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Flying Flags Avila Beach is SLO County's first glimpse to beachside glamping 

Glamping is getting an oceanside makeover as San Luis Obispo County welcomed its first Flying Flags resort in Avila Beach.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony on Nov. 30 at the Babe Lane location overlooking the beach marked the official opening of Highway West Vacations' newest hotel and campground.

"A lot of RV travelers typically stay on the resort and don't really leave. Our focus is for them to come here and relax and enjoy the views, but really go out into the town and explore what Avila has to offer," said Lathan Ford, general manager of Flying Flags Avila Beach.

click to enlarge SUN AND SANDS Flying Flags Avila Beach’s visitors can enjoy coastal views around a propane fire pit right outside their cottages. - PHOTO COURTESY OF FLYING FLAGS AVILA BEACH’S FACEBOOK PAGE
  • Photo Courtesy Of Flying Flags Avila Beach’s Facebook Page
  • SUN AND SANDS Flying Flags Avila Beach’s visitors can enjoy coastal views around a propane fire pit right outside their cottages.

Ford added that unlike the closest Flying Flags resort in Buellton, in neighboring Santa Barbara County, the Avila Beach resort is meant for couples to kick back and enjoy the coastal offerings. Along with full RV hookups, space for tent camping and glamping (glamorous camping), Ford said that their cottages accommodate only two people each.

"We have propane fire pits by each cottage location, so they can sit by the fire, drink wine, and look at the ocean. It's definitely more of a romantic setting."

The Flying Flags company is privately owned, and the proprietors of the Avila Beach chapter worked with the Port San Luis Harbor Commission to understand the needs of the town, Ford mentioned.

The Port San Luis Harbor Commission, which also manages the state-owned Babe Lane property, leased the land to Flying Flags, he said.

In spite of community nervousness about the business causing beach crowding, Ford added that all staff members, including him, are locals who prioritized the town's welfare over a "corporate feeling."

"We do require a longer night stay. Our focus wasn't to bring in weekend partiers. If you stay with us on weekends, you do have to stay for four nights minimum. So, we're getting a little bit more respect from guests when they come," he said.

Although officials expect a boost in Avila Beach's economy by opening a Flying Flags there—a move designed to make the town as lively as Pismo Beach, according to Ford—it also came with a bump in motorists. Jim Blecha, the Port's Harbor commissioner, told New Times that this was anticipated.

"There's only one way in here. I've been in the county for 45 years, and it used to be deserted in the wintertime. You can now see people on Avila Road who don't want to pay to park, parked all the way round the golf course. Traffic's going to be a concern but we're OK because we're legitimate," Blecha said while gesturing at the surrounding ribbon-cutting festivities.

Around 50 people had gathered on the grassy knoll below the resort's cottage area. Almost 15 camper vehicles already dotted the camping area. Golf carts zoomed around the area to provide mini tours of the resort built by Red Tail Acquisitions. Even over the rhythm of the live music, community members could be heard marveling at the serene Avila Beach coastline below.

One of them was Danny Danbom, the community relations coordinator at The Village at Sydney Creek.

"The special part about the location is that a lot of times, the dog beach that's located right below Flying Flags is always sunny. Sometimes, there are still pockets of fog at the beach closer to businesses in Avila. They really picked a unique spot because nine out of 10 times, it's going to be not fogged in. That's going to be huge for tourism," Danbom said.

Another attendee, Jan Cordone—an ambassador with the SLO Chamber of Commerce—said that Flying Flags is a chamber member, which makes it eligible for a ribbon-cutting ceremony organized by the chamber.

Finally, under the high California sun, Blecha, Ford, and other leaders gathered to do what everyone had been waiting for. Clutching comically large silver scissors emblazoned with "SLO County Chamber of Commerce," Ford snipped a wide red ribbon to much fanfare.

"We want to offer a lot of things that are educating people about our area," Ford said. "The fact that we're educating people on our local history and who came before us here, and the marine life ... those are all things we worked on with the local community and the port."

Fast fact

The Pismo Beach Chamber of Commerce kicked off its annual Classic California Christmas event on Dec. 3. The program also involves activities from the Shell Beach Improvement Group and the Vitality Advisory Council Oceano. The event runs until Dec. 21, and activities include a surfboard decorating contest and the Shell Beach holiday stroll. For more information, contact the Pismo Beach Chamber at (805) 773-4382 or at info@pismochamber.com. Δ

Reach Staff Writer Bulbul Rajagopal at brajagopal@newtimesslo.com.

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