Holiday road: Elephant Seals and the Sunset Drive-In, San Luis Obispo, California


After slowly winding our way south through Big Sur, we’d hoped to visit Hearst Castle but time and my frequent photo stops put the kibosh on that plan. Fortunately, not far from Hearst, we’d read about the Elephant Seal colony who’d taken up residence along the coastline in an area called Piedras Blancas near San Simeon. Happily there were still quite a few of these great beasts rolling around on the sand when we arrived (it was malting season) and they made for some really entertaining viewing.

San Luis Obispo & the Sunset Drive-In

It was late afternoon by the time we left the elephant seals and we hadn’t arranged any accommodation for the evening. Originally we thought we might stay in Cambria but after quickly perusing one of the travel guides I had on my iPad, I read that the University town of San Luis Obispo (SLO) had an old school drive-in theatre! Both my wife and I have the same vivid childhood memories of being taken to the drive-in wearing our pyjamas, hanging a crappy mono speaker on the inside of the car window so we could hear the movie and mucking around in the car park between features. In Australia, all the drive-ins have just about gone now so the opportunity to introduce our kids to one was just irresistible. So after a couple of quick phone calls we’d found a place to stay in SLO, dumped our gear and headed straight to the Sunset drive-in to eat junk food and watch the evenings double feature. And, it was great!

Above: The evenings double feature was Finding Nemo and The Odd Life of Timothy Green. Really, the movies were secondary to the overall experience but seriously, who doesn’t like Nemo 😉

Above: The projection room. You can see the horizontally mounted film platters on the left-hand side of the picture (top platter is almost empty, the bottom one full). I understand that film studios are releasing most of their movies these days in an encrypted digital format (largely to combat piracy) so I can really see the Drive-ins’ days are numbered. Here’s hoping they hang around long enough for another generation to experience these relics of an almost bygone era.

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. Leanne Cole says:

    I love the elephant seals, they are wonderful. I have memories of going to the Drive-in in my pj’s as well.

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    1. Distan Bach says:

      Thanks Leanne. The seals were quite the sight to behold – smelly, noisy and huge! As far as drive-in goes – it was like being transported back in time by 30 years. Retro heaven!

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  2. drawandshoot says:

    Ah yes, drive-ins! So fun. Your children must have loved it.
    Those elephant seals are amazing looking. Great shots, Distan! They look so velvety and comical. =)

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    1. Distan Bach says:

      Yeah, the kids had a great time. I was so glad that they were able to get the drive-in experience; and in the States, no less!

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  3. Mike says:

    I’ve never been to drive-in – I guess land is e pensive and he weather too rainy in the UK. I heard there was one at Blacktown, but it is shut. I hope it reopens, so we can take our son.

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    1. Distan Bach says:

      I hope it does too because Im sure he’d love it. I nice alternative though could be the outdoor cinema’s that pop up over summer and during the Sydney Festival in January. Its a blast to watch a movie on a floating screen with Sydney Harbour and the CBD skyline as a backdrop.

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