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Morro Bay is a sweet little town tucked along the Pacific coast, just north or Santa Barbara and south of Big Sur. This town is a great spot to pull over for some killer local oysters (that have probably be served to you in restaurants in San Francisco/LA etc.), paddle boarding or kayaking with the otters and sea lions in the bay, or just grab some rays on the beach out by the Rock. It also has a great break if you like to surf!! All around a sweet little spot and gem of a coastal town here in California. There is also local wine tasting and killer hiking/backpacking nearby (within the Los Padres National Forest, bordering the coast).
A "morro" is the plug of an ancient volcano and there are several found in San Louis Obispo county in California. The most famous is found right off the coast in Morro Bay, California. Morro Bay has several restaurants, a marina, a tiny aquarium and a few hotels right by the water. There is a lot of hiking in the area, as well as a wonderful little nature center called the Morro Bay Nature Center. This is a great place for a picnic - http://www.slostateparks.com/natural_history_museum/ You can walk to Morro rock and see peregrine falcon nests as well as sea otters, sea lions and seals swimming in the waters around the rock. Morro rock is about 581 ft high and is connected to part of the mainland of California. The surrounding landscape is gorgeous and you can easily count the 9 morros or "Nine Sisters". These are a series of ancient volcanic peaks which form a backdrop for the Cities of San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay on the Central Coast of California. This photo of Morro rock was taken in Los Osos, a small community on the southern end of the bay from Morro rock.
I didn’t know about Morro Bay until I search for a mid way stopover for our trip to San Francisco from Los Angeles. 250 miles with HWY 5 and 46, with about 4 hours we arrived into this cozy fishing village before the sunset. We find it a pleasant place for a day or two in between long journey from north to south or either way especially if HWY 1 is part of the agenda. I had some numbers of great shots over the quiet sea on sunsets and a fabulous dinner by the bay. It is truly a good decision stoping over here.
The Montana De Oro state park is located in San Louis Obispo county on the central coast of California. There are many hikes in Montana De Oro state park and this was the longest one we've done yet in this beautiful state park. This was the 7.9 mile, 1,050 ft elevation gain starting at the Ridge trail - Hazard Peak - Barranca - Islay Creek loop. At the top of Hazard Peak you can see the town of Morro Bay and wide, sweeping vistas of the surrounding mountains. There are also a couple picnic tables, we had a picnic lunch that we ate while enjoying the grand view. Afterwards, we followed the loop down and around the mountain through sage brush, oaks, manzanitas with grand mountain views most of the hike until going further down to sea level and finishing the hike along a fire road (dirt road) in a canyon alongside a narrow river.
If you like raw oysters, or fresh seafood, then stop by Tognazzini's Dockside Restaurant. Not only are you afforded a spectacular view of the giant rock, or morro, just off shore, but you may also see sea otters, jellyfish, seals and the occasional boat cat wander past. Morro Bay oysters are famous for being the sweetest raw oysters in the world. These 'Pacific Gold' oysters are sustainably raised and farmed right there in the bay where the waters flow in from the Pacific. Morro Bay oyster farm has been recognized and is recommended by the Monterrey Aquarium as a source for fresh oysters. The main reason these are so good is because they are grown in nets from ropes higher up in the water. These oysters aren't bottom feeders. It's been many years since I've had raw oysters, and these were the best I've ever eaten. I'm from Alabama, so I know a thing or two about oysters! If you love raw oysters on the half shell and happen to be driving on highway 1 pass Morro Bay, you will have to stop here for a bite! Don't worry, there's plenty of other seafood they serve fresh off the boat, as well as alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. On many afternoons, there is also live music.
Maybe birds are your passion, maybe not. Me, I like watching them do their collective thing - but prefer to do so in comfort, with a hot coffee, and after having slept in past 8am. Wherever you are on the scale of bird-lover, from 'meh' to giant-camera-on-tripod-toting, you'll love Morro Bay in the winter. Seabirds, shorebirds, falcons, hummingbirds, vultures and more (hundreds of species in all) are easy to spot within and near the town itself. So grab yourself a strong brew and take a quick and easy walk along the beach around Morro Rock, and see what you see. Morro Rock itself hosts nesting Peregrine Falcons, which you may be lucky enough to see - or you can just watch the people watching the falcons. Either way, you'll love your visit.
