Morro Bay for the weekend

January 9, 2007 

A morning in town

In the morning, grab coffee and a pastry at the authentic French La Parisienne Bakery (1140 Front St., 805-772-8530) at the north end of the Embarcadero (the sign just says "Bakery"), then drive out to Morro Rock, home of nesting peregrine falcons and sacred ground for the Salinan and Chumash Indians. On the right is a popular surf break and six miles of beach stretching to Cayucos. One the left is the bay, the jetty, a small beach and good place to gaze back on the town and spot otters and harbor seals.

Head back and park to stroll along the Embarcadero. There’s no straight passage along the water, but you can weave your way through the jumble of fish & chips joints, souvenir stores, galleries and gift shops and remain mostly next to the bay. Watch fisherman haul in their catch on the working waterfront and be on the lookout for otters cracking an abalone they just snagged.

Poppy (911 Embarcadero, 805-771-9750) sells casual women’s fashions as well as accessories and some small home items. For fun and chic eye candy for the home, drop in to Fiona Blue (990 Embarcadero, 805-772-0541). Don’t miss the arresting wave photography featuring a liquid crystal sensation with remarkable angles and amazing light. Across the street in Centennial Park is a life-size chess board. Games with the 20-pound redwood pieces can be arranged (for a fee) by calling 805-772-6278.

If you’ve ever grinned at a garden gnome or other backyard surprise, you’re going to enjoy the maze of garden tchotckes, lush plants, sun-loving succulents, fountains, windchimes, wall art and more at Garden Gallery (680 Embarcadero, 805-772-4044). The meandering indoor-outdoor store gives way on the lower level to more of a home décor shop, with interconnecting rooms showing off various styles and seasonal offerings.

If wine is your thing, duck into Marina Square and find Morro Bay Wine Seller (601 Embarcadero #5, 805-772-8388), which boasts an impressive offering of local and international wines, a wide window with bay views and the chance to taste a few vinos. The feeling is casual and irreverent, with Wine Seller T-shirts hanging around that declare, "Friends don’t let friends drink two-buck Chuck," "I got my wine, you get your Rhone" and "Wine tasting in Morro Bay? You bet Shiraz." Upstairs in the complex, there’s a small free exhibit on the estuary and the wildlife it supports. Check out the cool 3-D images.

On the waterfront is the funky, family-owned Morro Bay Aquarium (595 Embarcadero Morro Bay, 805-772-7647), a non-profit rehabilitation center for distressed mammals. Feed the sea lions and walk through the small room with tanks housing fish, sharks, octopus, eels, abalone sea anemones and horseshoe crabs. Hours are 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. daily; admission is $2 for adults, $1 children 5-11 and free for those under 5. All thing shell can be found at The Shell Shop (590 Embarcadero Blvd., 805-772-8014) across the street. If you’re up for it, continue down to Tidelands Park and the marina to admire the boats and views.

Lunch and planning your afternoon

On your way back, stop to try the famous roast beef sandwiches at Hofbrau (901 Embarcadero, 805-772-2411), which also offers a great view of the rock. The long-time family-owned eatery also serves fish and chips, homemade soups, hamburgers, pastrami, corned beef and other family favorites. Or hit the popular fish & chips stand at Giovanni’s on the Embarcadero (805-772-2123) and grab a seat outside.

For the afternoon, get out on the water, take a hike, play a round of golf or choose from among the many other activities you can enjoy in Morro Bay. Check out our guide here.

Or explore a few more stores in Morro Bay’s downtown, on Main Street and up Morro Bay Boulevard to the movie theater. Peruse the intriguing selection at the funky, independent Coalesce Book Store & More (845 Main St., 805-772-2880) and make sure to check out the courtyard and garden wedding chapel out back. The Morro Bay Art Association (805-772-2504) has a gallery at 835 Main St., open from noon to 4 p.m. daily.

Dinner and a room for the night

When you’re ready for dinner, there’s plenty to choose from. You can also search our restaurant directory.

A meal at Taco Temple (2680 Main St., on the other side of Highway 1, 805-772-4965) goes above and beyond the usual Mexican fare offerings, with salmon tostadas and other fresh seafood dishes. Yes, it’s a converted fast-food joint, but you’ll hardly notice as you savor the fusion cuisine.

