By Greg ARAGON
It’s hard to call Morro Bay a hidden gem while there is a 576-foot tall rock mountain sitting in its harbor. But that’s just what this small seaside town along California’s Central Coast is; it’s a charming hideaway halfway between L.A. and San Francisco, with tons of laid back charm and beautiful scenery.
A friend and I recently escaped to Morro Bay for a couple memorable nights in which we discovered a cozy boutique hotel, gourmet restaurants, unspoiled beaches and a plethora of year-round ocean and land activities.
The getaway began at family-owned Anderson Inn (www.andersoninnmorrobay.com) a contemporary boutique hotel on the waterfront, overlooking the bay and the iconic rock. Inspired by the natural elements of sand, sea, and sky, the inn is elegant, yet unpretentious, with a comfortable, casual feel.
Our colorful bay-front room boasted vaulted wood ceilings, granite vanities, a comfy queen bed, free high-speed Internet, coffee maker and refrigerator, a flat screen television, a large, lighted Jacuzzi tub, glass shower, a fireplace, and our own private balcony directly above the water, overlooking the majestic bay and Morro Rock. The room is easily one of the best that I’ve experienced on the Central Coast.
A highlight of our stay at Anderson Inn was sitting on the balcony watching playful harbor seals swim below us, while small sail boats drifted past, beneath the shadow of the great rock.
When we weren’t enjoying the scenery from our balcony, we were exploring it on foot, as Morro Bay is a perfect walking town. For our first stop, we strolled along the Embarcadero to get a closer look at the famous giant boulder guarding the harbor. Like the Golden Gate Bridge or Hearst Castle, 576-foot tall Morro Rock is a California icon.
On the way to the rock we stopped for breakfast at Dorn’s Breakers Café (www.dornscafe.com). A local institution since 1942, Dorn’s serves fresh surf and turf, along with made-from-scratch breakfast and lunch favorites – all with incredible bay views. For our breakfast we sat on the patio overlooking the harbor and enjoyed smoked salmon with cream cheese and bagels, buttermilk pancakes, with blueberries and a side of bacon and potatoes.
With our bellies full we made the 10-minute walk to the rock, where we found gorgeous Morro Strand State Beach and a group of sea otters floating on their backs and rolling in the water near shore. Next to the rock is the entrance to Morro Bay, a safe harbor, where small boats enter for protection, drop anchor, and help create the town’s idyllic, seaside panorama.
After relaxing at the beach we walked along the Embarcadero, passed shops for fishing, surfing, coffee, jewelry, fish and chips, and saltwater taffy. We stopped at Kayak Horizons (www.kayakhorizons.com), where we rented kayaks and explored 15 miles of protected waters, including an estuary and bird sanctuary. Morro Bay is composed of 2,300 acres of mud flats, eelgrass beds, tidal wetlands and open water. Two-dozen threatened or endangered species live in the area including the peregrine falcon, brant goose, brown pelican, sea otter and snowy plovers. The area is also a major west coast wintering area for over 100 species of birds and is home to California sea lions and harbor seals.
After kayaking, I took a bubble bath at Anderson Inn and then walked to dinner at Windows on the Water (www.windowsmb.com). Known for its award-winning black cod and beef filet, Windows on the Water serves locally raised livestock, seafood and organically grown produce, along with an extensive California wine list. Our meal included smooth and tasty clam chowder, pan-seared scallops with citrus rice and asparagus and succulent Australian lamb T-bone with herb potatoes and kale.
For more information on visiting Morro Bay, visit www.morrobay.org.
Greg Aragon is a travel writer from Glendale. For the past 12 years he has authored “Greg’s Getaway,” a popular travel column which has taken him to more than 21 countries in search of exciting destinations, people, food, drink and culture. You can follow more of Greg’s travels at: www.Travelingboy.com.