Sights and Sounds of Avila Beach, Port San Luis, California

Come with me to Avila Beach, California

Peacocks at Kelsey Vineyards in San Luis Obispo

A Day Trip to Port San Luis, Avila Beach

For my birthday in April, 2012 I asked my husband to take me to Avila Beach. I'd heard my friends talk about it during the 18 years I'd lived In San Luis Obispo County, and I thought it was finally time to see it for myself.

Getting there was half the fun. We had been in San Luis Obispo in the morning on another errand, and the plan was to head to Avila right after that. Since we were exploring, we didn't have any directions with us. We just headed south on 101 until we found San Luis Bay Drive and we headed west (right) on it and followed the signs. I remembered that I had a friend with an apple farm I'd visited years ago in the area, and I thought I saw a sign leading to it so we decided to make an unscheduled stop on the way to the beach. We turned right on See Canyon Road to follow the sign and turned in again when we saw a similar sign. We found ourselves at Kelsey See Canyon Vineyards, which turned out to be a happy accident -- not because of the wine, but because they had peacocks. I spent about half an hour observing them through my camera lens, but even though it was mating season, none of the males would fan their tails for the picture I really wanted. I still enjoyed watching them, though, because I'd never been that close to a relatively tame flock running loose in a vineyard before.

Peacock at Kelsey Winery

One of the peacocks we saw at Kelsey See Canyon Vineyards
One of the peacocks we saw at Kelsey See Canyon Vineyards | Source

Harford Pier, Port San Luis, Avila Beach, CA

A markerHarford Pier, Avila Beach, California -
Avila Beach, CA, USA
[get directions]

Harford Pier in Avila Beach, Port San Luis

The Sights of Port San Luis

My husband is sitting in the gray Kia you can barely see, parked facing the water at the left of the almost invisible parking lot. It's to the left of the crane. This shot was taken from the pier.
My husband is sitting in the gray Kia you can barely see, parked facing the water at the left of the almost invisible parking lot. It's to the left of the crane. This shot was taken from the pier. | Source
The sign is at the entrance of Harford Pier and lists the businesses you will find on the pier. Motor vehicles are allowed to drive to the end of the pier.  There are separate pedestrian walks along each side of the pier.
The sign is at the entrance of Harford Pier and lists the businesses you will find on the pier. Motor vehicles are allowed to drive to the end of the pier. There are separate pedestrian walks along each side of the pier. | Source
You can see the left pedestrian walkway in this picture.
You can see the left pedestrian walkway in this picture. | Source
So you see the stairway leading from the pier to the dock?
So you see the stairway leading from the pier to the dock? | Source
This is another view of the dock at Harford Pier, closer to the pier. Do you see the sea gull?
This is another view of the dock at Harford Pier, closer to the pier. Do you see the sea gull? | Source
Looking toward Avila Beach from Harford Pier at Port San Luis
Looking toward Avila Beach from Harford Pier at Port San Luis | Source
Some of the coves with small beaches. Picture taken from Harford Pier at Port San Luis
Some of the coves with small beaches. Picture taken from Harford Pier at Port San Luis | Source
Another view toward the north from Harford Pier at Port San Luis
Another view toward the north from Harford Pier at Port San Luis | Source

Earlene Fowler's Books Mentioned Above

On to Port San Luis

After I finished photographing the peacocks, we turned around and went back to San Luis Bay Drive, made a right turn, and followed it until it ended at Avila Beach Drive, where we turned right and followed it about three miles to the parking lot for Harford Pier, where it ends. Parking was free, and there were many restaurants near the pier. The one I would most like to try is Fat Cats. I liked the look of it and the reviews (which you can read in the link) indicate the food is good and the portions are large. I also like the link to Earlene Fowler, one of my favorite mystery writers. (See below.) I'm hoping we can eat at Fat Cats next time we go to Avila.

