San Luis Obispo County on California’s Central Coast is as mellow for dogs as it is for humans. But while there are lots of off-leash dog parks and play areas in the vicinity of SLO town, there are just a couple of places in the sand-and-sea department where Dottie can frolic off-leash (provided, of course, she is socialized to the max, has an ultra-reliable recall and can be trusted not to steal beach-goers socks or picnic goodies).
Head to the seaside town of Avila Beach and run off leash-free steam at Olde Port Beach next to Harford Pier. It’s the first sretch of sand you come to out of crossing the bridge out of Avila Beach and into Port San Luis. This protected cove is reputed to one of the warmest on the Central Coast, and the strand 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. Ask locally about Fisherman’s Beach, also called “Dog Beach,” the smallest beach in the area and very popular among area dog lovers.
When it comes to state-owned beaches, most DogTrekkers are (sigh) familiar with the rules. Where dogs are allowed, they have to stay leashed. SLO County has quite a few stretches of sand that are, in that sense, dog-friendly. Leashed pets are allowed to sniff around on Avila Beach before 10 a.m.and after 5 p.m. daily, and all day to the left of the pier at Pismo State Beach, on all of Cayucos State Beach, and Oceano Dunes State Park (where they’ll share sand with off-road enthusiasts).
Two beautiful strands near Morro Rock, the Morro Bay monolith/landmark on the coast north of SLO town, also welcome leashed pets. More secluded is Spooner’s Cove at otherwise dog-unfriendly Montana Del Oro State Park, where you’ll feel miles away from civilization, beach bunnies and all. Be ultra-cautious here, as “sneaker waves” are prevalent in winter.