Beachcombing Pismo Beach: Wine whimsy, butterfly mobs, clam chaos

Monarch Butterflies - Migration to Pismo Beach
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This story is part of our summer series "Beachcombing," in which KPCC reporters will explore  the ecology, economy and culture of Southern California's beaches and coast. Let us know what you think in the comments below or on KPCC's Facebook page. What's your favorite beach? 

Bugs Bunny once hit a well-documented detour while searching for California's Central Coast gem, Pismo Beach. If you stick with above-ground maps and established roadways, however, there should be no issues reaching the promised land of clams in San Luis Obispo County.

A family-fit waterfront, Pismo, the "Clam Capital of the World," is ripe with local wineries, ruled by majestic Monarchs and ready to serve bivalve mollusks by the bucketful.

Town tradition includes an annual Clam Festival, celebrated since 1946. This year's gathering takes place in October — don’t miss the chowder cook-off and “Wine Walk," notes the City of Pismo Beach:

What are you, Pismo?

A 60-acre regional beach, pier, promenade, creek and dunes

Amen for amenities

  • Public restrooms
  • Sand showers
  • Volleyball courts
  • Children's play equipment
  • Benches
  • Drinking fountains
  • Ocean recreation options
  • Fire rings

Take me there

  • North 101 || Exit Wadsworth. Turn west on Wadsworth, South on Highway 1 and west on any street towards the ocean.
  • South 101 ||  Exit Highway 1. Follow Highway 1 and turn west on any street towards the ocean.

My car can’t swim. Where do I put it?

Hollywood digs Pismo

Clark Gable made a splash at Pismo Beach while filming “Strange Cargo”  in the area in 1940.

According to a Gable-centric resource blog, the charmer and some co-stars crashed a girls softball game. There appears to be photographic evidence; game statistics were not immediately available.

The Pismo Beach Hotel also boasts a roster of historic Hollywood check-ins like Spencer Tracy, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.

As the butterflies

Orange has always been the new black at the Monarch Butterfly Grove in Pismo. The sanctuary has showcased over 25,000 friendly flutterers in the span of five years.

In what amounts to the most adorable mob ever, the butterflies can sometimes be seen huddling together in dense clusters to form a weighted protection against elements, that provides warmth and shelter for the group.

Visit the sanctuary’s website before flying out the door — downloadable post cards, flash cards and coloring books are proven to enhance the road trip portion of any beach adventure.

Seaside soundtrack

Drown out the ocean's soothing sounds with your own arrangement of waveforms. Here is an appropriate starter track for your Pismo Beach playlist:

Wild times

Meanwhile, back at the beach, otters, elephant seals, whales and other marine wildlife may be waiting to meet your gentle acquaintance — from a safe and legally mandated distance, of course.

Bird life is also all yours for the watching near Pismo Creek — just walk down Addie Street "where the creek merges into the ocean," says the city guide.

What condition the conditions are in

In planning your Pismo pilgrimage, keep current with updated surf, weather and water temperature reports.

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