Morro Bay

Midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco is one of California’s richest coastal ecosystems.   The mudflats, lagoon, coastal scrublands and salt marshes of Morro Bay are magnets for wildlife and provide habitat for many species, including  two endangered ones – the Morro Bay kangaroo rat and  Morro Bay banded dune snail.  The bay is also home to California sea otters.  In the afternoon, they dive for sea stars and clams in the shadows of Morro Rock.  And when they’ve had their fill, they tie themselves in kelp and nap in the sheltered waters.

California Sea Otter floating in kelp bed. (c) Steven Holt/

A natural history museum specializing in the estuary’s ecology is located in Morro Bay State Park.  Other wildlife viewing areas include a heron rookery, Montana del Oro State Park, the Elfin Forest at Los Osos and the Audubon Sweet Springs Preserve,  a refuge for Monarch butterflies in the winter.

California Sea Otter in Bull Kelp. (c) Steven Holt/


Preening California Sea Otter
(c) Steven Holt/

For birders, the best times to visit Morro Bay are during the fall and spring shorebird and waterfowl migrations.   But the bay is also an important wintering area for Brandt and other waterfowl, and Morro Bay also has its own Winter Birding Festival – complete with field trips. 


Morro Bay State Park has campsites, a marina, a public golf course and wireless internet access.  More than two dozen bed and breakfast inns are also within close proximity to the bay, and there are numerous chain and individually owned motels.


Visit the Morro Coast Audubon Society for information on  group birding hikes and other wildlife viewing opportunities. Morro Coast Audubon Society.


Take Highway 1 north in San Luis Obispo.  Exit at Baywood Park and turn left.  Travel approximately one mile to the entrance of  Morro Bay State Park.

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