Morro Bay is a charming little town along the Central California coast. Morro Bay is known for long stretches of beach, fresh seafood, and lots of fun outdoor activities like hiking, camping, and surfing.
The biggest draw and attraction of this cozy coastal town is Morro Rock, a towering volcanic plug that stands tall above the shoreline and can be spotted from just about anywhere in town. With mild coastal weather, plenty of attractions, and a waterfront strip full of inviting restaurants, Morro Bay is one of our favorite California seaside escapes year-round.
If you’re planning a trip to the Central Coast, here are 15 wonderful things to do in Morro Bay, California!
1. Hike The Black Hill Trail
The Black Hill Trail is one of the best hikes to do in Morro Bay that leads to an incredible viewpoint of Morro Rock, the coast, and the surrounding landscape.
Black Hill Trail is located within Morro Bay State Park, next to the Morro Bay Golf Course. If you’re looking for a shorter route, you can drive up to the top of the hill and park at a designated Black Hill Trail parking lot just 0.3 miles from the viewpoint.
For a longer hike and some exercise, you can park at the bottom of the hill and turn the Black Hill Trail into a 3-mile long hike. This is the option that we chose on our visit because this area is just gorgeous and the hike goes by quickly!
This trail starts off in a forest full of beautiful California oak woodlands and climbs 600 feet up to a 360 overlook of Morro Bay, Los Osos town, and Morro Bay Estuary. The hike ends at the top of Black Hill, a small volcanic hill made of solidified magma.
It’s best to hike the Black Hill Trail on a sunny afternoon when the morning haze has burned off offering miles and miles of stunning coastal views. Overall the Black Hill Trail is easy but do give yourself a couple of hours to tackle the uphill elevation gain and enjoy the views!
Read More: Hiking Black Hill Trail In Morro Bay
2. See Morro Rock Up Close
The biggest attraction of Morro Bay is the Morro Rock. Morro Rock is a towering lava dome formed by a volcano and can be best seen by hiking to an overlook or by walking down the beach. On a clear day, you can see Morro Rock soaring high above the shoreline from as far as Cayucos!
Morro in Spanish stands for “domed rock” which is a very appropriate name for this unique rock formation. Morro Rock is one of several volcanic plugs within the San Luis Obispo County that formed millions of years ago when lava hardened inside active volcanos. Other natural elements such as wind, rain, and ocean water also constantly shape these rock domes.
Morro Rock is connected to the shoreline so you can walk all the way up to it. To experience it up close you can take Coleman Drive to a parking lot located next to the rock. Coleman Park and Embarcadero Drive also offer pretty amazing views of the rock in its full scale.
Morro Rock is considered to be a sacred site for the Salinan and Chumash tribes. Because of the rock’s fragility and sacred meaning, it is not permitted to climb up on the rock – but visitors can enjoy pretty amazing views from up close!
3. Relax In a Cozy Waterfront Inn
Relaxing by the waterfront is one of the best things to do in Morro Bay. And what a better place to do so than from the comfort of a seaside hotel!
Estero Inn is a sophisticated Morro Bay hotel known for its prime location. This boutique hotel sits along the water’s edge in the heart of Morro Bay and boasts cozy accommodations and views of Morro Rock. Every booking comes with an incredible ocean view, a pillow-top mattress, and kitchen basics like a microwave, coffee maker, and fridge.
Guests can book a standard room or a more spacious suite, some of which feature a fireplace. In the hotel’s common spaces, you can play billiards or enjoy the sunshine from the terrace. Those feeling a bit more adventurous can take advantage of the inn’s bike, kayak, and pontoon rentals.
4. Enjoy Brunch At Dorn’s Breakers Café
If you’re looking for a place to enjoy a delicious breakfast with fantastic views, head over to Dorn’s Breakers Café! This iconic Morro Bay restaurant is situated slightly uphill facing the ocean with picture-perfect views overlooking Morro Rock.
