Morro Bay is located along the northern coastline of San Luis Obispo County, approx. 10 miles north of SLO on Highway 1, and 15 miles west of Atascadero on Highway 41. You will know you have arrived when you see The Rock on the beach, the plug to a massive volcano that is no longer active, and the three stacks from a former power plant.
Just east of Morro Bay on Highway 41 you’ll find endless acres of avocados, vineyards, cow pastures, and some of the best hiking and camping in the county at Cerro Alto Campground. Stick around long enough and you’ll also get to experience some of the funnest events on the central coast that celebrates everything that makes Morro Bay so special, like the Harbor Fest or Avocado Margarita Fest in the fall, and the Kite Flying Festival held every spring.
But if you only have a day to spend in Morro Bay make sure to treat yourself to the freshest seafood in SLO County; there really is nothing better than watching the person who caught your fish deliver it to the restaurant moments before you enjoy a spectacular meal in this romantic costal town.
Morro Bay is one of the smaller cities in San Luis Obispo County with 10,317 residents as of the 2010 census, or approximately 4% of the population. The median age of residents is 49.4 with an average annual income of $61,690. Most of the residents work in the Office and Administrative Support industries followed by Sales, Sales Related Occupations, and Management; however, there is also a large portion of the population that works in Architecture / Engineering; Farming, Fishing, and Forestry; and the Health industries. 80% of the residents of Morro Bay are White; 12.9% are Hispanic or Latinx; 2.5% are Asian; 1.3% are Black; and and >1% are Native American / Alaskan Native.
Morro Bay is known for many things, but most know this small coastal community for the giant rock that sits at the mouth of the harbor. When you visit Morro Bay the Rock should absolutely be on your list of things to do, but make sure to check out all the other ways you can have fun in this iconic coastal town in San Luis Obispo County.
Morro Bay Rock
Morro Bay is best known for Morro Rock, a gigantic 581-foot (approximately) volcanic plug that formed around 23 million of years ago at the mouth of the Morro Bay Harbor.
Also known as the “Gibraltar of the Pacific”, the Rock is now a protected state preserve and is home to Peregrine Falcons, Otters, Sea Lions, two types of Seagulls, and many other typical marine plants and animals like starfish, sea anemones, and crabs.
Visitors and locals alike can see the Rock from just about anywhere in Morro Bay, and can visit the base by going to Morro Rock Beach where you can get up close and personal with one of the most iconic places of all of SLO County.
Like many small coastal towns, Morro Bay began as a remote fishing community on the central coast, and fishing is still an integral part of the community today. After the collapse of the fishing industry almost 20 years ago Morro Bay took strides to ensure the fishing industry would survive, and in 2012 was awarded the Walter B. Jones Memorial Award for Excellence in Coast and Ocean Management for their innovative work with commercial fisherman, the Nature Conservancy, and the coastal communities. These key partners rebuilt the fishing industry into a something sustainable, and are keeping the harbor alive as a working waterfront. Today you can see boats and ships of all shapes and sizes returning to the bay after a long day at sea allowing us all to celebrate our roots and enjoying some of the freshest, most deliciously prepared seafood in SLO County.
Ever since skateboarding was developed by surfer’s in the 1950’s it has become synonymous with California Culture. Millions of Californians still skate for fun or to work and school, and today it is even more popular than surfing! The Skateboard Museum in Morro Bay does an incredible job celebrating everything skateboarding has brought to the Central Coast and SLO County; with over 200 skateboards from all eras you can learn about the history of skateboarding, see how the boards evolved from the 1930’s metal “scooter skate” to the modern boards of today, and learn all about impact skating has had on the culture of Morro Bay, California, and the world.
Morro Bay Estuary
The Morro Bay Estuary is a 2,300 acre marine protected area that connects Morro Bay and Los Osos, and is part of a National Estuary Program that brings together the community, government, and non-profits in an effort to restore and protect the area. The estuary is home to hundreds of animals and plants that visitors and locals alike are welcome to explore. Whether you kayak through the marshes, hike Black Hill to see the estuary from up high, or visit the State Park Museum of Natural History, there are lots of ways to explore and celebrate this important, delicate, and beautiful part of the landscape of Morro Bay.
The Shell Shop opened its doors in 1955 on the Embarcadero in Morro Bay. Owned by the Thomas family, the Shell Shop has one of the largest selections of shells in all of SLO County (maybe even the entire Central Coast!), and is the perfect place to find that one-of-a kind souvenir or gift. From Sea Clams to corals, jewelry, wind chimes, and night lights, you can find something really special and unique here to always remember your time in Morro Bay.
While other big cities are focused on farm-to-table dining, Morro Bay keeps its focus on what it knows best: seafood. Their restaurants focus on ocean-to-table cuisine featuring seafood that is caught daily by local fishermen and women, and use the incredible wines and beers crafted in the region to perfectly compliment their menus. If you only have one day to spend in this beautiful coastal town we’d suggest eating at one of the restaurants below, or keep coming back and try them all!
