SLO County’s south coast extends from land-locked Arroyo Grande through the beach towns of Oceano, Grover Beach, Pismo Beach, Shell Beach and Avila.
Pismo, a classic California beach town, is a DogTrekker.com favorite. Paw your way to Dinosaur Caves Park, an 11-acre, bluff-top oasis popular with dog-walkers, photographers and strollers for its expansive ocean views and Art in the Park events held the first Sunday of each warm-weather month. Pismo Beach itself is dog-friendly to the left of the pier. Fido will have to stay leashed, but if he’s a digging breed, that won’t stop him from searching out and finding the famous Pismo clams! When hunger strikes, just about every restaurant in town with an outdoor seating area will welcome you and your pooch, weather permitting. Try Shell Cafe for a casual seafood lunch, Pierside Seafood for seating close to the sand, Marisol at the Cliffs Resort for fine dining with still more ocean views.
If your plans include an overnight stay, consider Pismo Lighthouse Suites, featuring nine dog-friendly suites with management-supplied pet beds, food and water bowls. Two-legged and four-legged visitor alike enjoy access to the oceanfront lawn, and this generous business donates a portion of its $25 pet fee to Woods Humane Society.
Just north of Pismo Beach, Avila is a walkable seaside community whose waterfront pathways include the Bob Jones “City to the Sea” Trail following the Pacific Coast Railroad right-of-way along San Luis Obispo Creek for about 2.5 miles from downtown to a parking lot at Avila Hot Springs Resort. Scenery varies, from apple orchards and a meditation labyrinth on the east end, to Avila Beach Golf Resort near the shoreline. In early morning and evening, watch Fido’s ears perk up when he hears the daily chorus of Pacific tree frogs, whose calls become more pronounced during the spring mating season.
Leashed dogs are allowed to sniff around on Avila Beach before 10 a.m. and after 5 p.m. daily, and all day every day on Olde Port Beach next to the Hartford Pier. A protected cove is reputed to one of the warmest on the Central Coast, this stretch of sand attracts lots of families—including dogs, of course. Canines are free to play ball in the surf, dig holes in the sand, make new friends and gather round the fire rings brought for evening bonfires during the spring and summer months.
Hungry hounds and their people are welcome to dine at the Old Custom House, whose broad patio overlooks Avila’s beach and pier. On the menu: special dog selections including ground beef, chopped hot dogs or frozen yogurt drizzled with peanut butter.
If you and Fido are of a mind to walk, try the paved Cave Landing Trail that hugs the coastal bluffs between Avila Beach and Shell Beach, just north of Pismo. Casual walkers will find this an easy, scenic stroll. DogTrekker’s “research Lab,” Kayla, recently added to that hike by heading up the three-mile Ontario Ridge Trail, a rugged, steep path crossing a 700-foot-high foot hill with breathtaking views of the coast and inland mountains.