Run Oregon loves running – that’s no surprise. But we also love exploring new places and finding new places to run, stay, eat, and experience. Matt wrote about his runcation planning to Morro Bay, California, as well as a recap of his race there, as well as a post on Running & Refueling but read on for a recap of his #MorroBaycation!
I had never heard of Morro Bay until May of this year. I was looking ahead to summer plans and knew that I wanted to find a fun place to travel with just me and my wife that 1) wouldn’t break the bank gettint there and 2) would be somewhere brand spanking new to explore. Fate must have hit when we connected with the wonderful fishing village of Morro Bay. At first glance, this 10,000+ person town may not have seemed like what we were looking for, nor did we have any previous knowledge about it, but I can tell you that after spending 3 days there, we are already looking to go back. Here’s a little snippet from our initial planning post:
My wife and I enjoy exploring new places together, and I especially love it when running and leisure can be combined into one memorable trip (she’s less excited about this). Our next mini-excursion will see us heading down to the Central California Coast to the little beach town of Morro Bay. Morro Bay is located right on the ocean near San Luis Obispo, and a good 3-4 hours from both San Francisco and Los Angeles. It is a fishing village with a ton of charm (named one of “The Best Little Beach Towns to Visit in Spring”), and has amenities that Oregon runners would enjoy. The city is steeped in local with fresh and local faire and has tons of opportunity to enjoy the outdoors – on land and sea.
Though Morro Bay has a local flavor to it, it seems to want to showcase their city as a destination for all outdoor enthusiasts. First and foremost, they have a wonderful boutique hotel experience, which takes waterfront travel to the next level. There are also great trails for running and so many activities tucked away that there seems to be something for anyone to enjoy. We can’t wait to reconnect a little with nature this summer.
You may not know it from looking at it, but it’s a serious outdoor hub, complete with a fun waterfront experience, and picture-perfect for travelers who seek food, wine and outdoor adventures found in nature. It’s located right along coastal Highway 1 in San Luis Obispo County just south of Big Sur, and pretty much smack dab in the middle between Los Angeles and San Francisco. It’s climate appears similar to the Oregon Coast (with cooler temperatures than inland and coastal clouds), though perhaps with more consistently fair temperatures. Thus, this allows for year-round activities in a quieter side of the state. Both me (a runner, explorer, and beer-drinker) and my wife (a non-runner, fine-food connoisseur, and wine-drinker) had a blast. There is something for everyone, even in a town of this size.
There are two major focal points of Morro Bay – the now-defunct smoke stacks that tower above the city, and the iconic and historic landmark Morro Rock, which greets everyone as they entered the town. I think I took no less than 1000 pictures of this rock alone (as you have seen, and will continue to see). But even though these things get the visual attention, there is a lot more to discover, learn, and experience about this town and we are blessed to have been able to visit.
For a small town, Morro Bay has quite a few places to stay – from chain hotels (Comfort Inn, Best Western) to vacation rentals, and everything in between. While there are benefits to all of them, we think that checking out one of the 10 unique waterfront properties is a perfect basecamp for #MorroBaycation. Each waterfront property has its own special niche and theme, much like the unique identity of this bay and beach town (some are beach-themed, others are more romantic and upscale, and there’s even a classic motel theme with a local modern art inclusion. We checked out a sweet spot at the newly redesigned and renovated 456 Embarcadero Inn & Suites. This family-owned boutique hotel has a TON going for it and we absolutely loved our time there. It’s a little unassuming from the outside, but inside the rooms are clean, comfortable, and offer almost everything you would need.
We stayed in a Superior King room, which had a fireplace, small patio, as well as small fridge and coffee maker. There were also yoga mats for use as well, which was a nice touch for the active traveler. The room was surprisingly large with plenty of space to do yoga, stretch, or just get as unorganized as possible (ha!). Some rooms are also pet-friendly, so a little more space may be ideal if you are travelling with your fur baby.
Even though one day was warm, we still loved spending time out on the patio, overlooking the Embarcadero with Morro Rock in the future, and diving into some bottles of wine from nearby Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo.
