By DEBRA LO GUERCIO
©Copyright 2001,2002, Debra Lo Guercio, all rights reserved
As you head south on Highway 101, just past San Luis Obispo, you’re traveling through rather generic looking hills and you go over that last hill. Suddenly, the wide, sparkling blue
you blink at the magnificence of that brilliant expanse of water, be sure
to do so quickly. If the blink is one nanosecond too long, you’ll miss the
technically a suburb of
Luckily, despite its tiny size, there are plenty of motels to choose from in Shell Beach, ranging from tiny 1950s-style Mom and Pop motels with reasonable rates on up to posh resort hotels like The Cliffs (buckle up your Visa card, it’s going to be a bumpy ride).
The motel I picked was The Shell Beach Motel, more at the Mom and Pop end of the spectrum. Not a very fancy name, but I love those not-very-fancy prices. But only if the place is clean, safe and high-quality, and a heaping helping of charm won’t hurt either. I can do “inexpensive” just fine, but I don’t do “cheap.”
The Shell Beach Motel gets high marks on every count: Friendly, accommodating personnel, the most darling English country style rooms you could imagine, and a real bargain with rooms that range from $64-95 per night (slightly higher on holidays.) There’s even a swimming pool and lounge chairs if you’re in the mood for some sun.
The rooms feature cable TV, microwaves, mini-refrigerators and coffeemakers, and best of all is the location. Of all the hotels and motels in the area, the Shell Beach Motel is perfectly situated to walk everywhere. You could park your car and never drive again until it’s time to go home. And the area is so walkable! Joggable, even. Or bikeable. It feels slow and safe, even if you’re alone, even at night. That’s a huge plus.
within walking distance? Plenty. Along
you need to relax, acupuncture, day spas and massage therapy offices are
ready and waiting to de-stress you. If you’re into “stuff,”
be sure that as you walk and explore
tiny beach at the end of these side streets rests at the base of steep, jagged
cliffs. Compared to other
Huge boulders, smoothed by pounding surf and stormy winds, dot the shore, and you can wander through them at low tide and investigate whatever ocean treasures the waves toss onto the sand. There are alcoves of sand among the cliffs and boulders, just perfect for throwing down a blanket and reading, or just resting and relaxing.
into the water, massive chunks of fallen cliffside
jut out of the surf, many of them worn through in places like donuts. If
kayaking is your thing, kayaks can be rented for exploring around the area
and at low tide, the water is quite gentle. Another popular local activity
(I’d rather just watch, thank you very much) is surfing. The waves in the
If you aren’t in the mood for brushing sand out of your jeans, you can still enjoy the ocean. The edge of the road lining the cliff is dotted with benches for just enjoying the spectacular view, particularly at sunset. If you choose one of the benches at the tiny park at the southernmost end of the beach, you’ll have a fantastic view of the scores of pelicans that nest on top of the cliff chunks. If you’ve never been up close and personal with pelicans, you’ll be amazed to discover how large they are, and even more amazed that a bird so large (with quite a bit of pointed front end to maneuver) could be so graceful in the air.
If you just can’t stay away from your car, head south down
let’s get back to food. Always on the lookout for good Italian food as I
am, a stop at either Rose’s or Guiseppe’s (both
If it can be barbecued or grilled, you’ll find it at McClintock’s. If you ever had thoughts of becoming a vegetarian, go have a steak at McClintock’s to be reminded of the fact that if God wanted us to be vegetarians, He wouldn’t have made animals taste so good. Breakfast is also a real delight at McClintock’s. Sunday brunch there is heavenly and more than ample. If you fill up there as you’re heading for home, you won’t get hungry again until you get there. Maybe not even until tomorrow.
this little getaway is simple. You only have to remember “Shell Beach Times
Three” to get it right:
note: You may have noticed that I didn’t review a bed and breakfast this
time. That’s because there are none in
How to get in touch: The Shell
Beach Motel is located at