Even though I recently moved back home to Texas, the California Central Coast will always hold a special place in my heart. And I will continue to boast why you should make a stop or plan a trip to one of its many destinations!
If you’re road tripping down the Pacific Coast Highway (aka the ultimate California road trip) from San Francisco to Santa Barbara and all the way to Los Angeles (or maybe even San Diego!), you might already find yourself stopping in Morro Bay, California.
Yes, you could just make a quick rest stop to check out the iconic Morro Rock, but there’s so much more things to do in Morro Bay that make it worth a day trip (at the very least)!
14 Things To Do in Morro Bay California
All that to say, I’m excited to share probably more than a day’s worth of things to do in Morro Bay. I see it as a menu of options that you can choose from for your day trip to Morro Bay.
While we lived in SLO, we often took day trips to Morro Bay on the weekend and always found something new to do.
1. Get The Best View of Morro Rock
I took almost every visitor to Black Hill Trail because it has arguably the best view of not only Morro Rock, but Morro Bay itself. The secret is to drive past the golf course to the very top of the trail – a lot of people start at the bottom on foot, but there’s a small parking lot at the top.
From that parking lot, it’s about a 10-20 minute hike up to the top. The caveat is… Morro Bay can be pretty foggy so you might not get a view at all. Either way, it’s a nice short hike and a great way to start your day in Morro Bay!
I like to grab a coffee beforehand to enjoy as I walk and soak in the views. Top Dog Coffee Bar in Morro Bay is a favorite! Great coffee and proceeds help to support local shelters!
2. Go Vintage Shopping
Okay, this was news to me, but Morro Bay has lots of very cute vintage shops. Clothes, furniture, knick knacks of all sorts, you name it! On one of those weekend day trips to Morro Bay, my boyfriend and I explored so many vintage shops along Morro Bay Blvd.
3. Grab A New Read From Coalesce Bookstore
I love checking out local bookstores whenever I travel! When we stumbled upon the Coalesce Bookstore on a recent visit to Morro Bay, I was in love! It has the messy stacks of books in every corner, vibes of a new and used bookstore, but all so organized which truly spoke to my heart.
You could explore the shelves for hours and find some true treasures of used books. But they also have new books available in the front. I just loved the vibes of the store, there was relaxing music playing in the background, and the staff was super friendly.
4. Catch Sunrise or Sunset at Morro Rock
Whether you’re an early riser (like Kara) who took the most beautiful sunrise photos on Morro Strand Beach or you rather get some extra sleep, you have to visit Morro Rock Beach to get up close and personal with Morro Rock.
Morro Rock is one of the “nine sisters” – a chain of volcanic plugs from Morro Rock to San Luis Obispo. It includes Morro Rock, Black Hill, Bishop Peak, Cerro SLO and Islay Hill. Most of which you can hike, but climbing Morro Rock’s 576 feet above sea level is strictly forbidden.
Local native tribes, the Salinan and the North Chumash also consider Morro Rock to be a sacred site. You can admire it plenty from the ground, and spend time on the beach too!
5. Create A Rock Stack At The Rock Graveyard
On the other side of the rock (opposite of Morro Strand State Beach), you’ll discover the “Rock Graveyard.” It’s a HUGE collection of rock stacks that was started by an anonymous artist some years ago, and continued to be built upon by visitors.
You’ll never know what you’ll find, but you want to wear sturdy shoes to weave through the stacks, and on top of wobbly rocks. One of the first times I visited, I came across this beautiful rock stack arch. I still have no idea how it was made!
6. Kayak Alongside Otters In The Bay
My favorite activity in Morro Bay has to be kayaking! So much so that we bought our own kayaks so we didn’t have to rent them every time.
There’s plenty of places to rent kayaks in Morro Bay, but I know Kayak Shack is fairly popular! Plus the water is fairly calm in the bay, and the best part has to be the wildlife.
Birding in Morro Bay is unmatched! The Heron Rookery Natural Preserve can be spotted by its cluster of dead trees where Great Blue Herons, Great and Snowy Egrets, Black Crowned Night Herons and more reside! You can walk in the area, or view from the water!
Perhaps the best wildlife to spot are otters! You can catch them snoozing, banging clams together (to break and eat!), holding hands and more in the water. I even spotted a mama otter carrying her fuzzy baby! Don’t get too close though! They’re still wild animals, and very curious. So if one gets too close, bang your paddle on your kayak to scare it off.
You might hear them before you see them, but there’s also California Seal Lions in the bay. There’s a small dock near the Embarcadero where they usually sit to sunbathe, sleep and make absurdly loud barking noises!
You can also check out the “secret beach” that’s only accessible via kayak, stand up paddle board and surfboard on the opposite side of the sand spit, facing the rock.
All you have to do is kayak to the sand spit, “park” your kayak on the shore and find the trail (there’s usually a flag that notes the entrance, but you can ask your kayak guide and/or rental person for directions!) and walk across the sand-spit.
