By Greg Aragon
One of my favorite spots to getaway on the California Central Coast is Morro Bay, where a surprisingly small beach town hides beside an iconic, 576-foot-tall, dome-shaped rock jetting from the harbor. Located halfway between L.A. and San Francisco, the village has tons of laid-back charm and beautiful scenery.
Last fall I escaped to Morro Bay for a couple memorable nights in which I discovered a cozy boutique hotel, gourmet restaurants, unspoiled beaches and a plethora of year-round ocean and land activities.
The getaway began at the Blue Sail Inn, situated on a bluff overlooking Morro Rock and the Embarcadero. Located a short walk from Morro Bay, Centennial Park and Morro Rock Natural Preserve, the hotel is within quick reach of kayaking, biking, beachcombing, sightseeing, golfing and wineries, along with local shopping and dining venues.
My room featured free Wi-Fi, a microwave and mini-fridge, cable TV, a cozy bed and best of all, a private balcony looking out into the majestic bay and the ever present Morro Rock. A highlight of my stay at the inn was sitting on the balcony watching playful harbor seals swim by, while small sail boats drifted past, beneath the shadow of the great boulder.
When not enjoying the scenery from our balcony, I was exploring on foot, as Morro Bay is a perfect walking town. I began by strolling along the Embarcadero to get a closer look at the famous rock guarding the harbor. Like the Golden Gate Bridge or Hearst Castle, it is a California landmark.
On my walk I stopped at Dorn’s Breakers Cafe, one of my favorite Morro Bay diners. A local institution since 1942, Dorn’s serves fresh surf and turf, along with made-from-scratch breakfast and lunch favorites — all with incredible bay views. For my breakfast, I sat on the patio overlooking the harbor and enjoyed a fresh and tasty seafood omelet with sauteed shrimp, dungeness crab, mushroom and green onions.
From Dorn’s I walked 10 minutes to the rock, and near here I found gorgeous Morro Beach, which is open to the public for walking along the shore, surfing and just relaxing. While wondering around here I saw a group of sea otters floating on their backs and rolling in the water near shore. I was also pleasantly surprised at how relatively empty the beach was, with only a few other sightseers and dog walkers to be found.
Next to the beach is the entrance to Morro Bay, a safe harbor, where small boats enter for protection, drop anchor, and help create the town’s idyllic, seaside panorama.
After relaxing at the beach, I walked along the Embarcadero, past shops for fishing, surfing, coffee, jewelry, fish and chips, and saltwater taffy. I then stopped at Kayak Horizons to rent a kayak and explore the area’s 15 miles of protected waters, including an estuary and bird sanctuary. Morro Bay is composed of 2,300 acres of mud flats, eelgrass beds, tidal wetlands and open water.
In the morning, I enjoyed a concert of playful harbor seals splashing below the balcony of my room. We then headed to Montaña De Oro, one of California’s most beautiful state parks. Boasting 8,000 acres of rugged cliffs, secluded sandy beaches, coastal plains, streams, canyons, and hills, the park is only a few miles from Morro Bay, but is very far from civilization.
At the park we discovered Spooner’s Cove, a gorgeous, hidden beach with wave-cut terraces, cliffs, tide pools, colorful rocks made of sea glass, and lots of soft sand to relax on. From the bluffs above Spooner’s Cove we could see park’s most prominent geologic feature, 1,347-foot-tall Valencia Peak. We could also see an aerial view of the 4-mile-long Morro bay sandspit, an ecologically diverse area that represents a unique dune barrier separating Morro Bay from the Pacific Ocean.
For more information on Morro Bay, visit morrobay.org.