There’s never a dull moment in Morro Bay, where seaside adventures, spectacular wildlife sightings and family friendly activities unfold under the sun daily. Surf or sunbathe in the shadow of iconic Morro Rock, kayak the Morro Bay estuary where otters and seals roam, stroll the Embarcadero famous for its fresh fish and salt water taffy or tuck into a gourmet meal served with a glass of local wine at one of Morro Bay’s top notch oceanfront restaurants. With boutique hotels and unique vacation rentals located near the water, Highway 1 offers up incredible lodging, wherever you roam. Ready for your perfect beach day? Morro Bay awaits with a remarkably robust itinerary.
Explore Morro Bay
Morro Strand State Beach
Majestic views of Morro Rock, well-appointed campsites and close proximity to Cayucos to the north make Morro Strand Beach an incredible springboard for your Morro Bay adventure. Encompassing the stretch from Atascadero Road north to the North Point Natural Area, Morro Strand State Beach encompasses Morro Strand State Park Campground, complete with RV hookups, scenic picnic areas, barbecues and a three-mile stretch of sand popular for fishing, windsurfing, and kite flying. Dogs must remain on-leash at Morro Strand Beach and Morro Strand State Park Campground, but six miles north on Highway 1 in Cayucos, you’ll find a sprawling dog beach perfect for your four-legged friend to explore (views of Morro Rock are also lovely from Cayucos’ unique vantage point).
Known simply as “The Rock ” by the locals, iconic Morro Rock is the last of the “nine sisters,” or volcanic mountains that run from the Central Coast to Southern California. Today, this towering natural wonder is a popular historic landmark, bird sanctuary and surf destination. Paddlers, picnickers, kite-flyers and sunbathers flock to the beach just north of the rock, while the south side—protected by the harbor—is popular among kayakers and fishing enthusiasts (not to mention otters, often seen frolicking in these calm waters). Snap a photo backdropped by the jetty rock break located on the south side of the rock—where, depending on the tide—impressive waves soar to the sky. To avoid the crowds often found surrounding this seaside hotspot, try surfing or kayaking at nearby Cayucos Beach to the north or explore the shimmering tide pools of Spooner’s Cove in Los Osos to the south. Both Cayucos and Los Osos also feature cozy, uncrowded lodging with close proximity to the Pacific.
Thanks to its famous surf break and iconic landmark, Morro Rock Beach attracts surfers of all levels. Located just north of Morro Rock, this popular beach is known for catchable waves and consistent surf (waves can be large;lifeguards are staffed from Memorial Day Labor Day from 10am-6pm). Want to avoid the crowd? Local surfers are known to paddle across the harbor side to Sand Spit beach or head north to “Studios,” a Cayucos surf spot where the waves are sublime and the sets are secluded. For a beach with less chance for rip-currents and the mellowest waves around, consider heading further south to Avila Beach, where kiddos can learn to paddle (or simply play) in glassy waters.
Explore the Morro Bay Estuary
Kayaking and Stand Up Paddleboarding
There’s no better way to explore the Morro Bay Estuary than from a kayak or stand up paddleboard. Feel the invigorating sea air on your face as you traverse this unique ecosystem where fresh and ocean water meet. As you glide along the surface, notice various seabirds, turtles and exposed rocky tide pools teeming with urchins and starfish. Don’t own your own board? You can easily rent a kayak or standup paddleboard from A Kayak Shack, nestled on the Los Osos side of the estuary. Home to a dynamic wetland habitat and far from boat traffic that could potentially spook local wildlife, you’ll experience the quiet beauty of Morro Bay in all its sights and sounds. Whether you sign up for a guided kayak tour or embark on your own self-possessed journey, you’ll connect with Morro Bay’s natural world on a whole new level.
Kids won’t believe their eyes after boarding a semi-submersible vessel that reveals an undersea peak at the murky depths below. Youngsters will especially love watching the skipper throw food overboard, which attracts all manner of underwater friends to this unique, clear-bottomed boat.With mesmerizing schools of jellyfish and lush kelp forests viewable below deck and playful harbor seals, sea lions, and otters visible from above, the whole family will delight in a 45-minute educational Subsea Tour around the harbor.
Food & Drink Cruises
Satisfy your craving for fresh seafood and adventure when you embark Morro Bay’s popular Chablis Cruise. With a luxurious spread to nosh on—plus a lineup of local wines to pair it all with—your foodie fantasy is ready to set sail in Morro Bay. Savor this two-hour boat ride elevated with award-winning clam chowder, fabulous oysters, appetizers, full bar service, and cool ocean breezes to boot. You can also book a special brunch cruise, available on the second Sunday of each month. Not a bad way to start the day, right?
