See, Smell, Snarf: Morro Bay, California

Explore, breathe fresh seaside air and dine in one of the most charming villages along the Central Coast.

An evening view from Morro Bay over the water. 

The sound of seagulls and the chortle of sea lions will ring in your ears long after you’ve left Morro Bay, California — it’s the gift that keeps on giving. This little fishing village by the sea, home to the forgetful electric-blue tang fish from the movie Finding Nemo, is so picturesque and Instagram-worthy that a vacation here will usurp all others for a long time to come.

Kindness Abounds

Mollie Anderson, the co-owner and operator (along with her brothers, Rodger and Jeff) of Anderson Inn, located on the Embarcadero, was so thoughtful and friendly at check-in that I felt compelled to hug her. Mollie’s parents, Bud and Rita Anderson, operated The Galley Restaurant and Bayshore Fish Market way back during Morro Bay’s incorporation. Since 2005, however, the waterfront site has been re-invented to become the lovely and contemporary Anderson Inn. Bud, born in 1925, was there at check-in too and he had a lot to say about my eight-year-old son’s Chicago Bulls jersey.

“You had a player on that team that was pretty good,” Bud jested, referencing Michael Jordan.

A stay at the Anderson Inn guarantees that you’ll experience some of that approachable small town charm that Morro Bay is known for.

Wendy Altschuler

Opt Outside

Morro Bay, with its busy harbor and active commercial fishing fleet, draws amazing sea life that enriches vacationing experiences. Here you can kayak and see harbor seals and sea otters up close; you can watch (and hear!) the sea lions bobbing their heads out of the water; and you can even go on a whale watching tour. Check out Sub Sea Tours and Central Coast Outdoors for unique guided sea adventures.

Rent surrey bikes from Farmer’s Kites & Surreys and pedal to Morro Rock (a 581-foot volcanic plug) or visit Morro Strand State Beach. Pop into Crills Saltwater Taffy along the way.

Another fun outdoor adventure is hiking at Morro Bay State Park. Hike up Black Hill, the second to last hill in a string of volcanic plugs called the Nine Sisters. Here, if your peepers are wide open, you’ll find a rope swing in the middle of the forest. This is a stunning hike that rewards you with panoramic views at the top and lush tree-canopies on the way down.

Wendy Altschuler

Fill Your Belly

It’s no surprise that Morro Bay has excellent seafood as well as all around dining options. Many of the outdoor restaurants are pooch and family-friendly.

For lunch, venture beyond the Embarcadero to Market Street, where you’ll find Dorn’s Original Breakers Café, a lovely spot with great alfresco seating overlooking Morro Bay. (Fun fact: Bud Anderson was hired to host here back in the day.)

For casual fare, pop into Blue Sky Bistro, which incorporates locally sourced fish and vegetables into their menu; or check out La Parisienne for house-made croissants, quiches, and sandwiches.

For the best harbor views and for sunset watching, check out The Galley Seafood Grill & Bar. Here you’ll find pan-seared Dungeness crab cakes, ceviche, blackened pacific rockfish, surf and turf, and fish and chips. The wine list here is also top-notch.

Wendy Altschuler

For your final meal on vacation, I suggest Tognazzini’s Dockside. Owner and commercial fisherman Mark Tognazzini, owns three fresh seafood restaurants on the Embarcadero: an indoor eatery, the local favorite for decades; a fresh fish market and outdoor restaurant located right on the bay; and the recently opened Dockside 3 smoke house. Mark’s commercial fishing operation is located right next to the restaurants, which provides an exciting opportunity to see the fishing action.


Morro Bay is one of those indelible destinations that you’ll want to return to again and again. The sights, sounds and smells are unique to this little village and the bird and sea life is unrivalled. Go see for yourself!