The Best Things to do in Morro Bay, California
The City of Morro Bay
Morro Bay, a city of over 10,000 people, is a major tourist attraction in California. While it's not as popular as other beaches, it's small enough to make it easy for tourists to walk from their hotel to most of the shops and restaurants. The beach is a very short drive away, most of the it being focused around Morro Rock.
There are quite a few major attractions in the city of Morro Bay:
- The beaches.
- Morro Rock, which is visible from almost anywhere in the city.
- Shops and restaurants, most of which are found on the embarcadero.
- Parks, the estuary, and bird sanctuary.
- The power plant, with three large smokestacks, that can be seen as you get closer to Morro Bay.
Overview Map of Morro Bay
My Travels to Morro Bay
I have been going to Morro Bay my entire life. Now, I make yearly trips to the city since it's my favorite vacation spot in California.
Hotels in Morro Bay
There are many hotels in Morro Bay - some old, some new, some expensive, some not so much. Since you will be at least sleeping in a hotel, consider the following:
- A lot of the hotels offer small rooms. The room I recently stayed in was quite small. While it wasn't a big deal, a bigger family may have issues with it.
- The most expensive hotels are found right on the embarcadero. However, this makes it quite worth it. It provides the best views and the easiest access to everything on the embarcadero. The only driving I had to do within the city was to the beach itself.
- The further you get away from the beach, the cheaper the hotel is. Those hotels with a view can still charge you a lot, but if you don't mind driving, then it can be worth it.
- Don't trust the online reviews. Some of the best hotels I stayed at also received the worst reviews. Not all hotels are perfect. Instead, look on websites that offers photos of each of the hotels, so you can see what other people were seeing.
- Book far in advance. Even during the off season, hotels will fill up fast. So the further out you book, the easier it will be to find the best room available at the best price.
Recommended Hotels in Morro Bay
There are four hotels I recommend in Morro Bay:
- Masterpiece Hotel. This hotel may not seem like much when you drive up to it, but it's actually really nice! It's a small hotel, which I like. The staff are friendly and the rooms are nice. However, I recommend getting the penthouse suite. It occupies an entire floor and it's a really unique room.
- Anderson Inn. Probably the most expensive hotel in all of Morro Bay. That isn't a bad thing though. The rooms offer more than any other hotel room I have seen. The owners are incredibly nice and care about their guests. I have been here multiple times.
- Morro Bay Ascot Suites. Not as expensive, since it's not on the embarcadero. But it's still easy to walk from this hotel down to the embarcadero. The walk back can be tiring since it's all uphill.
- Estero Inn. Offers a free breakfast, a great view, and it's right on the embarcadero. However, it's quite expensive!
- The Inn at Morro Bay. If you stay at this hotel, expect to drive anywhere you want to go. But it's a nice hotel, with a nice view, and has one of the best pools of any hotel in Morro Bay. The only downside is that the walls are very thin.
The 5 Best Hotels in Morro Bay
Restaurants in Morro Bay
There is a nice variety of food that can be found in Morro Bay. However, there are some downsides to the restaurants in Morro Bay:
- The service could be better. On one of my trips I ate at multiple restaurants. Almost all of them provided some sort of bad customer service. Either it took a long time to get waited on, they forgot about our party, etc. It was very disappointing.
- However, the food is great. Despite the service, once I received my food I enjoyed it for the most part. The hardest thing the restaurants seem to have trouble with is breakfast. That was always lacking.
- Despite being an ocean town, there is a variety of food. Most places have fish on the menu, some of it even being local fish. However, there are burgers, steaks, Mexican, and Italian food as well.
- Costs are reasonable. Surprisingly, the costs of almost all of the restaurants in Morro Bay are very reasonable You won't break your wallet eating out for every meal you have.
- Just like the shops, the restaurants are mostly located on the embarcadero. While you are shopping, you can stop in the many eateries to take a break and have a good meal.
The 5 Best Restaurants in Morro Bay
Great coffee and great service. The best place to get breakfast in Morro Bay.
Has the best hot dogs in town!
My first stop when I reach Morro Bay. Offers a great, affordable lunch with an even better view.
Great seafood and even better service. The owners of this restaurant also own the Anderson Inn.
Some of the best pastries and treats you'll find in Morro Bay.
Shopping in Morro Bay
For the most part, you won't be disappointed with the shopping that can be done in Morro Bay. It's not all perfect though:
- There are a nice variety of shops. There are shops that have cheap souvenirs all the way to shops that offer the finest pieces of art. Just like any tourist attraction, you can expect to pay a lot for almost anything you buy.
