California Welcome Center Ambassadors Tour Avila Beach
By Mona Breidenstein, Guest Services Manager, California Welcome Center, Pismo Beach
We made our way to Avila Beach Drive and drove by Avila Hot Springs, saw the trailhead for the Bob Jones Trail, and stopped at Salisbury Vineyards, in the beautifully restored schoolhouse, which also includes an art gallery. We met Mr. Salisbury and our tour guides were Karin Argano and Timothy L. Hodge, who also gave us the wonderful history of the Avila Beach area as well as the winery.
Back on the road again, we headed to Sycamore Mineral Springs and the Gardens of Avila Restaurant. To our great surprise, they rolled out the red carpet in a big way in our private room at the Gardens of Avila Restaurant. We were fed very well with a sampling of their sandwiches and two awesome salads. We had a peek at their menus and discovered that the Gardens of Avila Restaurant at Sycamore Mineral Springs is open 365 days a year serving breakfast, lunch and dinner! Just when you couldn’t eat another bite, the dessert sampler arrived – its presentation was perfection! After lunch we took a golf cart ride of the property and toured a few guest rooms. We made our way to the spa side of the property and saw the huge, outdoor spa that can easily accommodate 35 people. You had to tear us away from this tour and we thank Marina Houston for her hospitality. Needless to say, we were way behind schedule by the time we left and headed for the town of Avila Beach.
On our drive into town, we saw the Avila Beach Golf Resort and stopped at the Avila Lighthouse Suites where we were greeted by Krysta Jaeckels who showed us two suites, the conference area, pool and gym on the property. They have the most spectacular views of Avila Beach and the suites are very nice.
Next to the beautiful park and playground in Avila Beach is the Avila Beach Marine Institute. This is an aquatic gem right in the playground area. Margaux O’Quest gave us an overview of their operation and will keep us informed on their upcoming Summer Camps called Sea U for children ages 8-12. They also host birthday parties if you are looking for something different than just cake and ice cream, which they can provide as well with the educational element to your event. We thank Margaux who opened up the Marine Institute’s door just for our Ambassadors.
Hot and tired, we began our self-guided tour of the downtown area. We saw the Avila Trolley stop, basketball courts, pier, swing sets on the beach and stopped in at The Custom House and Mr. Rick’s where we met General Manager Trent Cuaresma and were escorted by Rachel on the bulk of the tour. We received a behind the scenes tour of the kitchen, the newly remodeled conference room and wine cellar. The Custom House has beautiful art displayed by a local artist, which adds to the beach setting atmosphere. You can dine inside or outside on the patio, day or night! We want to come back on a Friday afternoon for Avila’s Fish and Farmers' Market and sample some of their house specialties. The Avila Fish and Farmers' Market is on Friday afternoon from 4 to 8PM on the promenade.
Next stop was the Hula Hut, where Bill Price greeted us with a sample of the fudge he makes on site—what a treat! The Hula Hut has a vast array of goodies to eat, interesting gifts to purchase and a cute seating area to watch the surf while enjoying a cup of coffee or reading your Avila Community News. Then we were on to the Avila Wine and Roasting Company to meet Kurt and Karen Bryant, who offer a bit of everything at their establishment, from wine, wine tasting, coffee gifts and art for sale.
As we continued down Avila Beach Drive, we discovered the famed Fisherman’s Monument where you meet the docents to take you on the Pecho Coast Trail to the Lighthouse. We met Mara Ziehn of Port San Luis Harbor who gave us the grand tour of the port. We received information on the RV overnight parking, saw the fire rings for evening campfires and took in the breathtaking views from this vantage point of Avila Beach. The pier is a working pier and has commercial fishing on it. You can still drive on the pier, which is an interesting item to share with tourists. On the pier are several businesses: a live bait shop, two fresh fish markets and Patriot Sport Fishing. The tours Patriot has to offer are just wonderful and we are now educated to know what to tell the visitor who is looking for just what they have. Last but not least, Jay Auberry greeted us at Olde Port Inn – a wonderful restaurant that has been serving locals and visitors for over 40 years. They recently opened another restaurant in San Luis Obispo called Ciopinot. We sat at a table with the famed glass tops – you can see all the way down to the water! Olde Port Inn also has a fish market attached to the restaurant. Did you know that if they don’t have the seafood item on the menu you were eager to try, and you can find it at one of the pier fish markets or may have just pulled it out of the sea yourself, they will cook it up for you? Just add it to your restaurant order – now that’s what I call service!
Our tour was now 2 1/2 hours behind schedule, but well worth it. We wanted to stop by the Avila Valley Barn for sweets and coffee, but we just didn’t have the time. Next time for sure!