There was a continental breakfast each morning from 7-10am which offered some standard faire – cereals, oatmeal, yogurt, fruit, waffles, breads, coffee, etc. It wasn’t an enormous spread, but plenty enough to start fueling the day. They also had a hot tub open from 3-9pm.
To be honest, my wife and I felt that 456 Embarcadero was an ideal location. While it was situated on the main coastal street, it was the southernmost property which kept the louder foot and car traffic to a minimum, while still being close enough to everything you need. It is still easy to walk to Morro Rock (an easy 1.2 mile walk that I did prior to the Rock to Pier race), beaches, parks, shops, restaurants and along the bay to discover beauty and nature. Also, with only 29 guestrooms and 4 luxury suites, it took little time and energy to get to and from your room and wherever you needed to be. Check-in was a breeze and staff were so friendly and helpful. Parking was simple and everything was quiet on site – allowing for a perfect opportunity to relax.
In fact, pleasure, serenity, and relaxation are great words to describe 456 Embarcadero Inn & Suites. It’s a tranquil spot that we would absolutely return to without a second thought upon our next trip!
456 Embarcadero Inn & Suites Details:
Address: 456 Embarcadero, Morro Bay, CA 93442
As I have said, Morro Bay is a PNW’ers dream. But it’s not just the running and hiking trails, locally-sourced food, and local flaire, it’s also the activities that surround you as you make your #outdoorgoals. There are a variety of cruises, fishing, and boating options, but we recommend Central Coast Outdoors and their kayaking excursions around the Morro Bay Estuary (they also have hiking and biking tours).
We met at the Kayak launch area of Morro Bay State Park, got some beginning lessons with kayaking, and were shortly off into the water. This was more than just a random 3-hour jaunt around the waters, as it included lessons and information that really helped the group of 8 of us learn more about the area. The Morro Bay Estuary Natural Preserve and its 800-acre wetland are home more than 250 species of land, sea, and shore birds, both migratory and resident and dozens of endangered species. We saw numerous sea animals, like sea otters and sea lions in their natural habitat.
Additionally, we learned about the great blue herons and the great and snowy egrets, and got to check out their roost at the Heron and Cormorant Rookery located near the entrance of the Museum of Natural History. We got to see them fly in, identified the individual bird calls, and ultimately became smarter because of it. We also explored some rocky areas and saw both vultures and crabs doing their thing.
It was also a great opportunity to be able to head over to the sand dunes, de-kayak, and walk around. There were some great views along the sandy bluffs, as well as on the ocean shore (so many sand dollars!).
This was absolutely a fun-filled morning of paddling through the waters of Morro Bay and into the “back bay” to see the wonders of this extraordinary natural estuary.
As you can probably gauge from the above words, I had an absolute blast in Morro Bay. It was sort of done on a whim and, again, it was to a place i knew literally zero about before jetsetting down there. Sometimes those are the best trips. I mean, we probably all have a spot in Oregon that we are familiar with and love to visit – be it Sunriver/Bend, the Gorge, or some fun spot on the Oregon Coast. BUT, while Oregon has a ton to offer, it’s still fun to explore new places as well. And we couldn’t be more glad we did.
It’s also not really an arm and leg to get there. San Luis Obispo has a small airport, but we found a cheap flight to San Jose and rented a car for the 3+ hour drive in. We ended up stopping in Paso Robles on the way in for breweries, and the way out for wineries. But there are other ways to make the most of your trip, like heading through Carmel and Big Sur on Highway 1. You could also find cheap flights to LAX and drive up through Santa Barbara as well. Exploring is fun and those hours will fly by with the scenery outside your windows.
The city of Morro Bay is super welcoming, is definitely geared towards the outdoor adventurer. It’s almost like a slice of Oregon Coast, but in California. So head here and start making your next runcation a #morrobaycation!
Many thanks to the city of Morro Bay, 456 Embarcadero, Central Coast Outdoors, and all these restaurants for allowing us to check out them out! Please read our transparency page for info on how we do our reviews.