Morro Bay

Morro Bay

An hour’s drive from Solvang, sixty seven miles on the coast, lies the scenic fishing village of Morro Bay. The town itself has much to recommend it: an embarcadero with restaurants, gift shops, fresh fish purveyors, art galleries, a picturesque commercial fishing fleet, and an iconic landmark, Morro Rock. But southeast of the city, encompassing 2700 acres, is the Morro Bay State Park which sits in the Central California coast’s Estero Bay, a state and natural estuary.

The expansive state park, which rates a whole day’s visit by itself, contains a small but first rate natural history museum, an ecological reserve, a heron rookery, a wetland preserve, an eighteen hole golf course, marina, campground, an RV park, picnic tables, and hiking trails. Morro Rock is also included in the state park, although it is located at the north end of the city.

The Morro Bay State Park Museum of Natural History, should be your first stop. Between 45,000 and 50,000 people visit the museum on State Park Road, which sits on a hill with superb views of the bay. The museum has 26 state of the art interactive exhibits, many with touch screens, illustrating the bay’s specialized and multifaceted ecosystem, geology, and animal life. Informative and fun for all ages, the updated and redesigned exhibits allow visitors to dig into a food pit to create their own food chains and build a sand dune. Rangers also lead daily nature walks. Ages sixteen and younger get in free while adults are only $3. The museum hours are 10 - 5 every day. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day. (805) 772-2694

High in the trees north of the museum is the Great Blue Heron Rookery. The stick nests sit high in the tops of the eucalyptus grove along the water. The largest of the North American herons, the great blue heron breeds in colonies with an average of 160 nests per colony. Within those nests are three to six light blue eggs, incubated for twenty eight days. Great Blue Herons produce one brood per year. Although blue herons generally only nest within a colony of their same species, this rookery is also used by Black Crowned Night Herons as well as Great and Snowy Egrets. Docents from the Natural History Museum lead walks around the rookery. Directly above the rookery is the regulation length, eighteen hole Morro Bay Golf Course. Nicknamed the “Poor Man’s Pebble Beach,” the 71 par course below Black Mountain opened in 1925. Like Pebble Beach in Monterey, the Morro Bay golf course sits above the ocean, with beautiful scenic views of the bay. But unlike the prestigious private course in Monterey, the Morro Bay Golf Course is a San Luis Obispo County golf course open to the public.

Rent a Kayak at the Kayak Shack at the State Park Marina for a personal exploration of the bay and its varied wildlife. For a single or double kayak, the rates are $12 or $16 for the first hour and then $6 or $8 per hour for each additional hour, respectively. Canoes for up to four people are available to rent for $14 for the first hour and $7 thereafter.

Kayak Shack, 10 State Park Road, Morro Bay, CA 93442 (805) 772-8796

Finish the day at the charming Bayside Café next to the marina. Eat bacon wrapped skewers, savory salmon sandwiches, light and flaky fish and chips, and great fish tacos, while sitting right next to the water. Don’t forget a glass of wine to toast a glorious day in Morro Bay. Open seven days a week, Monday through Wednesday 11 a.m. -3 p.m., Thursday through Sunday lunch 11 a.m. -4 p.m. and dinner 4 p.m. - 9 p.m.

Bayside Café, 10 State Park Road, Morro Bay, CA 93442 (805) 772-1465