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Published On: 06/24/2017
by Brian Eagen

Morro Bay, California
2-Day Getaway

I love my job.

I get to spend weeks at a time exploring the natural wonders of our world and sharing those experiences with youth of all ages. I’ve been working as an outdoor education instructor for around 10 years now and have found exciting moments within every course I’ve led. That being said, sometimes it really is just a job that gets tiring like any other job.

I just finished up working for 8 weeks straight - that’s means being in the field 24/7 (nearly), no weekends off, for 2 months. So, to celebrate the conclusion of another successful season and a change in employment (I’ll be starting as the director of the outdoor program at an independent school in July), Sarah and I decided to take a few days off and head to California’s central coast for an mini overnight trip.

Morro Bay 2-Day Getaway pano

Our goals for this trip were simple:

Here’s what we ended up doing.

Day 1

Morro Bay is a little coastal town that I am very fond of and we wanted to enjoy some of our favorite spots and perhaps try a few new things along the way. We headed out from Burbank in the morning and cruised up the 101 to start our trip in the tiny town of Cayucos.


Since it was lunch time when we arrived, the first stop had to be Ruddell’s Smokehouse for some of their amazing fish tacos. Ruddell’s isn’t the most glamorous building, but it’s situated right across from the beach and has a few tables outside. The tacos are a little expensive ($6.50 each) but are well worth the hyped up price.

Ruddell's Smokehouse, Cayucos CA

Ruddell's Smokehouse isn't much to look at from the outside...

Smoked salmon fish taco from Ruddell's Smokehouse

... but the fish tacos are crazy good

During the drive the temperature plummeted 30 degrees as we approached the coast and tucked underneath the cooling marine layer of clouds. Despite the cool temps, plenty of families were out enjoying the beach and ocean.

Cayucos Pier

The Cayucos pier extending into the clouds

No visit to Cayucos is complete without a stop at the Brown Butter Cookie Company. As we walked in, a wave of sugary goodness swept over us. Sarah exclaimed, “HOLY CRAP THIS SMELLS SO GOOD” loud enough to pull the attention of both customers and employees as we entered.

Brown Butter Cookie Company building exterior

The Brown Butter Cookie Company building welcomes you in with open arms

Seconds after we entered, many of their eight varieties of signature cookies were stuffed into our mouths as free samples. We took some time to debate the options and ended up with packs of the original and almond flavors.

Brown Butter Cookie Company, Cayucos CA

Grab a 6-pack of the delicious cookies for $7.50

Then we jumped back in the car and drove the quick 8 minutes back to Morro Bay.

Morro Bay

A beach walk was next on our agenda, and there is no better place to do that than along Morro Rock Beach. Surfers cruised along the mellow waves as we walked for an hour on the beach. Sand dollars were everywhere - many of which were completely intact (we didn’t take any home - shells or surfers).

Morro Beach strand and rock

Morro Rock towering over the long strand of beach

Sarah with a sand dollar

Sarah found a bunch of completely intact sand dollars (a few that were still alive)

I’ve been using the story feature on Instagram recently - including this entire Morro Bay trip. Be sure to follow @outdoorblueprint to get glimpses of our upcoming adventure to Great Basin National Park. You can get another perspective by following my partner in crime -- @sarahjeagen

A group of sea otters is called a raft. At the base of Morro Rock is the entrance to the estuary, which is home to a raft of otters. Just a few yards off shore, these otters wrap bull kelp around their bodies as they sleep to keep them from drifting away --it’s adorable. Seeing these sea otters up close is one of my highlights of Morro Bay.

Sea Otter Raft

Sea otters sleeping wrapped in bull kelp

Weekday travel is one perk of non-traditional employment that I’m definitely going to miss. The crowds are much smaller and the prices of lodging (if you go that route) were almost sliced in half most places that we looked. If you have that sort of flexibility, make sure to take full advantage of it when you can!

We found a good deal for a one-night stay at the Masterpiece Hotel using the Hotel Tonight app.

There are a TON of lodging options in town, but I really liked our stay at Masterpiece Hotel. The rooms and hallways are lined with famous pieces of artwork. Each room included a directory that listed each artist and creation - I really appreciated that touch. Additionally, the hotel was only about a quarter-mile away from Embarcadero - the main street for restaurants and shops in Morro Bay.

I’d been wanting to try out Galley Seafood Grill and Bar for a while. Word on the street was that it had the best “naked fish” (fish cooked with optional sauces on the side) in town. It’s a good idea to get a reservation, even on a weekday, as this restaurant fills up quickly.

The restaurant is fairly small and offers superb views of the bay and rock. While sitting at our table, we were able to watch sea otters and harbor seals floating by. We started off with the warm bread and butter spread (yum), followed by a dungeness crab cake appetizer. We decided to split an entree and opted for the naked sea bass with mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus. They brought out our food already split onto two plates, each with generous servings.

The Galley Seafood Grill and Bar - Naked Fish

Sea bass with asparagus and mashed potatoes (half portion)

The Galley Seafood Grill and Bar

The Galley Seafood Grill and Bar overlooking the estuary

It was a delicious and filling meal - perfect for two - and we continued our evening by walking along the waterfront and listening to the sounds of the estuary at night.

While strolling along, we happened across a tired and grumpy harbor seal who was trying to go to sleep but was repeatedly disturbed by a sea otter who kept popping up nearby and loudly crunching on crab -- it was hilarious.

To wrap up the evening, we enjoyed a soak in the “roman baths” in the Masterpiece Hotel and sipped some local Sangiovese wine.

The Roman Baths at the Masterpiece Hotel

The Roman Baths (hot tub) at the Masterpiece Hotel in Morro Bay

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Day 2

Keeping with the previous day's themes, we started off with a stop at Top Dog Coffee Bar for a breakfast burrito and homemade chai latte.

Top Dog Outdoor Patio

The outdoor patio at Top Dog has nice little nooks for private seating

Top Dog burrito

A Top Dog burrito and homemade chai is the perfect way to start the day

Afterwards, we strolled along Embarcadero Road to the base of Morro Rock. I checked for our seal friend from the previous night, but he had already taken off for the day.

Morro Bay Morning

Watching the morning clouds burn off over the estuary

One reason I love Morro Bay is because it has the infrastructure for tourism while still feeling like a local seaside town.

While perusing the shops, we stumbled into the Gallery at Marina Square which has some really nice photography and artwork. Plus, there was a cute little nature center in the back of the building with cool 3D pictures and views overlooking the estuary.

Small nature center in Morro Bay

A small nature center tucked away in The Gallery at Marina Square

We had to get back home by late afternoon, so we packed everything up and headed south. I hadn't been to Avila Beach before, so we took a short side trip to check out the scene there. By Friday around noon it was jam-packed so we didn’t even end up stopping. Still, it has a beautiful sandy beach and is the outlet for San Luis Obispo Creek.

Panorama of Avila Beach

The beautiful bay extending from Avila Beach to Point San Luis

I’ve been wanting to eat at the Splash Cafe in Pismo Beach for a while, but I always seem to arrive during peak hours (or maybe it’s always busy!?!). So, since time was running short, we opted for Hoagies Sandwiches and Grill instead. Both of us got a bowl of clam chowder, which was decent. Pismo Beach has much more of a “spring break” vibe, which was definitely true for this restaurant.

So if you’re looking for an easy coastal getaway from the Los Angeles or Bay Area - complete with beach walking, fresh seafood, and cool coastal air - I’d highly recommend Morro Bay. Even more suggestions for the California central coast can be found in my guidebook to the Pacific Coast Highway.

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