Amazing times at Avila Beach
This Californian village has much to offer
A short distance off Highway 101 on the central California coast, and 160 miles north of Los Angeles, is San Luis Bay. The small village of Avila Beach sits on the shore, with green rolling hills as a backdrop and a view of the sparkling bay. There is more packed into this tiny community than first meets the eye.
We dropped into the visitor’s centre to learn a little more about Avila Beach. This beautiful little town had a 400,000-gallon oil spill back in the 1990s—oil storage tanks had leaked underneath the town. In a $30 million settlement, most of the town was torn down or moved while the contaminated soil was removed and clean soil returned. Now that this has been completed by the offending oil company, most of the town has been rebuilt. The old market that had been moved was being put back into its original place on Front Street while we were there. New condos, restaurants and businesses have been constructed and the town is thriving.
A fisherman’s dream
San Luis Bay is filled with moored fishing and pleasure boats. Harford Pier is a long working pier where fishing boats unload their catch. Crabs and fish are loaded into water tanks and customers can buy right out of the tanks. As we walked along the pier we stopped at many of the fishing boats tied up at the dock, looking to see what they had caught. A large seafood restaurant sits at the end of the dock; we could smell fish and chips cooking. I don’t think the fish could have been any fresher.
Avila Beach has three piers—the longest is the Avila Beach Pier (1,685 feet long)—jutting out from the centre of town, a perfect place for an afternoon stroll. The second pier is Harford Pier, which is used for commercial fishing. The last is a marine research pier, not open to the public.
An RV-friendly village
As we drove around the bay, RVs were dry camping along the side of the road. I looked a little closer and they all had fishing rods in the water. Further up the road another campground has full hookups—it operates on a first-come, first-served basis and also overlooks the glistening bay.
In Port San Luis, across from Harford Pier, we stopped for lunch. Since 1985, Fat Cats has served breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week. This older restaurant is a long narrow building with a large heated patio. The fish and chips and clam chowder were excellent and the atmosphere was friendly and casual. We were told to look a little closer and we might see actual fat cats along the patio wall amongst the bougainvillea and flowerpots.
Avila Beach is situated in a protected bay and has some of the warmest weather on the coast. We were glad we had discovered this quiet, serene, out-of-the-way place along the coast—it’s one of our favourite spots.