I didn’t need to use the dreaded question (Are we there yet?).
The pleasant drive from Los Angeles took any anxiety away.
A few minutes after deviating to CA-1 from Highway 101, I saw it. The humongous rock appeared in front of the like a mirage half covered in clouds.
We took the Morro Bay Boulevard and parked yards away from the Embarcadero.
The fog and mist surrounding the Rock started to clear as the morning hours were consumed.
It is no secret. I love Morro Bay. It is one of those places that contribute in great measure to the uniqueness of the state of California.
If you want to impress your friends, have your photo taken with Morro Rock looming in the distance.
But, make no mistake. This is not only a place to take a look at a big rock. This city of 10,000 residents provides a wide plethora of things to do and see.
About the Area Geography
Morro Rock is a 581 foot (177 m) volcanic plug (landform created when magma hardens within a vent on an active volcano). A causeway (or sand spit) connects it to the shore.
The Rock is part of a chain of nine volcanic peaks known as the Nine Sisters of San Luis Obispo County. The other ‘sisters’ can be climbed.
A bay is formed by Morro Rock and a five mile long spit of sand. This unique arrangement gives life to all sorts of ecosystems (marshes, estuaries, coves, etc.). Take a look at the Google Map below to get a better idea of how the area looks.
Here is an aerial photo.
Photo from Ron Reiring
That means there are a lot of square miles full of flora and fauna which are easily accessed by the public.
Things to Do
The list of things to do in Morro Bay is vast. Due to the geography of the area, reserves, preserves and parks abound. Therefore, several days should be spent around the Rock in order to take in all the natural beauty. In addition, remember this small town is the perfect base to visit other equally fascinating (and famous), nearby attractions.
The Visitor’s Center in town is excellent. I recommend you pay them a visit for maps, brochures and general information about the area. They can help you with any question you have.
The area to shop, eat and play is the Embarcadero. This is where outfitters rent bikes, kayaks, paddling board and other sporting equipment. You can also go on sub sea, whale watching and estuary boat (to watch wildlife) tours.
From the Embarcadero, you can follow the Harbor Boardwalk to the base of Morro Rock (you can also drive to the base). It is very interesting (and eye opening) to see the Rock from up close. I don’t think you understand its massiveness until it is in front of you.
From the distance, the Rock appears to have a very smooth surface and curvy shape. But, when you get close, you discover how its outside is all jagged. There is even some vegetation among the big boulders.
Don’t give all your attention to the Rock. Take a look at the water too. This is an ideal place to spot sea otters. When I visited, I saw a group of four. It is not easy to count them since they float in area full of kelp. Plus, they move really fast and there are moments when only a mayhem of feet and tails is spotted.
For views of Morro Rock, the estuary and the surrounding areas, hike to the top of Black Hill (the second in the string of ancient volcanoes) in Morro Bay State Park.
Places to Visit
Montaña de Oro State Park is one of the most beautiful parks in California. This is a highly recommended place.
The Morro Bay State Park protects a lagoon, saltwater marsh and a heron rookery.
Other areas of interest include:
– Elfin Forest
– Los Osos Oaks State Preserve
– Museum of Natural History
– Morro Bay Estuary Nature Center
– Morro Bay Aquarium
– Morro Dunes Natural Area
– Morro Strand State Beach
San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden
The charming town of Cayucos (make sure to try the sea salt cookies).
The town of Cambria
The Piedras Blancas Lighthouse
The elephant seals at Piedras Blancas
There are campsites in Morro Strand State Beach, Morro Bay State Park and Montaña de Oro State Park
Where to Eat
For delicious breakfast and lunch, go to Frankie & Lola’s Café. They give a fun twist to traditional dishes and serve healthy options.
For fresh seafood, Giovanni’s seems to be the most famous place in town. They start to steam crabs early in the morning. Tognazzini’s does good seafood as well.
The best clam chowder in town can be found at Rocca’s Surf Shack. To me, the rest of the food I ordered at this place was on the bland side. Maybe it was what I ordered (or the restaurant had a bad day) since this place has very good reviews in Yelp and TripAdvisor.
For fast, snack food (burgers, hot dogs, fish and chips, chili fries) you can go to the Lil Hut. The food in here was good to satisfy hunger cravings. This shack has an upscale brother called Harbor Hut. The food in there is supposed to be better.
Crill’s II has good sticky buns.
Morro Bay has many more restaurants serving American and International (Chinese, Thai, Mexican, Japanese) food. Ask around if you are craving something or stop by the Visitor’s Center for recommendations.
The Rock during Sunset
No visit to town is complete without seeing how the sun hides behind Morro Rock in the early evening. Time your visit so you can enjoy this wonderful spectacle.
Have you been to Morro Bay? What are your recommendations?
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