Morro Bay is a little seaside town on the California Central Coast and is almost exactly midway between LA and San Francisco. It is directly west of San Luis Obispo and is where Highway 1 meets the Pacific Ocean heading north. Highway 1 is a beautiful drive from Morro Bay as it twists and turns along the coastline to Monterey. The trip takes more than twice as long on Hwy. 1 as does Hwy. 101 –but it’s worth it if you’re not in a hurry. The best time is in the fall when it’s not too foggy.
My family (mostly my mom’s side) lived and worked here for more than half a century. My grandfather, John Ennis, was an albacore tuna fisherman who fished from this home port along with my uncles, great uncle and other assorted relatives.
Morro Bay is probably best known for Morro Rock which is the top of a dormant volcano at the end of a range of peaks. It is attached to land by a man-made strip of land that creates the actual bay. Because of the flow of the tides, Morro Bay is slowly filling in, and it is estimated that between 35 and 50 years from now the bay will no longer exist. The ‘Yacht Harbor’ where my family once docked their fishing boats, is no longer populated by the fishing fleet as the bay in that area has become too shallow. Most of the boats you see nowadays there are pleasure craft. Today, the commercial boats that remain are at the north end of the bay near its mouth at Morro Rock.
The Morro Bay I knew as a child is history. The town is no longer a sleepy little fishing village but a tourist destination. Dean Tyler’s aquarium on the Embarcadero is still there. He was a roommate of my Dad’s when they were bachelors attending Cal Poly before Dad became an officer in WWII –he was a pilot in the Army Air Corps. (Dad and Dean sometimes run into one another at The Hungry Fisherman restaurant –a popular eatery for the locals.) When I was little there was a big tank outside next to the aquarium that had a seal in it… The seal’s name was “Lucy” –it said so right on the side. (I think there had been several “Lucys”). The aquarium is now occupied by several rescued seals and sea lions that call it their home.
The Edison stacks, along with Morro Rock, can be seen for several miles on Hwy. 1 long before you see the town of Morro Bay. When I was a child, the sight was met with a sigh of relief by my parents who had been hearing the constant plea for at least an hour by my siblings and I: “Are we there yet?” Many consider the stacks to be a blight on the otherwise quaint landscape. However, for my siblings and cousins who grew up with them, we rue the day they will be torn down. For us, they are the sentinels watching over the town and help give it an identity shared by the rock, their partner.
The Embarcadero has a number of wonderful restaurants –some of them have been there as long as I can remember such as Roses’ Landing which was recently rebuilt after a fire –the food is better than ever. The Great American Fish Company (the locals call it Gafco) has great food too. It has pictures of local fishing boats in the lobby (including my grandpa’s and uncles’). New on the scene is The Dockside –though the Tognazinni’s are a longtime fishing family in the area.
Also not to be missed along The Embarcadero is the Shell Shop. It’s also older than me and has an interesting history that was written about a couple of years ago in Sunset Magazine. Though shell shops are not unusual to coastal towns, this one is likely to have the largest selection you’ll ever see of shells from around the world including “jaws” from a great white shark.
There’s plenty more to see and do in and near Morro Bay. Hope to see you there someday!