Giovanni’s is located at the corner the Embarcadero and Front Street in Morro Bay, and is right on the water. You know you have found Giovanni’s because there is often a line down the block! Here you can find everything from fish & chips to oysters, scallops, and shrimp tacos all made with some of the freshest fish caught that day, or you can visit their Fish Market to bring home the daily catch.
Windows on the Water
Windows on the Water has one of the most beautiful locations in all of Morro Bay, and is the perfect setting for a romantic dinner or special occasion. Whether you are celebrating a big birthday, graduation, or life event, Windows on the Water provides an incredible fine dining experience featuring an ocean-to table menu that you will never forget, and leave you dreaming about coming back to this little piece of paradise on the Central Coast.
Dorn’s Original Breaker’s Cafe
Dorn’s Original Breakers Cafe is located above the Embarcadero in Morro Bay giving visitors one of the best views of Morro Rock. Known mostly for their breakfasts and brunches, Dorn’s also offers incredible seafood options and has some of the best clam chowder on their menu. Definitely a worthwhile stop while traveling through the area!
In 2004 Captain Mark Tognazzini and his wife Bonnie opened Dockside Restaurant with the goal of providing the freshest seafood in a warm and inviting atmosphere. They have been delivering on that promise ever since, and locals and visitors alike can visit for some of the best seafood caught on Tognazzini’s very own fishing vessel, the Bonnie Maretta. It doesn’t get any fresher than that!
Morro Bay is a vibrant coastal community that loves to celebrate everything that makes this city special. Visitors and locals alike can find events taking place almost every weekend, each with their own focus and flavor that represents the special fabric that makes up Morro Bay. Below are some of our favorite annual events, but make sure to check back often and learn more about why you should put Morro Bay at the top of your list for vacation destinations.
Winter Bird Festival
Morro Bay is a designated Globally Important Bird Area (which means the area is critical for the conservation of bird populations), making it the perfect home for the Winter Bird Festival that takes place every Martin Luther King Jr. weekend in February. This yearly eco-tourism event promotes an appreciation of the birds and wildlife on the Central Coast. Attendees often see approximately 200 bird species during the three-day event, and can attend over 130 workshops, field trips, and presentations to learn more about the the beautiful birds that call Morro Bay and the Central Coast home.
Soar Into Morro Bay Kit Festival
Morro Bay has some of the best wind for kite flying in the world, and the community celebrates that fact every April with the annual Soar Into Morro Bay Kite Festival. Not only is the festival a sight to behold with kites of all shapes, sizes, and colors taking flight, it also brings the community together: you can see professional kite flyers teaching those that have never even held a kite before; 500 kites are donated by Central Coast Funds for Children so every child can participate; and this is something everyone of all ages can have fun doing. If you find yourself in SLO County in late April make sure to check your calendar, and attend this fun, free, green event that everyone can enjoy.
Margarita Avocado Festival
Just east of Morro Bay are hundreds of acres of Avocado orchards, which we of course think are one of the best foods in the entire world. Every September Morro Bay celebrates their love for avocados with an annual Margarita Avocado Festival held on the Embarcadero. Attendees can indulge in incredible margaritas while enjoying specialty dishes inspired by the avocado, and dance to the live music until the sun goes down!
The annual Harbor Festival takes place every October. As the unofficial close to the summer festival season, the Harbor Fest celebrates everything that makes Morro Bay so special. Attendees can enjoy some of the freshest fish, oysters, shrimp, and chowder while watching the the races and water craft demonstrations, dancing to the live music, or finding the perfect souvenir from one of the many local businesses and vendors at the event. And don’t forget the beer, wine, and cider! T
Lighted Boat Parade
Every December residents of Morro Bay decorate their motorized fishing and leisure boats or yachts with lights, decorations, and lots of holiday cheer to take part in the annual Lighted Boat Parade. The weather can be tricky in December so the event weekend may vary, but if you are able to a catch the parade you are in for a treat! There is nothing more beautiful than seeing the lights dance on the water at night, and seeing the beautiful boats and yachts lined up along the harbor. The boat parade is part of a larger Winterfest celebration that includes a Holiday Tree Lighting, Paddle Parade, Santa Pub Crawl, and a Gingerbread House Competition. A winter wonderland indeed!
If you are headed to Morro Bay there are several hotels within the downtown area to choose from with rates starting at approximately $100 on the low end and just under $300 on the high end.
One of our favorite options is the Embarcadero Inn, a hotel with incredible views of the Rock and the harbor, and easy access to the Embarcadero with all the shopping, food, and fun to enjoy during your stay.
Another great option for families is the Morro Bay State Park Campground located just south of the Golf Course. The proximity to downtown Morro Bay, all the hiking and kayaking the harbor has to offer, and the relatively low rates make this one of our favorite campgrounds.
Whether you are visiting for fun, business, or something in between there is a lodging option for you to explore and discover all the ways you’ll fall in love with Morro Bay.