The beautiful coastal city of Morro Bay, CA is about 2 hours north of Santa Barbara and has the cutest sea life, most beautiful sunsets, trails in amazing parks and delicious food that we can’t wait to go back for!
Have you seen otters sleeping? How about playing and eating crab? No?! You totally should!! Morro Bay is an amazing place to see these adorable creatures up close! We had researched things to do in Morro Bay before our trip south and seeing the otters was top on our list! Allison at Tips for Family Trips has a post on 6 Ways to See Otters in Morro Bay a must-read before your visit! We followed her tips and were not disappointed! We only had 1 day in Morro Bay and we wanted to make the most of it!
The most promising spot to see the otters up close is along the embarcadero at the T-Shaped pier. Seriously, type in Morro Bay T pier in Google Maps and it says “(Otter Viewing Area)”. We left Ventura early Saturday morning and headed up the coast to Morro Bay and went straight to this spot. WE SAW 15 OTTERS!!!!!!!!!!!!! Never have we witnessed so many otters in one spot!
The cute little otters were sleeping on their backs with their arms crossed over their chests floating in the water near the embarcadero where they were safe from the boats but not safe from tourists gawking at them. They must be used to all of us humans checking them out. We both had our cameras out and probably took 50 photos of them sleeping. Did we pay attention to Morro Rock? No. It’s a rock and it’s beautiful but it wasn’t fuzzy and sleeping like the adorable otters.
A couple of the otters woke up and began playing. When they roll in the water they keep their front paws together like they are in prayer and keep them out of the water. Their fuzzy little faces had the cutest innocent expressions on them too! Swear one of them was chasing his tail since he was doing somersaults in the water reaching for his tail! Giggling and taking video, photos, and posting on social media we finally tore ourselves away from these cute little guys and headed just south of town to Montaña de Oro State Park to get a short hike in. Our plan was to come back after the hike and see if more of them would be awake later. The crowds of other tourists were also forming and we wanted to give them all a chance to see the otters too.
Montaña de Oro State Park
The bosslady had been to Montaña de Oro State Park in her youth and wanted to share this great stretch of sand dune beaches and hiking with the hubs so off we went. Driving through the small town of Los Osos we made our way up the bluffs above the sand dunes and followed the road to the trailhead for the Bluff Trail. The views from the road of Morro Bay and Morro Rock were stunning!
Cruising along the narrow road to the trailhead we passed through eucalyptus groves, passed by sand dunes, and could feel the wind blowing the salty air on us. At the trailhead, there was 1 spot open just for us! There is street parking but we were happy to have an actual spot. After getting bundled up we headed out on the Bluff Trail. Immediately the trail opened up with views of the ocean, waves crashing on the Miguelito Shale, and yes…an otter diving for food. He had a seagull waiting for him when he popped up out of the water with a crab in hand. The poor seagull was waiting patiently for any scraps and the otter was just not sharing!
Other sea birds were flying overhead as we continued along the Bluff Trail. There was beauty everywhere! There were quite a few people on the trails, mostly families, and a lot were dropping down to the beaches and tidepools. So, of course, we did too! The tidepools were pretty with your typical sea anemones and sea snails. We admired and kept exploring. The Miguelito Shale that was formed 5-6 million years ago (per the park brochure) was so unique to see. We have seen some of this up at Gerstle Cove but not this much!
As we were exploring this area we noticed a few surfers paddling out to catch some waves. They had helmets on. No thank you. If you rode the wave in toward the rock formations you would be in some major pain! The waves were pretty big too! We waited for them to catch a wave for about 15 minutes. Apparently otters are curious because one of them kept popping up in between swells to watch the surfers too! One of the surfers braved the waves and caught one just as we reached the top of the bluffs. He made it to shore just fine!
We headed back to the truck, thankful to get out of the wind for a bit, and drove down and stopped at a couple of places where there was easy access to the sand dunes. Love the grasses growing out from the dunes! The views of Morro Bay from there were so amazing! Then our tummies reminded us we needed to eat and not just enjoy the views so we headed back to Morro Bay to look for a bayside restaurant.
