Five awesome places for a picnic in The Five Cities

Wednesday, March 20th, 2024

California Fresh picnic sandwich

Pack a lunch and hit the road to one of these scenic outdoor destinations

Travelers in search of fresh ocean breezes and quaint coastal vistas should head south to the Five Cities area of San Luis Obispo County.

The “Five Cities” were originally made up of Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach (originally named Grover City), Oceano, Fair Oaks, and Halcyon. Today, the Five Cities region consists of Pismo Beach, Grover Beach, Arroyo Grande, Oceano, and Halcyon. Lesser known Halcyon is technically an unincorporated area in the southeast part of Grover Beach. Each city is unique and the terrain is equally varied.

No visit to the Five Cities is complete without checking out these iconic Central Coast outdoor destinations. Pack the family and a picnic lunch and head out to one of these beloved picnic spots.

Dinosaur Caves Park

If you are looking for a place to enjoy a picnic lunch and let the kids play, Dinosaur Caves Park is an ideal option. This popular, 11-acre, oceanfront, bluff-top park is a local favorite for families, photographers, dog lovers, and anyone looking to get a bit of fresh ocean air. The park includes sweeping views, a grassy lawn area, restrooms, and a play structure with a dinosaur, dinosaur eggs, concrete sea animals, a tot swing, and The “USS Imagination,” play ship. Dinosaur Caves Park is a top pick for families in Five Cities and is located at 2701 Price Street in Pismo Beach.

Pismo Beach Pier

The iconic Pismo Beach Pier is a must for visitors to SLO County. The pier and the nearby promenade are the perfect place to stroll, shop, and head out over the water to get a unique view of the Five Cities area and maybe even throw a fishing line over the edge. The Pismo Pier and promenade are located at 100 Pomeroy Ave, in Pismo Beach.

Monarch butterflies

Monarch Butterfly Grove/Pismo State Beach

The Pismo State Beach Monarch Grove, part of Pismo State Beach, is free to visit and open to the public daily from sunrise-sunset, weather permitting. Butterflies overwinter in the grove in the park in the winter months, November – February. The grove is located on HWY 1 between Grover Beach and Pismo Beach. The GPS location is 445 South Dolliver, in Pismo Beach.

CA State Parks reminds visitors to be respectful of the important, endangered pollinator: remember to watch for butterflies on the ground; don’t step on them, stay on the designated paths, do not disturb butterfly clusters, and dispose of all litter in proper receptacles.

At Pismo State Beach, visitors can also enjoy camping, surfing, swimming, walking trails, fishing, and bird watching.

Oceano Dunes

Just south of Pismo State Beach is the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area, suitable for those seeking a bit more adrenaline in their visit. One of the few beaches on the West Coast where you can drive on the sand, recreators bring or rent ATVs and explore the otherworldly dunes and camp on the beach next to the roaring surf. A truly unique experience, the recreation area is located at 100 Pier Ave. in Oceano.

Lopez Lake

Located in rural Arroyo Grande, Lopez Lake is a hidden escape located about 20 minutes east of The Village of Arroyo Grande. The reservoir is nestled among rocky hills and has various hiking trails and picnic areas as well as kayaking, fishing, and camping.

Where to pick up picnic supplies

California Fresh Market in Pismo Beach offers a delicious selection of gourmet, organic, conventional, and freshly made products that are perfect companions to an outdoor excursion in the Five Cities. Picnickers can stock up on fresh bread, meats, cheeses, and veggies for “DIY” sandwiches, or grab something from the deli, sushi corner, or coffee and juice bar, and don’t forget the chips, treats, and drinks!

The grocery store focuses on keeping things, “hyper-fresh and hyper-local.” Hyper-local food paired with a hyper-local view? What’s better than that?

Their Pismo Beach location is at 555 Five Cities Drive in Pismo Beach, phone (805) 295-7162. There is another location on Foothill Blvd. in San Luis Obispo. For more information about local locations visit visit

– Skye Pratt


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