Each autumn along the California Central Coast, hundreds of thousands of monarch butterflies flock to Morro Bay’s small eucalyptus groves to escape cold weather as part of their complex migration pattern. This spectacle usually begins in October, peaks in December, and is over by March. In 2017, however, thousands of monarchs began arriving in August, their numbers growing each week. Witnessing the monarch butterfly's annual migration is just one of many activities this picture-perfect vacation destination offers. There's also golfing, fishing, sailing, kayaking, paddle boarding, surfing, hiking, shopping, wine tasting, birdwatching, and just plain relaxing. Fly to San Luis County Regional Airport (which has a good restaurant) to start your fall getaway.
Morro Bay is full of surprises—no kidding, they have a great little Skateboard Museum, as well as an Estuary Nature Center. At the beach you can go hiking, tide pooling, or beachcombing for sand dollars. To get out on the water, you can go kayaking, stand-up-paddleboarding, fishing, whale watching, or take a boat cruise—some even have underwater windows. Then, pick up a kite on the Embarcadero and fly it at the beach. Morro Bay was named as a bicycle friendly community by the League of American Bicyclists. So, rent a bike or take a bike tour around the beach or through the nearby beautiful wine country.
Speaking of wine, downtown Morro Bay has plenty of wine bars and tasting rooms. Mosey in to unique shops like Beads by the Bay (beading and artist’s supplies, wind chimes, and garden art), Junque Love (local artisan-made gifts plus vintage items), and Under the Sea Gallery (mermaids, turtles, moons, suns, and fun yard art). The Shell Shop has an outstanding selection of fascinating shells.
Seafood is the specialty in Morro Bay. Giovanni’s Fish Market and Galley offers fresh-off-the-boat seafood, great fish and chips, and clam chowder. This casual eatery has a walk-up window next to the bay and outdoor patio seating for wildlife watching. Also on the waterfront, Great American Fish Co. has a family-oriented atmosphere and is known for its mesquite-broiled fish. For more upscale seafood dining, choose the Galley Seafood Grill and Bar or Windows on the Water. Other local favorites include Dorn’s Original Breakers Café, which dates to 1942, and the Bayside Café, established in 1986. Frankie and Lola’s rocks breakfast like no other Morro Bay eatery. Stop by The Rock Espresso Bar for your local caffeine fix.
With around 40 inns, booking accommodations in Morro Bay is easy. A couple of standouts include the Beach Bungalow Inn and Suites, a 1960s-style California Motor Inn, now renovated as a bed-and-breakfast. Order breakfast the night before and it’s delivered to your room in the morning. Then just hop on your complementary bicycle to explore the town. The Anderson Inn is a contemporary boutique hotel, right on the waterfront, together with an art gallery and the Galley Seafood Grill and Bar.
Morro Bay offers year-round outdoor recreation on an unspoiled slice of California’s seaside, midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. This gem of a historic fishing village can fill your weekend by itself, or you can make the short drives to surrounding attractions, including the historic Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, the world-renowned Hearst Castle, and the vineyards of Paso Robles. And for the butterflies, you can’t beat October through December!
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