Central California: Morro Bay

Spooner Cove, Morro Bay - Photo by Susan Liepa

Shortly after San Luis Obispo in Central California, the 101 splits off to Highway 1 and beautiful Morro Bay.

Take the Los Osos/Baywood Park exit for entrance to town via Morro Bay State Park, driving one mile along a wide stretch of verdant road bordered by extinct volcanoes.  Look out for the town’s huge landmark in the bay, Morro Rock.

This area is the most central of the Central California destinations, so you could easily stay here and explore the rest of the region in day trips.

For the best rooms and food in the area, stay in the upscale, comfortable Inn at Morro Bay amidst the saltwater marsh and bird preserve, watching herons and cormorants come and go from the tall trees. Return to The Inn by golden hour to sit on the bar-adjacent wooden deck overlooking the sparkly bay while enjoying a tapas plate and some Talley Sauvignon Blanc.

Down the road from the Inn is the park’s Museum of Natural History which can teach you all about the geology and topography of the state-preserved land and water all around you.

But if you’d rather just see more of the landscape for yourself, head several miles southwest of Morro Bay State Park on Los Osos Road to the rugged and largely undeveloped Montaña de Oro State Park.  Here, choppy waves have carved the cliffs and coves with holes, curves, and extensive tidepools, and the largest beach, intimate Spooner’s Cove, is strewn with smooth, colorful pebbles.  The terrain here is a network of cliffs blanketed with grassy plains and dotted with mostly scruffy California native plants.  In spring and summer, the area is covered with yellow wildflowers, giving the 7-mile park its Spanish name, meaning “Mountains of Gold.”  At the park’s end, park your car, take a stroll to the cliff’s edge, and grab a bench, the better to feel the sea breeze and watch pelicans swoop on by.

Along the way to or back from Montaña de Oro is a sweet little place for breakfast or lunch, Celia’s Garden Cafe, (1188 Los Osos Valley Rd, Los Osos, CA 93402 (805)-528-5711). They make their own pies fresh every day, which is a great reason to have an egg-white omelette or salad…first.

To explore Morro Bay’s downtown, or Embarcadero, take a right turn out of the Inn’s parking lot and head northwest for five minutes.  The downtown vibe is very John Steinbeck, after he started selling some books.  Here you’ll find seashell and curio shops, a few coffee cafes, shanty-themed seafood restaurants, and the bay’s public cove;  from the car and pedestrian promontory, you can see people and seagulls surfing waves on one side, and the power plant’s three smokestacks and Morro Rock on the other.


See also
The Best of Central California


  1. […] can stop for lunch in Morro Bay. Right on the harborside Embarcadero, the big picture windows at The Galley allow kick-ass views […]

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