Things to do in Morro Bay.
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16 BEST Things to Do in Morro Bay

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Swap the palm trees of a stereotypical Californian beach town with eucalyptus trees, huge rocks, and common foggy days, and you have Morro Bay.

This unique little town is stunning in its own way, with the huge Morro Rock dominating the landscape, but far from the only attraction.

There is an incredible beach scene, opportunities for surfing, common sea otter sightings, unique hikes, and incredible views. If you don’t go and see what Morro Bay has to offer on a California road trip, you are missing out!

Here are our favorite things to do in Morro Bay.

1. Wander the Town—Your Intro to Things to Do in Morro Bay!

Morro Bay is a small town, but well worth a wonder. Some excellent thrift and antique stores are great for a browse, or you could catch a show at the Bay Theatre.

Check out the Libertine for some fantastic local brews, which is located right on the waterfront, and there are plenty of delicious foodie spots where you can warm up with classics like clam chowder and fresh fish and chips.

Cars parked along the main road through Morro Bay Town.
Stroll down Morro Bay main street.

One of the best parts of town is the Embarcadero, which lines the ocean and is filled with many local shops and restaurants.

You’ll get an incredible view of the harbor as you pop in and out of the shops, stocking up on tasty taffy or taking a look at the unique souvenirs in the Shell Shop.

2. Spend the Day at Morro Beach

Morro Rock Beach is wild and rugged, sitting at the base of towering Morro Rock—a visit here is one of the best things to do in Morro Bay!

There are miles of open sand waiting to be relaxed on, played on or walked on, in fact, when connected to its adjacent beaches, there is around 6 miles of uninterrupted shoreline to enjoy. We walked for hours and lost track of time!

Nina in a blue jacket and shorts standing on a rock overlooking Morro Beach on a sunny day while people surf.
A great beach with tons of space!

In addition to being a beach bumming paradise, the beach is also a surfing hotspot, with surfers taking to the ocean in great numbers, hoping to catch a wave. With plenty of amenities and parking, it is a perfect beach.

3. Admire Morro Rock—Most Famous Thing to Do in Morro Bay

Morro Rock is the centerpiece of Morro Bay, the ultimate backdrop of the beach and town, standing at 567 feet tall. This hulking shape at the mouth of the harbor forms part of a chain of nine volcanic peaks in the area.

A kayak paddling in front of Morro Rock in Morro Bay State Park in California.
It’s pretty big, right?

Although climbing is prohibited, you can drive right up to the base of the rock and get a better idea of its sheer size. Bring a pair of binoculars and watch for the Peregrine falcons that nest on the rock.

4. Play I Spy with Sea Otters

Morro Bay seems to be a wildlife hotspot, with all sorts of creatures making the area its home. One of the best places to spot wildlife is at the Morro Bay T Pier, where you can spot some sea otters.

A sea otter floating in the ocean besides the Morro Bay T Pier while people on the pier are sea fishing.
Just casually floating around.

These fluffy creatures stick around all year and stay close to the shore. They were being little models for us, flopping around and being so cute!

There are plenty of other wildlife-related things to do in Morro Bay. Lovely tide pools can be found in North Morro Bay and are a great way to see some aquatic creatures up close.

A sea otter floating in the ocean and posing for the camera.
We couldn’t have asked for a better model!

Whale-watching trips depart regularly from the Embarcadero. However, it is sometimes possible to see them from the beaches.

5. Kayak From The Marina

Heading out in a kayak to explore the Morro Bay Estuary offers a new way to explore this stretch of coastline. The marina provides a perfect kayaking launch, with incredible opportunities to get up close and personal with some local wildlife.

The hut for Kayak Shack rentals floating on a wooden pontoon in the waters of Morro Bay.
A great place to rent your gear!

Kayak Shack offers kayak rental if you don’t have your own, and if you don’t care to navigate the waters by yourself, they also offer guided tours.

You won’t have to worry too much about rough seas, as the 4-mile-long sandspit is a natural barrier.

Two people ocean kayaking very close up to Morro Rock.
Kayaking opens up so much more area to explore.

Keep your eyes peeled for birds and marine mammals as you glide across the water and witness the coastline from a unique perspective.

