Wednesday, August 16, 2017

It Could've Been a Contender...Actually, It Is: Morro Bay's Waterfront

Morro Bay's waterfront walk...a mishmash of sidewalks, parking lots, and almost completely navigable by wheelchair. It's not a huge wharf, we can walk from end-to-end in about five minutes, but it packs a decent punch in that area between north and south.

At the north end is a defunct power plant, it's three smoke stacks like a giant picket fence, separating the small fishing fleet from Morro Rock. The south end, just beyond the Embarcadero Inn, is bordered by the pleasure marina, boat ramp, and a large parking lot.

If you were to spend a day exploring, you'd better be hungry and thirsty. A good starting point for a loop would be the Coffee Pot restaurant at the north end where Embarcadero merges with Front Street. It's a solid spot for breakfast featuring all the classics...omelets, pancakes, waffles, biscuits and gravy...with a lot of items on the menu taking advantage of it's location next to the local fishing fleet's wharf.  Benedicts can be had with shrimp, crab, or the catch of the day. Seafood can also find it's way into your omelet.

It's owned by Gordon Lu, an orphan immigrant from Communist China in 1969, who came to America poor and made his way with this little cafe in Morro Bay. He's even got a book out about his exploits. Be sure to check out the large collection of coffee pots lining the walls while you're there.

Out back, you can check out the catch in the tanks along the docks. Morro Bay's fishing fleet may be small but they still bring in a lot of the sea's bounty each day. Several restaurants are on hand to buy what they're selling.

Going south from the Coffee Pot, you'll pass a small park with a large anchor. That's a memorial to the local fishermen lost at sea over the years. At the first building, you can go left to walk along the front of the shops on the Embarcadero or go right, like us, to walk over the water.

In a few feet, you'll come to one of our favorite Morro Bay cheap eats with a slight German accent, the Hofbrau. Here, you can get very juicy roast beef sandwiches, cut to your specifications at the carving bar, along with German and local craft brews.

It's very filling and you get a ton of food for your money.  You can also sit on the outdoor deck, or avoid the weather inside. Either way, you've got a great view of the bay.

After the Hofbrau, there's a deck for taking in the view, then...if you've the money...the Anderson Inn. The wheelchair room here is pretty spectacular but it comes with a price.  

Moving on, the Otter Rock Cafe has a good lineup of local musicians at night to enjoy while sipping on a cocktail. Next door, at the Boatyard complex, you can pop out the walkway to get some taffy or browse the clearance racks at Best Kept Secret for a cheap souvenir T-Shirt to remember your visit.

Back on the water, look across the bay for any empty wooden docks or tie downs. You're likely to see and hear the local sea lions lounging in the sun.

In between this building and the next is a small garden patio to relax in. On the water, you can take a tiki bar cruise around the bay with Lost Isle Adventures.  

Next up, the Libertine will take care of your thirst for a craft beer lust with their 48 taps, including their own brews made at their brewery in nearby Santa Maria. Across the next viewing platform and parking lot is our favorite, Rose's Bar. Down the ramp you'll find this boat-shaped 100% wheelchair accessible bar with spectacular views of the bay and the rock with friendly bartenders to pour your drinks.

After Rose's, you find another little plaza to relax on, maybe enjoy some ice cream and browse the cheap clearance racks of Dolphin T-Shirt Company for some more cheap souvenirs.

Back on the waterfront, you'll cross a larger parking lot before banking to the right of a large, wooden building. Before going on, you'll want to take a peek into the Morro Bay Skateboard Museum

You'll see some great exhibits on the history of sidewalk surfing along with artifacts such as one of the fastest skateboards ever made and the 2nd biggest skateboard ever made. It's also a bargain as it's free.

If you're hungry, back on the waterfront side of the building Blue Sky Bistro on the Bay is an excellent stop for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner.

After this building, you'll need to detour back to the Embarcadero because the walkway is blocked here by docks.

On the corner is the old and kitschy Morro Bay Aquarium where you can feed sea lions and view tanks of native sealife in the back.  The Aquarium works with Cal Poly to house and feed injured sea lions that can't be returned to the wild and keep live specimens on display for use in research.

It's a very cheap (less than $5) and retro attraction but you better hurry, it's closing next month. A new and more modern facility is being planned to replace it, more along the lines of a smaller version of the Monterrey Bay Aquarium than the old facility sitting there now.

After the aquarium, you can head back to the water where you'll find a yoga shop and another restaurant among the views of the rock and sea otters.

Grays Inn, a small, two room hotel and art gallery sits before you reach a wide expanse of walk without any buildings until you get to a kayak rental facility. If you're able, you can rent one to explore this massive bay.

The Morro Bay Yacht Club, Estero Inn Hotel (with a great but expensive waterfront wheelchair accessible suite) and another art gallery make up the end of the businesses along the water. 

Across the street is the 456 Embarcadero Inn, our usual choice for lodging in this town.  Beyond that, a waterfront park and a large parking lot lead to the boat ramp where a large billboard with a picture of a boat trying to navigate a huge wave advertises the dangers of launching out of this particular inlet.

Going back, you can return via the waterfront route you came on or go down the other side of the street on the Embarcadero. This way, you can see a couple of places you missed by being on the water.

Past the Chinese buffet nextdoor to the 456 Embarcadero Inn, you'll see the yacht club's storage facility and maintenance yard. Another block will put you in front of the Shell Shop, an authentic beach town souvenir shop specializing in...what else?...shells and shell related merchandise.

One of my favorite shops to stop at comes next, the Garden Gallery, where you can see hundreds of beautiful fountains in operation. The prices aren't bad either...if you have room in your car, you just might want to take one home for your patio.

After the Garden Gallery is the biggest parking lot along the Embarcadero.  It's a good place to find a spot unless it's being used to house the annual Morro Bay Harbor Festival in October.

Next is a small park with a giant chess board where you can play with life-size pieces.  After all that game play, you might want to rejuvenate with dessert at Sun 'n Buns Bakery which also features a fireplace in the dining room for those colder Central Coast days.

A large empty lot separates the bakery from a couple of surf shops, then you're back where you started.

It might be dinner time when you get back so how about some local seafood?

If you're on a budget, get something from the big and varied menu of Giovanni's Seafood and eat on their waterfront deck.

Got some money to splurge?  Keep walking another short block and have something off of the mesquite grill of the Great American Fish Company or the long-time Morro Bay favorite, Tognazzini's...both places get their dinners from the fishing boats parked next to the kitchen. Tognazzini's even has their own boat.

It doesn't get any fresher than that.

Don't forget to make a little time to watch the sun set over Morro Rock.

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Darryl Musick
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