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Morro Bay

The quaint coastal town is anchored by a rock but buoyed by fun diversions

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It’s impossible to mistake Morro Bay for any other California seaside town. Just off its shore, a massive, ancient volcanic plug known as Morro Rock rises 576 feet from the ocean, adding a dramatic exclamation point to this haven of natural beauty. Fishermen plied their trade in the shadow of Morro Rock for decades; today, the town in San Luis Obispo County maintains its sea-faring charm with a full menu of activities added.

You can’t climb Morro Rock, but you can look for the peregrine falcons that nest there. And it’s not just there you’ll see birds: So many of them love the Morro Bay area that the Audubon Society has dubbed it one of the country’s best places for bird watchers. There’s even a birding festival every Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend. Nature lives in the water, too, of course—check it out by taking a whale-watching cruise or stopping by the free Estuary Nature Center, a popular hangout for otters and other sea creatures.

The town is an ambulatory paradise as well: Beaches stretch north and south of town, perfect for strolling with a view of Morro Rock. Landlubbers can hike the area’s many trails or simply explore the Embarcadero, a waterfront street with shops and restaurants. Or learn more about wheeled transportation by visiting the Morro Bay Skateboard Museum, where you can get a pic of yourself on the “world’s second biggest skateboard.”

Restaurants in Morro Bay are similarly Instagram-worthy, thanks to a combination of water views and fresh cuisine. Start your day with the crème brûlée French toast at local hangout Frankie & Lola’s. Later, watch as the sun begins its slow descent behind Morro Rock while tucking into “naked fish” (simple, with sauces on the side) at The Galley, where dishes incorporate ingredients direct from the head chef’s family farm. Or check out the family-owned Dutchman’s Seafood House, which has its own dock—so you can count on just-caught seafood.

Hotels in Morro Bay also take full advantage of the town’s unique geography and geology. Stay in a suite at Estero Inn, where porthole windows create a fitting nautical theme and fireplace rooms have waterfront views. The boutique Anderson Inn offers coastal allure as well; opt for a view of Morro Rock with a room that offers a fireplace and soaking tub. And the value-focused Sundown Inn is a Main Street institution; located just a couple blocks from the water, it’s been run by the same family for 35 years.

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