My husband parked in the lot where he could look right out over the bay. If you look closely at the first picture to the right, you can see the car facing the waterfront parked to the left of the crane. My husband was very tired that day and did not get out of the car. But he still saw the seal I captured in the video fishing. It's a very peaceful place. Almost as soon as I got out of the car I saw the pelican perched not far from the crane and took its picture. I then walked around and stopped to watch the sea gulls surfing, as you saw in the video. Then I captured some of their antics on the pier itself. I walked to the end of the pier where there was an observation area, but I never could find any more of the seals I heard barking in the distance. I did see two restaurants and a fish market, though.

The docks for the fishing boats were below the pier, so I walked down to see them. I decided, though, I'd rather be back on the pier. After walking to the end, always on the lookout for a good picture, I walked back toward land. As I passed Patriot Sport Fishing, where bait and people snacks were being sold, a group of charter school students who were on a field trip were also ready to leave. As I watched them, I remembered my teaching days, and was glad that I was only responsible for myself as I did my sightseeing.

I always like to see places that were settings in books I've read. Earlene Fowler's Benni Harper mysteries have a couple of scenes on and near the pier. She refers to Avila Beach as Eola Beach. In Fool's Puzzle, there is a scene in Blue Seal Inn, which is based on the Olde Port Inn at the end of Harford Pier. In her book Irish Chain, Bad Cat Cafe, Port San Patricio, was based on Fat Cat Cafe near the entrance to Harford Pier. One reason I enjoy Earlene Fowler so much is because most of her Benni Harper books are set in San Luis Obispo County, although she refers to San Luis Obispo as San Celina.

This part of Avila Beach near the port is popular with college students from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo because it's only a few minutes from campus and one can camp there or just enjoy one of the small cove-like beaches along Avila Beach Drive. Many other people like it because it accepts dogs on the beach. We were there on a Monday, and hardly anyone was on the beach or the camping area. I enjoyed standing near the shore watching the birds and seals and soaking up the atmosphere. Some of the best views were from the pier, as I looked back at the beach or watched those navigating the bay in boats and kayaks. This beach is most popular for fishing and camping. I don't think swimming is permitted at Port San Luis. I didn't see anyone in the water, and I did not see swimming or surfing among the options under recreation when I went to the web site I just linked to. I suspect those who want to swim go Avila State Beach or the beach near Avila Pier. I didn't make it to either of those places the day we were in Avila.

One of my favorite parts of this day trip was watching the wildlife. I love watching the harbor seal fish, and I always enjoy close-up views of gulls, pelicans, and other shore birds. I have put some of the photos I took of the wildlife, below.

Olde Port Inn on Harford Pier

Olde Port Inn near end of Harford Pier at Port San Luis. Blue Seal Inn in Earlene Fowler's Fool's Puzzle mystery was modeled on this restaurant.
Olde Port Inn near end of Harford Pier at Port San Luis. Blue Seal Inn in Earlene Fowler's Fool's Puzzle mystery was modeled on this restaurant. | Source

Photos of the Wildlife

Brown Pelican taking in the view at Port San Luis, California
Brown Pelican taking in the view at Port San Luis, California | Source
Harbor seal near Harford Pier at Port San Luis, California.
Harbor seal near Harford Pier at Port San Luis, California. | Source
Immature western gull grooming at Port San Luis, California.
Immature western gull grooming at Port San Luis, California. | Source
Front view of immature western gull at Port San Luis, California
Front view of immature western gull at Port San Luis, California | Source
Western gulls at varying stages of maturity on rail of Harford Pier at Port San Luis, California
Western gulls at varying stages of maturity on rail of Harford Pier at Port San Luis, California | Source

More Avila Beach Photos

Avila Beach pier and beach on May 24, 2012.
Avila Beach pier and beach on May 24, 2012. | Source
The golf course above Avila Beach, December, 2012
The golf course above Avila Beach, December, 2012 | Source
The Custom House Restaurant in Avila Beach
The Custom House Restaurant in Avila Beach | Source
A residential area of Avila Beach
A residential area of Avila Beach | Source

Subsequent Visits to Avila Beach

Since our time was limited on our first visit, we only saw Port San Luis and Harford Pier that April Day. I still wanted to see the other beach at Avila, so I went back by myself near the end of May. I saw the sandy beach closer to the main public pier and many sunbathers were enjoying it. This area is closer to the town of Avila Beach where people live. Most of the restaurants are also there.

