by Meade Fischer
Would someone spend $20,000 on quilting supplies in a town more noted for fishing and scenery? They would in Morro Bay, a town that's more than the photogenic rock and great seafood. There's much more than meets the eye in this scenic coastal town of just over 10,000. The quilting “gurus” at The Cotton Ball draw people from all over the west for their classes, and the town, according to photographer Garry Johnson, is crawling with quilters, including his wife.
Johnson is one of the outstanding artists featured at Suite 1 on the Embarcadero, a road filled with art, food and gift shops. Other artists, such as photographer Bill Shewchuk, make Suite 1 a must stop on any stroll along the waterfront.
Spend the night in the newly remodeled Inn at Morro Bay, at the entrance to Morro Bay State Park, on the water and across from a golf course, and you can walk to the Museum of Natural History and to Central Coast Outdoors for a guided kayak trip. From a kayak, with Alpen 8x42 binoculars, the feeding baby birds in the rookery seem close enough to touch. Then, in five minutes you can be on the Embarcadero for seafood and some of the fine San Luis Obispo County wines, or to visit the aquarium.
You can also make a ten minute drive to neighboring Los Osos, which means “the bears,” which are long gone, where you can take a mile walk on a boardwalk in the miniature Elfin Forest or continue to Montana de Oro State park with little cove beaches and stunning short hikes, such as to the top of Valencia Peak. While there you can horseback ride with J and J Rides, run by a family that hauled their 65 horses by horse trailer down from Alaska to relocate at the beach.
The local book store, Coalesce, also doubles as a wedding chapel, and it doesn't get much more charming than that. Morro Bay also has world class fishing, both off sport fishing boats and off the jetty at the rock. I've been told you can catch your quota in a morning.
There's also great surfing next to the rock and across the harbor opening, miles of biking around the bay or along Highway One a few miles north, tide pooling near Cayucos, seven miles north, plus visiting the famous Hearst Castle less than a half hour north.
When inland towns like Atascadero and Paso Robles bake in the summer sun, Morro Bay is cool and breezy, perfect weather for walking down Main Street to Morro Bay Blvd to the docks. While you can walk the entire town in an afternoon, there's enough to do in the area to keep someone happily exploring for days. And, naturally, everyone photographs the rock, but each shot is different, so bring your camera and get creative.