See ‘The Rock,’ paddle the bay, bird watch, and hike the woodlands.
Ask most Californians to conjure up an image of Morro Bay — 12 miles north of San Luis Obispo and about 200 miles south of Oakland — and undoubtedly the first thing we’ll envision is Morro Rock.
“The Rock,” as locals call it, is the seventh in a chain of volcanic domes, sheets, and “plugs” — the surviving necks of extinct volcanoes — dotting this stretch of coastline. Rising nearly 600 feet from the sea, it’s home to over 250 species of birds, including the endangered peregrine falcon, and whether you walk along the esplanade or head out onto the water, it warrants closer inspection.
Feeling adventurous? Bring your dog along for the ride by booking a tour with The Paddleboard Co., which offers a “SUP with your pup” lesson. And during high tide, you can direct your paddleboard across the bay to a protected barrier of dunes on the sandspit visible from shore.
Regain your land legs by grabbing a seafood-centric lunch. At the north end of town, three 450-foot decommissioned smokestacks share the landscape with small shops and eateries, including Tognazzini’s Dockside Restaurant. It’s a local favorite for good reason, offering seafood caught by the historic Morro Bay commercial fishing fleet. Diners can get their fill at one of the panoramic tables overlooking the pier, or, if it’s a sunny day, outdoors at this restaurant’s sister property, Dockside Too. Given a dog-friendly patio and local performers providing live music most days, you’ll likely be surrounded by as many residents as visitors.
If you’re looking for a languid option, Bay Cruisers rents electric boats by the hour. Each seats up to eight, comes equipped with a heavy-duty plastic enclosures to use if it’s windy or a bit chilly, and no experience is necessary to rent it. Take it out on the water for a hearty brunch or a casual picnic lunch — or even a picturesque sundowner — and bring along your dog if you’d like.
As a resort town, Morro Bay more than satisfies the obligatory quotient of art galleries and souvenir shops, many of them offering the high-quality works of local artisans. But consider interrupting your shopping spree with a visit to the Morro Bay Skateboard Museum. Opened in 2012 by world champion — and local resident — Jack Smith to showcase his skateboard collection, the museum contains more than 500 pieces of memorabilia, including John Lennon’s 1964 Super Surfer skateboard. Chat up docent Eric Terhorst for a history lesson that brings the exhibits to life. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.
For overnight stays, consider the iconic Inn at Morro Bay, tucked inside the picturesque state park of which Morro Rock is a part. Overlooking the ocean, it’s steps away from hiking trails and surrounded by 4,000 acres of rugged woodlands. Dogs are welcome here, too, and in the warmer months when the patio is open, they can join you outdoors. Just off the lobby, 60 State Park Restaurant & Lounge is one of the best spots for viewing a crimson sunset over the bay.
When You Go
The Paddleboard Company
575 Embarcadero, 805-225-5555, ThePaddleboardCompany.com
Tognazzini’s Dockside Restaurant
1245 Embarcadero, 805-772-8100, MorroBayDockside.com
845 Embarcadero, 805-771-9339, BayCruisers.com
Morro Bay Skateboard Museum
699 Embarcadero, 805-610-3565, MBSkate.com
Inn at Morro Bay
60 State Park Rd., 805-772-5651, InnAtMorroBay.com