CAYUCOS, Calif. — A huge cow on the porch of a former butcher shop grabs the attention of visitors in this quaint and quiet beach town.
That's exactly the hope of Joan and Don Perry, who've converted the vintage building into Cayucos Antiques. Their eye-catching store is one of several that have made Cayucos the self-proclaimed antique capital of the Central Coast.
The big black bovine is also a reminder of when Cayucos was the shipping center for dairy farms. Milk, butter and cheese destined for Los Angeles and San Francisco were loaded onto boats at Cass' Landing.
The deep-water wharf was named after its builder, James Cass, who settled here in 1867 on part of a Spanish land grant called Rancho Moro y Cayucos. His pier has been replaced by a shorter public one that's popular with fishermen.
Many Antique Shops
It's one of the features of this modest resort town, population 2,400, that sets an easygoing pace for visitors. Paralleling the sandy shore is Ocean Avenue, the main street, where you'll find most antique shops, cafes and accommodations.
And next Sunday, during Washington's Birthday holiday, everyone is invited to the annual Cayucos Oyster Festival.
A few miles up the highway the visitor may watch artists at work in an even smaller community, called Harmony, population 18.
To get to Cayucos from Los Angeles, drive north on U.S. 101 to join California 1 at San Luis Obispo, then continue north beyond Morro Bay to the Cayucos Drive exit (after the first Cayucos exit). Drive under the freeway and head toward the ocean.
Look right for the cow that marks Cayucos Antiques. The store occupies a century-old meat market and an adjoining home where the town butcher and his family lived. Today the buildings are filled with Early American collectibles, including an assortment of milk bottles and other dairy items.
Known for Gasoline Pumps
The shop is well-known for old-time gasoline pumps and petroleum products, as well as gas and oil advertising signs. Like most Cayucos antique stores, it's open daily except Tuesdays.
On the corner of Cayucos Drive and Ocean Avenue you'll see the landmark Cass House, built about 1870 but now weather-beaten and empty. "Captain" Cass was an English-born sailor who arrived in San Francisco at the age of 25 and worked as a miner, storekeeper and farmer before establishing Cayucos.
Some of the other buildings along Ocean Avenue are from Cass' era, including a barn-like blacksmith shop that's crammed with antiques, called the Cayucos Trading Post.
Next door is a renovated false-front complex dating to 1876 and renamed The Way Station. You can still eat and drink at this former hotel and dining hall, where Sunday champagne brunch is very popular. It's $8.95 ($6.95 without the bubbly).
Old photos decorate the walls and a fireplace warms the pub, where 75 kinds of beer are stocked. The adjacent Cayucos Candy Counter has 20 flavors of saltwater taffy in log rolls, just like those sold along the Atlantic City Boardwalk in the early 1900s.
North on Ocean Avenue, a turn-of-the-century mercantile building that also served as the Cayucos telephone and post office is filled with American antiques and gifts.
Look for the old (and new) quilts and linens on the main floor, called Remember?, and the balcony level, named Calico Attic. By request you can browse among unrestored antiques on the top floor. Open daily.
A few steps away in the Cayucos Emporium are all sorts of collectibles in Rich Man-Poor Man, a co-op that's always open. A list of the town's antique shops, as well as information from the Cayucos Chamber of Commerce, can be picked up at neighboring Della's, a shop with sports and casual clothing.
Several blocks south on Ocean Avenue in a 1920s California bungalow is American Pie Antiques, featuring items from Victorian times plus vintage baseball cards, comic books, bottles, toys, advertising signs and more.
Downtown, Cayucos Drive ends at the Pacific and the fishing pier. You can rent tackle ($3 half a day, $5 all day) and buy bait just up the street at Bill's Sporting Goods. Stop in the Pier Cafe for a home-style meal and look at photos taken half a century ago when the town was a center for abalone.
Shellfish is the treat next Sunday as townsfolk and visitors celebrate the Oyster Festival in Veteran's Memorial Building near the pier. From 1 to 5 p.m. platters of oysters, clams and mussels will be served with salad and French bread for $8.
Fish dishes are the specialty at Bill and Carol's Sea Shanty on Ocean Avenue. Along the same street, Flo's Cafe serves breakfast and lunch, including a Sweat Omelette--"because you will after you eat it."
Half a dozen small motels are scattered along Ocean Avenue, with winter rates from $40 to $60. Among them are Cayucos Motel by the Sea, Seaside, Estero Bay, Cypress Tree and Sea Vue.