6. Discover the Area at the Museum of Natural History

Pay a visit to the Morro Bay Museum of Natural History for an interactive and engaging way to learn about… well, the area’s natural history!

Many hands-on activities, displays, and events run regularly, plus it boasts panoramic views out over the bay and Morro Rock itself.

The entrance sign and road leading to the Museum of Natural History in Morro Bay.
Come and learn about the history of the area.

It offers so much more than just a few diagrams of the coast, which could be why it is one of the most popular things to do in Morro Bay.

There is information on cultural history, Native American life, geology, and oceanography, to name a few.

7. Take a Stroll Along Morro Bay State Park Boardwalk

Want to get out and about in nature but don’t want to trudge through sand? The Morro Bay State Park boardwalk is your answer.

This boardwalk provides an easy way to admire the breathtaking natural beauty of the park, with a flat and accessible trail winding through the wetlands and grass beds.

Nina in a blue jacket taking a casual stroll down a foliage lined path with views of mountains in Morro Bay State Park.
Morro Bay State Park is great for some fresh air.

The walk takes you along the estuary and is one of the best bird-watching spots on the bay.

With harbor and ocean views and views of the inland peaks and rocks on the way back, for a short and easy stroll, you can’t get much better than this.

8. Wander Elfin Forest

Length: 1 mile
Type of Trail: Loop
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation Gain: 62 feet

The Elfin Forest Trail is a lovely boardwalk trail of about a mile that winds and twists its way around the oak forests.

In the space of a short mile, it manages to pass through 8 different types of environments, so it is certainly one to head to for a bit of diversity.

Wooden boardwalk through Elfin Forest Los Osos Bay with mountain views in the distance.
Perfect for an easy hike!

The 90 acres somehow pack in over 200 species of plants, 110 kinds of birds, 22 species of mammals, and 13 species of reptiles and amphibians, some of which are very rare.

If you are looking for a nature fix regarding things to do in Morro Bay, you know where to head!

9. Explore Coastal Access Monarch Butterfly Preserve

The Coastal Access Monarch Butterfly Preserve offers an important refuge for overwintering monarch butterflies.

There are several spots along the Californian Coast where you can observe this natural phenomenon, and right here is one of the best.

A large group of monarch butterflies taking up all the space on the tree branches.
So many!

The bright orange butterflies flock in their hundreds, and sometimes even thousands, to escape the cold winter weather, and we don’t blame them.

Even if you visit out of season, the mystical eucalyptus forest is a beautiful place for a hike.

10. Tackle the Black Hill Trail

Length: 2.5 miles
Type of Trail: Out & Back
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Gain: 620 feet

Morro Rock is not the only volcanic peak in Morro Bay, and although Morro Rock may be more iconic, you can climb Black Hill for incredible views of the surrounding landscape.

Although pretty high at 661 feet, this is the easiest to summit out of all the morros in the county.

A great view of the huge Morro Rock and surrounding town from the Black Hill Trail.
The view from the Black Hill Trail is insane!

You’ll steadily ascend a dirt single track with views out over the bay and town, and before you know it, you will be at the peak.

No matter which way you choose to get to the top, the views from the mountain will take your breath away, with 360 degree views encompassing the ocean, Morro Rock, the estuary, and the Nine Sisters.

11. Don’t Miss Out on Cayucos

You don’t want to miss the tiny yet charming seaside town of Cayucos when hitting up Morro Bay.

A few tourists enjoying the day on Cayucos State Beach in the sun.
Relax on Cayucos State Beach.

Easily overlooked, Cayucos is home to hidden gems, such as the historic pier built in 1872, a boardwalk studded with fun boutiques, places to eat, and a few antique shops.

There are incredible surfing opportunities, even more incredible sunset spots, and several excellent hikes that wind through the nearby hills.

Waves splashing up against the wooden Cayucos Pier on a sunny day.
The Cayucos Pier is pretty cool!

Some people say that when they visit, they feel as though they have stepped back in time, with the town having a distinctly Old West feel. Head here to escape it all and relax, living the simple life for a day or two.

12. Estero Bluffs State Park

Estero Bluffs State Park is small but stunning, and as they say, size is not everything!

