The picturesque seaside village of Morro Bay, along California’s iconic Highway 1, sports miles of measureless beaches, an authentic fishing village, and, of course, the Rock.
Morro Rock is not only their defining landmark but also one of the most distinctive geographical wonders along California’s breathtaking Pacific coastline. The 576-foot towering volcanic formation is visible from practically every vantage point as it stand guard over the outreaching sands of Morro Strand State Beach on one side and the sheltered entrance into Morro Bay’s Harbor on the other.
Morro Bay’s heart and soul is being one of Central California’s last active and sustainable fishing harbors. Fishers returned each evening with their daily catches followed by flocks of seagulls hoping for a few leftovers. Sea otters frolicked in the waters, putting on quite a show for passers-by.
“We’ve always been sustainable. Fishers in the United States are more regulated than in any other country. We are the stewards of our local waters, and we ensure that catch limits are obeyed and that the fishery stays healthy.” says local fisherman and restaurateur, Mark Tognazzini
One of the best ways to take in the natural beauty of the bay while learning about its history and fascinating mammal population is on a half-day kayak tour. Nature guides from Central Coast Outfitters lead small groups through pristine waters to hidden beaches, secluded dunes, and visits to a heron rookery and oyster farm. There’s no better way to experience nature at its finest.
Paddle boarding and kayaking are immensely popular here, and it’s easy to understand why. The best views are from the ocean.
Day Charter Boats
Virg’s Landing has been setting the stage for charter fishing boats since 1954. You can reserve a spot on their Sport Fishing Charters ranging from 1/2 day to multi-day trips for rock fishing escapades. Whale watching excursions are a fabulous way to see these gentle creatures up close. While their Private charters will cater to your desires. Sunset dinner cruises will soon be available to partake.
The Embarcadero is the heart and soul of this fishing village. Fishing boats cruise by with seagulls swirly above, sea lions sunbathing on the docks, shop owners busy displaying their treasure, as tempting aromas entice you into the restaurant’s that line the waterfront.
Charming boutiques filled with marine and eclectic decor, art galleries, saltwater taffy stores, surfboards, kite shops, and seashells are everywhere. Each serves as a comforting reminder; there are small-town coastal communities that embrace life by celebrating the sea.
Located on the Embarcadero is a giant outdoor chessboard in a park setting. Wooden benches are perched around for viewing stages, flowers added for beauty, and all ages are welcome to play.
Centennial Parkway Project
The Centennial Parkway project was conceived in 1970/1971, as a memorial to Morro Bay’s year of Centennial Celebration. Through the work of local volunteers and design by a Cal Poly architecture student, the unique Giant Chessboard and Centennial Stairway opened to the public in 1975.
At the top of the Centennial Stairway flies the American flag, the California state flag, and the 13-starred American flag commemorating our nation’s birth over 200 years ago. The Centennial Stairway (like the chess pieces) are from recycled redwood, and two dismantled water tanks, which had served the City for 50 years sitting atop Morro Bay Boulevard.
In 1983, the Morro Bay Chess Club built chess tables and benches adjacent to the Giant Chessboard to enhance the chess play experience.
The Giant Chessboard is available for reservations, Weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., through the Morro Bay Recreation Services for a small fee. For more information, contact us at 805-772-6278.
Dining in the Village
For a small town, Morro Bay is teeming with dining options. Seafood is king here, and you’re guaranteed to get it as fresh as it gets. But it’s not the only cuisine to enjoy.
In 1986, by Cal Poly graduate Dawn Borst, the creation of the Bayside Cafe started with a simple take out window cafe where she showcased her collection of recipes. It didn’t take long before it became a popular spot for locals and tourists. Today, her little take-out window has expanded into a petite waterfront A-frame house of windows, where every seat, inside or out, has spectacular views of the bay. They serve lunch and dinner specialties like Fried Green Tomatoes with Grilled Scallops, Fresh Crab Cakes, and Teriyaki Albacore Skewers. Generously portioned salads and soup & sandwiches combination are comfort food creations. But don’t overlook their selection of Authentic Mexican cuisine offered in the evenings.
Giovanni’s Fish Market and Restaurant
Giovanni’s always has a long line with good reason. They have the best Clam Chowder I’ve tasted in years. The tender sweetness from their Fresh Crab or palm-size Shrimp Cocktails is a taste sensation delight. Choose your favorite and take a seat up front for a little marine life voyeurism. Their market is a picnic lovers paradise, by the way. You’ll discover bites like smoked salmon, cured tuna, cheeses, dried Jerky, prepared salads, and baskets of fresh baguettes.
Harada’s Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar
With bounties of first-class fish arriving every day, it’s a Japanese chef’s dream. And Harada has welcomed diners for over 30 years now. It’s a small place with a tranquil atmosphere. Celebrating the bounties of the sea with superb culinary skills producing exceptional meals to linger over long conversations. They also prepare the perfect Ribeye Steak and, of course, sake is always flowing. I’ve lost count of how many times I have dined here and always look forward to my return.
Inn at Morro Bay
If relaxation and serenity are important to you, then the historic Inn at Morro Bay is the place.
This beachfront hideaway beholds captivating views of the bay from your private balcony. Their generous suites give you your choice of either Queen or King plushy beds worthy of sweet dreams. Neutral tones of taupe and white with soft touches of watercolor blue are the backdrop of the room. The fireplace gently warms your room and casts a spell of romance into the air.
A heated outdoor private pool awaits, or you may choose to explore their 4000 acres. Perhaps play golf on the nearby 18-hole course.
60 State Park Restaurant and Lounge, on-premise, is ready to satisfy those tastebuds from their floor to ceiling windows of casual dining. You can start your day from a variety of various Omelets, house-made Crab Hash and Eggs, Biscuits & Gravy, or a paper light Belgian Waffle.
Happy Hour is celebrated daily from 2-6 p.m. with signature cocktails, a world-class wine selection, and local brews.
For dinner, you might choose between their BBQ Duck Tacos, Coconut Shrimp platter, or a perfectly Grilled Ruben Sandwich. It’s a tradition to celebrate Sundays with a 10oz Roasted Prime Rib Dinner. All the trimmings, house salad, Scalloped Potatoes, seasonal fresh vegetables, and Apple Cobbler for dessert.
Morro Bay is small in size but massive in heart. Whether you choose to walk the Embarcadero, dine on fresh seafood, or fly a kite along the beach, it’s the perfect place to celebrate life.