10 Perfect Activities for Families Visiting California’s Central Coast

Wine Coast Country is the ideal place for families.

Wine Coast Country is the ideal place for families.
Wine Coast Country is the ideal place for families.

Wine Coast Country, as California’s Central Coast is often known, is the perfect destination for families and the area’s new Stewardship Travel program is filled with fun, authentic, and inspiring activities hosted by area historians, scientists and specialists. There are more than 70 unique activities and/or contribution opportunities in more than 10 locations that families can take advantage of. So, if you are like me, and are looking for something unique for the family to do during spring break but somewhere that isn’t too far away, Wine Coast Country is the place. Here are 10 perfect activities for families:

1. Elephant Seals Docent Talks (San Simeon) 
• Safe up close views of hundreds of seals playing, rolling in waves, flipping sand, and calling.
• Long viewing boardwalk for walks and talks.
• Docents help kids learn and share pictures to illustrate peculiar seal behaviors.
• Find out why there is a “loser’s beach.”
• Live Webcam for kids to track seals when they go home (www.elephantseal.org/Rookery/livecam.html)

2. Costal Discovery Center (San Simeon/Cambria)
• Hands-on exhibits and learning centers designed for all ages near sheltered state beach.
• Docents on hand to talk to families and answer their questions about marine life.

3. San Luis Obispo Kid’s Botanical Garden (Los Osos/Baywood)
• Features a kid’s garden and programs such as “Garden Fresh Family Cooking” and “Kid’s Garden Candy.”
• Lots of fun walking trails in and around well labeled botanical garden, a garden store, and an outdoor amphitheater for educational programs.
• Playground equipment and small rock climbing area nearby for kids to enjoy when they are done learning about plants.

4. Audubon Sweet Springs Nature Preserve Days (Los Osos/Baywood)
• Monthly Steward’s Day for the whole family – gathering seeds, planting seedlings, weed eradication activities depending on time of year. • Fun, relatively short hiking trails with little bridges, creek to ocean views on small “pocket” preserve.
• Great wildlife viewing – possible sightings include: great blue herons, pond turtles, snowy white egrets. Exhibits that show the history of San Simeon Bay from the Native Americans who lived in his area up to 10,000 years ago, to the Mission Era, the shore whaling era, and the Hearst Castle era. Citizen Science programs so families can help and learn about water quality monitoring. 
• Donation opportunities to help with preserve’s conservation and ongoing restoration and more.

5. El Moro Elfin Forest (Los Osos/Baywood)
• Five miles of safe, looping wooden boardwalks for waking with spectacular views of Morro Bay.
• See special “pygmy oaks” in the forest with 199 other plants, 110 kinds of birds, 22 species of mammals.
• Free self-guided plant and animal guide for walks.
• See historic Chumash Indian shell middens (shell heaps).
• Educational docent-led trips available.
• Conservation donation opportunities.

6. Avila Beach Free Stewardship Cleanup Kit & Tote Bag Gift (Avila Beach)
• Families can pick up the Stewardship Clean-up Kit at most Avila hotels/resorts and head to the beach (especially after a storm) to find and pick up interesting flotsam, jetsam and litter to help protect wildlife and keep beaches pristine.
• Have fun together by filling out the Cleanup Checklist (in the kit) and return to hotel for free tote bags.
• Older students can check with schools to receive educational credits for volunteer efforts.

7. Central Coast Aquarium – Avila (Avila Beach)
• Hands-on exhibits and learning center designed for all ages near protected beach.
• Aquarium staff on hand to talk to families and answer their questions about marine life.
• Fish and jellyfish aquariums along with live shark tank (stay for feedings).
• Exploration backpacks available for families to check out: includes field guides, hand lenses,binoculars and more.

8. Natural History Boat Cruise and Fishing Clinic in Lopez Lake Recreation Area (Edna & Arroyo Grande Valleys)
• Two-hour boat-cruise with Park Ranger for all ages (even the family dog is invited).
• Learn about local wildlife, forests, history on cruise – cleanup options available, just ask the ranger.
• Special fishing area for clinic with stocked fish (especially good for positive experience for youngsters who want to learn how to fish with parents).
• Learn about “leave no trace” fishing.

9. Museum of Natural History Morro Bay State Park (Los Osos/Baywood) 
• Ideal and fun central location above Morro Bay Estuary with fantastic views.
• Short walk to nearby Heron Rookery.

10. Visit 50,000 Monarch Butterflies near Pismo State Beach (Oceano/Nipomo)
• Relatively small protected area for butterfly exploration.
• Between late October and February 50,000 butterflies stop at Eucalyptus grove while migrating.
• Educational docents available to tell the butterfly story – some butterflies migrate 1,000 miles to this site.
• Family dog welcome on leash.


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