Blake Walsh

21 Best Things to Do in Morro Bay, CA

  • Published 2023/03/24

California is famous mainly for its beaches, but the state has so much more to offer.

Morro Bay, a coastal California city, is one place that will change your perspective.

It has a forest area known as the El Morro Elfin Forest, which is well known for hiking and viewing several species of plants and wildflowers.

Volcanic peaks such as Morro Rock and Black Hill are a sight to behold with their majestic presence.

The Embarcadero area satisfies visitors with unique dishes and the best shopping experience, all the while providing a splendid view of the waterfront.

The museums are a window into Morro Bay’s past and much-celebrated culture.

Animal lovers are given the opportunity to spend a day among wildlife in the Morro Bay National Estuary.

Since Morro Bay is in California, most of its tourist spots offer different and exciting outdoor activities.

Of course, it is also home to several eye-catching beaches, which provide a spectacular view of the waves crashing against the shore and the changing colors of the sky.

Morro Bay promises tourists only the best travel experience.

Here’s a list of the best things to do in Morro Bay, California:

Spot the Massive Morro Rock

Daytime view of Morro Rock

Alexander Demyanenko /

Morro Rock is situated at the entryway of the Morro Bay Harbor.

The massive rock, which stands 576 meters tall, is made out of pressurized lava that reached the surface of the earth and solidified.

Due to its geological significance, Morro Bay is preserved and protected by the Morro Rock State Preserve.

Morro Rock is also part of a volcanic rock formation chain that is shattered around Highway 1, known as the Nine Sisters of San Luis Obispo County.

Morro Rock of Morro Bay

T-Anderson Photography /

Morro Rock is the tallest of them all.

If visitors drive north on Embarcadero Road, they can even visit the base of the rock.

This rock forms a landmark that attracts many tourists and is home to peregrine falcons, gulls, several sea bird species, and cormorants.

This provides the tourists with an opportunity to experiment and showcase their photography skills.

Check Out Fascinating Artifacts at the Morro Bay Maritime Museum

A display at Morro Bay Maritime Museum

Photograph by Mike Peel (, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As Morro Bay is surrounded by water on both sides, the city has immense naval military strength.

The Morro Bay Maritime Museum showcases memorabilia associated with the naval military and honors their effort and dedication to the country.

The museum is located across the Embarcadero.

Upon entering the museum, your interest will instantly be captured by an old rescued sea vessel, which is one of four vessels showcased by the museum.

Golden Hinde II scale model at Morro Bay Maritime Museum

Hu Nhu, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Apart from this, there are coast guard rescue boats, a deep-sea roving vehicle, and a San Francisco tugboat.

The museum was crafted by Jim Maul and is maintained by the City of Morro Bay and the Central Coast Maritime Museum Association, whose main objective is to uphold California’s rich maritime cultural heritage.

Visitors will get submerged in the city’s maritime history and will have the opportunity to inspect the vehicles and other rare artifacts.

U.S. Coat Guard boat on the grounds of Morro Bay Maritime Museum

Photograph by Mike Peel (, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Take a Stroll through the Embarcadero

The Embarcadero at Morro Bay

Linda Armstrong /

This area is meant for taking a long walk along the picturesque waterfront while slow music plays in the background.

The street is lined with diners, cafes, several fancy restaurants that serve delicious meals, and other small outlets where you can grab a quick bite.

One thing all the restaurants have in common is splendid seafood, making the Embarcadero a paradise for food enthusiasts.

Marina Square is a prominent spot for the shopaholics, as it is adorned with a plethora of shops where visitors can purchase souvenirs and other collectibles.

Centennial Parkway hosts a giant chessboard and well-decorated resting places, which attract a lot of tourists.

Apart from this, Marina Square is also where you’ll find the Morro Bay National Estuary, where visitors can rent boats and book guided tours to explore the waterfront of Morro Bay.

Visit the Morro Bay National Estuary

Sandpit at Morro Bay National Estuary

Mike Baird from Morro Bay, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Morro Bay National Estuary covers an area of 2,300 acres and is a space where saltwater meets freshwater.

Ideal for birdwatching activities due to its serene environment, the place is also a safe haven for wildlife.

The place offers kayak tours of Morro Bay and holds sessions that discuss problems with the ecosystem and how to save it.

Head to Marina Square to see the Morro Bay National Estuary, which gives a detailed account of the landscape.