Dorn’s Breakers Café is a popular spot especially on Saturdays and Sundays for their weekend brunch. After a fun weekend full of outdoor activities, there is nothing better than enjoying a glass of Mimosa or a Bloody Mary while looking out at stunning coastal views.
Dorn’s Breakers Café has been a locally operated business since 1942, passed down in the same family by several generations. They specialize in providing excellent service paired up with fresh meals & seafood.
For weekend brunch I highly recommend one of their Eggs Benedict plates that come with a mimosa. I ordered the Eggs Sardou plate that is similar to Eggs Benedict, but with artichoke bottoms instead of Canadian Bacon. They also have an extensive lunch and dinner menu covering a variety of food items fresh fish to fried seafood, soups, salads and so much more!
5. Camp Next To The Beach
If you enjoy beach camping, you’ll love staying at the Morro Strand State Beach Campground! This campground is located next to Highway 1 with easy access to the beach and offers excellent views of the ocean. Morro Strand SB has tent and RV campsites that come with picnic tables, fire pits, restrooms and trash bins.
This is a great place to stay if you enjoy water activities like fishing, surfing, windsurfing, and walking on the beach.
Do note that Morro Strand is part of California State Beaches. If you’re traveling with pets, keep in mind that dogs are only allowed in the paved areas of the campground and not on the beach itself (but there is an easily accessible dog beach just up the road!).
If you’re looking for a “Woodsier” experience, consider booking the Morro Bay State Park Campground that is situated next to a forest and California oak woodlands.
6. Go On a Bike Ride
With miles of paved pathways, trails, and beaches, hopping on a bike is one of the best ways to take in all the best that Morro Bay has to offer.
If you’re looking for something a bit more thrilling, consider renting an electric bike in Morro Bay! If you’ve never ridden an electric bike before and would rather go on a guided tour, check out this private guided E-bike tour that will take you on a fun adventure to see Morro Rock, cruise down several miles on the sandy shoreline, along bike paths, and through local neighborhoods.
Having an E-Bike is one of the most convenient and fastest ways to get around, especially if you’re short on time and want to cover a lot of ground. On our most recent trip to Morro Bay, we brought with us our newest addition, the Aventon Sinch Electric Bike.
The Aventon Sinch is a fat tire folding e-bike that can easily pack into our Promaster campervan during our travels and unfold at our destination, allowing us to more freely roam and explore.
7. Take a Surfing Lesson
If it’s your first time traveling to the California coast, trying out surfing is a must-do activity! With soft, sandy beaches and gentle, rolling waves in Morro Bay, there isn’t a reason not to!
If you don’t have your own surfing gear, or you’ve never tried surfing before, we recommend signing up for a private beginner surfing lesson like this one in Morro Bay. During this 90 minute lesson, you will learn surfing basics from experienced, encouraging instructors that will make beginner surfing so fun and exciting.
This surfing lesson includes all of the necessary gear so all you need to bring to the beach is yourself and a good time!
8. Hike To The Top Of Cass Hill
Cass Hill Trail is a local hike in the small town of Cayucos, just a 10-minute car ride north of Morro Bay. While Cass Hill Trail is not well known, it is one of my favorite coastal hikes especially if you’re looking for a trek that’s not very crowded. We stumbled upon this trail while searching for dog-friendly hikes near Morro Bay and have been back here several times for the stunning views that it offers.
Cass Hill Trail is around 3 miles long if you hike the entire route, out and back. We usually hike a portion of the trail that leads to a beautiful viewpoint on top of Cass Hill overlooking the ocean and then hike back the same way that we came. From this viewpoint, you can see a clear view of Cayucos town, the Central Coast, and even Morro Rock in the distance.
Cass Hill trail is short but it does climb to the top of a hill gaining around 500 feet in elevation so I would rate it as moderate due to the steep incline. This trail can get very hot and is exposed to the sun so make sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen, especially in the summer.
Tip: If you plan to do this hike, we suggest parking on the North Side of Cass Hill, off Cayucos Drive and Little Cayucos Creek Rd. We followed the Cayucos Cass Hill map from AllTrails, starting in the north and hiking south.
