Take the family to learn about the natural history of Morro Bay and interact with educational displays
A trip to California’s Central Coast would not be complete without a visit to the Museum of Natural History at Morro Bay State Park. Situated midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, you’ll find a towering volcanic plug hugging the gorgeous blue Pacific coastline. Morro Bay is a bustling seaside town that has gorgeous views and a multitude of activities to enjoy. The history of this unique area is displayed at the museum, where guests can learn about much more than just sand dunes and estuary life. This region offers exquisite landscapes, a variety of natural habitats, lots of wildlife, and signs of Chumash and Salinan cultures, both past and present.
The small museum sits comfortably on the side of a hill overlooking the blue and green hues of Morro Bay and the dunes. The outer architecture was regarded as modern when it was built. In the 1950s, the Department of Parks and Recreation developed plans to open regional museums throughout the state. The Museum of Natural History was a part of that initiative. Like many museums, it was designed to serve as both exhibit space and a research center. Dedicated in 1962, the building reflects the architectural tastes of the time, and inside exhibits were renovated and updated in the 2000s. Fun fact-It was the only natural history museum built, and today remains the only one in the California State Park System!
“The job of the Museum of Natural History is to get visitors so interested in the natural world that they want to go out and experience it for themselves, and learn more about it,” says Rouvaishyana, manager of the museum.
The museum is very focused on impacting its youngest visitors, and exhibits have been geared toward child-friendly displays. The young, and young of heart, can learn about the local Native Americans the Chumash and Salinans, and delve into activities found nowhere else on the Central Coast. For adults, enjoy one of the many lectures, displays, videos or events. Birdwatch through some of the binoculars off the back patio, or marvel at the plentiful array of specimens. At each visit you are sure to learn something new.
“The staff and docents at the Morro Bay Museum of Natural History provide wonderful engaging programs that truly highlight the natural world on the Central Coast. It is an invaluable resource to our community and visitors,” says Executive Director Kristin Howland of the Central Coast State Parks Association. “Join one of the volunteer docents for an informative walk around the grounds, and get a better view of Morro Rock, sand dunes, and the estuary.”
Morro Bay State Park offers guided walks and talks, school field trips, lectures, interpretive special events, exhibits, and more. Approximately 50,000 people a year visit the Museum, and hundreds of thousands visit local parks. Interpretive and educational programs are funded and supported by Central Coast State Parks Association, a non-profit cooperating association. It is the perfect spot for families, where is fun to discover all of the natural beauty.
Visitors to the museum love to browse around the well-stocked gift shop. Howland says, “The Central Coast State Parks Association takes pride in the selection of merchandise in the Museum store. There is a unique offering of books, gifts, and apparel that make it a great option for shopping for any occasion.”
This summer, kids can check out the Jr. Ranger programs for children ages 7-12 years old from mid-June to Labor Day. The Summer Solstice event will be held Sat. 6/22 at Morro Bay St. Park campground. SeaLife Stewards will be on bay waters educating visitors about how to watch wildlife responsibly. The Museum of Natural History provides free parking for museum guests. The cost for adults is $3 to enter. Children are free, and the Museum offers a Discovery Map children can use to find answers and win small prizes.
– Cassandra Frey