San Luis Obispo Parks Department (SLO County Golf) has a trio of fun golf courses on California’s central coast – Chalk Mountain, Dairy Creek and the crown jewel, Morro Bay Golf Course. This seaside gem delivers panoramic views of the iconic Morro Rock and the commercial fishing village of Morro Bay. Often called the poor man’s Pebble Beach, which is a big stretch, it is one of the best deals in the nation with green fees starting at a very low $15! Perched on a hilltop, the parkland style layout cascades around the hillside with greens that defy gravity. It is one of the most popular plays on the coast.
The privately-owned grill managed by George Rumpza offers golfers and locals a bird’s eye view of the back nine and state park along the inner bay and harbor. Before the round, split an Abbey Scramble (named after the cook) as it is huge and tasty. After the round, Morro Bay logoed bottles of wine with souvenir glasses are offered priced as effectively as the rounds. Produced by Broken Earth Winery, we can vouch for the red.
Our seaside cottage at the Morro Bay Inn was among the sweetest of oceanfront retreats. Lounge chairs on the private deck are front row seats to a natural aquarium. You never know who might pop up, a seal nursing her pups or frolicking sea otters. Morro Rock looms mystically in the distance while the tree branches above might fill with cormorants camping overnight. Pelicans preen themselves, perched on ships docked in the bay.
An eco-tour of Morro Bay National Estuary with Central Coast Outdoors provides an even more intimate and educational experience kayaking across and hiking the dunes on the western shore. We paddled in the eerie morning fog for a bit, watching for seals peering out of the water and identifying flocks of birds flying over and wading on shore. Neal Maloney owns the Morro Bay Oyster Farm and arranges personal stops in the middle of the bay. He explains the operation, life cycle and eco impact of oysters. On the floating barge workers sort, bag, store and deliver same day harvests to local restaurants. Testing for bacteria is constant daily so when Neal offered fresh oysters, we were all in. He took a shucking knife out of one pocket and pulled a bottle of hot sauce from the other. What a treat!
After the fun combo of surf and turf exercise and oyster appetizers, we lunched at Bayside Café, a few yards from the kayak dock. Dawn has owned this walk-up restaurant for seven years. The municipality said it had to go out to bid but the community rallied with, “We can’t let her go.” The menu specials include Mexican shrimp cocktail and catch of the day. The petrale sole was prepped just right. Dawn was on a trip to Africa and allows no one else to make pie crust, so she made plenty ahead of her trip. Given that fact, you must at least share a slice and won’t be disappointed.
Downtown Morro Bay completes the destination’s draw. Shopping and dining are always fun in a quaint fishing village. On Embarcadero Street, the Shell Shop is all things sea or shell from around the world. The Garden Gallery is a stop for yard art or landscape brainstorming and purchases of plants, pottery and accessories. Junque Love carries creatively repurposed vintage items that may call your name or make you go “hmm”. The Estuary Nature Center educates about habitats and wildlife protection. The “Common Birds of the Morro Bay Estuary” brochure helped us name our feathered visitors from our cottage deck.
Chateau Margene is a wine tasting room where James, a 5th generation Californian, defines wine as not a beverage but a lifestyle. Mike Mooney, the owner, is 7th generation, making his boys the 8th. His wife Margene is the winemaker. It’s a recommended stop for the history and tasting lessons. Premium seaside restaurants offer fresh food and the entertaining bay harbor views. Lunch at Dorn’s Original Breakers Café has an extensive menu beyond their fresh local seafood. Dinner at The Galley Seafood Grill & Bar includes a sunset view, as does Windows on the Water with standing room only when they feature Neal’s oysters for $1 at the bar. Fresh abalone is delivered in its own souvenir shell.
Morro Bay should be a must stay and play on any golfer or traveler’s list.