Morro Bay is a large estuary about halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The bay is created by a 5-mile-long sand spit that ends at a narrow, breakwater-protected inlet just yards from the iconic and ever-present monolith of Morro Rock. Morro Bay is at the center of a wide crescent-shaped cove that stretches from the Harmony Headlands on the north to Montana de Oro State Park on the south, creating a mild sub-climate that adds to its many charms. Morro Bay is wonderful to explore and offers enough territory for an all-day adventure or just a quick paddle.
There is plenty of free parking along the Embarcadero and a great put-in spot at Coleman Park just after the turn-off to the rock. The dockside area just south of here is filled with restaurants and shops, including at least three kayak and stand-up paddleboard rental spots that are quite reasonable.
From the waterfront area there are several different directions to travel. Heading north along the shore will access Morro Rock and the tiny beach at its base. Paddlers can also continue to paddle outside the harbor entrance and explore the ocean-facing side of the sand-spit, though the water conditions beyond the breakwaters can be quite rough, so caution is advised (and rental kayaks are generally not allowed outside the bay). From the rock, it is easy to cross the mouth of the bay to reach the tip of the sand spit and travel south along its shore to the far end of the bay. Landing is possible anywhere on the sandy shore of the spit, but access to the tall dunes of the interior is restricted in places because of the nesting plovers.
Heading south along the shore from the harbor leads past waterfront homes and dozens of moored boats. There are several spots where sea otters and sea lions congregate and can be observed fairly closely. This is a great area to explore all the way down to the blue heron nesting reserve and the Natural History Museum in Morro Bay State Park and beyond into the Morro Bay State Marine Reserve.