Canines in Cayucos
by Sharon Miller
Top Photo Courtesy of Michael “Mike” L. Baird, flickr.bairdphotos.com
Bottom Photo Courtesy of photoeverywhere.co.uk
Cayucos, California, the dog-friendly little town with a funny name, is a great family getaway destination, located just 160 miles south of Monterey. The main draw is its miles of white-sand beaches, but it also offers history, murals, restaurants, a brand-new dog park, and festivals almost every weekend.
Cayucos means “plank canoe” in the language of the local Chumash people. The town started out as part of a Mexican land grant, but after English Captain James Cass built a wharf there, it attracted Swiss-Italian and Portuguese immigrants, along with gamblers and bootleggers. The picturesque old 19th century buildings and the fabulous murals along Ocean and Birch Avenues recall the olden days. Pick up a walking tour map at the Cayucos Mural Society or at www.cayucos.org.
Arthur Frommer has listed Cayucos, population 3,000, as “one of the coolest small towns in America,” but others know it as “the last of the California beach towns.” Cayucos, located between Cambria and Morro Bay in San Luis Obispo County, enjoys year-round moderate weather, with the quiet waters of Estero Bay somewhat warmer than Monterey Bay. There are lifeguards on duty during the summer, and leashed dogs are welcome on both Cayucos State Beach, near the pier, and Morro Strand Beach, with its fabulous views of Morro Rock. The area adjacent to Toro Creek Road is considered the dog beach by locals and stretches for about a mile.
A year and a half in the making and thanks to many dedicated community volunteers Cayucos was happy to cut the ribbon on May 8th, officially opening their brand new dog park. The park, located on Ocean Avenue just across the street from the beach, lies within the larger Norma Rose Park. It has 7,200 square feet of play area, picnic tables, and is surrounded by a fence with a security gate. The Cayucos Lioness Club provides and restocks the park’s Mutt Mitt dispenser along with twenty-six others around town.
Cass Wharf is a free public fishing pier and a perfect spot to watch the sunset. The Cayucos Community Art Gallery sits at the pier’s entrance and features a great variety of local artwork. Be sure to check out the dolphin statue at the foot of the pier.
The calendar of special events and festivals for Cayucos is outstanding for such a small town. For dog lovers, the annual Easter Bonnet Dog Parade in April is the big event and with the participation of visitors from the surrounding area, this year’s parade boasted 150 proud pooches, most dressed in their Easter finest including their custom decorated bonnets. Be sure to check out the year’s calendar at www.cayucos.org for a complete list of activities, including the woodcarvers show, the antique street sale, the car show, and the wine & food festival.
Accommodations range from humble motor courts to sumptuous bed and breakfast lodging. Pet-friendly accommodations include the Dolphin Inn Motel (up to three dogs of any size, $10 each), Cayucos Shoreline Inn (direct beach access and all rooms with beach views), and Cayucos Beach Inn (one block from the beach, with a dog walk and a pet wash area).
Here are some places in town where your doggie pal is welcome to eat with you: Sea Shanty Restaurant (family style outdoor space), Mustache Pete (Italian cuisine, with dog water bowls on the covered patio), Old Cayucos Bakery and Deli, and Hoppe’s Bistro (fine dining on the heated patio). Hoppe’s, by the way, serves a menu ranging from wild game to vegan, and is located in the beautiful and historic Way Station Building---- host to the Hearst family while the nearby Hearst Castle was being built. For more basic fare, there is also a Farmer’s Market at the Cayucos Vet’s Hall parking lot on Friday mornings where you can pick up local produce and goods.
Luckily, Cayucos offers many opportunities for walking, running on the beach, and playing at the dog park so you and Fido can work off some of those calories you put on sampling all the goodies!
Happy trails, or better yet, happy tails!