The Inn at Morro Bay
Our seaside cottage at the Inn was among the sweetest of oceanfront retreats. Lounge chairs on the private deck are front row seats to a natural aquarium. You never know who might pop up, a seal nursing her pups or frolicking sea otters. Morro Rock looms mystically in the distance while the tree branches above might fill with cormorants camping overnight. Pelicans, perched on ships docked in the bay, preen themselves by day.
Cozy up with the heater outside or by the fireplace inside to enjoy a starry night. 60 State Park Restaurant and Lounge at the Inn at Morrow Bay delivers premium views for diners during breakfast, happy hour, lunch or dinner.
Morro Bay Golf Course
San Luis Obispo Parks Department (SLO County Golf) has a trio of fun golf courses on California’s central coast – Chalk Mountain, Dairy Creek and the crown jewel, Morro Bay Golf Course. This seaside gem across from the Inn at Morro Bay delivers panoramic views of the iconic Morro Rock and the commercial fishing village of Morro Bay. Often called the poor man’s Pebble Beach, which may be a stretch, it is one of the best deals in the nation. The value and challenge of the greens are as good as the scenery. Set upon a hilltop, the parkland style layout cascades around the hillside with greens that defy gravity. Strictly adhere to the references in the course booklet because the slope of the greens shown are not exaggerated. Green fees start at a very low $15! At this price, book early and often. It is one of the most popular plays on the coast.
The privately-owned grill offers golfers and locals a bird’s eye view of the back nine and state park that borders the inner bay and harbor, managed by George Rumpza. Watch out, the Abbey Scramble (named after the cook) is huge and so tasty, it’s hard to say whoa before a round. After the round, Morro Bay logoed bottles of wine with glasses are offered as price effectively as the rounds. Produced by Broken Earth Winery, we can vouch for the red. Go ahead!
Craig Stone at Central Coast Outdoors had our kayaks ready to go for an eco-tour of Morro Bay National Estuary. He placed a waterproof blanket on our laps and handed us our oars. We paddled in the eerie morning fog for a bit, watching for seals peering out of the water and identifying the flocks of birds flying over and wading on shore. Two oyster farms have settled in the bay and Craig explained what he knows about the one midway to the dunes. We shared that we were to meet Neal Maloney, owner of Morro Bay Oyster Farm at 9 after which we would continue paddling to the western shore and hike the dunes in the clear light of day before returning to the dock. It was a fun combo of surf and turf exercise.
Morro Bay Oyster Farm
Craig thought he understood about oysters but when Neal met us around his netting and barges in the bay, he was amazed at what more he learned about the industry. For example, each oyster filters 50 gallons of water per day. Oysters create a habitat for all the waterfowl and equate to sustainability. Oysters can spawn in their first year of life and an adult female oyster can produce millions of eggs in a season.
Neal worked here for years before purchasing the lease from his former employer. He now makes the lease payments to The Fish and Game for a 25-year permit. He’s shooting for a million oysters per year. On the floating barge workers sort, bag, store and deliver same day harvests to local restaurants. Whole Foods was a big customer previously but began purchasing from Mexico for 40 cents each and still charged the consumer the higher price because managers are incented on margins. “The Mexican GDP goes up on us but luckily demand is high here,” said Neal. Testing for bacteria is constant daily so when Neal offered fresh oysters, we were all in. He took a shucking knife out of one pocket and pulled a bottle of hot sauce from the other. What a treat!
Right on the bay, as the name implies, a few yards from the kayak dock, Dawn has owned this walk-up restaurant for 7 yrs. The municipality said it had to go out to bid but the community rallied with, “can’t let her go.” Thank goodness because goodness is what the menu exudes with specials like Mexican shrimp cocktail and catch of the day. The petrale sole was prepped just right. Dawn was on a trip to Africa and is the only one who can make the pie crust, so she made plenty ahead of her trip. Given that fact, you must at least share a slice and won’t be disappointed.
Downtown Morro Bay
Shopping and dining are always fun in a quaint fishing village, especially when the street name is Embarcadero. The Shell Shop is all things sea or shell from around the world, in original form or creatively crafted in jewelry and baubles. The Garden Gallery is the perfect stop for yard art or landscape brainstorming and purchases of plants, pottery and accessories. Junque Love is a shop with creatively repurposed vintage items. Eclectic gifts may call your name or make you go hmm. The Estuary Nature Center is free to tour and learn about the habitats and wildlife protection of the state and national estuary. We picked up the brochure Common Birds of the Morro Bay Estuary, so we could name our feathered visitors from our cottage deck.
Chateau Margene is a wine tasting room where James, a 5th generation Californian defines wine as not a beverage but a lifestyle. Mike Mooney, the owner is 7th generation, making his boys the 8th. His wife Margene is the winemaker. It’s a recommended stop for the history and tasting lessons. Premium seaside restaurants offer fresh food and the entertaining bay harbor view. Lunch at Dorn’s Original Breakers Café has an extensive menu beyond their fresh local seafood. The Galley Seafood Grill & Bar is perfect for watching the sun setting at dinner and for dessert, it is not just creme brulee but Grand Marnier creme brulee. Windows on the Water is standing room only when they feature Neal’s oysters for $1 at the bar. Fresh abalone is delivered in its own souvenir shell and again, it’s all about the seaside location, location, location.
Morro Bay should be a must stay and play on any golfer or traveler’s list.