Welcome to Pismo Beach

Welcome to Pismo Beach


Pismo Beach is an old-time California beach town which has made a substantial imprint on the world. Besides being known as the “Clam Capital of the World,” it’s the only place state park in California where you can drive directly on the beach and where 100,000 monarch butterflies winter every year in a pocket grove of eucalyptus. It’s the vacation destination that Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck never made it to after repeatedly taking wrong turns at Albuquerque. Although the signature clam has gone into decline due to aggressive over harvesting, Pismo Beach still promotes and celebrates the town’s favorite marine bivalve in many ways : Clam Festival, clam chowder competitions, clam-themed parades, etc. There is even a giant concrete clam statue downtown decorated for every holiday located at the southern end of Price Street, as you enter the city.

The one-time “Clam Capital,” Pismo Beach has had to retool its image when over-harvesting by people and otters depleted the clams’ numbers. In fact, it’s estimated that a single otter can consume up to 80 clams in one day. The only legal clams for the taking must be at least 4 ½ inches in diameter. They grow up to seven inches across but the large clams are usually buried deep in sand beyond the shoreline. (Although no license is required to fish from the Pismo pier, a salt-water fishing license is required for clamming on Pismo Beach.) There are so few Pismo clams now that local restaurants serve New York or New England clams in their famous clam chowders. That doesn’t stop the influx of tourists into town, especially during the summer, looking for respite from the valley heat. The average year round temperature in Pismo Beach is 72 degrees.

The Pismo Beach Pier is 1200 feet long and is an attraction for fishermen, kids, and those who just want to walk its length to watch surfers skim the waves. Built in 1881, the wharf was used to load local cargo from the warehouses adjacent to it, saving steamer freight costs. Thirty eight ships were loaded in one year and lumber as well as other commodities were unloaded here. This first pier survived until a storm near the turn of the century damaged it and was eventually rebuilt in 1924. That pier was so long that Navy ships could dock at the end and sailors could disembark. A storm destroyed 500 feet of that pier which was never restored. Another storm damaged the rest in 1983 and the Pismo Beach pier had to be completely replaced by 1986.

Dinosaur Caves Park, 200 Cliff Street, is an eleven acre park that sits on a bluff overlooking the ocean. It was originally the location of an amusement park in the 1940’s. A large cement dinosaur statue which was to be used to advertise the venture was never completed due to local opposition and the headless behemoth was eventually torn down in the late 1950’s. Art fairs are held here on the weekends. The park has an amphitheatre and a reception area where weddings are held with access to an overlook that provides a beautiful background for photographs. This is also a favorite local spot to walk, jog, walk dogs, or eat a picnic lunch. A play area for kids has two concrete dolphins and a rope swing and there are restrooms and off street parking is available. There are plans for a telescope observatory, two gazebos, a learning center, and a fishing platform in the cove at the bottom of the bluff. The Dinosaur Caves are not accessible except by those adventurous enough to explore the wave tunnels and kelp beds by kayak.

There’s so much more to Pismo Beach than the moniker “Clam Capital” would suggest. For a laid back little retro California beach town, Pismo Beach has a fascinating history, a myriad of attractions, prominent festivals, lots of beautiful scenery, nature, wildlife, and outdoor activities. Add to this, shopping, fine dining and marvelous hotels for every price range and you have a unique coastal destination worth your leisure time and attention.

~ Written by C.S. Nicholson





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