Visit the mighty Monarchs

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

Photo courtesy Pismo Beach Conference & Visitors Bureau.

Photo courtesy Pismo Beach Conference & Visitors Bureau.

Butterflies favor the Central Coast during winter months

Pismo Beach is home to one of the largest winter Monarch butterfly colonies in the country. An average of 75,000 of these vibrant orange and black butterflies come to Pismo Beach each year from late October to February, having traveled over 1000 miles as far away as Canada, to seek shelter from the freezing temperatures.

Scientists do not know why the Monarchs consistently return to certain wintering sites. Some scientists speculate that the insects are equipped with genetic homing systems that lead them from their summer sites in the Sierras, Florida, Canada and the Great Lakes Region in North America back to their winter locations.

Visitors to the grove of Eucalyptus trees at Pismo State Beach, located on State Highway 1, will be greeted by knowledgeable and well-informed volunteer docents offering daily talks and information on the clusters of butterflies clustered in the limbs of a grove.

On the Central Coast, the Monarchs also winter in Morro Bay. Visitors can see the butterflies at the Morro Bay State Park, typically around campsite 116. The Natural History Museum, located at 20 State Park Rd in Morro Bay, is an excellent resource for information about Monarchs.


Exit Price Street off U.S. 101 in Pismo Beach. Travel north on Price for 25 yards to Ocean View Avenue, then left one block to Dolliver Street (Highway 1). Go left for one mile. Pismo State Beach North Beach Campground will be on the right. You may drive into the campground and park in campsite #78. There are signs to the grove. Additional parking can be found adjacent to the grove entrance on Highway 1.

More information

  • Docent trailer is open from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. daily during season
  • Daily talks at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., weather permitting 
  • Pismo Beach Monarchs, call the Chamber of Commerce at (800) 443-7778
  • Morro Bay Monarchs, call Natural History Museum at (805) 772-2694

Monarch facts

  • The butterflies form dense clusters in the Eucalyptus tree grove
  • Each butterfly hangs with its wing down over the one below forming a shingle effect
  • This cluster provides shelter from the rain and warmth for the group
  • The weight of the cluster help keeps it from whipping in the wind and dislodging the butterflies
  • The life span of Monarchs at Pismo Beach is six months
  • Monarchs at Pismo Beach have a unique fat-storing system


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