Aug 9, 2015: The Best Beach

Better late than never, right? The reason I’m late posting this week is because…we were on vacation! I didn’t mention it last week because I didn’t want to publicly announce that our house would be vacant because…you know, robbers and stuff. Though actually, it wasn’t really vacant—it was protected by two attack pugs and our fearless pet sitter, who visits three times a day.  But anyway…we’re back now! And we had a wonderful time.

We went back to a favorite vacation spot of ours: Cambria! We didn’t have a ton of time for a vacation, because Chris didn’t have much time to spare from work, so we needed someplace close. Plus, we just bought our house, so the budget was pretty slim. So Cambria fit the bill perfectly—it’s only 250 miles away, it’s not horribly expensive, and we all love it. Sold!

Our usual beach house was already spoken for, so I rented us a different house this time. And actually, the house itself was nicer—it had three bedrooms and was in better shape, and we quite liked it. But we did miss the ocean view from our usual place. The one we usually rent is very small and a bit on the shabby side. It’s clean, but it’s definitely well-loved. But it has a killer view of the ocean from the main living area, which is why we keep going back to it. The only house we could find in our price range this time was in the pines, with no ocean view, but it was lovely and larger than our usual one, so we liked it just fine. And the deer came to play in the yard several times, which was very cool! In fact, the first afternoon we were there, there were nine deer and two woodpeckers in the backyard. So cool! And we only had to walk a few blocks to get a peek at the ocean, too. 🙂

Usually in Cambria, we end up spending some time at the beaches and some time doing other stuff. But this trip, we did almost exclusively beach time. The Cambria beaches, while absolutely breathtaking, aren’t exactly kid beaches. They’re perfect for enjoying gorgeous scenery, but they tend to be rather rocky instead of sandy, and the surf is pretty rough. So we did go down to Moonstone Beach one afternoon, but the other days we drove 40 minutes south to Avila Beach, which I have decided is the ultimate beach in California.

Now, I hesitate to say that because I fear the word will get out about this most excellent beach, and then it will get overrun with people! But what the heck—not that many people read this blog, so I think I’m safe. 😉

Avila Beach is just outside San Luis Obispo, so it’s considered part of the Central California coast. And it is just awesome if you’re looking for a beach for kids. Here’s why…

Up here in the Bay Area, we have beaches, and they are pretty cool. We enjoy them a lot. But the surf can be pretty rough, the undertow can be pretty strong, the water is pretty cold, and they are crowded. So we go, and we have a great time, but there are bits and pieces that I might change if I could.

I talked to a few people at Avila from Southern California, and they complained that their beaches are quite crowded and dirty. I haven’t lived in Southern CA since I was a baby, so I can’t speak to that…but that’s what they complained about and why they were so pleased with Avila.

So then you’ve got Avila, which is smack in between the two regions of California. It’s in a sort of curved cove, so the surf isn’t nearly as rough as it is when you go further north. There are small waves, and a lot of kids boogie board on them, but they are gentle enough that even tiny little Sam doesn’t get knocked over by them. (Not that I let Sam go into the surf on his own, but you get the idea—they’re gentle enough waves that even a little guy does fine in them.)

The water is a wee bit warmer than it is further north, too. And the beach is soft sand, rather than rock, so it’s great for building sand castles and such. Plus, on one end of the beach, there is a rocky area with a ton of tidepools, great for exploring. Theo was obsessed with them!

And because the beach is kind of in a more remote area (San Luis Obispo is the nearest city, and it’s not that big—I think the population is about 40,000 or thereabouts), it’s not very crowded. Even on the weekend, when there were far more people, it still didn’t feel like the wall-to-wall jam of people that some of our beaches can be.

And the wildlife! There are sand crabs galore, and Theo had a blast finding them and relocating them. There were also other little crabs wandering around, which was really fun to see. And the aforementioned tidepools, of course, with tons of sea anemones (those are so fun to poke and watch them curl up!), mussels, clams, crabs, sea snails, starfish, etc. Theo quickly decided he was an expert on tidepools and wanted to introduce everyone he met to them. 😉

And the seals swim really close to the shore in the cove—it’s incredible! Dolphins too, sometimes. And even whales, though they are further out. It’s so cool to be able to see all of that wildlife up close and personal—the kids love it!

And the other thing about Avila is, it totally feels like a family beach. Some of the beaches in Santa Cruz are kind of party beaches, so after a big party weekend you’ll find lots of evidence of partying—old beer bottles and garbage and such. But we’ve never found that stuff at Avila. It really seems more like a family destination, and so the beach seems to stay pretty clean and free of trash leftover from late-night parties.

This is not to knock the beaches in Northern California, mind you—as I said, we enjoy them a lot. But we love Avila Beach because it’s just so absolutely perfect when you have two young kids. It really is ideal! Oh—and conveniently located showers right when you step off the sand, so you can wash down filthy children before changing them out of their wet, sandy suits. 😉

So we ended up going to Avila Beach three out of our four days there. And honestly, we probably would’ve gone the fourth day except that we had plans to meet some family friends of Chris’s on that particular afternoon, so we decided to do a small zoo in Atascadero instead. Theo wasn’t thrilled to miss the tidepools that day, but he survived. 😉

Other than beaching and the zoo, we just hung out and relaxed, mostly. We did visit a children’s museum one day after the beach, and surprisingly both boys enjoyed it. We thought Theo might be a tad too old for it, but he actually really loved an earthquake exhibit where you could build a structure and see whether it could withstand a quake, so that kept him happy while Sam checked out the exhibits for younger kids.

We also taught Theo how to play Uno and played that most nights. I can’t say he’s a whiz at strategy, but he had fun. 😉 And Sam was happy to get some time watching Thomas the Tank Engine while we played, since he proved himself not to be trusted around playing cards! (Tiny marauder, I tell you…)

All in all, it was a wonderful trip and a nice break. Chris laughs at me because he says I’m the one person he knows who is more tired after vacation than before, and he’s right—insomnia during vacation is just awful for me. (It’s awful pretty much every night, but it is even worse during vacation.) So I can’t say it was a restful vacation, but it was a fun vacation. And we desperately needed a few days away from work—especially Chris, who has been neck deep in his big project (which is now slated to end in October).

Anyway, that’s all the news that’s fit to print around here. Hope you are all enjoying your August!

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