Bring the family, learn the natural history of Morro Bay through interactive, educational displays—
—A trip to California’s Central Coast is not complete without visiting the Museum of Natural History in Morro Bay State Park. Situated midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, Morro Bay is a bustling seaside town with gorgeous views and a multitude of activities to enjoy. The area’s unique history 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, bountiful wildlife, and signs of Chumash and Salina cultures, both past and present.
The small museum sits on the side of a hill overlooking the varied sights of Morro Bay and the dunes. In the 1950s, the Department of Parks and Recreation developed plans to open regional museums throughout the state. The Morro Bay Museum of Natural History was a part of that initiative brought to life by collaboration between Morro Bay State Park and the community
The Morro Bay Museum of Natural History serves as both an educational and exhibit space and a research center. Opened in 1962, it is the only natural history museum in the California State Park system. More than 50,000 people visit the museum annually, including thousands of students participating in the free docent-led school group programs and distance learning programs. These field trips are designed to meet California’s required science and social studies standards.
The museum features learning experiences for its youngest visitors and most exhibits are child-friendly. The young and young at heart learn about Chumash and Salinan culture and participate in activities found nowhere else on the Central Coast. Adults can enjoy one of the many lectures, displays, videos, or events. Each visit reveals something new and the hands-on activities change monthly. Rotating exhibits are featured seasonally in the auditorium.
“The staff of the museum provides engaging and informative programs that highlight and celebrate the natural wonders of the Central Coast. It is an incredibly valuable resource for our community and visitors,” says Robyn Chase, California State Parks Interpretive Program Manager. “Join staff for a nature walk, talk, ask questions and discover more about Morro Rock, the sand dunes, the estuary, or the Heron Rookery Natural Preserve.”
Morro Bay State Park offers guided walks and talks, school field trips, in-person and virtual, lectures, interpretive special events, exhibits and hands-on explorations. Interpretive and educational programs are funded and supported by the Central Coast State Parks Association, a non-profit cooperating association.
“Visitors to the museum love to browse the well-stocked gift shop,” says Kristin Howland, Executive Director of the Central Coast State Parks Association. “The Central Coast State Parks Association takes pride in the selection of merchandise in the museum store, which benefits the park’s educational programs. Find a unique offering of books, gifts, and apparel all featuring the wonders of Morro Bay State Park that make for great shopping choices for any occasion.”
Exhibits include Seeds: Nature’s Artful Engineering, running currently through February 2023. The exhibit vividly portrays the incredible diversity, ingenuity and beauty of the seed dispersal mechanism of plants native to California. Seeds and their dispersal mechanisms are one of the final stages in the evolutionary biology of flowering plants. Against many odds seeds are the final step in ensuring the survival of plant life.
There is a $3 entry fee for anyone 18 or over. The California State Park Adventure Pass provides free entry for 4th graders and their families to 19 amazing parks, including the Morro Bay Museum of Natural History!
The Museum of Natural History at Morro Bay State Park is located at 20 State Park Rd., Morro Bay. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. For more information, call (805) 772-2694 or visit www.centralcoastparks.org.
– Cassandra Frey