Morro on the Rocks
The party kicks off with a celebratory splash of ocean spray thanks to Morro on the Rocks, a fun loving booze cruise accommodating up to 21 folks for drinks, music and astounding ocean scenery. With a full bar serving beer, wine and liquor, expect a sunset happy hour unlike anything you’d uncork on land.
Tognazzini’s Dockside “Too”
A local seafood tradition, Tognazzini’s Dockside “Too” is ground zero for incredible clam chowder, calamari, and cod cakes in Morro Bay. With casual outdoor patio dining nestled on the dock behind Tognazini’s restaurant, you’ll find the freshest catch of the day served alongside live local music and a dose of warm hospitality. Plus, with a robust fish market adjoining, you can take home the same high quality fish, oysters, shrimp, clams and scallops that Morro Bay’s top notch restaurants proudly serve over white tablecloths. Just thank Captain Mark Tognazzini, who runs the Bonnie Marietta fishing and research support vessel (he’s known to haul in delicious seasonal salmon and albacore, among other coastal delicacies).
House of Juju by the Bay
Gourmet burgers, fish tacos, flatbreads, clam chowder, local wine and craft beer come together with tasteful results at House of Juju by the Bay. With indoor and outdoor dining overlooking the water and a pet friendly vibe, you can enjoy a laid back yet sophisticated meal in full view of scenic Morro Rock. Consider this the best of both worlds: upscale and casual, land and sea.
Windows on the Water
With more than a dozen windows designed to capture a full view of the harbor, Windows on the Water is one of Morro Bay’s best restaurants for savoring a farm-to-table meal at sunset. Perched upstairs, you’re privy to a panoramic vista stretching from Morro Rock to Montana de Oro. With an emphasis on nourishing, fresh ingredients, you’ll taste Chef Neil Smith’s appreciation for organic produce and sustainably caught fish in each and every bite. A fully stocked bar with a 300+ wine list featuring both local and worldly wines (not to mention a 5,000 bottle wine cellar) ensures that you’ll never need to worry about finding the perfect pairing, either. After dinner, lounge on a swanky cigar deck overlooking the bay.
Vegetarians, vegans, gluten-free enthusiasts or folks simply looking to include a bit more nutrition and zesty flavor into their travel plans will adore the fresh, healthy options available at Goddess Goods. Perfect for a quick lunch, breakfast or snack, you can dig into something as substantial as a house-made black bean burger laden with locally grown avocado or go lighter with a green juice or smoothie bowl. Whether you seek to refresh or feast, you can rest assured you’ll leave this locally loved joint with renewed vitality and a pep in your step.
Farmer's Market and Seafood Market
Main Street Farmer's Market
An anticipated community gathering bursting with local flavor, the Morro Bay Main Street Farmer’s Market is a great place to soak in Morro Bay’s true colors. Held Saturdays from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Main Street and Morro Bay Boulevard, stroll two blocks of farmer stalls, food and crafts selling fresh local produce, bread, olive oil and jams plus unique art from local artisans. Nearby antique shops, boutiques and restaurants make this particular farmer’s market even more compelling for travelers and locals alike. Plus, you’re only a few blocks from the Embarcadero and the harbor beyond.
Thursday Afternoon Market
Held Thursdays from 2-4:30 p.m. at the Spencer’s Fresh Markets parking lot in Morro Bay (cross Streets: Main & Elena), this locally loved market boasts a low key vibe that belies its incredible diversity of goods. Stroll the fragrant stalls stopping for samples of fresh fruit, local honey and baked goods. You never know just what you’ll find!
Giovanni's Fish Market
Family owned for over 30 years and widely recognized as one of California’s premier fish markets, you’ll find a dazzling selection of seafood at your fingertips at Giovanni’s. Crab, lobster, abalone, shrimp, oysters, shellfish, sushi and sashimi, fish fillets, smoked fish—it’s all on the menu alongside sauces, spices and even gifts for your foodie pals. Located directly on the waterfront and open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, you can feel good purchasing fresh local and sustainable fish caught by the Giovanni family fleet. Can’t take it it all home with you? No worries. Giovanni’s provides overnight shipping anywhere in the United States.
Morro Bay Golf Course
Take a swing at Morro Bay Golf Course, a player friendly course featuring panoramic ocean views at all 18 holes. With bentgrass fairways, well-kept greens and a stellar driving range, you’re in for a robust round of golf backdropped by the big blue beyond. Players seeking a challenge will appreciate the tree-lined fairways and hilly, natural terrain found along this classic Pebble Beach-inspired track. An added bonus? The course is part of Morro Bay State Park and home to a pleasant bird sanctuary as well as an onsite bar and grill. Didn’t bring your clubs? No problem. Simply head to the pro shop for rentals, lessons and driving
Natural History Museum
For a fun, interactive experience that will enthrall the whole family, head to the Museum of Natural History, located in the heart of Morro Bay, adjacent to beautiful Morro Bay State Park. First, take a moment to marvel at the scenery and enjoy a picnic with panoramic views of the bay, dunes and Morro Rock. You’ll soon find that the small yet mighty museum offers quite a wealth of experiences, including nature walks, docent led tours and exhibits focusing on cultural history, geology and oceanography. Plus, educational videos and puppet shows are perfect for little ones dipping a toe.
