Dr.

After a morning on the water, explore the Bob Jones Trail. A five-mile, roundtrip walk, mostly shaded by a sycamore forest, will take you past a tidal estuary, Woodstone Market, and downtown Avila Beach. Break up the (approximately two hour) journey by pausing at Woodstone for lunch and a glass of wine. Start from the Ontario Road parking lot.

Even in the colder months, Avila Valley Barn beckons families, couples, and friends to spend an afternoon on the farm. There are often hayrides and pony rides (though those have been temporarily suspended) as well as fresh barbecue food, a fruit stand, and sweet shoppe. As you stroll, grab fruits and veggies to taste along the way. 560 Avila Beach Dr.

Spend the latter part of the day on the boardwalk. Though small, the Avila Pier has plenty to offer in the way of food, shops, and wine. We recommend a pre-dinner drink at Alapay Cellars Tasting Room, a chic corner spot garnering great views of downtown and worthy people watching alongside the line-up of handcrafted and French oak-aged wines (415 1st St.). Then, stroll past the shops before landing at Ocean Grill. Here, your views of the water are best accompanied by fried calamari, endless bowls of clam chowder, and fresh fish entrees such as salmon served with sweet garlic broccolini and quinoa stir fry. 268 Front St.

If the weather isn’t too nippy, bundle up for a stroll along the water before heading to your digs for the night. At Avila Beach Inn, you’ll want to have a nightcap in the private hot tub adorning your patio before tucking in for a cozy night next to the fire. A stay at the inn also grants guests discounts to several local attractions including tastings at the aforementioned Alapay Cellars, as well as wine at Ancient Peaks, ziplining in Santa Margarita, and golf at the adjacent Avila Beach Golf Resort. 443915 Avila Beach Dr.

Return to Woodstone Deli & Marketplace for a quick breakfast and toasty coffee before heading off on your next adventure. 6675 Bay Laurel Pl.

Morro Bay

An early winter morning warrants a game of golf. Morro Bay Golf Course offers an affordable game on a public course—part of San Luis Obispo County’s trio of courses. The stunning scenery, however, is what makes Morro Bay a top pick in the area. Every hole proffers panoramic ocean views, bringing a sense of tranquility to even the most frustrating strokes. 201 State Park Rd.

San Luis Obispo

A highlight of time spent on the Central Coast’s southern stretch is a hike along the ocean bluffs at Montana De Oro State Park. There are several routes to take in the area, but if you’ve never been, we recommend the Bluff Trail. The 3.4-mile out and back path follows rugged coastline along a flat trailhead, winding along coves and offering stop-offs to walk down to the beach where you’ll find lively tidepools. There is no shortage of wildlife here, and the animals don’t come across shy, often hopping right next to the trail as if they are observing you.

After a leisurely stroll, it’s time to check in at your accommodations for the night. The Bee’s Knees Fruit Farm is a farm stay unlike any other. The sprawling property is bursting at the seams with rustic yet luxurious touches including a jetted tub overlooking the outdoors, enclosed vines where fresh fruit begs to be picked, and an ornate chandelier hanging over the outdoor dining table. Upstairs a fireplace fills the cozy living room and a chef’s kitchen welcomes cooks to whip up whatever they please. Bedrooms up and down make it a perfect place for a group stay. Downstairs, games and a TV room are prime for entertaining. Guests have the option to rent the entire property for themselves or choose one floor. 5840 Los Osos Valley Rd.

We recommend spending the rest of your day tasting through the area’s wineries. Comfortable outdoor spaces make it easy to enjoy even while restrictions may be in place. At Tolosa Winery (4910 Edna Rd.), sip your way through the pinot noir and chardonnay lineup from Edna Valley on outdoor tables situated underneath the vines. Next, indulge in both the history—vines were originally planted in 1880 before prohibition forced owners to abandon the work—and the vino at Saucelito Canyon Tasting Room, where long benches on the cozy front lawn are perfect for sprawling out and enjoying the sips (3080 Biddle Ranch Rd.) End at Kelsey See Canyon Vineyards, a quaint local winery boasting brightly-decorated bottles housing killer varietals. Plus, flocks of peacocks that you can feed keep the winery dogs company. Expert Tip: Don’t leave without sampling the Red Delicious.  1947 See Canyon Rd.

