Along the coast of California’s scenic Highway 1, you’ll find Morro Bay. This quaint seaside fishing village boasts an eclectic, family friendly, sleepy surfer vibe—but won’t break the bank. Located halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, it’s a beautiful base for outdoor adventure. Head out on a hike, go deep sea fishing or unleash your inner child by playing on the sand dunes. Whether it’s a day at the beach or an escape inland you’re looking for, you have options to choose your own adventure in Morro Bay.
1. Hike Black Hill
This short hike yields incredible views of Morro Rock, an ancient volcanic peak that juts out of the ocean. Begin at Fleming’s Forest in Morro Bay State Park. Trek along the hillside, which is covered in Monterey Pines. A former park superintendent, John Fleming, planted these trees.
The trail will lead you to the top of the volcanic plug known as Black Hill, named for the tar seep on the north side of the hill. This 4.8-kilometre roundtrip hike gains approximately 183 metres elevation and is dog-friendly, as long as your four-legged hiking buddy is on-leash.
For more hiking trails, check out the Morro Bay sand spit in Montana de Oro or the Cloisters Wetlands trails in North Morro Bay. There are also mountain biking trails for those who prefer to be on two wheels.
2. Explore Morro Bay National Estuary
Complete with salt marshes, mudflats and wetlands, this estuary spans 2,300 acres, connecting Morro Bay and Los Osos Creek. Morro Bay is a year-round birding destination, home to up to 250 species of land, sea and shore birds including Great Blue Herons, Peregrine Falcons and Snowy Egrets. During winter migration months November to March, at least one million birds migrate over the Pacific Coastal Flyway, drawing bino-clutching birders from around the world. Photographers flock to the Winter Bird Festival every January and participate in three days of seminars, tours and wildlife discovery.
Rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard and listen for the calls of resident wildlife or join a guided tour for an informative experience. As it’s only reachable by boat, you’ll likely be some of the only (human) visitors around.
Once you’ve seen the estuary, head to one of the white-powder beaches north of Morro Rock. Here, you’ll find kite surfers and ocean kayakers launching their watercrafts into the choppy waves. Families can pack a cooler and climb the sand dunes, which provide endless entertainment for kids to roll down—like a sandy sledding hill in summer.
3. Spot sea otters and whales
From the beach or a boat, spot marine life in Morro Bay. In the morning, playful sea otters can likely be found splashing around Morro Rock. The Embarcadero also offers vantage points to view cute critters in the salty waves.
If you’d prefer your adventure to come with a motor, consider Sub Sea tours for bay cruises and whale watching, or book an evening sunset or Saturday brunch cruise on the bay with one of the many other tour operators along the Embarcadero.
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