The Perfect California Beach Vacation

Pismo Beach Vacation

Traveling with kids can sometimes be more stressful than staying home. There’s nothing like small children that can turn a relaxing time at the beach into something . . . not so relaxing. However, this time was as close to perfect as traveling with 3 small children can get.

We drove 2 hours to the coast to “Bakersfield West.” At least that’s what we in Bakersfield call Pismo Beach since it seems half the city spends their summers in the central coast beach town. We were thrilled to trade in the 112 degree temperatures of Bakersfield for the upper 60s and low 70s in Pismo. Pismo Beach, California is everything you want in a California beach town. It has maintained its 1960s surfer vibe complete with a surf shop called “Moondoggies.”

Where We Stayed

We stayed at the Sea Gypsy which boasts ocean views, private beach access, kitchenettes, a pool, and walking distance to all the pier and downtown. Though I could have wished for more comfortable beds, we were able to fit all five of us with the queen size murphy bed, sleeper sofa and the pack n play I brought for the baby. Since we were able to put the beds away during the day, it made the room nice and open for the kids to play while we listening to the waves crashing about 100 yards away. The kitchenette allowed me to store and prepare food for Reagan and Noah, which is always a challenge when we travel. The appeal of the Sea Gypsy Motel is its location. You really can’t beat the balconies that hover over the beach and being able to walk to downtown in minutes. The staff is very friendly and accommodating. Each morning there was a simple continental breakfast of coffee, juice, tea and muffins.

What is There to Do

Since this was the first real vacation we’ve been able to go on in a LONG time, I wasn’t about to fill it with rushing around. We spent the majority of our time relaxing on the beach. What was nice is that it wasn’t just the five of us. My in-laws, my husband’s sister with her husband and baby (11 days younger than Harrison), my husband’s aunt, uncle and cousin, and his uncle’s brother’s family were all there as well. So, while we were not obligated to spend every moment with extended family, there were other people around to look out for the kids and talk to.


Pismo Beach is one of my favorite California beaches because of the wide sandy beach with plenty of wet sand for building sand castles and digging up sand crabs and plenty of dry sand for playing beach volleyball and other games. It’s also known for surfing and boogie boarding. We were able to rent a boogie board for several hours and my husband went out to catch waves like he was 16 again. (He wanted to show off for the kids.) There were so many families around that my kids were not short on playmates no matter how long we stayed out.

One of the coolest features of Pismo Beach is the caves on the north end of the beach. On our second full beach day, we walked all the way down to the end of the beach and went exploring. Noah almost didn’t make it to the very last one because the water was up to about knee height on us and waist high for him. But Daddy came to the rescue and carried him around the corner. The kids were a little apprehensive in their exploration because they were convinced there were either monsters or pirates living in the caves.



On our last day, we didn’t want to go all the way down to the beach, so we stuck close to “home” going out for frozen yogurt (pineapple soft serve for the kids – no yogurt for them!) and took them to the bowling ally arcade. We also stopped for souvenirs and salt water taffy at “The Sky’s the Limit” one of the many touristy shops in the downtown area.



Where to Eat

No trip to Pismo is complete without a trip to the famous Splash Cafe. Although they have a fairly extensive menu, they are known for one thing, the local specialty, clam chowder in a bread bowl. Typically the line for Splash is out the door and around the corner as you walk in, place your order and pick it up when you’re called. Is it worth the wait? Um, yes!


We also rarely miss a a visit to Brad’s. Burgers, seafood, chowder, wraps and more, my favorite place is out on the patio enjoying the fabulous weather. They have Trivial Pursuit cards on every table to pass the time waiting for food. (Jimmy and I can get a little competitive playing any kind of trivia games) They always have great food, but the find this trip was their veggie wrap that was perfect for Reagan and Noah. They liked them so much, we came back a second time.

We also had Gino’s Pizza and breakfast at Penny’s All American Cafe, which were excellent.

Although when most people think of California, they think of LA, the central coast beaches are beautiful and family friendly. On this trip, we didn’t explore all the options that Pismo has to offer, but just relaxed and enjoyed family time at the beach. If you’re heading to the California coast, take the drive up Pacific Coast Highway and enjoy enjoy Pismo Beach.


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