Read More: Cayucos Hiking Trails – Cass Hill
9. Take Your Pup To Morro Bay Dog Beach
If you’re looking for somewhere to take your pup in Morro Bay to run around and get some energy out, you’ll be glad to know that Morro Bay has its own designated dog beach. Morro Bay Dog Beach is a stretch of a long, open spot along the shoreline where doggies can happily play off-leash.
Our pup Quito loves coming to this beach to get his paws wet in the water and chase the ball in the sand. Everyone at this beach is always so friendly and our dog has the best time running around!
Do note that it’s up to visitors to keep this beach clean and carry out any trash from the beach. A few things that we always bring to the dog beach include:
- Dog poop bags. We love using these Earth rated doggie poop bags for cleanup.
- Reusable water bottle with plenty of water. Saltwater can make your dog feel extra thirsty!
- A collapsable water bowl that folds small to easily fit into a backpack, purse or a tote.
- Chuckit! classic ball launcher easily adds extra distance for chasing the ball on the beach. Our dog is completely obsessed with this!
- 2 Hounds no pull harness and leash to get your pup safely onto the beach and back to the car. This is an open beach that runs parallel next to Highway 1 so it’s best to keep them on a leash until you reach the shoreline.
10. Indulge In Fresh Seafood
One of the best things about visiting coastal towns is the fresh, drool-worthy seafood that you can find at the local restaurants.
Embarcadero is Morro Bay’s beachfront strip that is lined with gourmet restaurants, shops, museums, and hotels. You can just park your car in the downtown area and take a stroll along the Embarcadero waterfront that offers plenty of excellent seafood restaurants.
A few of the most popular seafood eateries in Morro Bay include:
11. Go On a Boat Tour
If you’re looking for an exciting activity to do with the family, Sub Sea Tours is located on the Embarcadero strip and offers several different interesting ocean tours.
Unlike other areas where whale watching is seasonal, Morro Bay is a place where you can observe migratory whales year-round. Sub Sea Tours offers daily 9 am whale watching trips for just $55 a person.
For something a bit more kid-friendly, you can go on the Sub Sea boat that has a viewing window located underneath the deck to experience seeing ocean life underwater. This is a great activity that is both educational and safe – perfect for families with younger kids!
12. Watch a Sunset On The Beach
Having a difficult time deciding what to do in Morro Bay? Don’t stress because visiting Morro Bay is all about chillin’ and relaxing beach vibes!
If you’re looking for a tranquil way to spend the evening, head down to the beach and set up a picnic for sunset. Central Coast has some pretty epic sunsets, especially in the winter months. The most colorful sunsets typically happen where there are some clouds in the sky, but not too much wind.
Be sure to look up sunset times and arrive about an hour early for the “Golden Hour”. The Golden Hour is an hour before sunset when everything is illuminated in golden lighting by the setting sun. Golden Hour is one of the best times for photography so bring a camera to snap a few photos for memories!
13. Observe Sea Otters By The Morro Bay T-Pier
Some of the best experiences in Morro Bay include whale, sea otter, harbor seal, sea lion, and coastal bird watching. If you don’t want to wake up early for a boat tour, you can also enjoy a more low-key wildlife watching experience by walking down to the Morro Bay T-Pier Otter Viewing Area where you will be able to spot plenty of ocean wildlife on your own schedule.
The Embarcadero strip and the protected Morro Bay Estuary provide a safe habitat for ocean wildlife especially sea otters that are endangered in California. At the Morro Bay T Pier, you can see mature and baby otters swim, play, and feed up close.
14. Stroll Through The Elfin Forest Trail In Los Osos
Elfin Forest is a stunning nature preserve in Los Osos that offers incredible opportunities for hiking and wildlife watching. Located next to the Morro Bay Estuary, Elfin Forest Natural Area consists of 90 acres of wilderness and hiking trails.
Elfin Forest Trail is a wonderful place to enjoy a leisurely afternoon walk, breathe in the fresh ocean air, and take in panoramic views of the bay. A designated 1-mile-long trail loops through the Elfin Forest and stops at two scenic viewpoints along the way.