If you happen to be cruising up the California coast via US 1, I highly recommend a detour through the sweet little town of Morro Bay. Aside from the great fresh seafood served at eery turn, there is plenty of hiking, paddle boarding, kayaking, surfing and sailing to be had right at your fingertips. Locals are friendly and laid back and you can tell this is a place where everyone likes to get out and play. Also plenty of local wineries as well!! Located just south of Big Sur, about 3.5 hours north of LA and 4 hours south of San Francisco.
Portola Point hike is only about two miles long and located just off hwy 1. This short hike gives a 320 ft elevation gain and great views of the Morro Bay area. A morro is the heart of an ancient volcano, Morro Bay in California is named for the huge morro rock located right off the coast. However, there are several more (depending on your count) of these morros in the area. If you're driving through on hwy 1, this is a great place to stop, get out of the car and stretch your legs to get a fantastic birds-eye view of the area.
After eating several very traditional tacos, I was particularly excited for Ruddell’s Smokehouse. They make their own smoked products, including smoked albacore, salmon and seasonal oysters, which are also available pre-packaged to purchase. This small storefront right along the water at Cayucos Beach was the perfect location for a bite before continuing on the taco journey. The smoked albacore and smoked salmon tacos were topped with a salad with apple and celery, with the option to top it all off with locally made Cayucos Beach Hot Sauce. The hot sauce was slightly sweet, complementing the whole salad, fish, and flour tortilla combination. I really enjoyed the fluffy flour tortilla—I recall calling it “refreshing” after all of the corn tortillas I’d eaten by then. The smoked albacore taco was the standout between the two but both were pretty tasty. Ruddell’s Smokehouse is not to be missed—for $5.50 you get a unique taco and a great view of the beach. The smoked options change seasonally and some tacos depend on availability so be sure to try all that you can when you stop by. Personally I’ll make the trip back down to try the smoked oyster tacos and take home some smoked goods. 101 D Street, Cayucos, CA, 93430. (805) 995-5028
Los Osos is a tiny town right next to Morro Bay on California's central coast. If you're passing by, Good Tides is a great place to stop for a bite of fresh, local and organic food. She also has coffee and pastries. Good Tides is run from the back of a house- the owner cooks everything to order while you wait on the patio. We've been coming here for a couple years and there's still acoustic guitar melodies playing on the radio. The menu changes regularly, but everything I've had has been good!
Local artists host painting classes in the hotel’s Art Bar. A complimentary cocktail helps stimulate creativity. From $199. Photo courtesy of the Granada Hotel & Bistro. This appeared in the October 2014 issue.
My fearless taco-eating companion and I finally made it to San Louis Obispo, and the fatigue was starting to plague us. While we yearned for nourishment in the form of anything that was not a taco, we were devoted to this mission, and ordered several tacos pollo asado. The restaurant itself was spacious, with plenty of seating inside. There were a few tables outside that I imagine are packed with patrons on a warm afternoon. Grab a seat outside and enjoy your tacos with in the warm breeze. The seasoned chicken was topped with a delicious sauce, which was the most memorable part about the taco. It had a smoky flavor to it, making it stand out from the other Baja-style tacos consumed thus far. In addition to the guacamole, which was more of an avocado salsa, salsa verde, cilantro, cheese, and onions, the flavors were good—typical of your traditional Mexican fare. The menu is vast, and a part of me wanted to have a burrito, which is what everyone else in the restaurant seemed to be enjoying, but we were on a strict taco-only diet. And with that, we continued on. 1273 Laurel Lane, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401, (805) 784-0539
Driving thru the wine fields of central California wasn’t technically on ‘the list’ of things to see or do while we were out exploring, but wow was it pretty awesome! If I remember right this was right outside Paso Pobles, and the best part about driving out there is the sweeping landscapes. We were heading up California State Route 46, a great two lane highway that connects the Cabrillo Highway (Pacific Coast Highway) and CSR41, which we followed towards Fresno. The coolest thing I found about these two roads was the stark differences you can experience in just a short period of driving. From the 1800ft high mountains of the Santa Lucia Coastal Mountain Range and the Sierra Madre Mountains, down in to the San Juaquin valley, and finally entering the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, where you can see the 4000+ft peaks in the distance. As you meander down the hillsides into what’s known as the “Templeton Gap”, vineyards begin popping up on either side of the road. Later in the afternoon the sun began to sink towards the horizon, and produced some great light on the rolling hills of grapes, when I just had to pull over and get some up close and personal shots of the Heart Hill Vineyard, part of Niner Wine Estates.
