By Greg Aragon
California’s majestic Central Coast is speckled with hidden gems lining the Pacific Ocean and none shine brighter than the tiny town of Cayucos by-the-Sea. This is especially true in spring, when the temperature rises, flowers blossom along the hillsides and the city hosts its annual Sea Glass Festival.
Located off California Highway 1, halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, Cayucos by-the-Sea sits peacefully between the Pacific Ocean and rolling hills of open ranchland that are dotted with grazing cattle and old oak trees. Often referred to as “the last of the California beach towns,” the town possesses a colorful history that dates back to the days of Spanish land grants, sailing ships and steamers, as well as rum runners and revenuers. Gamblers and seafarers met in the Old Cayucos Tavern, and adventurers and romantics of all kinds still meet there today.
One of my favorite times to visit Cayucos is spring, when the weather is perfect for hikes and walks along the beach, and the town comes to life for the Sea Glass Festival, now in its 8th season.
One of the premier cultural events on the Central Coast, the festival, held Saturday and Sunday, March 10 – 11, will treat guests to a weekend of sunshine, local artisan goods, live music, and authentic mermaid creations. Visitors can shop in an extensive marketplace of the finest sea glass art, curios and collectibles, as well as enjoy regional food and beverages from local wineries and breweries. Accompanying the Sea Glass Festival is the 2nd Annual Mermaid Ball on Friday, March 9.
The Sea Glass festival is held in the Cayucos Sea Glass Festival Pavilion on the beach at the base of the historic pier. This is a chance to shop and explore an extensive marketplace shimmering with the finest sea glass art, curios and collectibles. And when not shopping, guests can enjoy delicious local food and beverages and groove to great live music all weekend long.
After a day of fun, visitors can also enjoy a night of merriment at the Mermaid Ball. This exciting evening will feature live music and dancing, photo-ops with live mermaids, a seafood chowder cook-off, and locally produced wine & artisan brews. Guests are encouraged to come in costume for the chance to be named the Sea Glass King & Queen of 2018. The queen will be crowned with a sea glass bejeweled tiara designed and created exclusively for this occasion by Jason of Cabana Jewelry.
Surrounding festival weekend, Cayucos by-the-Sea celebrates “Mermaids in March.” Sea glass pieces are affectionately known as mermaid tears, making mermaids an integral part of the festival. Throughout the entire month of March, visitors can stroll through town enjoying multi-media displays of mermaids ranging from stained glass and papier-mâché mermaids, to metal and wooden mermaid sculptures. Each mermaid is created by a local business and is an individual artistic expression embodying the spirit of the Sea Glass Festival.
Other things to do while visiting Cayucos include sampling the Central Coast’s legendary wine at the many tasting rooms along the coast; and a short drive to the Hearst Castle, which is one of the most sought after tourist attractions in California. The castle is the former home of famous newspaper tycoon William Randolf Hearst and is nestled 23 miles north in the hills of San Simeon with spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean.
The town of Cayucos is highlighted by numerous quaint shops and stores, as well as the Cass House – original home of Capt. James Cass, founder of Cayucos – and the large dolphin statue at the foot of the town’s historic pier. Below the pier, Cayucos beach offers soft sand for sunbathing, tide pools for exploring, and an invigorating (five-mile) walk along the water to Morro Bay and its iconic 500 ft-tall rock.
The Cayucos Sea Glass Festival opens 10 am-5 pm on Saturday, and 10am-4pm on Sunday. Admission is $7 per person per day and $15 per person for Saturday preview shopping. Children 7 and under are free. Mermaid Ball Tickets are $25 and are available at Sea Shanty & Shoreline Inn located in Cayucos or by emailing Carol at firstname.lastname@example.org.