Visit the Gibraltar of the Pacific - Morro Rock

Adventures in a seaside village on the California coast!

Mist rolled off the waters of the bay, shrouding the seaside fishing community of Morro Bay, as well as Morro Rock, the formation also known as the Gibraltar of the Pacific. About 23 million years old, the rock is all that remains of an ancient volcano.

The rock dominates the horizon, no matter where you are in Morro Bay. Likely, it was even more impressive nearly five centuries ago when explorer, Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, named it. Cabrillo was a true adventurer of the seas, having battled the Aztecs and helped conquer Cuba for Spain, then mined for gold in Guatemala.

Morro Rock towers over the fishing village of Morro Bay on the California Coast.

Morro Rock towers over the fishing village of Morro Bay on the California Coast.

While Cabrillo named Morro Rock (morro is a Spanish word meaning a crown shaped hill), it wasn’t until 1587 that Pedro Unamuno planted a cross on the bay and claimed it for King Philip of Spain. Later, beginning in 1821, the area was controlled by Mexico for 25 years, until it came under American rule in 1846.

Morro Bay in San Luis Obispo County

City of Morro Bay, California, houses and shore, with Morro Rock shrouded in mist in the distance.

City of Morro Bay, California, houses and shore, with Morro Rock shrouded in mist in the distance.

The small city of Morro Bay, in San Luis Obispo County, spreads out along the coastline, making it the perfect seaside destination for those hot California summers — or cold Canadian winters (I visited in early April).

As I soon discovered, it’s a community meant for exploring. While I’m a walker, a separate paved path for two-way bike travel makes it more than family friendly for cyclists. The city streets also have an additional designated lane for one-way bike travel, so bikers can get anywhere easily.

I started out near the Visitor Center and followed the shore and bike trail towards the rock, which of course, I had to see up close. Since it’s a State Historic Landmark, it’s against the law to climb the 576 foot rock. The ban protects it from further damage, after decades of mining it for crushed stone.

Fishing Boats in Morro Bay

Boats in the marina along the shores of Morro Bay, California.

Boats in the marina along the shores of Morro Bay, California.

Various types of boats were anchored in the harbor. A number of shore birds hovered over them, especially the fishing boats. The keow, or ha-ha-ha-ha, announced the seagulls as they dove in to grab entrails fishermen tossed out as they finished cleaning up the morning’s catch.

Fishermen cleaning the day's catch in Morro Bay, California.

Fishermen cleaning the day’s catch in Morro Bay, California.

Brown pelicans, the only non-white pelicans in the world, hovered over the shore, along with sea gulls and cormorant and heron.

In fact, Morro Bay is a bird lover’s paradise! Every January, they host a winter bird festival. Over 200 birds are usually sighted, as it’s part of the Pacific Flyway.

Different species of birds on a boat in Morro Bay, California.

Different species of birds on a boat in Morro Bay, California.

As well as the birds, I soon discovered the sea lions — hearing their arf, arf, arf barking sounds well before I could see them on the docks.

Time slipped away while I watched the sea lions at play, diving into the water and popping up again. Between them and the birds, there was a constant contest for what the fishermen were throwing away!

Sea lions on the dock at Morro Bay., California.

Sea lions on the dock at Morro Bay., California.

Stops Along the Seashore in Morro Bay

Dockside 3 Restaurant on the shore in Morro Bay, California.

Dockside 3 Restaurant on the shore in Morro Bay, California.

Once the fishermen were done cleaning their catch for the day, the impromptu “show” on shore was over, and I continued my walk. Luckily, the sun occasionally popped out from under the clouds and the day brightened.

Tourism, of course, is one of the key industries of Morro Bay, or indeed, all of San Luis Obispo County. So, there are lots of neat places to stop and have a drink or something to eat.

Crill's Salt Water Taffy in Morro Bay, California.

Crill’s Salt Water Taffy in Morro Bay, California.

