The 840 mile-long coast of California is notable for beaches, surf, rocky remoteness, elephant seals, tiny shacks and extravagant mansions, tawdry strips of touristy attractions and genteel (dare we say pretentious?) enclaves of the wealthy.
And there are piers, several dozen: fishing piers, amusement piers, piers built for whaling ships, logging, freight or passengers. They vary in length from Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf — 2,745 feet — to Malibu’s 780 feet. I wrote about Malibu HERE, and more recently, about Redondo Beach Pier, HERE. Somewhere in the middle of the list at 953 feet is the wooden fishing pier at Cayucos, which is on the northern portion of Morro Bay, about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
There’s not much to do by 21st-Century interactive involvement standards: you walk out on it, look, and walk back.
There’s no restaurant, ferris wheel or aquarium, as on some piers. Still, there’s something innately irresistible about walking out over the ocean, beyond the surf, to turn back and look at the town, or along the coast, or simply to gaze out into the Pacific. We are, after all, as Melville said, water-gazers.
Here’s the view of Cayucos, population about 2,600, from the pier, fronted by the beach, the brown hills of the California Central Coast rising behind it.
Not far north is Cambria, and, just beyond that, 20 miles from Cayucos, is San Simeon and the astounding Hearst Castle (we’ll visit there in a future post). Visible 5 miles to the south in clear weather is massive Morro Rock (“Gibraltar of the Pacific,” 581 feet high), although it was partially shrouded in fog when we visited earlier this week. (At low tide, you can walk or run the beach there).
The pier’s had a tempestuous history. The original pier from the 1870s was destroyed in a storm, and the present-day one is a replacement.
You can walk along the main drag of Cayucos, shopping for trinkets or beach glass or antiques. There are no traffic signals, and the beach traffic tradition that motorists WILL stop for pedestrians applies. Longtime Californians tell us that used to to be the case in beach towns all up and down the coast, but it’s no longer the rule. Cheers to the citizens and visitors to Cayucos for remembering.
All beach towns offer a variety of food, and Cayucos has its share. At the very foot of the pier, duck into Duckie’s Chowder House, where they serve sandwiches, a variety of seafood, including fish and chips, and BOTH white and red clam chowder. We can vouch for the red from personal experience. Even slammed by a Memorial Day throng, they were bringing the fish, chips and chowder out of the kitchen at an impressive rate, and we barely had time to enjoy the view of the pier out the window before we were chowing down.
For dessert, stroll a couple blocks south and stop in and see the Pie Man.
I had his best-seller: apple caramel cinnamon, and The Counselor had cherry pie. Both delicious, not only for the filling, but the crust, too (any devoted pie person will tell you the crust is the test).
Were there world enough and time, we’d have tried one of the ones topped with meringue, too.
Well worth seeking out. The Pie Man, himself, is a delight to speak to. Ask him about the pie-making craft, and you’ll go to school on pie-making.
Whether you’re visiting Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, Pismo Beach or Hearst Castle, Cayucos might be worth an hour’s break to jump off U.S. Route 1 and gaze at the water.
© Brad Nixon 2016