If you’re visiting the Santa Maria Valley October through February, don’t miss the monarch butterflies at the Monarch Dunes Butterfly Grove in Nipomo. Thousands of monarch butterflies spend the colder months among the eucalyptus trees in groves along the Central Coast. This grove is a scenic half hour drive from Santa Maria and a beautiful place to see native plants and wildlife.
Then, head over to the Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve, where you’ll find a host of outdoor activities. The preserve allows you to enjoy the beautiful temperate coast climate while viewing and learning about native plant life, birds and other animals. Trek to Oso Flaco Lake and enjoy a 1.7-mile hike to the ocean. The trail is mostly on a boardwalk, making it a smooth and enjoyable walk. If you’re lucky, you may spot a rare Western Snowy Plover. Plovers often make their nests along the beach from March to September.
Adrenaline-seeking couples should head to the nearby Oceano Dunes, where you can rent an ATV from Steve’s ATV Rentals and drive across the beach. The Oceano Dunes are the only place in California where you can ride dune buggies right on the beach. Or, you can ride horses in the surf at Pacific Beach Riding Ranch.
For lunch, make your way back into Old Town Orcutt at dine at Pizzeria Bello Forno. This charming eatery serves pizzas, salads and more. You can enjoy lunch at Pizzeria Bello Forno and grab a beer at Naughty Oak Brewing Company for dessert. Another great option is to order out from Bello Forno and eat at Naughty Oak. If you prefer wine over beer, head to Vino et Amicis, which is Italian for “wine and friends.” You can order food to go from Vino et Amicis too.
While in Old Town Orcutt, make a quick pit stop at Old Town Market to pick up a bottle of wine to go, a jar of Santa Maria Style seasoning, or some red oak chips. Bring the flavor of Santa Maria Valley back home with you after your trip.
Kick it old school during date night at the Hi-Way Drive-In Theater, one of the last authentic outdoor drive-in movie theaters in California. You can pick up movie snacks or dinner to go from Old Town Market to enjoy in your car.