And of course, when you’re on the seashore, you have to try authentic salt water taffy! Crill’s sells it, along with delicious cinnamon buns.

If you’re taking advantage of one of the eight campgrounds and RV parks, you can also buy some of the day’s catch at Giovanni’s Fish Market and Galley. If you prefer, you can order online and have it delivered to you.

Morro Bay Boardwalk & Morro Rock Ecological Reserve

Boardwalk at Morro Bay, California, to explore the tidal flats and Morro Rock.

Boardwalk at Morro Bay, California, to explore the tidal flats and Morro Rock.

A new boardwalk, situated alongside the paved bicycle path, takes you right out to Morro Rock and the Ecological Reserve. It’s the perfect place to explore the estuary wildlife and get close to the tidal flats.

It was where I discovered the sea otters. At first, I thought I was watching more sea lions, however, in chatting with another traveler I discovered the differences between the two. The otters are smaller, and have as many hairs in one square inch of their bodies as we do on our whole bodies! The sea lions are more adapted with flippers for moving on docks and land, which was where I’d seen them.

You can get up close to all of the sealife if you take one of the whale watching or boat tours. Depending on the time of year, you’ll see everything from humpback whales to dolphins to porpoises, as well as the otters and lions.

Squirrel on the rocks along the shore at Morro Bay, California.

Squirrel on the rocks along the shore at Morro Bay, California.

While I never did get any photos of the otters, I got lots of pictures of the squirrels clambering over the rocks.

Morro Rock, when I reached it, was more impressive than it had been shrouded in mist. The sign at the base of the rock marked it as the Morro Rock Ecological Reserve. The reserve, established in 1969, protects the rare Peregrine Falcon that nests there in the rocks.

Morro Bay Ecological Reserve

Morro Bay Ecological Reserve

While I didn’t see any falcons, I felt in awe of the formation as I stood in the shadows of the rock.

Morro Strand State Beach

Morro Strand State Beach on the California coast.

Morro Strand State Beach on the California coast.

Of course every seaside has its beach and Morro Bay is home to Morro Strand State Beach. It has various facilities, including a campground, beach area, fishing and horseback riding.

And — it’s also a popular spot for surfing. Since I’d grown up listening to the Beach Boys singing Surfin’ USA, seeing some surfing had been on my list of must-do things. I sink faster than a rock, so I didn’t dare give surfing a try, but sure enjoyed watching the dozens of surfers climb on their boards and catch some waves!

Surfers at Morro Beach, California.

Surfers at Morro Beach, California.

Staying in Morro Bay

There are lots of options for your vacation in Morro Bay. With over two dozen inns and hotels, you can take your choice of chain hotels (Motel 6, Days Inn, Comfort Inn, Econo Lodge, and 3 Best Westerns), or smaller, cozier places to stay, such as La Roche Suites (3 rooms), Pleasant Inn Motel (10), or Beach Bungalow Inn and Suites (12).

I stayed in Morro Bay at the Ascot Suites (32 rooms), just a block from the water. It was a comfy room with a flowered interior reminiscent of all the romantic stories I’d read of seashore holidays.

Room at the Ascot Suites, in Morro Bay, California.

Room at the Ascot Suites in Morro Bay, California.

While it was tempting to nestle down to relax in my room after a day walking along the water, I took a dinner cruise with Chablis Cruises instead. Watching the sunset from the 50 foot, two story riverboat was the perfect end to an amazing day on the California coast — and dinner was darn good too!

Acknowledgements

I visited Morro Bay on a post trip to the NATJA (North American Travel Journalists) annual conference in 2016. My thanks to tourism in San Luis Obispo County for hosting my visit.

About the Photo

The photo in the header above was taken in Morro Bay, California (USA), of Morro Rock.

Hike the Unforgettable Giant Redwood Forest or Ride the Sky Trail

Take an unforgettable hike through California’s giant forest at Trees of Mystery, in Klamath, or an adventure ride on the gondola Sky Trail through the treetops.

