Enjoy kayaking on the Central Coast
Slipping down a channel in the Morro Bay estuary, the kayaks glide by shorebirds feeding in the pickleweed. Later they float peacefully past harbor seals resting on mudflats. This is just one scene of the paddling world of the Central Coast.
Sea kayaking really took hold on the Central Coast in the late 80s. At that time you could count on one hand the outfitters in the kayaking business. Now there are many up and down the coast.
Kayaking is relatively easy and a person can do it with just some basic instructions. Outfitters will show you how to get in and out of the boat, how to hold and use your paddle, as well as giving you some helpful tips about the area you will be paddling through. Most kayak outfitters also give tours and this is often the best way to get started kayaking.
Always wear a PFD (personal flotation device) sometimes referred to as a life jacket. While sea kayaks are more flat bottomed than river kayaks, and you are less likely to fall out, it is wise to be prepared as the waters of the Central Coast are cold.
Good spots to go kayaking begin up on the north coast at the William Randolph Hearst State Beach located across the street from the entrance to Hearst Castle. A kayak outfitter is often present on the beach here. Entry into the ocean is fairly easy as the beach is located in a protected cove. Once beyond that area you will be paddling in the open ocean, but waves are calm during summer months and the paddling will be easy.
Just down the coast is Leffingwell Landing in Cambria. This is a popular launching spot for kayakers. Here the surf may be slightly more challenging, but once beyond the breakers you will be drifting through kelp beds where you might glimpse sea otters resting or feeding.
Outfitters in the beach town of Cayucos can take you out on a tour or give you sea kayaking lessons. This is also a relatively easy launching place near the pier. If you are lucky you might paddle out to see some passing Humpback whales or dolphins.
One of the easiest places to go for your first kayak paddle is at Morro Bay. The inner bay area is calm with no waves and you can choose to launch from a dock, from Coleman Beach on the Embarcadero, Windy Cove in the State Park, or from the boat launch ramp.
Depending on the tide, you could be able to kayak into the back bay and the estuary where you will see a variety of the 200 bird species that migrate to this area as well as harbor seals, sea lions, and sea otters.
Many people pack a picnic and paddle over to the sand spit. There they beach their boats and hike up the sand dunes to enjoy their lunch. There are kayak outfitters up and down the Embarcadero in Morro Bay and also at the State Park Marina.
Along with calm water paddling some avid kayakers enjoy kayak surfing and they often take advantage of the larger waves north of Morro Rock and at Montana de Oro. Waves are always larger during winter months and smaller and gentler during summer months.
South County has some great kayaking too. An outfitter in Shell Beach can take you to launching spots where you can paddle near cliffside caves. For people who want to learn sea kayaking and start off at the easiest beach to launch from, there is nowhere better than Avila Beach. Because Avila is located on San Luis Bay it rarely has large waves making it very easy to paddle out past the breakers. From there you can paddle along the coastline under the Cal-Poly pier and through the kelp beds up to the Shell Beach cliffs where you will probably see groups of brown pelicans roosting.
The bays and oceans aren’t the only good places to kayak. Lopez Lake near Arroyo Grande, and Santa Margarita Lake, Atascadero Lake Park, Lake Nacimiento, and San Antonio Lake in North County, are great places to paddle. Paddling on the lakes is best done in the early hours of the day or in the evening to avoid the winds that generally blow throughout the major part of the day.
Whether you are a beginner or an experienced kayak paddler, you will find a great kayaking location on your visit to San Luis Obispo County.
— Ruth Ann Angus