Escape to Morro Strand State Beach

The sands of Morro Strand State Beach

randy andy /

Morro Strand State Beach resides between Morro Rock and Cayucos.

The long scenic stretch overlooking the sea provides a place for camping.

The beach provides a much-needed escape from chaotic modern life, as it gives a splendid view of the tumultuous ocean, sand dunes, and wetlands.

People enjoying the sun at Morro Strand State Beach

randy andy /

There are several picnic tables scattered around the area, along with a campground that has the capacity to host 70 tents and RVs.

The spot also gives a spectacular view of Morro Rock from the south side of the beach.

Birds on the shore of Morro Strand State Beach

MarinaKaiser /

Enjoy a Scenic Hike along Black Hill Trail

View from Black Hill Trail

joojoob27 /

Morro Bay’s Black Hill Trail offers visitors a much-needed respite from the busy city.

The volcanic rock is relatively easy to summit as it is only 661 feet high.

Even though the hike is short, nature lovers have the option to lengthen their trek by taking a different and longer route.

While hiking, the tourists will have a view of various native plants and wildflowers.

The trail is famous for hiking, climbing, and bird walking.

Hikers enjoy coming to Black Hill Trail and being in the lap of nature.

The place is open all year round, which works in favor of the tourists.

After reaching the peak, hikers will be granted the most breathtaking view of Morro Rock and the Morro Bay National Estuary.

Spend a Fun Day at Tidelands Park

Daytime at Tidelands Park

Chris LaBasco /

Tidelands Park is a small park covering an area of two acres.

It is situated at the southernmost part of the Embarcadero.

The place is well-maintained, with evenly cut grass and clean gardens.

Tidelands Park is popular among the kids, as it has a pirate ship play space, interactive sculptures of octopuses, and many more.

There are numerous picnic tables scattered throughout the area.

The beach cannot be accessed from this spot, but it offers a scenic view of Morro Bay and the sailboats.

Immerse Yourself in the Past at the Morro Bay State Park Museum of Natural History

Exterior of Morro Bay State Park Museum of Natural History

“Mike” Michael L. Baird, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Morro Bay State Park Museum of Natural History is located on the top of a hill residing at the center of Morro Bay.

The place overlooks the Morro Bay National Estuary and Morro Bay State Park.

View of the Morro Bay State Park Museum of Natural History from the waters

Teddy Llovet, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As the name of the place suggests, it keeps a detailed account of Morro Bay’s native history so that the present generation is well-acquainted with its historical and cultural significance.

The museum conducts fun educational tours and interactive sessions that explain and demonstrate human beings’ impact on the environment.

Meet the Sea Otters at the Morro Bay T Pier

Boats docked at Morro Bay T Pier

Kevin Cole, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Located just beside the estuaries, the Morro Bay T Pier is a treat for people who love being around wildlife.

It’s known as the best place in the city to catch sightings of California sea otters.

These animals have been on the endangered list since the year 1977, but due to the locals’ collective effort, the number of California sea otters is rising.

The place provides a safe habitat for sea otters and takes the necessary steps for their preservation.

Have an Epic Boat Adventure with Morro Bay Landing

Morro Bay Landing boat on the water

HannaTor /

With Morro Bay Landing, you will find an unforgettable maritime experience.

They offer fine ocean excursions on the Central Coast, enabling visitors to explore the breathtaking surroundings of Morro Bay.

You will be able to enjoy a great time with your kids and have fun with other family members or friends.

Morro Bay Landing’s lineup of offerings allow you to learn more about the ecosystem and spend a couple of hours in the great outdoors.

You can also go deep-sea fishing or shallow water sportfishing as they have multiple fishing vessels.

Additionally, you can experience whale watching, sunset cruises, kayaking, and boat tours.

Their fully stocked tackle shop, boat docks, and small marina are located nearby as well.

Experience California’s Vibrant Art Scene at the Art Center Morro Bay

Morro Bay’s historic downtown is home to the Art Center Morro Bay, which has been the heart of art for over 60 years.

Their gallery and art center operate as a hub for arts and culture on California’s Central Coast.

Through the gallery’s gift shop, stores, and events, creative individuals can purchase original artwork from local artists.

This art space also allows visitors to learn about new techniques through class lectures or join an exhibition and display their work alongside other professionals.

The Art Center Morro Bay offers a variety of exhibits for both its artists and their audience.