- The hours for the shops are unusual. During the weekend, most of the shops are open for a fair amount of hours, but nothing too long. However, during the week, the hours can be quite short. A lot of businesses don't open until 10am and close as early as 7pm.
- Expect to find a lot of repeat products. A lot of the shops carry the same items, with the same prices. So you won't find unique items in each shop, unless it's a speciality shop.
- Most of the shops are along the embarcadero. This makes it very convenient. You don't have to walk all over the city to do your shopping. It's very easy to walk up and down the embarcadero to shop at the most popular places in the city.
- However, some great shops are off of the embarcadero as well. For example, I found a great antique shop called Treasures. Some of the best antiques and variety of items I have seen in an antique shop. There are other shops like this off of the embarcadero as well.
- There is a huge turnover of shops. It seems like every year I go to Morro Bay some shops have closed up with new shops opened in their place. There are only a handful of shops that have been there for a long period of time. This is good and bad, as every year I go it feels like a new shopping experience, but shops I previously liked may not be there anymore.
The 5 Best Shops in Morro Bay
Not only does this place have some great souvenirs, it also has imports from Japan - such as swords, pictures, and figurines.
This place has a huge variety of items, ranging from dragons, faeries, baubles, souvenirs, and more. It's the first shop I hit up when I visit.
The largest collection of shells I have ever seen in one place (except the ocean, of course!).
This place is hidden away, but it's well worth the trip. It has a variety of gems and stones, which is great for any collector.
The best antique shop I have ever been to. Every time I visit I end up buying something.
Morro Bay Aquarium
One of the biggest attractions in Morro Bay is the Morro Bay Aquarium. This aquarium is known for the sea lions they have on display. The admission to see them is very cheap, and you can even buy fish to feed them. These sea lions are brought in due to injuries or other issues, and they are treated very humanly. They have had sea lions for decades.
The aquarium is located right on the embarcadero. There is also a gift shop, and an actual aquarium with a variety of ocean species on display.
As of April 30th, 2018, the sea lions are no longer at this aquarium. The city decided not to renew the 50 year lease for the business, so they were forced to give them up. The sea lions are in safe hands with another organization. With so much controversy with the sea lions, it's no surprise the city didn't want to deal with it. However, some of the sea lions lived longer in captivity than they would have out in the wild. They were also born into captivity, so they wouldn't have survived in the wild either way.
It's expected another business will take over the location, with a bigger, better aquarium. The Morro Bay Aquarium will move to another location, but just as a gift shop. There is no word on when this new aquarium will open.
Morro Bay Beaches
When considering vacationing at Morro Bay, one thing you must consider are the beaches:
- The beaches aren't as big as other beaches. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. They do get packed during the summer, but not so much as the winter. No matter the season, you will usually find room to enjoy yourself on the beach.
- The majority of the beaches are around Morro Rock. This gives a unique view while on the beach, since Morro Rock is a landmark that is visible from any beach while in Morro Bay. It's quite a sight when you are up close to it.
- There are a lot of activities you can do on the beach. The weather is great for flying kites, surfing, bodyboarding, or just relaxing on the sand. The beach is quite clean, as I have never seen a broken bottle or litter around, even during peak times of the year.
Beaches In and Around Morro Bay
Other Attractions Around Morro Bay
If you are willing to make the drive, there are multiple places to travel to if you wish to see the sights:
- Hearst Castle. This mansion, built in 1919, is a national landmark that attracts hundreds of visitors per day. It's a 30-40 minute drive from Morro Bay, making it an ideal attraction to go to.
- Variety of parks and forests to visit. Usually no matter where you are traveling from, you will encounter a forest or a park to visit along the way. Some hotels even have a park located right next to them.
- Other beaches. There are a lot of other beaches to travel to. One place I went was to Spooner's Cove near Los Osos. Hardly anyone was there, despite it being a peak time. It's very easy to see lots of sea creatures in their natural habitat there as well.
- Movies and other regular attractions. If you wish to see a movie, Morro Bay isn't the best place for that. The city of Atascadero offers a lot of those attractions, and is about a 30 minute drive away from Morro Bay.
- Wine. On one of my more recent trips, I discovered that wine tasting has become very popular throughout the area. A lot of people would go to vineyards, then head to Morro Bay to relax. So if you like wine, you will surely have your choice in and around Morro Bay.
Aerial View of Hearst Castle
The Sights of Morro BayClick thumbnail to view full-size
If you have been to Morro Bay, please tell me of your experience in the comments below.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2013 David Livermore