Port San Luis and Avila Beach are Central California at its Finest
The central coast of California is often passed over for the more celebrated San Francisco and Los Angeles areas. Boaters traveling through should really take a pit-stop and poke around; you’d be surprised at what you can find on the central coast.
WHERE TO PARK
Guest mooring up to 85 feet is available directly in front of Harford Pier . Additional guest moorings are just inside of the breakwater for vessels up to 55 feet. Harbor Patrol monitors VHF Channel 12 and 16, or call the harbor office at (805) 595-5400. There is a guest skiff tie-up and a public landing for dropoffs near the middle of Harford Pier on the northwest side. A free water taxi service operates year round to tote you around the harbor. Reach the water taxi service at (805) 703-0397.
A BEACH FOR EVERYONE
Visitors can enjoy several beaches in the Port San Luis area. Olde Port Beach allows vehicles to drive onto the beach to launch or retrieve small boats. There are bonfire pits, and well-behaved unleashed dogs are permitted here. Fisherman’s Beach is also known as dog beach, where all furry first mates can run free and stretch their two pairs of sea legs. Pirates Cove is at the far end from Port San Luis pier, and this is the only clothing optional beach in central California, if that’s your cup of tea.
Harford Pier in Port San Luis is one of the last piers vehicles can drive on. There are about 10 parking spots near the end of the pier for visitors to use. Fishing off the pier does not require a license, so drop a line and see what you can catch. If you don’t want to fish, there are three fish markets on the pier. If you’d rather go deep-sea fishing, there are sportfishing charters. Make sure you stop and read some of the historical plaques that are mounted on the railings of the pier. The pier also hosts Central Coast Sailing Charters, offering daily tours of the local waters, which are teeming with wildlife. See the sea otters near the kelp forest of Fossil Point, encounter dolphins and maybe even catch a glimpse of a humpback whale.
GET SOME WORK DONE
For all boat repair and maintenance needs, the Port San Luis Boatyard is just northeast of the Harford Pier. A public hoist on Harford Pier allows boaters to self-launch their small boats. The cost to launch your boat is $2 for 10 minutes. Using the hoist is a two-person operation and owners must provide lifting straps, according to the website. A public floating landing is available nearby to pick up gear and passengers. There is a coffee shop and chandlery stocked with bait, tackle, boating supplies, and food and beverages.
WINE AND DINE
Just behind the Port San Luis Boatyard is a neighborhood gem of a restaurant: Fat Cats Café . This seafood-centric all-day breakfast spot has beautiful patio views of the ocean and quality ingredients for an alfresco brunch. At the base of Avila Pier are several wineries you can visit. Alapay Cellars, Avila Wine Co., Culton, Morovino, and Peloton Cellars are all on one block. Stroll and savor the great local wines and atmosphere. Mersea’s is another restaurant new to the Port San Luis pier that provides fresh seafood and libations with a fabulous view of the water. You can also view the water from novelty portholes in the floor! The Olde Port Inn is a fine-dining restaurant that has fresh seafood; request to be seated at one of the unique tables that are actually windows for you to see below the pier. They also have a lunch window open for accommodating a seafood fix on the go.
The Point San Luis Lighthouse was built in 1889 after The Queen of the Pacific ran aground en route to (now) Harford Pier. There are two lovely hiking trails that will lead you to this wonderfully restored lighthouse. You can also reserve a trolley tour, which is a docent-led day adventure that will take you from town all the way up to the lighthouse. The lighthouse offers tours Wednesday and Saturday. You can call or book online.
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