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Ringo Boitano: Classic California on the Central Coast

aerial view of Pismo Beach
Pismo Beach. Courtesy of Pismo Beach Conference & Visitors Bureau

Classic California
On the Central Coast

Story by Ringo Boitano

“This land is your land, this land is my land
From California, to the New York Island
From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me.”

- Woody Guthrie

hey came by the thousands. It was not the first time, nor would it be the last. These were young Americans, many of whom who had never lived more than forty-miles from their place of birth. This all changed with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Most of the U.S. military bases were located in California and the recruits were shipped to an unfamiliar landscape of wide-open spaces, eternal sunshine, crystal-clear ocean waters and groves of citrus trees where you could pick the oranges right from the branch. When WWII ended, many of those who were fortunate enough to return home remembered this paradise found. Winters didn’t mean having to dig your car out of the snow each morning or wearing your heaviest boots and gloves to the factory. Many of these families packed their bags and headed to this promised land of the West – where the beaches were wide and expansive, and the Pacific horizon seemed to say that anything was possible.

This California no longer exists. The citrus groves have been razed and track homes have taken their place. Factories and industries have flourished on the once inexpensive and seemingly limitless terrain. Southern California has now become something else, and, like all things in our land, will continue to grow and evolve.

strollers along beach, Pismo Beach
Courtesy of Pismo Beach Conference & Visitors Bureau

Two hundred miles north of Los Angeles, however, there is still a piece of paradise that resembles this dream of the post WWII years. Although it too has changed, this area still comes the closest to reflecting the classic California of that bygone era. It begins on the Pacific Coast Highway, just north of the city of Santa Barbara – a location where for many Southern Californians the weekend getaways ends. It is known as the Central Coast, and my destination of choice for the weekend would be Pismo Beach.

old photograph of Chumash Indian
Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Pismo Beach got its name 9,000 years ago from the indigenous people, the Chumash Indians, who referred to the area as a place to find pismu, or tar. Spanish archeologists called these early coastal residents 'playano'('beach people'). The Chumash, renowned for their magnificent redwood plank canoes, subsided on a staple of ground acorns, wild game and the (now almost depleted) Pismo Clam. The Chumash’s way of life almost ended during the Spanish Missionary Period, but the remaining decedents found a rebirth with their new Las Vegas-style casino in Santa Ynez – the Chumash Casino.

flying beach kites along seashore
Courtesy of Pismo Beach Conference & Visitors Bureau


The city of Pismo Beach was incorporated in 1951, and from the beginning was a natural as a tourist destination with its long white beaches, great weather, and spectacular views. This is not the town, though, where time has stood still. However, it has done its best to embrace the best of the past and has engineered tourist friendly packages that showcase all the wonders the area has to offer today. As I explored Pismo, I could see it was a place where everyone seems to fit - surfers and seniors walking their dogs share the same beach. Fishermen try to catch the big one from the iconic Pismo pier. You can drive and camp on the beach just down the coast at the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area.

vintage car in Pismo Beach
Courtesy of Pismo Beach Conference & Visitors Bureau

Pismo boasts over 30 restaurants and more than 50 motels, hotels, and RV parks. You can enjoy bicycling, golfing, hiking, nature walks, water sports, Hummer adventure tours and horseback riding – also right on the beach! Pismo Beach is the winter home of the Monarch butterfly that comes to stay annually from October to February. Pismo also makes a wonderful home base for exploring the Central Coast’s other attractions that include the Danish Village of Solvang, Hearst Castle, over 100 wineries, the boutiques of Cambria and the previously mentioned Chumash Casino.