If you go for a stroll along the bluff here, ensure you bring a pair of binoculars or at least a couple of keen eyes, as otter and whale sightings are relatively common.

The park allows visitors to roam the landscape north of Cayucos, with 4 miles of hiking trails, wild beaches, and plenty of tidepools.

A shipwreck off the coast of Estero Bluff State Park in Cayucos, California.
Check out the famous shipwreck too!

The main trail runs parallel to the shore, meaning stunning views and ample wildlife-watching opportunities.

Pelicans take the skies, wildflowers cover the ground in spring, and if you scramble down the bluffs to the beach, the pools are full of barnacles, sea anemones, and hermit crabs.

13. Head up Big Sur

If you want to continue your Californian Coast adventure, and we don’t blame you if you do, why not just head up Highway 1 to the Big Sur region?

Big Sur offers some of the most dramatic coastal scenery in the US, and you could spend weeks exploring and still not see all that it has to offer.

A view of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park from a campervan overlooking the cliffs.
The view over Julia Pfieffer Burns State Park from Big Sur

Check out our guide to all the things to do around Big Sur.

Still, just a few highlights include checking out Point Lobos, stopping for an iconic snap at Bixby Creek Bridge, enjoying the natural beauty of Garrapata State Park, and hiking to Mcway Falls and Partington Cove.

A car towing a caravan over the arched Bixby Bridge along the Big Sur drive.
Part of the highway is the iconic Bixby Bridge!

Alternatively, you could travel the 90-mile stretch along the highway without even getting out of your car and still be in awe of the incredible vistas, plunging cliffs, and the Pacific Ocean crashing against the unique rock formations.

READ MORE: Things To Do in Big Sur: 16 Best Stops on a Big Sur Drive

14. Pay a Visit to Pismo Beach

No matter the time of year, everyone loves a beach town, and Pismo Beach offers just that. With its many gorgeous beaches, pier, and boardwalk, the town provides laid-back beachy vibes every day of the year.

Golden hour light glowing over Pismo State Beach in California.
A beautiful golden hour at Pismo Beach.

Once you are done with the beaches, grab a bite in one of the many restaurants, see how many bright orange butterflies you can spot in the Monarch Butterfly Grove, take a tour of the Point San Luis Lighthouse, or head to the dunes for some adrenaline filled off-roading!

The busy and retro looking main road of Pismo Beach with colorful signs and palm trees.
Retro looking Pismo Beach

This is one of our personal favorite beachy towns on the California Coast and enjoy setting up camp here since the beach is in our backyard!

READ MORE: 16 BEST Things To Do in Pismo Beach

15. Explore San Luis Obispo

Head to San Luis Obispo for a California town with a difference. This historic town has a little bit of everything, between the sea and mountains.

Woman crossing a road in the center of San Luis Obispo town.
The town of San Luis Obispo.

There are cultural landmarks to check out, like the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, wine to taste in the many wineries, hikes to take up the surrounding hills, and hot springs to soak in after a long day of adventure.

Nina at the top of a hill over looking San Luis Obispo and some peaks in the distance.
San Luis Obispo from a hilltop!

San Luis Obispo has everything: highly-rated restaurants, unique places to stay, and incredible attractions in and around the town. It gives off cool coastal California, although it’s not actually on the coast!

16. Get Out in Nature at Montaña de Oro State Park

Just a short drive from Morro Bay, you will find Montaña de Oro State Park, which contains 8000 acres of diverse landscape.

As one of California’s largest state parks, there is much to see, including rugged cliff tops, towering coastal dunes, hidden tide pools, and mountain peaks.

Flock of birds on a beach on a foggy day in Montaña de Oro State Park.
What do you think these birds are plotting?

The best way to explore the park is via the network of trails, such as the challenging Valencia Peak trail, which is not for the faint of heart, or the Bluff Trail, which is a little more gentle and takes in some fantastic scenery.

Yellow wildflowers on the edge of the cliffs of Montaña de Oro State Park.
The cliffs of Montaña de Oro State Park.

You could also explore some of the trails via mountain bike, head out on a kayak, do a bit of fishing, or see what creatures you can spot hidden in the underwater world.

👉 Accommodation in Morro Bay

We hope this list of things to do in Morro Bay helped plan your trip!

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