Best California Winery Tour – Halter Ranch Winery

Halter Ranch Winery, California, offers visitors lots of experiences, from an Excursion tour through the vineyards to a barrel cave tour to wine tasting.

Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum — From the Movies to the White House

Ronald Reagan, 40th president of the United States, was America's oldest president, and some might say brought one of the most colorful personal histories to the White House. Indeed, acting in 50+ films, over nearly three decades, seems an unlikely career choice for...

Explore the Fishing Village of Morro Bay on the California Coast

Avenue of the Giants — Sounds of Silence in the Redwood Forest

While Paul Simon says he wrote the classic folk rock song, Sounds of Silence, in the bathroom with the lights off, the lyrics could have been inspired by a walk along the Avenue of the Giants in the Redwood forest. In fact, Avenue of the Giants is the most solemn,...

Avenue of Giants to Tahoe National Forest to Donner Pass to Reno — Road Trip

Sometimes putting miles on during a road trip feels like you're dumping out a child's toy box, and rolling pieces of a dozen different games and toys in different directions. Day 6 was one of those days. Day 6: Arcata, California, to Reno, Nevada The day began near...

Ocean and Sand Dunes to Giant Redwoods — Road Trip

The Pacific Coast Highway, Highway 101, is the one of the most well known road trips in America--and with reason! Day 5: Oregon's Pacific Coast Scenic Byway to California's Redwood Highway No matter what name it goes by, Highway 101 is an ever-changing drive down the...

DSRV Avalon — Pioneer of Submarine Rescue — Morro Bay, CA

The USS Thresher atomic submarine was the first of a new class that could dive further beneath the ocean, and run quieter along the ocean floor, than any of the submarines that had come before it. Launched by the US on July 9, 1960, during the Cold War era, it...

Oxnard, CA, Oceanfront Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach – Hotel & Resort Review

Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, a Portuguese explorer, described California's Oxnard Plain as "a land of everlasting summers," way back in 1542. And today's vacationers seem to agree with him, since Oxnard is a popular destination, regardless of the season. I visited the...

Walking on Gold–A Visit to Hearst Castle in California

The ancient Romans had huge baths that resembled swimming pools, where they not only washed the day's grime away, but also socialized with friends and neighbors. While regular folk went to a public bath, the rich had a room dedicated to bathing. Many were built over...

Historic Olallieberry Inn in Cambria, CA is Named for a Berry–Where Did it Come From?

Berries are a popular farm crop in California. In fact, producers are growing 32 thousand acres of strawberries in 2016! But there's another berry that finds its way into California desserts--the ollalieberry. After making sure that "ollalieberry" wasn't just a...

Taking the Scenic Route with the Coast Starlight Train Down the California Coast

There’s something about the comforting sway of a bunkbed, whether it’s on a train on land, or a boat at sea, that makes it easy to sleep. At least for me, anyway! But get up I did, for  the third day of my Amtrak trip--riding the Coast Starlight Train down the...

5 California Towns Where Time Stands Still

by Ellen Harvey Each state has its share of large cities and small towns. While the big cities continue to grow more homogenous as the years pass, small towns have managed to maintain their charm with distinct character and landmarks. Each small town has its own...

Fish California–Lake Piru to Cachuma Lake

By Joe Laing, El Monte RV The diverse landscapes of Southern California not only provide a wide array of beautiful scenery and sights of historic import, but also offer a fisherman the opportunity to experience the great fishing available in the area. From mountain...

Best Places To Camp On The California Coast

Article contributed by Joe Laing, El Monte RV When it comes to counting miles of beautiful coastline, California has a leg up on the rest of the U.S. (even considering Florida's stretches of white sand and Maine's rugged islands). Only in California can you drive the...
All original content on these pages is fingerprinted and certified by Digiprove
8 Shares
Tweet
Share
Pin
Stumble
+1