The gallery not only puts on about eight to nine exhibits per year but also holds meetings with eminent artists from all over the Central Coast, as well as classes for children and adults.

They are sure to have more than enough space in the two galleries for any exhibit that one could dream up.

Spend the Night at the Morro Bay State Park Campground

There are 120 sites available at the Morro Bay State Park Campground, and they’re absolutely spectacular.

Provided your site is a standard one, you should consider bringing a tent along with you, as the beachfront spots promise some of the most memorable experiences you’ll ever have.

There are also private areas for RVs to use for camping with defined water and electric hookups.

So, don’t worry about pitching any tees straight into the sand or having any electrical cords hanging from trees when you pitch your tent.

Eighty-seven of these sites can comfortably accommodate both RVs and tents.

The campsite also has five hike and bike campsites and two group campsites that make for excellent gatherings with up to 40 people.

To find the Morro Bay State Park Campground, take the Los Osos-Baywood Park Road offramp from Highway 1 in Morro Bay.

This spot is open all year round, and you can bring your pets with you, provided that they’re leashed and attended to at all times.

View Artworks and Jewelry Pieces at By the Bay Gallery

By the Bay Gallery is your all-American fine art studio specializing in jewelry and crafts.

It features artworks from local and regional artists all over the country.

Started in 1988, this gallery’s art collection comes in a variety of mediums.

Browse through handmade intricate woodwork and glass art you won’t find elsewhere.

Who knows?

You might just find your next art souvenir from the collection displayed in the gallery.

You can find By the Bay Gallery along the Embarcadero.

Discover the Rock that Tells of the Landing of the First Filipinos

Daytime view of Landing of the First Filipinos marker

Harry Cutts, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Never run out of opportunities to go on historical excursions while at Morro Bay.

One such opportunity comes in the form of the landmark of the Landing of the First Filipinos.

Located within Coleman Park, this historic site marks the arrival of the first Filipinos—the Luzon Indios—into the Continental United States.

The landing party eventually erected a cross made of branches.

This was in 1587.

By 1995, the site became a historical landmark, as dedicated by the Filipino American National Historical Society.

Now, the site comes with a historic plaque and several trails offering scenic vistas of Morro Rock from ahead.

You can find the Landing of the First Filipinos next to Coleman Park’s playground on Coleman Drive.

Play a Few Rounds of Golf at Morro Bay Golf Course

Morro Bay Golf Course is your ultimate destination for practicing and playing golf.

One of the reasons it’s a hit among many golfers is its stunning backdrop of the Pacific Ocean.

This player-friendly layout, built in 1923, once featured 9 holes for all kinds of golfers and expertise levels.

Several years later, the course saw an addition of 9 more holes, which sat at the front of the golf facility.

Enjoy rolling fairways, well-rounded putting ranges, and panoramic views of the lovely coastal city of Morro Bay.

Morro Bay Golf Course has several sister locations in California as part of SLO County Golf.

But in Morro Bay, you can find it on State Park Road.

Go on a Bike Excursion along Bayshore Bluffs Park

Bayshore Bluffs Park is more than your ordinary recreational park.

Sitting at 3.2 acres, this natural area boasts colorful meadows and blooming wildflowers.

It’s also a natural habitat for many native birds and local wildlife.

But one of Bayshore Bluffs Park’s unique features is the fallen Monterey Cypress that now serves as an archway for many adults and children in the park.

The park also provides access to Morro Bay Bike Path which runs around the property.

At the end of these walking pathways, you’ll find an observation deck that gets you a whole view of the habitats around the area.

Head over to Bayshore Drive to reach this park.

Enjoy the Breathtaking View of Cerro Cabrillo Peak

Summit of Cerro Cabrillo Peak

“Mike” Michael L. Baird, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you’re ready for a slightly strenuous and adventurous hike, try traversing the trail that leads to Cerro Cabrillo Peak.

Offering 911 feet of stunning rocky mountain landscapes, this peak is on the east side of Morro Bay State Park.

The trail leading up to this summit runs for about 2.5 miles on a round trip.

Daytime view of Cerro Cabrillo Peak

No machine-readable author provided. Kjkolb assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

And at some points of the hike, you may have to climb over rocks to get to the summit.

Cerro Cabrillo Peak’s oceanfront views from the top are worth the hike and hype.