We had visited Morro Bay for a weekend when we lived in Ventura some 19 years ago. Morro Bay has some great stores and restaurants and most were full of tourists (like us)! We walked along downtown until we found one we could sit outside and enjoy the sunshine and views. If you want to stay in a seaside town with access to restaurants, shopping, and hiking this is your place! The lunch was delicious. The views were great! We could see Morro Rock from our table and were watching the tour boats cruising back and forth in the bay. No otters near us but we could see them playing in the water in the distance.
After lunch, we checked into our campsite and got the lay of the land. The campground isn’t our favorite layout. It is set up more for RVs and is stacked one site right next to each other. The one really good thing was there was a restaurant just outside the campground that we planned to eat for dinner. More on that later.
Morro Rock was calling us so we headed out to walk around this ginormous rock that is the last of the Nine Sisters extinct volcanic peaks. It is 576′ tall and sits there like a beacon to us tourists. Along with hundreds of other people, we walked the path from the parking lot around the rock. Otters were playing in the harbor and diving deep when boats came in. The wind was brutal that day but also made for some gorgeous pictures when the waves crashed along the jetty and the ocean spray floated over. Some people were dangerously close to where the waves were crashing…made us a little nervous. We took our time exploring and walked back on the path to explore the other side and check out sunset spots.
Remembering the otters, we stopped in to see what they were up to while we waited for sunset. They are so darn cute we could watch them all day! About 30 minutes before sunset we parked at the beach behind Morro Rock. Sand dunes and grass were the only things between us and the rock.
At about 10 minutes before sunset, so many people gravitated out to the beach! It was a gorgeous one and we were happy to have picked out our spot before they all came out to enjoy mother nature’s show! It was also cold and windy!
Just after the show we hopped back in the truck and headed back to the campground to set up for the night. So nice having just the tailgate tent to set up and pull out the firewood. Our fire ring was rusted out but it still did the job. Once we were all set up we grabbed our lanterns and walked over to the cafe for dinner.
Bayside Cafe was lovely! There was quite the waitlist so we jotted down our names and were up for either inside or out. We got outside and sat under two of the many outdoor heat lamps they had going. Even had to take our coats off it was so warm! This would be the end of our warmth though! Dinner was delicious and the quiet of being right on the bay made everything just perfect.
Walking back to our campsite the wind cooled us off and we bundled up with blankets, started the campfire, and opened up the wine (cabernet sauvignon if you are wondering). It was Uno time! Yes, the hubs won again! It was his lucky trip!
Since there weren’t a ton of trees in the campground and it was windy we were a bit colder than normal. That was fine! We had a raging fire going and were wrapped up in cozy blankets. It was, however, the first time the bosslady slept in her full sweats and beanie with socks and jacket on the whole night. It was cold! The hubs has been researching our next sleeping bag since returning from this trip!
Any suggestions on your favorite camping gear? Comment below and let us know! We are still acquiring all of the camping gear needed.
Things We Love:
We try to live as simply as possible. We don’t try and keep up with the trends or buy something cheap so we can have 10 of them. We both tend to spend a little more money and get something that will last. If it has a dual purpose, all the better! We took a handful of jackets each on our trip south due to the varying degrees of hiking and climate we would be in. Along the coast, it can be chilly during the winter and windy. Having a puff jacket helps keep us warm yet breathable. The hubs has been wearing his Marmot featherless puff pretty much non stop since he got it and the bosslady is in love with her Marmot puff vest with hood. The colors are gorgeous! The fit is great! Fit is huge for us! We want to be comfortable AND warm, not one or the other. Bonus, both of these are nice enough to wear to dinner out on the bay, warm enough to chill by the fire, and comfortable enough to hike in. It’s like having your favorite pair of jeans that you wear everywhere!
Check out the jackets below and see if they have a color you love!
All Trails Stats:
Just did a short hike to explore the bluffs and make the most of our 1 day in Morro Bay! You can see how many more trails there are at Montaña de Oro State Park!