In December of 2012, an old friend called to say she was staying for a week at the the San Luis Bay Inn on the hill next to the Avila Golf Course. We decided to go see her there, and thus we also saw a different part of Avila and got some pictures inside the inn itself, as well as of the golf course. I would highly recommend the San Luis Bay Inn if you can afford it and you need a place to stay. The rooms are spacious and the one we visited had a full kitchen. There was also a balcony with an ocean view. I was told the room I visited was a timeshare, but I see that they are also a hotel.

In the pictures below I'll show you more pictures from our December visit. The San Luis Bay Inn was beautifully decorated for Christmas, as you will see. It had a library, several lounges, snack bars, and many other public areas. It had an outdoor swimming pool and great view of the surrounding area.

Avila Beach From San Luis Bay Inn

View of Avila Beach and Town from San Luis Bay Inn Parking Lot, December, 2012
View of Avila Beach and Town from San Luis Bay Inn Parking Lot, December, 2012 | Source
Entrance to San Luis Bay Inn from Parking Lot
Entrance to San Luis Bay Inn from Parking Lot | Source
View of Avila Beach from fifth floor of San Luis Bay Inn
View of Avila Beach from fifth floor of San Luis Bay Inn | Source
Lobby of San Luis Bay Inn Decorated for Christmas, 2012
Lobby of San Luis Bay Inn Decorated for Christmas, 2012 | Source

More by this Author


Comments 8 comments

john000 profile image

john000 4 years ago from Superior, Arizona

This was a joy to read! My wife went to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and whenever we visit the folks in the Central Valley we make a trip to San Luis Obispo before returning to our home in Arizona.

My wife has talked about Avila Beach, but we have never gone together. After looking at your photos and reading about the place, we must go.

We have a friend who has a jewelry store in Cambria. When we go to see her we go by Moonstone Beach. It is fascinating to look at those stones. Thanks for the travelog. I vote for this hub.


always exploring profile image

always exploring 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

This is a fantastic hub. The area is beautiful. I love the water. I would love to visit. The Peacock is so colorful. Thank's for sharing..Cheers


WannaB Writer profile image

WannaB Writer 4 years ago from Templeton, CA Author

Thank you for the kind words. I'm going back myself tomorrow to see the part of Avila Beach near the pier and the state park that we didn't have time to visit in April. I love playing tourist in my own county. I'm glad my photos motivated you to want to visit Avila.


WannaB Writer profile image

WannaB Writer 4 years ago from Templeton, CA Author

Thank you, always exploring. I love your user name. Wish I'd thought of it first because I'm always off exploring something myself. I loved watching the peacocks. If I have time, I'm going to stop and see them again, too.


IsadorasThought profile image

IsadorasThought 4 years ago

Your hubs are so much better than any travel guide!


WannaB Writer profile image

WannaB Writer 4 years ago from Templeton, CA Author

Thank you very much for those kind words, Isadoras. I think anyone can find the facts on line and in books, but my goal is to give people a taste of actual sights and sounds that make up the atmosphere of a place, an art exhibit, or a festival.


Paul Edmondson profile image

Paul Edmondson 16 months ago from Burlingame, CA

I just stumbled on this tonight and I love Avila. My Mom lives there and I really need to come visit!


WannaB Writer profile image

WannaB Writer 15 months ago from Templeton, CA Author

I wish I were there today instead of at my computer. I hope you made it by Mother's Day to visit your mom. Thanks for stopping by, Paul.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working