Oceano

If you really want to get your adrenaline pumping, don’t leave town without a stop at the Oceano Dunes State Vehicle Recreation Area. The only drivable beach in California and the only drivable dune complex in the country is the perfect landscape for off-road vehicles and hosted dune-buggy tours. Or, explore on horseback. 1001 Cabrillo Hwy.

Nipomo

We’re willing to bet you’ve never heard of The Luffa Farm before. In fact, we’re willing to bet you didn’t know luffas—yes, those beige shower sponges—grow on a farm at all. Learn all about Chinese okra, male and female luffa plants, and how to peel your own on a complimentary tour. Intrigued? In the giftshop, grab some seeds and start making your own. 1457 Willow Rd.

Edna Valley/Santa Margarita

Located about 30 minutes from San Luis Obispo, heading to the Santa Maria Valley is an excellent way to extend your trip. With landmarks made popular by award-winning movie The Hitching Post and plenty of wining and dining, it’s a worthy stop-off before heading home.

It’s best to fuel up before visiting the area’s rural wineries. Stop by Moxie Café for a hearty lunch of sandwiches, salads, and more. Tucked away on an industrial stretch, the service is unparalleled, and a long patio offers plenty of seating for guests. It’s not uncommon for the owner to make her rounds, checking on patrons as they dine on the warm Santa Maria Sandwich—all-natural sliced Angus tri-tip, melted cheddar cheese, roasted red onions, and bacon—or a classic like the Coastal Croissant—turkey, mayo, sliced avocado, bacon, organic spring mix, and tomatoes, served on a buttery, flaky croissant. A nice touch is each menu item suggests a drink pairing to bring out the flavors, from local reds to fruity IPAs. 1317 West McCoy Ln.

Next, make your way to the region’s best wineries. Foxen Winery specializes in pinot noirs, including some earthy, piedmont flavors you won’t find everywhere else. There is even a farm special that will make sense once you sip it. The real winner here is the grounds, all sweeping views of the rolling hills (7600 Foxen Canyon Rd.) Rancho Sisquoc Winery takes you to a hidden gem of a property. The winery dogs run free on the expansive lawn where lemon trees ripen in the sun. Sit for a while and enjoy a glass or bottle of exquisite wine, sipped out of over-sized, stemless glasses that barely fit in your hand. 6600 Foxen Canyon Rd.

Whatever you do, don’t leave town with stopping into The Hitching Post in Casmalia. The original site of this famed restaurant has both indoor and outdoor dining, the latter of which sits under a canopy of twinkly lights. Take a walk around the property and snap photos on the wooden bridge that crosses the pond just steps from your seat. Here, dine on hearty entrees of medium-rare filet mignon, buttery Australian lobster tail, and combination plates with options such as quail, shrimp, and scallops. Pair with a local pinot and bask in the lush evening glow as you cheers with those around you. 3325 Point Sal Rd., Casmalia

When you’re ready to turn in for the evening, check in to The Historic Santa Maria Inn. The ornate entry feels welcoming, while modern amenities including a hot tub and pool await you outside. Upstairs, guest rooms in the historic building are over-sized and may proffer window seats. 801 S. Broadway

Expert Tip: Absolutely do not leave Santa Maria without visiting Cups & Crumbs. Located in the quaint downtown of Orcutt complete with an old-timey feel, this modern bakery is anything but ordinary. In addition to a small indoor operation, the back patio provides plenty of seating for guests. Rustic charm oozes from every corner and there is an adorable food truck outside for those who want grab-and-go sweets, but the real standout here is the food. If you’re a sucker for avocado toast, order up one of the menu’s three specialties, or build your own. We also recommend grabbing a crepe—sweet or savory—and any of the menu’s gourmet coffees. 156 Broadway St., #B, Orcutt

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