Morro Strand State Beach

Great Time in Morro Bay: Coastal Getaway in Central California

In California, Morro Bay is perfect for a getaway to recharge yourself mentally, physically, and heck probably even spiritually, and just take a break from reality and the same day-to-day. There is no shortage of seaside towns in this state. These picturesque locations are all up and down the Pacific Ocean. They will just fill you with serenity and tranquility while offering you panoramic coastal views, charming small-town living, and its rich nature and wildlife found on both land and sea.

But this place I think is particularly good because of where it is and what it has to offer. It’s only several hours away North of Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, and South of San Francisco and San Jose on the Pacific Coast Highway. Close enough to the big cities you could make a day trip out of it and just far enough to make you feel like you’re going on an adventure if you decide to stay longer. And you will enjoy the drive along the coast as you make your way here as well as wanting to stop at every vista point you pass just to stop and stare.

But what do you do once you arrive? We have our list of the main attractions here to keep you busy throughout the day.

Morro Bay Embarcadero

Morro Bay Waterfront
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

The best place to start your day is downtown and the waterfront. Most of the attractions in Morro Bay are within walking distance from here. It has plenty of free street parking and public parking lots. It’s filled with all those locally owned beachfront boutique shops and artisanal fine dining establishments with great views of the water.

This is a popular destination for whale watching as well if you come in the colder seasons when you visit and can easily book yourself a tour with local operators. You could also rent an electric bike and take it easily all over town. Or sit down and enjoy simple fishing on the docks.

Nearby is the Morro Bay Maritime Museum. It’s small but interesting enough with several displays of maritime history and items along with older historic boats located in the back. This would only take an hour or more of your time if you want to maybe take a break somewhere indoors and learn a bit. Or see the central coast local artists at the Morro Bay Art Center. They are consistently changing exhibits in photography, crafts, and sculpture. It’s all fantastic displays of the beautiful nature and wildlife you find yourself in here.

Morro Rock

Morro Rock
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

Probably the best attraction in Morro Bay has to be Morro Rock, just a short walk from the marina. You get to walk around up close and see this remnant of an ancient volcano situated along the water. You can’t climb it though as it is a protected area. View birds and wildlife on the rock and walking paths. Head to T-Pier for the best close-up views of the sea otters and sea lions as an extra incentive. They just love hanging out around the boars and by the wooden docks located in the middle of the waters.

Morro Bay Kayaking
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

If you want a closer look at the marine life, you can find rental paddleboarding and kayaking. The waters just always seem to be especially calm and just oh so enjoyable. There is plenty of free parking or you can take a walk along the boardwalk from the waterfront marina.

Morro Strand State Beach

Morro Strand State Beach
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

On the other side of Morro Rock is the state beach. It’s 3 miles of open sandy beaches so you won’t feel crowded with other people there. You can spend time your time having a nice walk next to the low tides or collecting plentiful sand dollars. Leashed dogs are allowed so you can bring your pets with you. It’s great to finish your day here by enjoying the sunset while watching the ocean.

Morro Bay State Park

This small state park is a better choice for those of you who are looking to camp outside while you are visiting or staying in an RV. It’s also just interesting to drive through so you can see nature at its best.

Located across the campgrounds is the Museum of Natural History for Morro Bay. On a hill, you can find overlooking views of the sandspit, Morro Rock, ocean, and national estuary. Its exhibits cover oceanography, geology, wildlife, and history involving the indigenous people the Salinan and Chumash. They are very hands-on and interactive so it is quite enjoyable for the kids to play around and focused on spreading the message of taking care of the environment.

Morro Bay Golf Course
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

Next to the campgrounds is a golf course. Private membership isn’t required and all skill levels are welcome. Since it’s within the state park you will have some great views of the hills and the ocean in the background while you play. A great place to unwind during the day with either an 18-hole game or the driving range.

Past the golf course as you drive up the road is the most popular hiking trail, Black Hill Trail. It’s particularly easy and well worth the 15-minute hike from the upper parking lot. You get a 360-degree view of the entire area once you reach the top which is perfect for photos.

Where to Eat in Morro Bay

Giovanni’s Fish Market & Galley

Giovannis Fish Market Galley
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

Stop here to eat like a local. Known as the original seafood restaurant and fish market of Morro Bay, it has been here for decades. It’s not fancy and advertises as exactly what it is without being a showboat about it. With friendly staff, fair prices, and daily fresh catches its no wonder it is still standing here.

The wharf patio they have is perfect for enjoying a seafood lunch or dinner while viewing the harbor. If you are there on the weekend you can also catch a local farmers market inside their back parking lot.

Bayside Cafe

Morro Bay Bayside Cafe
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

This spot is in the state park marina across from the campground for easy access if you want something different than campground food. It’s only open for lunch and dinner though. But it has wonderful seafood options and more great views of the water and marina to take in.

These are just our own personal recommendations. Morro Bay has a variety of dining establishments. There are popular cafes and breakfast shops along with dockside restaurants and international cuisines.

Best Time to Visit Morro Bay

Being from California originally, there is really no good or bad time to visit here if you’re worried about the weather. My first time here was in June and it wasn’t too hot or too crowded for my tastes. Plus the ocean breezes definitely cool things down by a few degrees. Spring and Summer (March to August) is the best time to go. It’s ideal outdoors and beach weather with minimal crowds and mid-range prices. Fall and Winter the weather is of course going to be colder meaning fewer crowds and lower prices, along with better chances for whale watching!

Where to Stay in Morro Bay

In keeping with the lowkey coastal beach vibes, you won’t find any large hotels in the area. Instead, you will find smaller inns such as Pacific Shores Inn, Anderson Inn, and The Landing at Morro Bay. Or pick a motel/hotel like Econo Lodge, Best Western, or Hotel Avisa. There are plenty of both scattered throughout town close to the beach and are a mix of 2-3 stars but mid to high ratings mostly. Which in this area means pretty good for what you are paying for. Think less about luxury and more about convenience to the beach.

You, of course, have the campgrounds inside the state park and north of Strand Beach is an RV park. There is also the option that you can choose to stay nearby in San Luis Obispo only 15-30 minutes away. That way you are also close to Downtown SLO if you prefer to spend your evenings there.

Morro Bay is a must-visit for anyone looking to enjoy a sun-soaked California adventure for anywhere between 1-3 days. That’s about as much time as you need to really enjoy what this coastal town has to offer as you make your way through this beautiful state.

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