We reserved a quiet tucked-away table for 2 at Koberl at Blue for New Years - an early seating because, well, we're parents and all that. We like to ring in the New Year in bed. (watching movies on the laptop, of course) I couldn't resist a great glass of wine from the SLO area and the cheese plate - which turned out to be one of the best I've had (and locally famous, it seems). Seriously excellent, down to the very last vein. Robbie had something else equally delicious and meat-involving, making the mistake of saving less room for dessert than I had (ha! I won!). I spared him a few bites of my chocolate mousse anyway, because I love him, and because it puts me firmly in the good books before the new year has even started. If you find yourself in SLO for an evening, I strongly recommend this place for dinner. Book ahead!
We never intended to spend our afternoon walking the length of Cayucos State Beach (then Morro Strand State Beach), picking our way over rocks and around tidals washes, chasing shorebirds and hunting for tiny unbroken shells. But there we were in beachy-cute Cayucos, the keys to *our* car in the back of my parents' car, already up the highway, and the only way to get back to our rented house 5 miles away? We had to walk there. To be honest, we weren't even miserable when we realised our mistake. The day was perfect for walking - we had fresh-baked cookies in our backpacks and just enough sunshine for happiness. Our 5 year old ran ahead of us bit-by-bit up the beach, practicing her letters in the sand one at a time, until that very last mile when her weariness overcame her enthusiasm. (And then, we read street signs). That day, we walked from seaside town into seaside suburbia, always toward the giant rock, toward the giant towers at Morro Bay, and not once did we wish to be doing anything different. Which is why, now and then, it might be good to accidentally (intentionally) lock yourself out of somewhere.
I took the long way home from Palm Springs yesterday. The winter holidays in California are strange to those used to snow and ice. But the over-the-top Madonna Inn, a pink palace of kitsch, goes all out this time of year. Step inside and you expect to see Bing Crosby singing "White Christmas."
We drive through this part of the Central Coast of California quite a bit and we always stop in at Big Sky Cafe for a meal. Whether it's breakfast, lunch or dinner- the food is excellent and fairly priced. Most of their foods come from local farmers and they serve a great deal of organics. Even their wine list holds local wineries. I've had several items from the menu and although they've all been good, I keep going back to my favorite breakfast dish- eggs benedict- which they make with crab, vegetarian or with ham. The atmosphere is spacious, yet cozy. The tables and chairs are made from wood and the ceiling is very high with stars painted on it. The owners support local artists by allowing them to sell their artwork through the cafe. Each time we go, there is a different artist featured on the walls. The blog on their website is interesting- there you can listen to dozens of podcasts about the local and fresh farm to table movement in Central California. Big Sky Cafe is located downtown, so after your meal, you can take a stroll around the dozens of shops in downtown San Louis Obispo - http://www.sanluisobispovacations.com/things-to-do/shopping/ Tip: general eating rush hours get busy and there can be long waits. If you want to go during typical breakfast, lunch or dinner times, I recommend you get a reservation or go just before/after the peak hours. This is also a kid friendly restaurant, they give out crayons and activity sheets for the little ones to color.
You want some fabulous chocolate on the central coast of California- then head to Mama Ganache in San Louis Obispo for some of the most amazing chocolate you will ever taste. Actually, order the Aztec chocolate shake and just try to keep from demanding more, just try it! This place is amazing! You may not think much of this tiny shop, but they bring in several thousand pounds of chocolate a month. Mostly to Google and other large U.S. companies who order online. But here's where you can go inside the store and experience the magic for yourself!
This Ranch Preserve has several miles of trails that run along the edge of the coastline and up sloping hills into pine forests. I've hiked here several times with my husband and we've seen squirrels, red-tail hawks, kites, egrets, deer, whales, and dolphins. There are burrowing owls, but we haven't seen those yet! This is a beautiful place to stop and spend a couple hours walking out in the fresh ocean air.
