It’s hard to call Morro Bay a hidden gem while there is a 576 ft-tall rock mountain sitting in its harbor. But that’s just what this small seaside town along California’s Central coast is; it’s a charming hideaway halfway between LA and San Francisco, with tons of laid back charm and beautiful scenery.
A friend and I recently escaped to Morro Bay for a couple memorable nights in which we discovered a cozy boutique hotel, gourmet restaurants, unspoiled beaches and a plethora of year-round ocean and land activities.
The getaway began at family-owned Anderson Inn, a contemporary boutique hotel on the waterfront, overlooking the bay and the iconic rock. Inspired by the natural elements of sand, sea, and sky, the inn is elegant, yet unpretentious, with a comfortable, casual feel.
Our colorful bay-front room boasted vaulted wood ceilings, granite vanities, a comfy queen bed, free high-speed Internet, coffee maker and refrigerator, a flat screen television, a large, lighted Jacuzzi tub, glass shower, a fireplace, and our own private balcony directly above the water, overlooking the majestic bay and Morro Rock. The room is easily one of the best that I’ve experienced on the Central Coast.
A highlight of our stay at Anderson Inn was sitting on the balcony watching playful harbor seals swim below us, while small sail boats drifted past, beneath the shadow of the great rock.
When we weren’t enjoying the scenery from our balcony, we were exploring it on foot, as Morro Bay is a perfect walking town. For our first stop, we strolled along the Embarcadero to get a closer look at the famous giant boulder guarding the harbor. Like the Golden Gate Bridge or Hearst Castle, 576-ft-tall Morro Rock is a California icon.
On the way to the rock we past stopped for breakfast at Dorn’s Breakers Cafe (www.dornscafe.com). A local institution since 1942, Dorn’s serves fresh surf and turf, along with made-from-scratch breakfast and lunch favorites – all with an incredible bay views. For our breakfast we sat on the patio overlooking the harbor and enjoyed smoked salmon with cream cheese and bagels; and buttermilk pancakes, with blueberries and a side of bacon and potatoes.
With our bellies full we made the 10 minute walk to the rock, where we found gorgeous Morro Strand State Beach; and a group of sea otters floating on their backs and rolling in the water near shore. Next to the rock is the entrance to Morro Bay, a safe harbor, where small boats enter for protection, drop anchor, and help create the town’s idyllic, seaside panorama.
After relaxing at the beach we walked along the Embarcadero, past shops for fishing, surfing, coffee, jewelry, fish and chips, and salt water taffy. We stopped at Kayak Horizons (www.kayakhorizons.com), where we rented kayaks and explored 15 miles of protected waters, including an estuary and bird sanctuary. Morro Bay is composed of 2300 acres of mud flats, eelgrass beds, tidal wetlands and open water. Two dozen threatened or endanger species live in the area including the Peregrine Falcon, Brandt Goose, Brown Pelican, Sea Otter and Snowy Plovers. The area is also a major West Coast wintering area for over 100 species of birds and is home to California Sea Lions and Harbor Seals.
After kayaking, I took a bubble bath at Anderson Inn and then walked to dinner at Windows on the Water (www.windowsmb.com). Known for its award-winning Black Cod and beef filet, Windows on the Water serves locally raised livestock, seafood and organically grown produce, along with an extensive California wine list. Our meal including smooth and tasty clam chowder, pan-seared scallops, with citrus rise and asparagus; and succulent Australian lamb T-bone with herb potatoes and kale.
Next week I continue my getaway to Morro Bay with a visit to the Museum of Natural history, an up close look at an decommissioned rescue submarine, and an afternoon on a lost beach full of sea caves. For more information on visiting Morro Bay, visit www.morrobay.org.
-Story by Greg Aragon