It’s usually pretty empty so it’s a nice place to get away from the crowds. We liked to kayak with our pup, Cody, and hang out a while on the beach.
7. Eat Fish & Chips
Even if you’re only making a pit stop in Morro Bay, you’ve gotta get some fish and chips! Fresh fish straight from the docks along the Embarcadero. My personal favorite is Tognazzini’s Dockside (next to the salt water taffy shop)!
They have two locations – Dockside Too is completely outdoors and sometimes has less of a wait, but I prefer the restaurant!
Our typical order for two people is one order of Barbecued Oysters on the Half Shell, the Shrimp Cocktail (Dockside Style) and a 5-Piece Fish & Chips with Pacific Cod! Sometimes we also get a cup of the Clam Chowder, just depending on how hungry you are.
While that’s what we prefer, Giovanni’s Fish Market is also probably home to some of the best fish & chips in town. Harbor Hut, The Galley Seafood Grill & Bar and The Great American Fish Company are other popular spots!
8. Shuck An Oyster Or Two
Speaking of oysters, if you’re a fan, Morro Bay is your place. There are two types of local oysters in the bay: Pacific Gold and Grassy Bar.
Pacific Gold oysters are adaptable and can be harvested year-round in Morro Bay, and only in Morro Bay. They thrive in the cold waters of the bay, and the flavor profile changes throughout the year based on their food source.
You can get them fresh from many of the restaurants farmed locally by Morro Bay Oyster Company.
A Grassy Bar oyster has a strong briny flavor and a bit buttery with a fresh tasting finish. You can visit Grassy Bar Oyster Co. for freshly shucked (literally right in front of you) oysters with a variety of toppings, or take clams and oysters to cook at home!
9. Shop Local Goods
Morro Made is a brick and mortar shop that houses local artisan goods. From handmade jewelry and original art to locally produced soaps and other fun stuff! It’s a great place to get gifts or buy souvenirs of your time spent in the Central Coast as it features artists from all over SLO County.
It’s definitely worth a stop to see what’s new or anything that you didn’t know you or a loved one needed.
10. Book A Whale Watching or Dinner Cruise Excursion
This is one I never got to check off my list, but taking a whale watching excursion or dinner cruise in Morro Bay is a must for visitors!
Morro Bay Whale Watching offers several types of tours like Whale Watching Tours to see California Gray Whales and Central Coast Humpback Whales or Sub Sea Tour for a view above and below water in the semi-submersible vessel.
I’ve also seen the Chablis Cruises cruising along the bay! They offer 2-hour chowder cruises, Sunday Brunch and regular old dinner on the bay! Prices range for each cruise, but it doesn’t look like it’s more than $90 per person. The bay is pretty calm waters so you don’t have to worry too much about getting seasick!
11. Explore The Embarcadero
The Embarcadero is a district of different restaurants and shops along the waterfront (across the bay from Morro Rock). You could spend all day strolling along the Embarcadero and popping into different shops.
You can even spot otters from different viewpoints on the Embarcadero. Another great way to explore off foot are the Surrey Bike Rides available for rent at Farmer’s Kites Surreys & More.
12. Visit the Local Museums
There’s a few museums in Morro Bay. The first of not is the Morro Bay Museum of Natural History located in Morro Bay State Park. It’s great for kids, but really people of all ages. I want to go!
We always kayaked past it, and wondered what the panoramic views of the bay, sand dunes, and Morro Rock looked like from its balcony. It also offers a look into the local history, Native American life, geology and oceanography exhibits.
The museum also offers special events like nature walks and tours in Morro Bay State Park. If you want to venture out on your own, you should check out the Marina Peninsula Trail Boardwalk. It’s a super easy walk with lots of vegetation along the marsh and the Morro Bay National Estuary.
The Morro Bay Maritime Museum where you can dive into the rich maritime history of Morro Bay like seeing the the deep submergence rescue vehicle right outside, walking around a cold-war rescue submarine or learn about an event that brought WWII to the bay.
BONUS: Drive 15 Minutes (or less!) To Los Osos
Morro Bay and Los Osos are right next to one another along the coast, and there’s even more to do in Los Osos! Montana de Oro State Park’s Bluffs Trail is a must for the most beautiful views! Or the Moro Elfin Forest!
Cayucos is even closer (less than 10 minute drive) and you can stroll along the bluffs of Estero Bluffs State Park. It’s right at the end of the Morro Strand State Beach!
Whether you’re taking a day trip to Morro Bay or spending a long weekend in San Luis Obispo County, I hope you enjoy your time on the Central Coast. And that you choose to add Morro Bay to your road trip itinerary.
I would love to hear about your experiences! Plus if there’s anything I missed to do in Morro Bay or if you need any other travel tips, let me know in the comments! Safe travels!