If you’re in for a laid-back meal overlooking a quiet corner of the bay, head to the Bayside Café (State Park Marina Road, 805-772-1465) in Morro Bay State Park. The former-takeout joint has the feel of a beach shack and offers patio dining, though even the indoor seats offer a feeling of outside. The menu focuses on seafood, chicken and steak prepared with a creative flair (the Achiote chicken comes highly recommended) as well as standbys such as fish and chips and clam chowder in a bread bowl. The wine list is extensive with a focus on local offerings.

If you’re looking for romantic and refined, head to Windows on the Water (699 Embarcadero, 805-772-0677). The restaurant, upstairs at Marina Square, boasts views of the bay from every table, an open kitchen, impressive wine cellar, modern California cuisine and acclaim from locals and visitors alike. It’s earned an award of excellence from Wine Spectator magazine and high ratings, especially for its "impeccable service" by Zagat. And the chef often prepares fresh dishes specifically to pair with the extensive wine-by-the-glass selection.

Or head up the road to Hoppe’s Garden Bistro in Cayucos (78 N. Ocean Ave., 805-772-9012), which has earned widespread reknown for its seasonal menus, wine selection, botanical garden patio and historical setting.

If you’re not ready to head to bed quite yet, check out the scene at Otter Rock Café (885 Embarcadero, 805-772-1420), which has a full bar and live entertainment most every night.

There is no shortage of hotels, motels, camping and inns along the waterfront and around town. Use our hotel directory to find the spot that’s best for you.

The Inn at Morro Bay (60 State Park Road, 800-321-9566, 805-772-5651, $99-$429) sits bayfront just inside Morro Bay State Park. It offers a full-service spa, heated outdoor swimming pool and free use of cruiser bicycles. Its two restaurants, Orchid and the Bay Club, offer panoramic views of the bay. Bay views, spa tubs, private decks and fireplaces are among the room options, and there are packages incorporating meals, golf, kayaking and spa services.

Also in the park but closer to nature is the Morro Bay State Park campground (805-772-2560, $35-$50), one of the area’s most popular. Watch the sun set over Morro Rock, hike up Black Hill or explore the estuary. There are RV hookups available, fire pits and tables at every site, restrooms and coin-operated hot showers. The wooded campground offers beautiful scenery and filtered sunlight. Reservations are taken year-round and recommended for summer and weekends. They can be made by calling 800-444-7275 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. or going online to www.reserveamerica.com. A reservation fee of $7.50 is added to the campground fee.

Every room at the Embarcadero Inn, (456 Embarcadero, 888-223-5777, 805-772-2700, winter/summer $120-$185/$145-$220 rooms, $255/305 for two-room suites, $375/$450 for family suite) looks out onto the bay, and most have private balconies. Amenities include continental breakfast, two hot tubs, movies and binoculars to borrow, wireless Internet access from the breakfast room, and fireplaces in many rooms. Hearst Castle, kayak, birdwatching, golf and wine packages available.

On the quiet, south end of the bay is the Back Bay Inn (1391 Second St., 877-330-2225, 805-528-1233, $155-$190), where every room has a view and either a private deck or a fireplace. The inn sits on the water in Baywood Park, nestled between the Sweet Springs and Elfin Forest nature preserves – removed from the hustle and bustle but just down the street from quaint shops, restaurants and waterfront parks. There’s an evening wine and cheese reception, free in-room wireless Internet access, telescopes and binoculars to borrow.

Overlooking the Embarcadero and Morro Rock is the Blue Sail Inn motel (851 Market Ave., 800-971-6910, $110-$195). Most rooms have private balconies, suites offer wet bars and gas fireplaces and there’s a shared hot tub.

Another choice in the heart of town just a block from the Embarcadero is the Sea Air Inn (845 Morro Ave., 800- 772-4495,) Some rooms offer views, wireless Internet access is available in the lobby and spa services are available. Just next door is Ascot Suites (260 Morro Bay Blvd. 800-887-6454), where most rooms offer spa tubs and fireplaces and spa services are available. There are golf, Hearst, dinner and romantic packages available at both.

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