Pismo Beach Rings In
with Lodging Specials
In the Beginning
Pismo Beach was incorporated on April 25, 1946. The town will celebrate its 75th with events and lodging specials throughout the year. Of course, the cultural history of this area travels back much, much farther. The first evidence of the indigenous Chumash Nation in the Pismo Beach area has been dated to 9,000 years ago.
Like other coastal civilizations, the Chumas drew much of their sustenance from the Pacific Ocean, paddling large Tomoi and smaller dugout canoes to fish and. They utilized a tar-like substance on the shore they called “Pis mu” to mend their boats, from which the name Pismo is derived.
The Spanish colonized “Alta California” beginning in 1697. The early Spanish missionaries, who recognized the alchemy from combining sedimentary soils, ocean mist, and a temperate climate, planted the first Arroyo Grande vineyards in the late 18th century. Mexican settlers arrived in 1821, establishing rancheros, only to be displaced after the Mexican-American when California joined the United States in 1848.
John Price arrived just a few years later in the 1850s. In 1882 Price purchased Ranchero del Pismo, establishing Pismo Beach as a new municipality. At the start of the 20th century, the coastal village quickly grew into a favorite recreational destination, favored by the newly mobile and leisure class. By the '30s celebrities like Clark Gable and Orson Wells were overnighting here before and after they attended lavish events at San Simeon, William Randolph Hearst’s palatial home located 60 miles north.
From Waystation to Destination
William Randolph Hearst had a penchant for costume parties and, together with his mistress Marion Davies, would frequently throw elaborate soirees at his 110-room palace, the most notorious of which took place when the media mogul himself turned 75. Several daily themed tours take visitors through every nook of the celebrated estate and its vibrant history.
While Carey Grant and Greta Garbo were pausing in Pismo Beach, many other travelers made the coastal village an annual destination, given the ease of beach and ocean access, excellent accommodations, and fun-filled local eateries and saloons. Founder John Price actually built the first hotel here in 1875 on the road from Arroyo Grande to Avila Beach. He soon recognized his geographical misstep and, nine years later, moved his hotel to the beach. Today, guests visit a variety of wine AVAs, kayak, pedal, hike, and yes, visit historic Hearst Castle.
Modern visitors choose from beachfront resorts, vacation rentals, B&Bs, and inns. Multigenerational families rent out entire homes, buddy and girlfriend trips reserve a floor at an inn, and wedding parties plan weekends at one of several resorts that host full packages that include priceless oceanside weddings. A survey of the 75th Anniversary Lodging Specials reveals spa and romantic weekends like "Bed & Breakfast with a View", resort credits, and extra-night stays, among many other perks.
Pismo Beach Past to Present
The fields had gone fallow for almost two centuries before local wine-making pioneers Paragon and Chamisal Vintners planted Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes in Edna Valley in the early '70s. The terroir, former ocean floor and rich in nutrients, produced outstanding vintages immediately. The agriculturally rich Arroyo Grande Valley also produces high-quality Pinots and Chards in addition to Zinfandels and Cabernet Sauvignon. Today's visitors won't encounter monks gathering grapes to make sacramental wines, they’ll find an array of diverse tasting rooms within a cork's toss from the beach.
Pismo Beach – Young at Heart, Rich in History
At 75, Pismo Beach is not an old village by any measure. However, the region’s cultural history encompasses the Chumash Nationa, Spanish missionaries, and Mexican settlements. Statehood brought other visionaries who realized the untapped benefits of leisure activities within the sublime glow of a Pacific Ocean sunset.
Today's visitors can revel in each era of Pismo Beach's storied history, digging once again for World Famous Pismo Clams, walking or biking the Pismo Preserve trails, and tasting flights of exceptional wines. Learn more about a Pismo Beach holiday on the Experience Pismo Beach website. Discover the perfect lodging special and launch your own legacy as a Pismo Beach visitor.
The original Pismo Beach wharf was first constructed to bypass expensive freight fees. A “new” pier was built in 1924. In 1983, following a major storm, this wharf was mostly destroyed and the pier was rebuilt two years later. In the fall of 2020, the Pismo Beach Pier Plaza debuted with illuminated 7-foot tall P-I-S-M-O B-E-A-C-H letters, a new playground, and three vintage Airstream food "carts."
Not to be outdone, Shell Beach has added a streetscape featuring an 18-block designated pedestrian bicycle path, waterways, and landscaping. Shell Beach was once home to a thriving Chumash Village. In the 30's developer, Floyd Calvert unearthed copper jewelry, arrowheads, and stone bowls when excavating to create vacation lots. Today docent-led nature tours coordinated at the Dunes Center visit historical Chumash Nation. The Price Historical Park also features a replica Chumash village as part of the 7-acre property.