Nipomo, the gateway to the Central Coast, is an old west gem
There’s no shortage of wide-open spaces along Highway 1, but if you’re looking for something totally different, Nipomo will take you back to another era. In a lot of ways, the town still feels like what it must have been like when it was settled in 1839. Lemon groves, vineyards, and avocado orchards (you hear that, millennials?) surround the town, and lend a rustic feel to the settlement. In fact, expect to see plenty of flowers and lots of greenery around Nipomo, as many garden suppliers grow their plants here. Lean into the old-school vibe and eat a cowboy-sized hunk of meat at Jocko’s, a steakhouse wonderfully stuck in the ’50s. Then work off the calories with a walk around the area’s dunes and lakes, or by exploring the rich, fascinating Spanish heritage in the area. At the end of a long day of exploring, spend the night in luxury at one of the vacation rental properties in Trilogy, complete with access to a spa and golf.
This coastal vineyard is every wine lover’s delight. Located in Southern San Luis Obispo County, about 10 minutes north of Nipomo just off Highway 101, Laetitia Vineyard and Winery is known for producing quality vino. Known best for seven iconic sparkling wines, the vineyard is also known for delicious, handcrafted Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. But don’t just take our word for it– stop by the tasting room for a glass (or four). The tasting room is open every day from 11 AM. to 5 PM and offers breathtaking ocean views from their location atop a hill. Take in the atmosphere of their fragrant vineyards as you sit on the patio sipping your wine. What more could you ask for?
The Luffa Farm is not kidding when it says on its website, “Come to be amazed…” This farm is dedicated to making those fluffy little things we all love to shower with: luffas. But these are not just ordinary luffas; they are all natural, chemical free and fragrance-infused. The Luffa Farm has a commitment to hand-making every single one of their products (gotta love the organic stuff) and it doesn’t stop at luffas – the shop has got everything from handmade soap to aromatherapy oils. Be sure to stay for one of the free tours to learn more about Luffa’s Mother Nature-friendly creation process!
When you enter The Sculpture Garden at Trilogy at Monarch Dunes, you’ll be greeted by 16-foot-tall pieces of art. All of the masterpieces here were sculpted by local artists. And you may see a few pieces from the Cow Parade. That’s right, the Cow Parade. It’s an international moo-ving public art exhibit, raising millions for charity by auctioning off sculptures of cows. This year, San Luis Obispo County hosted the parade. Check out some of the amazing cows that have stuck around, like number 25, the Moonarch Dude, a cow with shiny silver wings and a sunset painted on her belly. After you meet the cow, enjoy miles of walking trails, lunch, or the spa here.
Get your daily dose of nature in at Nipomo Native Garden. The twelve-acre site is located in the triangle created by Pomeroy Road, Camino Caballo and Osage Street in the Nipomo area. All of the plants are native to the Nipomo region of California, giving you an accurate sense of what the land should look like. Be sure to take a stroll along some of the trails while you’re there, especially the one through the oak woodland. You’ll feel like you just stepped into your own fairytale.
It’s no wonder Jocko’s steakhouse has lines out the door almost every single night… it serves the juiciest steak around! Jocko’s is almost 90 years old, and has got a no-frills type of vibe – “just come in and eat your dang food.” Loved by locals and tourists alike, the all-inclusive meal price gets you an old-fashioned relish tray, a salad (they make their own dressings; try the ranch), your choice of meat, and a side (the potato spuds do not disappoint). Pack your appetite; the portions are enormous and you’re sure to leave with a couple of styrofoam boxes.
Travelling to Nipomo for a romantic getaway? The Kaleidoscope Inn is the place to go. Unlike all the other accommodations in Nipomo, which are vacation rentals, Kaleidoscope is known throughout California as the perfect bed and breakfast—with the hosts at hand to meet all your needs. Located in a renovated Victorian building, you will not believe how charming it is on the inside. Whether you’re booking the Lover’s Nest room for two or the Master Suite, the Kaleidoscope Inn is at the intersection of cozy, quaint and dreamy.
History comes to life at Dana Adobe at Rancho Nipomo Historical Park. The Dana Adobe, or “Casa de Dana,” was the home of Boston sea captain William Dana, who was granted the 37,888-acre Rancho Nipomo in Southern California in 1837. Stroll through the home and get a glance at history preserved. Dana Adobe offers a real look into what life on the ranch was like in the 1800s. Visiting children learn traditional Mexican folk dances and day-to-day ranch tasks such as tortilla making.
Santa Maria Brewing Co. (which is about 10 minutes south of Nipomo) has been the best-kept secret for those traveling up and down Highway 101 in California for years. Producing iconic beers like the Los Padres porter and the Cali-Veza Mexican-style lager, the brewery has something for everyone. The taproom is open seven days a week, and is located right across the street from the original brewery. Beer snobs and plebeians alike will quickly fall in love with these unique brews.
The Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes is the largest remaining dune system south of San Francisco, and is the second largest in all of California. Spreading out over 18 miles on the Central Coast, the dunes are a must-stop if you’re in the mood for an adventure. Don’t miss out on the visitor center as well; it’s loaded with history, art, and some interesting specimens. You can learn about the Lost City of DeMille, the film set used for Cecil. B. DeMille’s 1923 movie “The Ten Commandments” that was recently uncovered. Or you can hit the waves, off-road on the sand or, if you’re up for the hike, head to the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge, home to over 120 rare plant and animal species. Come prepared to gawk at the seemingly endless rows of sandy hills.
Part of the Oceano Dunes State Vehicle Recreation Area, Oso Flaco Lake Natural Area is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Bring your walking shoes, because it’s a one-mile hike to the iconic wooden boardwalk that goes over part of the lake and enters the dune structure. The area is known for attracting a wide array of birds, as well as other wildlife to spot. And, the boardwalk ends at a wooden observation platform with an incredible view over San Luis Bay. Bring your camera, because there are plenty of photo ops.
Nipomo’s blast-from-the-past feel coupled with all the modern attractions is sure to capture any traveler’s heart. You’ll fall in love with the offbeat vineyards, breweries and marvelous scenery. And let’s not forget the miles and miles of dunes that’ll leave you wanting more.