Where to Stay

Mission Inn of Pismo Beach

MISSION INN OF PISMO BEACH. One of the newest properties on the Central Coast, this upscale limited-service hotel offers 120 rooms and suites, nestled on a hillside overlooking the ocean. Amenities include complimentary hot breakfast buffet, wireless Internet, gift shop, fitness center, pool-side patios and ocean-view lounge.

aerial view of beachfront at Pismo Beach
PISMO COAST VILLAGE RV RESORT. This RV resort truly lives up to its name – it’s located right on the beach and is its own self-contained village. RVers enjoy 400 full hookup sites on 26 tree-lined acres, complete with restaurant, general store, laundromat, heated pool, wireless Internet, bicycle rentals and miniature golf course.

two beach chairs on beach with Pismo Beach Pier in the background

THE SEAVENTURE RESORT is one of the premier California Beachfront hotels. Nestled on the beach, this Pismo Beach hotel offers luxury accommodations at great value. Guests enjoy tastefully appointed rooms, with private balcony and hot tub, to refresh you after a day of enjoying Central Coast outdoor activities. Later in the day, kick back and savor contemporary coastal cuisine along with spectacular 180 degree ocean views.

Feedback for Ringo

I love Ringo's piece on historic hotels. I once stayed at the Laurentian in Montreal - is it still around, is it historic? And then there was the Heups in Bismark.

It is interesting that two of your entries are in CANADA.

Brent, Seattle, WA

It's no mystery that you are great at what you do.

Sandee, Seattle, WA

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The Mystery on the Oasis pics are very funny!

Ramon, Kansas City, MO

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Ha ha ha ha your "schtick" Ringo!!

Dolly, Las Vegas, NV

Hello the travelling Boitano's hope you enjoy. Best wishes.

Elsa Magdalena Berno-Boitano, Laussane, Switzerland

My Irish roots understand terrible beauty. So do my human roots. The concept has such a ring of truth to it, doesn't it? Great article, Ringo. I hope to get to Ireland eventually, and thanks for blazing the trail!

Sandeee Bleu, Seattle, WA

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No wonder I've been hearing all these wonderful stories about Ireland. I used to think that it was just for Irish Americans seeking their ancestral roots but your article seems to call out to the non-Irish like me. Fascinating and intriguing.

Peter Paul, Pasadena, CA

Thanks for this great post wow... it's very wonderful.

Key Logger, New York

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Lets not forget that the Marriot Harbor Beach is within walking distance to the world famous Elbo Room - Fort Lauderdale's oldest bar.

Jeff, Fort Lauderdale, FL

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Thanks for taking the time for the message and reminder. Indeed, I had a quick drink at the Elbo Room. My trip to Ft. Lauderdale would not have been complete without a visit to this historic institution.I have been reading about it for years, and was not disappointed. It felt like a real local's hangout.

- Ringo


I thoroughly enjoyed your article about Dick and Liz. I remember seeing that article back in the heyday of Life Magazine.

To remember the "behind-the-scenes" stories like that makes you genuine fan of the 60's. The famous couple's turbulent relationship was just a precursor of today's headline-grabbing media stars like Britney Spears and her colleagues. Life was simpler then. The paparazzis still had some sense of decency. You "coulda" been a good paparazzi. I say "coulda" because you kept this to yourself all these many years.

Looking forward to other media trivia you can remember.

Peter Paul, South Pasadena, CA

Hey, Ringo –

Enjoyed your article on Antarctica --- cool photos, too. One thing, you mentioned that Ushuaia in Argentina is considered the most southern city in the world. I read that Chile lays claim to that distinction, with Punta Arenas, the southernmost city in the world.

Mick, Greenbay, WI

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Mick –

Now that football season is over --- I’ve often wondered what you Packer fans did in the off season ---- it’s great that you took the time to visit TravelingBoy. Great question, unlike my older brother, I adore all lamb products, and Patagonian Lamb --- cooked in a restricted area at the restaurant in an opened wood-fueled fire pit --- is amazing. The chef actually uses an ax to carve it. Frankly, I found it superior to Norwegian fjord lamb, Irish Burren lamb and even those much esteemed creatures down in New Zealand. The crab in Ushuaia is the other thing to eat. Wait a sec, you asked about Punta Arenas vs. Ushuaia as the furthermost city in the world. Well, they both have little disclaimers re populations --- you know, what’s a city, which one is a town, ect – so better let Chile and Argentina brass it out. They seem to be able to argue about any subject.

- Ringo

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