The Elfin Forest Natural Area is home to many different plants, animals, and ecosystems from marshlands and woodlands to prehistoric sand dunes. There are over 150 different plant species that reside at Elfin Forest, many of which are endangered.
To protect this natural area, a boardwalk was built to keep visitors off sensitive habitats. The Elfin Forest boardwalk is well maintained and has a few benches throughout for resting and enjoying nature.
Elfin Forest Natural Area is located directly south of the Morro Bay Estuary. It also borders the Los Osos neighborhood which offers several entry points for visitors. This trail travels next to a small residential neighborhood so please keep that in mind when parking and avoid blocking any private houses, driveways, or mailboxes.
15. See Butterflies At Coastal Access Monarch Butterfly Preserve
While Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove is known to be one of the largest Monarch Butterfly sites in the US, there is a smaller butterfly preserve in Los Osos that you can visit on your trip to Morro Bay.
The best time to see Monarch Butterflies in California is in the winter months from November to February. In the spring Monarch Butterflies start migrating north so if you come outside of this time frame, there might not be many butterflies left and you’ll be walking through an empty eucalyptus grove.
We visited the Coastal Access Monarch Butterfly Preserve in early March and we spotted a few small clusters left of them. Despite only seeing a handful of butterflies, it was a pretty interesting experience and I can only imagine what these groves look like during the peak times!
The Coastal Access Monarch Butterfly Preserve is located at the end of Monarch Lane street, just a 15-minute drive from Morro Bay. There is some street parking, but it is pretty limited.
There is no fee to visit the Coastal Access Monarch Butterfly Preserve and it does allow dogs. When walking at this preserve be sure to watch your step as butterflies often land on the ground.
Photography Tip: The butterflies often hang out high in the trees. If you want to get any good photos of them, it’s best to bring a zoom lens and a tripod for stability and to eliminate blur when capturing images.
Looking for a place to stay in Morro Bay? Here are some of our top picks in the area:
- Inn At Rose’s Landing. At the Inn At Rose’s Landing, every guest is welcomed with a complimentary bottle of wine and a box of gourmet chocolates. This three-star hotel has incredible hospitality paired with fantastic bay views a short walk from Morro Bay’s Embarcadero. The rooms feature attractive white shiplap walls, natural neutrals, and a pop of color for an understated experience. Each listing also features a Keurig coffee maker and a mini-fridge. Additionally, some upgrade options feature a fireplace, breakfast nook, or a private balcony. Click here to book it!
- Gray’s Inn & Gallery. Gray’s Inn & Gallery is frequently touted as one of the best hotels in Morro Bay, thanks to its location on the coast overlooking calm ocean waters and passing boats. There are three different suites available to choose from, two of which are one-bedrooms and the other a studio. Each suite comes with a well-appointed kitchen, private bathroom, living space, and a cozy seating area on the deck. Each room also has a full-size coffee machine with a selection of coffee and teas so you can start your morning right. Click here to book it!
- On the Beach Bed and Breakfast. Although a short drive away, the On the Beach Bed and Breakfast is a beautiful place to stay to explore the best of both Morro Bay and the charming little coastal town of Cayucos. The property is tucked away in a quiet residential neighborhood away from the crowded tourist spots. You’re sure to fall in love with the beach-style decor, spa bathtub, and private balcony found in each room. The complimentary breakfast is highly rated by previous guests, as is the rooftop deck and daily social hour. Click here to book it!
We hope this guide has helped you prepare for a wonderful visit to the Central Coast. Here are a few other related posts that you may like:
- 10 Best VRBOs In Morro Bay For a Cozy Trip To California’s Coast
- Hiking Black Hill Trail In Morro Bay
- 10 Unforgettable Places To Stay In San Luis Obispo On Central Coast
- 10 Incredible VRBO Vacation Rentals In Pismo Beach
- Cayucos Hiking Trails: Cass Hill
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