To get to its trailhead, drive along South Bay Boulevard.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Tour the Breathtaking Hearst Castle

Exterior of Hearst Castle

Abbie Warnock-Matthews /

Located just 30 minutes away from the main center of Morro Bay, Hearst Castle looks like it belongs to the land of Naria with its unique architecture and overview.

The castle was built by William Randolph Hearst in the year 1919 and is situated on the top of a hill that gives a splendid view of the city of San Simeon.

Previously known as the “Enchanted Hill,” this tourist attraction is maintained by the National Park Service, which provides guided tours of the regal castle.

Interior of Hearst Castle

gnohz /

Hearst Castle comprises an art museum, library, two swimming pools, one of the largest private zoos, and magnificent gardens.

The guided tour of the attraction starts from the Hearst Castle Visitors Center, which is located at the bottom of the hill.

Over there, the visitors are provided with an introductory video that is related to the history of the place.

The grounds of Hearst Castle

GagliardiPhotography /

Explore the Enchanting El Morro Elfin Forest

Pygmy oak forest at El Morro Elfin Forest

David McSpadden from Daly City, United States, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The El Morro Elfin Forest is 90 acres broad and is a three-mile drive from the main center of Morro Bay.

The California live oak constitutes a major portion of the forest, but they surprisingly do not grow beyond a height of 20 feet.

Due to its miniature height, the forest provides an explicit view of the bay in all its glory.

Vibrant flowers at El Morro Elfin Forest

Elaine with Grey Cats from California, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Apart from California live oak trees, the forest has more than 200 sorts of flora, such as pygmy oak woodland, coastal brackish marsh, coastal dune scrub, riparian woodland fringe, and more.

Within its expanse, there is also a mile-long boardwalk that can be accessed by all visitors.

The place can be accessed throughout the year, from sunrise to sunset.

Surround Yourself with Colorful Flowers at Montaña de Oro State Park

Flowers at Montaña de Oro State Park

Rare Crane /

Located just about six miles from Morro Bay, Montaña de Oro State Park has a rich cultural history.

The place originally belonged to the Chumash people, who inhabited the area long before the arrival of European explorers.

Some of their traditional practices, such as Chumash Middens, can only be found in this state park.

The park covers an area of 8,000 acres and is famous for its colorful flowers that only bloom during the spring season.

It is from the color of the flowers that this place got its name.

Welcome sign of Montaña de Oro State Park

Richard Thomas, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The area has mountains in the color of gold, which provides a scenic view of the entire bay area.

The area is frequented by bikers, hikers, as well as photographers.

There are 50 camping sites that are open to RVs and tents.

While in the area, visitors can take a walk to Spooner’s Cove, a beach known for its unique rock formation.

Alternatively, they can take a walk towards Valencia Peak, which is the highest point in this state park.

Rock formation at Montaña de Oro State Park

Wirestock Creators /

Snap Photos at the Gorgeous Estero Bluffs State Park

Rocky shore of Estero Bluffs State Park

Sean Lema /

Since Morro Bay is situated in California, it has several outstanding beaches; each has a quality of its own.

Estero Bluffs State Park is one such beach that is located 10 miles away from the center of Morro Bay and is just beside the village, Cayucos.

Cliffs and bluffs at Estero Bluffs State Park

randy andy /

The coast is abundant with sea stacks, which do not diminish the beauty of the beach but make it even more aesthetically pleasing.

Photographers and hikers frequent the place due to its scenic beauty and frequent animal sightings.

The place is open from sunrise to sunset.

Scenic view of Estero Bluffs State Park's road

randy andy /

Final Thoughts

Morro Bay offers a picturesque getaway for all types of travelers seeking a hidden gem.

Its gorgeous natural attractions are perfect for outdoor activities.

One can not only go sailing but also golfing, kayaking, surfing, and birdwatching.

There are also plenty of opportunities to explore by bike or bike through paved paths by the beach.

The area has miles upon miles of glorious beaches, so if you’ve been working hard during the day, there’s no excuse to miss out on fun activities like body boarding or wave surfing.

You can also relax and enjoy the surroundings while watching kites flying, sampling the best brews at local craft cafes and wine bars, or savoring fresh seafood and locally grown produce straight from local farmers’ markets.

There is truly something for everyone, as this quaint waterfront town offers miles of shoreline for strolling and beachcombing.

Get ready to bask in blissful quietude while laying out on pristine white sands beneath rising royal blue skies, as Morro Bay is truly a slice of paradise.

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