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Top 10 Things to Do in Avila Beach with Kids (+ Itinerary)
By Kristy Esparza, May 26, 2021
We’ve compiled the top 10 Avila family experiences so that you know what not to miss on your trip. We’ve also added some of the best places to eat, family-friendly lodging, and even some suggested itineraries in case you need help figuring out how to best use those precious vacation hours.
Why Avila Beach is the perfect family-friendly getaway
This area is more laid-back than it’s popular neighbors, San Luis Obispo and Pismo Beach, but it’s close enough for a quick visit to SLO’s famous Farmers Market or Pismo’s unbeatable clam chowder. Check off each of the following things to do in Avila Beach one by one, or simply relax and enjoy a wonderful beach getaway.
Top 10 Family-Friendly Things to Do in Avila Beach
1. The Beach
Avila Beach / City Beach
Olde Port Beach
Official bonfire rings are generally available from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November, weather permitting. Fire rings are available on a first come, first served basis. If you want a bonfire on a summer weekend, make a full day of it and stake out your spot as early as the afternoon.
2. Kayaking to the Port San Luis Lighthouse
Beginners are welcome, though Avila Beach Paddlesports has a minimum age requirement of 7. All participants must be fully comfortable swimming.
3. Avila Barn
Year round, visitors enjoy lunch from the Farmers BBQ. Make sure to sample the Barn’s famous grilled corn while you’re at it. Families also love to visit the farm animals, feed the goats, and pick fruit during U-Pick seasons. During our visit we were able to visit with a baby donkey, llamas, ponies, pigs, chickens, and an emu!
Given all of the activities, Avila Barn has become a popular spot for locals and visitors alike. Don’t expect a sleepy country farm stand. If you don’t like crowds, plan a visit on the early side. We arrived at about 10am, and the crowds were pouring in for lunch when we left around 11:30am.
4. Whale Watching
John and I recently took a whale watching excursion in Monterey. It was three hours on a large boat with at least 30 people. Even though we were thrilled by the experience of meeting a curious baby whale, we were ready to go after three hours of bobbing. We would feel much more comfortable taking the boys on a trip that is shorter, smaller, and more stable! I tried to book a tour here before our last trip, but it was already sold out. I’ll be sure to update the post as soon as we’re able to go.
May through November is Humpback Whale season with August through mid-October being peak months. January through May is the Grey Whale migration season, with March and April being the peak Season.
5. Harbor Boat Tours
SLO Tours also offers two-hour whale watching tours on their USCG Aluminum RBS Safeboat Defender.
6. Surf Lessons
The school welcomes everyone of every ability level to come out and give surfing a try. Book a group lesson for the whole family and build some unforgettable memories together. Lessons are tailored to your group in order to make the best experience possible for your family.
7. Central Coast Aquarium
During our visit, the boys were thrilled to touch a small swell shark, to see the “pier pilings” fish fed, and to ask plenty of questions while petting sea stars at the tide pool tank. Everything was hands on and approachable, and the boys loved their experience.
Public programs like Shoreline Explorers, beach clean ups, and travelling tide pools extend its reach beyond the building’s walls.
8. Bob Jones City to Sea Trail
The complete trail distance from one end to the other is about 3 miles (6 miles round trip). If you’re visiting in the summer and only want to go one way, the free Avila-Pismo Beach Trolley makes stops at the trailhead on Ontario Road and in the middle of town near the beach on 1st Street. Be sure to check the trolley operating status and schedule before you go!
9. Kid-Friendly Wineries
The most popular family-friendly winery in Avila is Kelsey See Canyon Winery. In addition to wine and cider tasting menus, families can picnic on the outdoor patio and purchase a bag of birdseed to feed the large flock of peacocks that call the winery home.
About 15 minutes inland from Avila is Edna Valley’s Sextant Winery, whose tasting room is located in the Old Edna Townsite General Store. Enjoy your flight with lunch from the onsite Gourmet Deli or grab a glass and take a walk around the beautiful grounds which refer back to the Old Edna of the 1880’s.
10. Explore the Nearby Central Coast Towns
San Luis Obispo
Choosing to dine at old favorites like Firestone’s is increasingly difficult with so many delicious new restaurants to try downtown, but one thing I never tire of is sipping a Linnea’s mocha with Mexican chocolate in the back garden.
If you can, visit on a Thursday evening when Higuera is closed to pedestrian traffic for the town’s popular farmers market. Sample food from local restaurants while you stroll and enjoy entertainment and people watching.
Families love Dinosaur Caves Park on the bluffs above the beach. Parents enjoy the ocean views, while kids climb on the park’s concrete dolphins, orca, seals, and, as you might guess, dinosaur and dinosaur eggs!
Oceano is the only California State Park that allows you to drive your own car onto the beach (4 or all-wheel drive recommended). You’ll also find rare opportunities for activities like exploring the dunes by ATV, SunBuggy, or even a Hummer adventure tour.
Sandboarding is allowed, though you’ll need to arrive with your own board, sled, or saucer. You can check out our tips for DIY sandboarding from our Mesquite Sand Dune experience in Death Valley here. The Guadalupe-Nipomo dunes just south of Oceano are less crowded and quieter, making it a perfect spot for sandboarding. Especially if you want to avoid the vehicle adventures in Oceano!
Getting to Avila Beach
Because most people arrive by car, Avila’s limited downtown parking fills up fast. If you’re driving to the beach, plan to get there early to get a spot!
Where to Stay in Avila Beach with Kids
When traveling with our young kids we look for lodging options that have plenty of space for the boys to run around. We also find that having two rooms gives us a place to hang out after bedtime without having to whisper. I’ve included a couple of my favorite Avila Beach finds below.
If you’re looking to book direct, Seven Sisters is a popular property management group in the area.
Avila Lighthouse Suites
The owner’s suites include a small kitchen with a refrigerator and microwave, so you can easily make some meals in your home away from home. When you tire of the ocean, you can splash in the hotel pool and hot tub with ocean views.
Cottage by the Sea
Book directly with Seven Sisters for the best rates.
Located in the heart of Avila Beach, you’ll be steps away from the beach and right in the heart of the downtown area as soon as you walk out the door.
Book directly with Seven Sisters for the best rates.
Kid-Friendly Eats in Avila Beach
Old Custom House
Hula Hut & Doc Burnstein’s Ice Cream
Itinerary: Four Days in Avila Beach with Kids
Do as little or as much as you’d like. A town like Avila Beach offers something for everyone.