Daring pirates, sailors and seafarers of all ages are welcomed at Tidelands Playground, a two-acre nautical themed park sure to get the kids running, jumping and giggling. Nestled at the south end of the Embarcadero, the park offers up the perfect way to end a day of exploring and adventuring around Morro Bay. Tots will love climbing the “ship,” where a crow’s nest provides a unique vantage point of seal statues and massive whale tail below.
The kids can roam free at Cloisters Community Park, one of the best playgrounds in Morro Bay and a true hidden gem for parents needing a bit of relaxation. Tucked away in the Cloisters House Subdivision, this secluded playground features low traffic despite its incredible amenities. With an ample play structure, vast grassy fields, and wide walkways made for biking and scooting—plus a boardwalk trail that provides views of south and north beach—this 34-acre park is beloved by grown-ups and kiddos alike.
World's Largest Chess Set
Challenge your friends and family to a life-size game of chess at the World’s Largest Chess Set, located on the Embarcadero at Centennial Parkway. Available for reservations Monday through Friday, this interactive chess set was conceived in the early 1970s to commemorate the centennial celebration. Today, it remains a quirky and memorable photo opp that you can only find in Morro Bay.
Shop the Embarcadero
Wavelength's Surf Shop
Whether you’re a bonafide surfer, a beginner or just a newfound sun-worshipper looking for a piece of the Morro Bay lifestyle, Wavelength’s is your destination for awesome beach apparel and surf gear right on the Embarcadero. A staple of the surf community since the 1980s, you’ll find sandals, shorts, bathing suits, sunglasses, SPF and hats alongside a wide selection board rentals all under one way cool roof.
Morro Bay’s own local lifestyle brand, Azhiaziam, was born from a love of surfing but is approachable to anyone looking for a bit of fun and sun. Located on Front Street in Morro Bay, just parallel with the Embarcadero (and on the way to Morro Rock) you’ll find surfboards, skateboards, stand up paddleboards, wetsuits and Azhiaziam branded clothing and accessories all on offer at this funky surf shop.
Gallery at Marina Square
Experience the wonder of art in all its facets at Gallery at Marina Square. An esteemed fine art and crafts gallery run by a community of professional artists, this local artist’s alcove is dedicated to enriching the world through diverse and colorful works, including paintings, glasswork, photography, jewelry and ceramics, just to name a few. With both an upper and lower gallery space dedicated to exciting, ever-evolving exhibits, you’ll find a fresh perspective (and something new to marvel at) upon each visit.
Morro Bay Nature Center
Gear up for an educational deep dive into Morro Bay’s landscape at Morro Bay Nature Center, where aquariums bubble with steelhead and trout swimming among otherworldly eelgrass. Take in fascinating 3-D images of the estuary plus memorable views and wildlife sightings aided by complementary binoculars. A docent program helps visitors better understand and enjoy the estuary and its habitats, creatures, and unique inner-workings. Feel free to ask these onsite experts questions about the exhibits (or even inquire about a hands-on activity for your little ones).
Seven Sisters Gallery
For one-of-a-kind jewelry, works of art and fanciful gifts, Seven Sisters Gallery provides an embarrassment of riches. Influenced by the beauty of Morro Bay, this eclectic gallery carries beautiful hand-crafted items made locally as well around the world. Lose yourself among shelves of glittering stones, handmade trinkets and unexpected treasures.
Specializing in boutique wines sourced from across California’s Central Coast, this knowledgeable seaside wine shop is a prime place to sip, swirl and discover new blends and varietals. Hungry? Savory focaccia breads, a sausage snack plate or board topped with cheese and charcuterie will tide you over till dinner. Purchase a bottle now and enjoy it while taking in the shop’s beautiful ocean views, or bring some wine home and enjoy a taste of Morro Bay for years to come.
A mainstay in the Morro Bay community for 20 years, this Embarcadero-based sweet shop is ready to curb your sweet tooth once and for all. With more than 70 flavors of saltwater taffy to choose from—including sugar free options, caramel corn and other addictive goodies to chew on—you’ll be swimming through a wonderland of salty-sweet joy (the kids will love filling up a bucket and savoring these confections by the pound).
