And so we hitched up our little caravan and moseyed 200 miles down the central coast to charming Morro Bay. With no set agenda, we are flying by the collective seat of our pants.
We visited Morro Bay several years ago and loved it—this time, however, the state campground was full. It’s actually not a bad thing when we’re forced to expand our search; we found a lovely regional park campground tucked into the hills between Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo. It was the perfect location for eight days of exploring the area.
In this stretch of the central California coast, velvety green hills meet the sparkling ocean for a breathtaking tableau. The entire area encompassing Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo, and the surrounding small towns offers up a friendly, relaxed atmosphere to accompany the stunning natural beauty. We walked the beach, kayaked, explored the towns, and made day-trips to nearby Cambria and Los Osos for wild and wonderful nature adventures (blog post to come).
Here, the highlights of our time in Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo:
• Morro Strand Beach
Anchored at one end by the unmistakable presence of Morro Rock, Morro Strand State Beach offers three miles of coastline for meditative beach walks. At Morro Rock, we watched peregrine falcons nesting, sea otters at play just offshore, and enjoyed the gorgeous golden light that illuminates the rock at sunset.
• Morro Bay
Picturesque, laid-back, and welcoming, Morro Bay is a sweet little coastal town. We wandered the streets, browsed the shops, and bought fresh seafood on the docks. The town seems to attract extraordinarily friendly people—I had three pairs of earrings repaired by the kind owner of Beads By The Bay for a grand total of $5.00. And the guys behind the counter at Dockside Fish Market enthusiastically shared their favorite recipes for the fresh black cod (sablefish) that had just been delivered by local fishermen.
• Kayaking Morro Bay
This was definitely one of the highlights of our time in Morro Bay. It’s easy to get out on the water here—kayak rentals are available at the state park and in town.
We set out mid-morning to take advantage of an unusually high tide, which allowed us to kayak deep into the marsh. We glided in narrow channels past scores of avocets, curlews, godwits, and sandpipers, all awaiting the return of low tide to expose their foraging grounds.
The day was so gorgeous that we then decided to head the opposite direction, toward Morro Rock. Our motivation was to see if we could find the sea otters we had been watching from shore the previous day. It’s a long paddle from the marsh to the rock—and we were paddling against the wind. But we were on a mission, energized to find the otters. Alas, we reached our destination to find no sea otters, and the tide had turned against us.
We faced a long, arduous paddle back, thinking, “Well, that wasn’t a good decision.” And then, directly in front of us, an otter bobbed to the surface, grasping a large scallop. With a loud squeal, mama otter called to baby otter, who bobbed to the surface nearby. The otters rolled and frolicked in the water just a few feet from our kayak, completely undisturbed by our presence. That 15 minutes with the otters was worth the return paddle from hell.
When we finally made it back to the dock, the staff at the kayak rental place said, “Wow! You paddled across the bay? Against this tide?” I’m fairly certain the unspoken import was, “Are you crazy?”
The perfect ending to our terrific and crazy paddle was lunch at the Bayside Cafe, conveniently located just across from the dock.
• San Luis Obispo
Although we were only six miles from San Luis Obispo, we didn’t spend much time there because we had so many other things we wanted to do in the area. The Thursday night Farmer’s Market is legendary; we found a few organic vegetables, but it’s more of a street party than a true farmer’s market. Katherine and I also spent an enjoyable afternoon exploring the historic mission, and, of course, every interesting shop and gallery in the downtown area.
• El Chorro Regional Campground
What a great find! El Chorro Regional Campground is situated in the beautiful rolling hills of the central coast, just a few miles from Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo. There are wonderful hikes right from the campground, and the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden is on site.
The park offers full hookups for $35 a night; the sites are attractive, and although many are on the smaller side, there are some that will accommodate big rigs, including several pull-throughs. [portfolio_slideshow]