My husband and I really enjoy food tours when we visit new places. A food tour is a great way to experience some of the flavors of the area, as well as learn about local history. The San Luis Obispo Central Coast Food Tour certainly did not disappoint! How can a tour that starts at an artisan chocolate shop go wrong? Our guide was also very knowledgeable of the pioneer history of the region. We not only stopped at several restaurants for samples, but also got a short tour through the mission, where our guide had been a docent for a time. If you're in San Luis Obispo for a few days, check out the food tour as a way to experience the city.
Harmony Headlands Trail is a trail that used to be an old ranch road that starts at the small parking lot and goes out to the coast. The hike itself isn't very interesting, as you are walking through former ranch land amongst rolling hills covered in thistles and grasses. But the spectacular views of the coastline are well worth the 2 mile hike. We sat on a bench and watched whales as they were heading south to mate. And saw kites, hawks, phoebes, scrub jays and egrets along the trail. I was unable to capture the beautiful cliffs to the south of the trail as the sun was shining directly into the camera, so this image is north of the trail. You can also stop in the tiny town of Harmony itself, population 18, and check out the skilled potters and glassblowers there at work, as well as purchase some of their products. The Harmony winery has a great pinot grigio. Tip: Go early as possible, the lot is full by 10am and you may have to park across the street. Plus, if you want to feel more secluded, there are less people earlier in the day.
Snooty wine types need not go to Opolo!!! If you are ready to let your hair down for a fun wine tasting experience head over to Opolo. With over 25 different wines produced, everyone in your party is bound to enjoy something. Opolo is a nod to the owner Rick Quinn's Yugoslavian heritage, and is actually the name of a blended rose-style wine found on the Dalmatian Coast. On Saturdays or Sundays head over around lunch time for delicious gourmet pizzas from their wood burning oven, or for Opolo's signature Cevapcici sandwiches, all paired with excellent Opolo wines. Hint - check out Opolo.com to see of they are holding one of their ever-popluar parties during your visit....buy tickets ahead of time and enjoy!!
We discovered Novo one evening as we were strolling about San Louis Obispo. Outside by the back patio is the most relaxing place to sit and enjoy the meal. There is a giant old oak tree that shades almost the entire patio and the musical babbling of the small river gives a romantic setting. At the time we didn't realize it, but were pleased to learn Novo is owned by the same couple who runs Robin's in the nearby town of Cambria, which happens to be our favorite place to eat there. The food is farm fresh and the menu is healthy. San Louis Obispo is a charming little town with plenty of shopping. Or, you can stroll across the bridge next to the patio at Novo to check out the Mission San Louis Obispo de Tolosa that houses a great museum of the history of the region. In front of the mission is an interesting fountain depicting a family of bears fishing and a small park. Tip: For dinner, I suggest you make reservations if you want to sit outside. Lunch isn't usually too crowded for walk in patio seating.
If you are a fan of Rhone style varietals be sure to check out L'Aventure. The wines they produce are big, bold and complicated...a 180 from most wines produced in the region. This winery is off the beaten path when it come to Paso wineries, however well worth the journey. The tasting room is fairly small...nothing over the top. Would suggest going during the week and making an appointment. Two of our favorite wines from L'Aventure are their Estate Rose and Optimus (uniquely named after the winemakers favorite wineries in Napa: Opus One and Dominus)
Tucked in the West Paso Robles mountainside you will find the Kiamie Wine Cellar tasting room and vineyard. Kiamie is known for some truly distinctive blends. Their White Kuvée happens to be one of my favorites whites. My suggestion would be to leave yourself some time to enjoy the laid back atmosphere of the tasting room. The backyard setting is one of my favorites in the region, providing the opportunity enjoy to stand up to the bar or relax outside. General Manager / Co-Owner Greg Johnson typically runs the show at the tasting room. If you plan on visiting please be sure to tell Greg that I sent you and he will take great care of you and your guests.
Cambria is worth a brief stop when driving between San Francisco and L.A. on the Route 1 Pacific Highway. It's best known for its proximity to Hearst Castle and the sun bathing seals at Piedras Blancas, but the town itself has a cute main street dotted with some local shops and cafes. Despite Cambria's quaintness, I was of course drawn most to the colorful peeling walls and handmade robot sign of an abandoned video store.
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