Grown ups and kids can always agree on a trip to Kelli’s Candies, a beloved Morro Bay sweet shop that offers both child-approved ice cream and chocolates as well as more refined espresso, coffee, fudge, as well as novelty and vintage candies. With seasonally appropriate confections almost too pretty to eat, any time is the right time to indulge at this crowd-pleasing Embarcadero stop.
Crills Saltwater Taffy and Crills II
In business since 1970, Crills Saltwater Taffy knows a thing or two about delighting its customers with irresistible treats and candy-coated goodness. With two locations on the Embarcadero, Crills Saltwater Taffy and its sister locale, Crills II, you’re never far from stellar saltwater taffy, festive cotton candy, gooey cinnamon rolls, shiny caramel apples or soft serve ice cream covered in sprinkles.
Don’t let the name of this sassy boutique throw you off; ”smoobage” roughly translates into any old thing that makes you crack an authentic smile. With an eclectic collection of gifts, toys, refinished furniture, jewelry, handmade leather items and surf art, you’re bound to find something that you just can’t imagine living without. At the very least, you’ll leave with a bigger smile than you had coming in.
Sip Local Wine and Craft Beer
Belly up to the bar at Chateau Margene, which offers up an elevated wine tasting experience at its coastal tasting room on the water. With sustainable, estate grown wines sourced from the Santa Lucia Highlands and Paso Robles, you’ll sample the finest cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and pinot noir all while admiring views of Morro Rock.
With more than 56 beers on tap in addition to their own Libertine “wild ales,” you’re bound to find something you’d be stoked to sip on. This waterfront brewery on the Embarcadero might be known for its sour beers fermented with local Central Coast yeast, but you can also find a classic pilsner, IPA or glass of local wine. Hungry? Chow down on fried pickles, spicy shrimp tacos, nachos or tender pork sliders. The food menu has as much diversity to offer as the beer menu, including Saturday and Sunday brunch classics.
This wonderful little wine bar by the water might appear small on the outside, but inside, visitors can sample more than 100 local wines by the glass or bottle. Pair that prolific wine selection with local crab cakes, fried Brussels sprouts and delicious pomme frites and you’ll find yourself lingering far longer than you first anticipated.
Morro Bay Festivals
Originally created by Beachfront Kites & Surreys, this colorful community event invites folks of all ages to laugh, run and delight as hundreds of vibrant kites take flight. From small and simple kites to large, elaborate depictions of giant squid floating in midair, every kind of high-flying fancy takes to the skies for a moment of unified joy. Full of whimsy, cheer and positive vibes, this free annual event is the kind of family outing that leaves everyone in an elevated mood.
Held each year on the first Saturday of October, Morro Bay’s three-day Harbor Festival is a celebration of local food, wine and laid back coastal lifestyle. Featuring live music, arts and crafts, marine education and plenty of creative fun for the whole family, you’ll get an authentic feel for Morro Bay’s diverse and welcoming seaside community.
Avocado & Margarita Festival
Raise a glass to Morro Bay’s favorite pairing at the Avocado and Margarita Festival, a lively foodie celebration combining awesome food, cold lime-twisted drinks, live music, dancing, arts and crafts, specialty vendors and booths helmed by the Margarita Man, Boochcraft and Yes Cocktail Company. With avocado infused specialty dishes (many of which feature locally grown avocados) and multiple bars located throughout the festival, you’re never far from your next great taste of lime, salt, and creamy goodness.
Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival
It’s no secret that Morro Bay is home to a diverse menagerie of seabirds and other feathered fowl (just look up into the sky for the proof). However, unless you’re an avid birder, you might not know about the Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival. Unfolding each year in mid-January, this ecotourism event invites amature and professional wildlife photographers, bird watchers and the general public to forge a deeper understanding and appreciation of local birds and other wildlife. From American Robins and White-Throated Swift to the lovely Violet-Green Swallow, spotting these fluttering creatures can be the thrill of a lifetime. Why not pick up a pair of binoculars and try for yourself?
From the Mac and Cheese Fest in Avila Beach and Oktoberfest in Los Osos in the south to the Cambria Olallieberry Festival to the north, festivals along Highway 1 celebrate what makes this slice of the California Central Coast so special (and often, so delicious). Whether you savor the simple summer pleasure of Arroyo Grande’s annual Strawberry Festival or aim to sample crisp, coastal wines at San Simeon’s BlendFest, these community events represent the very best of what each coastal community has to offer. Dive in with your appetite, some SPF and a sense of adventure.
Where to Stay (like a local)
Whether you seek a boutique hotel positioned just steps from the sand, a vacation rental nestled near tide pools and coastal hiking trails or a cozy bed and breakfast stay with a balcony that opens onto an oceanfront sunset, lodging along Highway 1 offers up all the seaside amenities you desire in an uncrowded, peaceful setting.