Making our way up past Santa Barbara to the uber-charming coastal college town of San Luis Obispo to dine large at their weekly Farmer’s market, (More on them in an upcoming edition), we took a colleague’s advice and opted to spend a day in the quirky town of Lompoc.
Here’s a very quick history lesson, courtesy of a local historian: Prior to the Spanish conquest, the Lompoc area was inhabited by the Chumash Tribe, as was much of the Central California area, including Santa Barbara.
The name of the city is derived from a Chumash word “Lum Poc” that means “little lake” or “lagoon.” The Spanish called it “lumpoco.”
Mission La Purísima Concepción was established in 1787, near what is now the southern edge of the city of Lompoc. After an earthquake in 1812, the mission was relocated to its present location, northeast of the present city. In 1821, Mexico became independent from Spain, and subsequently secularized the California missions in 1833. Mission La Purísima gradually fell into ruins.
The Mexican government granted the land around Lompoc to various settlers via land patents known as ‘ranchos’. There are scores of these ranchos throughout California.
Okay, you’re sort of caught up.
So, for those with an eye for the unconventional and a taste for the eccentric, Lompoc holds a trove of odd and unique attractions. From intergalactic exploration to a ghostly mission, here’s a guide to the freaky and the quirky unique in Lompoc.
Visit a Hidden Shipwreck
In 1909, the Sybil Marston shipwrecked when a storm bashed it on the rocks near Surf Beach. During certain winter periods, the exposed remains of the Sybil Marston shipwreck is just sitting there ready to be explored. Positioned approximately a mile down from the beach’s access point, the wreckage is visible from the water’s surface throughout the winter season, with the right tide conditions. You could be right on time, travelers.
And even when the ship itself remains under the waves, the Surf Beach shoreline offers an idyllic setting for swimming, surfing, collecting seashells, and a plethora (that is not a sea creature) of other delightful pursuits.
Learn more about the Sybil Marston Shipwreck right here.
Art Meets Oddity
The streets of Lompoc are their own outdoor mural gallery.
Throughout the town, dynamic explosions of paint have transformed regular streets into a canvas of swirling colors, featuring murals depicting everything from historical events, to whimsical scenes of anthropomorphic animals playing musical instruments. It’s urban and it’s coastal and it’s art, and look out, there is a T-Rex right behind you.
Explore the Lompoc Murals right here.
Take an Out-of-this-World Tour!
Get ready to blast off into a world of wacky science and intergalactic treasure hunting! Uncover mind-boggling science and space-themed geocaches lurking in the nooks and crannies of Lompoc and its cosmic surroundings. As if that’s not enough, brace yourself for winning a cool Geotours trackable JPSS coin – a bona fide collector’s item – if you’re among the first 250 clever cachers to conquer this spacey quest. And wait, there’s more! You could snag some seriously quirky limited edition swag and souvenirs that are rarer than a meteor shower in your backyard.
Explore a completely re-constructed 1900’s Storefront
Be transported back to the whimsical world of the 1900s through an enchanting storefront display that captures the essence of a bygone era. This quirky exhibit at the Lompoc Museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the daily life of the past, featuring meticulously recreated storefronts adorned with vintage signage, products, and artifacts. Wander through time as you marvel at the curious assortment of goods, all meticulously arranged to recreate the ambiance of a bustling street from yesteryears. This captivating display serves as a delightful reminder that even in a modern world, the echoes of history’s eccentricities continue to enchant and inspire.
Get Spooked at a Ghostly Mission
In the shadows of La Purisima Mission’s reconstruction, a tapestry of ghostly legends began to unfold, shrouding the site in an eerie aura.
Park rangers, tour guides, and those brave enough to linger in its embrace, speak of spectral murmurs that curl through the air like spectral tendrils. Unsettling occurrences, like ethereal echoes, are often attributed to the anguished spirits of the Chumash people, their presence forever tethered to the very ground they once walked upon, or something like that.
Don’t be surprised if a haunting refrain of distant flutes, sacred to the Chumash, comes to you upon into the wind, playing a mournful serenade that lingers beyond time.
Italy in Lompoc?
The unique Italian Stone Pines (Pinus pinea) stand as living monuments to a fusion of natural beauty and cultural history. These distinctive trees, native to the Mediterranean region, have found an unlikely home in Lompoc.
With their umbrella-like canopies and remarkable asymmetrical growth, the Italian Stone Pines in Lompoc create an enchanting atmosphere that transports visitors to distant lands. These trees, a testament to the power of human connection with the natural world, have become an integral part of Lompoc’s identity, offering a glimpse of Italy’s charm amid the coastal splendor of California.
Walking under the green canopy on a warm summer afternoon, was just a little bit of bliss on an already happy afternoon.
You Have an Appointment at the Embassy
There is also a range of accommodations in Lompoc to rest your body and mind after a day of beaches, art, and space exploration. We opted for the Embassy Suites by Hilton Lompoc Central Coast. Situated on one of the town’s main drags, and basically convenient to all of Lompoc, the Embassy Suites by Hilton offers everything found in similar hotels in larger markets. Our second floor suite overlooked a large pool devoid of guests. We opted out due to the coolish morning, but it was still there and empty when we returned home in the early evening.
The extra comfortable room featured a king size bed, along with an adjoining living room, and if there was a big game on, and I had brought friends along, then my friends and I could have watched the big game in the big suite on the big TV screen.
No matter. The morning’s breakfast was made to order, the staff was friendly and accommodating and only too happy to point out and offer directions to more local landmarks. We missed some of those owing only to our limited time frame. All the more reason to return to Lompoc and the murals and the waves.