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Memorial Day Weekend in SLO County

What to know for the weekend, from beaches to lakes. Read more:

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If you’re planning on heading to one of San Luis Obispo County’s many beaches this weekend, you’ll want to plan ahead.

The Memorial Day holiday weekend always hops along the Central Coast, with thousands of tourists and residents flocking to the area’s sandy shores for a little fun in the sun.

To help you have a smooth visit, here’s The Tribune’s guide to everything you’ll want to know before visiting SLO County beaches, from parking and traffic to weather forecasts.

What to know about beach parking

Parking is almost always tight along SLO County beaches – especially on holiday weekends – so be sure to allow plenty of time to search for a spot. Arriving earlier in the day increases your chances of securing a coveted free space where available, while arriving later in the day means you’ll likely have to pay to park.

Beaches with free parking include:

  • Avila Beach: Street parking is free, especially along Front Street, which is the closest parking lot to the sand. You can also park for free along Avila Beach Drive, but fair warning – it can be a bit long from there to the beach, and much of it has no sidewalks, so you’ll be walking along the road the busier and out of area.
  • Cayucos: Parking near Cayucos Pier and street parking are free. Parking is also available along Highway 1 to access Dog Beach between Cayucos and Morro Bay.
  • Grover Beach: Parking is free in the parking lot at the end of Grand Avenue, which serves as the gateway to Oceano Dunes and Pismo State Beach.
  • Morro Bay: Parking along all Morro Bay beaches is free, including town parking.
  • Pismo Beach: Parking is free along some side streets as you drive away from the pier, as well as in the lot at the end of Addie Street.
  • Shell Beach: Street parking throughout Shell Beach is free.

Beaches with paid parking include:

  • Avila Beach: The public parking lot along 1st Street offers all day parking for $6. Just be sure to have your license plate number handy when heading to the permit dispensers, as the Port San Luis Port District began cracking down on parking permit sharing in 2017. The lot closes at 10 p.m.
  • Pismo Beach: The car parks around the pier are all paid, including the car park at the end of Pomeroy. Rates vary depending on city occupancy levels, but tend to be between $2 and $5 per hour. Application is 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

What to Know About SLO County Traffic

Traffic gets heavy on holiday weekends, especially along the county’s busiest corridors like Highway 101 past Pismo Beach, Highway 1 from Morro Bay to Ragged Point, and Highway 46 east to and from the Central Valley.

Midday delays should be expected along these routes throughout the weekend, with the heaviest usually being on Monday afternoon and evening when people are returning home. This is especially true when visitors to the valley return home. Traffic bound for the Highway 46 exit may back onto Highway 101.

In Morro Bay, traffic to and from the Rock has increased in recent years, so expect a few traffic jams on your way back from the beach. If you’re just going for a walk, it’s often best to park at the end of Highway 41 or near the power plant and walk to the Rock.

Since Avila Beach only has one entry and exit road, you can also expect delays along Avila Beach Drive during the day.

What You Can and Can’t Do at SLO County Beaches

Beaches across the county are run by a variety of different organizations, and therefore have a variety of different rules about how to legally recreate on them. Here is a brief overview of some of the most important rules to know.

  • Fires of joy : Campfires are prohibited on almost all beaches in SLO County except at Pismo State Beach, which stretches between the Oceano Dunes and North Beach Campground above Grover Beach. Campfires are prohibited north of the campground, including on the beach near the Pismo Beach pier. At State Beach, fires must not exceed 3 feet in diameter and 2 feet in height, and only untreated wood and wood products are permitted. Fires should be completely extinguished with water and left exposed.
  • Dogs: Dog rules vary at SLO County beaches. Dogs are allowed but must be leashed on most Morro Bay beaches (including Sandspit, Mothers Beach and City Beach), Spooners Cove, Pismo State Beach, Pismo Beach and Cayucos Beach. Dogs are not permitted on Avila Beach between 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., and are totally prohibited on Fisherman’s Beach, Pismo Dune Reserve, Oso Flaco Lake, and Montaña de Oro beaches. Dogs are allowed off leash on Olde Port Beach and Morro Bay Dog Beach.

  • Alcohol: Alcoholic beverages are prohibited at all beaches in SLO County, although consumption is permitted at some state park campgrounds, so check your park’s specific regulations before drinking. Otherwise, many beaches in SLO County have bars near the water where you can grab a drink (responsibly, of course).

  • BBQ: Small portable propane barbecues are permitted at most beaches in SLO County. Some beaches like Avila also have larger permanent barbecues available.

What’s the weather like in SLO County?

For those hoping for a super sunny vacation, we have some bad news.

The weather forecast for SLO County beaches throughout the holiday weekend shows slightly cooler temperatures with a high likelihood of that hazy sea layer that always shows up in May.

Winds will also likely be between 32 and 46 mph over the weekend, meaning it could be dangerous for people to sail or fish along the coast on those days. The swell is also expected to reach 12 to 14 feet during this time.

Those looking for some sun should head to sheltered beaches like Avila Beach and Cayucos, which tend to be warmer and sunnier than some of the other beaches in the area.

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Kaytlyn Leslie writes about business and development for the San Luis Obispo Tribune. Hailing from Nipomo, she also covers city governments and events in the South County area, including Arroyo Grande, Pismo Beach and Grover Beach. She joined The Tribune in 2013 after earning her journalism degree at Cal Poly.