By Michelle Sathe
Signal Staff Writer
For many years, the Central Coast has been my go-to for a quick getaway. During trips to Cambria and San Simeon, I’d drive by Morro Bay, with its iconic rock poking out of the sea, and wonder what it was like to spend time there. This October, I decided to find out.
While a majority of Morro Bay motels are dog-friendly, I wanted a house with a yard for me and my pooches, Melvin and Louie. I searched AirBNB and found the “Quintessentially Quaint Seaside Cottage.” It looked fabulous, with a huge fenced yard and a central location for about $160 a night with tax and fees.
I booked it and was delighted to find the festive little yellow and aqua cottage even more impressive in person. It was sparkling clean, with all the amenities one could hope for — full kitchen, washer and dryer, a beautiful tile and glass shower and gorgeous hardwood floors. And the yard was simply magical — lush, private, with two patios for lounging. The dogs had a blast exploring it.
On our first night, we headed to Embarcadero Street, which is home to the waterfront area, a hub of shops, restaurants, galleries and taffy shops. After Melvin and Louie had a chance to sniff the entirety of the street, we stopped at one of the many benches near the bay, taking in the magnificent scene before us.
The sun was setting, casting the sky in shades of pink, gold and orange. Sea lions honked in the distance as the water gently shimmered around Morro Rock. I smiled and exhaled. This was exactly what my spirit needed.
In the morning, the dogs and I took a long stroll on the boardwalk just past the Morro Bay Power Company, which has plenty of parking and a very flat, easy path. We were just one of the many people and pooch combos enjoying the view, which included rafts of sea otters bobbing on the surface of the sunlit water. I spotted a sea otter mama grooming her baby, an impossibly endearing scene that made me tear up.
Past the boardwalk, there’s a paved road that leads to a rock-like fortress that braces against crashing waves (also known as breakwater). Beneath the rocks is a stretch of unspoiled beach with mild waves rolling in, a popular spot for letting dogs off leash to play fetch. This day, we had it all to ourselves. Louie, ever the nervous Nellie from the water, kept his distance while Melvin happily trotted along the edge.
Later in the afternoon, we headed towards Coleman Park, taking a right along the boardwalk towards an area recommended to me by a kindly resident. Just before the bridge, we turned left and trudged through the sand towards a mini-estuary inhabited by hundreds of birds: huge pelicans, egrets perched on impossibly skinny legs, ubiquitous seagulls, and needle-nosed sandpipers.
Louie, who I suspect has some hound in him, was in his element, growing wide-eyed as he watched the birds fly overhead and scurry across the pond. At 4 years old, he is a playful guy, and if I didn’t think he would chase the birds to oblivion and never return, I might have let him off leash.
Melvin, who’s 13, was in a decidedly different mood. He plopped down in the sand, his eyes closed to the sun. Taking his cue, I sat and marveled at the incredible landscape before me. It reminded me of the show “Wild Kingdom” when I was a kid, and here I was, seeing it in person. Those 15 minutes were a balm for my soul.
Back at the house, Louie pranced in the garden while I relaxed in one of the Adirondack chairs with a magazine. But where was Melvin? I went inside to investigate and there he was, eyes closed, snoring loudly on the futon. Melvin didn’t wake, even when I nudged him.
“Oh no,” I said to Louie. “I think we broke Melvin.”
Melvin finally opened an eye as if to acknowledge he was merely resting, which seemed like a great idea. Louie and I got onto the futon alongside him. Soon enough, we were all snoozing.
One of the many joys of renting a house when you have dogs on a trip, versus staying in a hotel room, is that you can leave them behind for a few hours each day to explore on your own.
The town of Morro Bay is full of treasures, from funky, independent thrift stores like Foxy’s (where I scored a silk-lined black blazer for 75 cents) and the more upscale Threads (which yielded a cashmere cardigan for just $5) to yoga studios and old-school record shops.
For an educational spin, the Morro Bay Museum of Natural History (open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., $3 entry fee; those age 16 and under are free) highlights the town’s back story via fun interactive exhibits and 1980’s style videos in a small auditorium (the sea otter story is a bit amateurish, but still awesome, because… sea otters). It also boasts one of the best views you can get of Morro Rock, which, it turns out, is an ancient volcanic mound (one of the many fascinating things I learned).
Of course, eating well always takes high priority when I travel and Morro Bay does not disappoint.
For breakfast, there are two fabulous, completely legit bakeries to choose from: La Parisienne, which offers a multitude of egg sandwiches on golden, flakey croissants for under $6 (the avocado, brie, and tomato was a standout) and Buttercup, where you can indulge in a morning bun, an irresistible hybrid of churro and croissant, for just $3.50.
Later in the day, Brickhouse BBQ in downtown is a solid choice, with tasty sandwiches and plates on the menu: the smoky, tender tri tip and freshly made, Cajun spiced potato salad ($8 for the combo) really hit the spot.
The Flavor Factory, located in a nondescript strip mall, puts a gourmet spin on sandwiches, salads, and soups. The salmon sandwich with pesto aioli ($13) was stuffed with perfectly grilled, succulent seafood and deliciously paired with a savory macaroni salad dotted with red onion and celery.
For seafood with a view, there are many options along Embarcadero Street, including Blue Sky Bistro. Perched on Blue Sky Bistro’s patio, watching the sunset on the bay, diving into my $9.95 happy hour special of garlic bread and a pound of steamers swimming in a delectable butter, white wine, and garlic sauce, I was … wait for it … as happy as a clam.
For more information on Morro Bay travel, visit www.morrobay.org.