For me, Pismo Beach is where the line between NorCal and SoCal becomes clear. For those not in the know, there’s something of a half-friendly rivalry between Northern California and Southern California, each of which has its own distinct spirit and characteristics. It’s perhaps clearest in the weather; SoCal is stereotypically sunny, while NorCal is often cloaked in fog.
On trips down the Pacific Coast Highway, from my home near the Bay Area, it’s around Pismo Beach that I start to be aware of being in a distinctly different part of the state. The terrain changes. The weather often brightens, with days that were foggy at home breaking into warm light around this point of the drive.
The sea calms, too. Its wild crashing calms, with waves rolling and breaking predictably rather than throwing themselves wholeheartedly onto the shore or rocks. This is the furthest north I’ve ever seen dolphins—and that, too, seems to speak toward a larger point about the differences between the parts of the state.
Delightfully, this town draws vibrancy from tourists, rather than seeming faded or diminished by their presence. I’ve spent a few summer weekends here, and even among the throngs of tourists, Pismo Beach never seems more crowded than it should be.