Explore the natural world on the Central Coast
The town by the Rock offers much for the traveler, comfy hotels and motels, good food in a variety of restaurants, and beautiful scenery to look at. While strolling along the Embarcadero seems to be the prominent style of exercise many people do, there is so much more adventure awaiting you.
Kayaking on the calm waters of Morro Bay has been popular for many years, starting off slowly with just one or two operators about 30 years ago, it now is the primary water activity enjoyed by locals and visitors. There are several operators with sites along the waterfront. Most offer two-seater sit inside double kayaks. Having a partner helping with the paddling makes it even easier. Just make sure you paddle in sync with each other! Other types of kayaks are single-seat sit inside vessels and sit on top style both single and double.
Out on the bay you are going to see the lions of the bay, namely California sea lions that like to lounge on the floating dock out in the middle of the water. Be sure to keep some distance so as not to disturb them. You will also come across some of the 20 to 40 Southern sea otters that spend time eating and resting here. Many of the otters are Moms with pups. Again, keep a safe distance of at least 100 yards.
During winter months Morro Bay is visited by approximately 200 species of birds, many of them water birds like long-billed curlews, the largest of the sandpipers with the long curving beak and least sandpipers, the tiniest of the sandpipers that forage along the shoreline. There are pelicans, herons, shorebirds, terns, grebes, loons and gulls. And Morro Bay is home to peregrine falcons and visiting osprey. In January over Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend approximately 600 people come to town to attend the Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival.
Another good way to have a Morro Bay adventure is on a stand-up paddleboard. Several operators are located on the waterfront and all give lessons for first-timers. Easier than surfing, and on steadier water, you still may fall off the board a few times when first getting started. But think of the freedom of standing straight up on that board and paddling all over the bay. At least one paddleboard operator offers yoga on a stand-up paddleboard and there are special packages available from all of them.
Electric boats are a good way to enjoy being on the water in a safe and comfortable vessel. You can rent them by the hour or the day and take a picnic on board to enjoy on the sandspit. At least one waterfront hotel offers rentals of electric boats and there is another operator at Lost Isle Adventures. Lost Isle also has a tour boat available for tours of the bay that takes you out towards the harbor entrance and all along the shorelines on both sides of the bay as well as into the back bay when tides allow. Captain Stew is another tour boat operator and you will find his boat docked near the harbor patrol boats.
Go on a dinner or brunch cruise on the Chablis and enjoy the bay while eating gourmet food and check out the tours on the yacht Pappagallo with Chef Leonard. You won’t get any exercise on these boats, but they are a great way to enjoy the bay.
Fishing is another adventure to try. There are deep-sea fishing excursions available where you can rent gear and try your luck at catching lingcod or rockfish. Some people enjoy a sedate day sitting on a chair on the T-pier with a pole in the water.
Biking is a fun way to see the area and Estero Bay Inn offers bicycle rentals for people staying there. You might hop on a bike and pedal out from the waterfront through town into the State Park at the end of Main Street. Pedal up to the Morro Bay Golf Course and park your bike and hike up the trail to see the Monarch butterflies that spend winter months clustering on the trees. Monarchs also spend time in the trees at the campground in the State Park and anyone can walk through there to see them.
While you are at the State Park you can walk the boardwalk out around the edge of the estuary. Winter is the best time for this as many birds spend time feeding on the edge of the pickleweed and often at high tides clustered on any available piece of vegetation. Bring your binoculars to get a really good view and if you are into photography this is a good place for it.
With the highest and lowest tides of the year occurring in December and January you can pick a low tide date to go tide pooling and a good place for that is at Morro Strand Beach, north of Yerba Buena Street. You can bicycle there and then pick your way carefully across the rocks to peer down to see tiny crabs and anemones and other tidepool life.
A final adventure in Morro Bay could be a hike up Black Hill. This is accessed above the golf course and is a strenuous hike. There is a road up to a parking area and from there one can make the final hike to the top. Once there you will get a 360-degree view of Morro Bay. Come down and stop in at the Bayside Cafe for some great food relaxing at the outdoor tables or inside all with views of the bay.
Whatever you choose, try an adventure day or two in Morro Bay!
– By Ruth Ann Angus