Coastal Morro Bay and Avila Farms in San Luis Obispo County

San Luis Obispo County is located, more or less, in the center of the California coastline. It’s mostly known for Hearst Castle, which was a private residence for newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst between 1919 and 1947. Hearst Castle is now open to the public and a popular destination for visitors. You may have heard of it or even been!

On the waterfront, there is a small fishing town called Morro Bay, which was named after the towns most striking feature,  Morro Rock. It’s a 576 feet high volcanic plug (!), which is located at the entrance to the harbor. You can drive right up to it via the northern channel, which was filled in to make the rock accessible. It had been surrounded by water originally. On the day we visited there was so much fog (which is not necessarily unlikely for this area) we could barely see the rock in the distance. But its enormous!

Morro Rock Beach by the rock is very popular for surfing. As you head towards the main land again, there is a soon-to-open Maritime Museum where you can see vintage boats, submarines and coast guard rescue boats. Driving by we could already see them and look forward to visiting the museum when they are open. During World War II, there was a US Navy base on the north side of Morro Rock. The three tall towers you see side-by-side are the smokestacks from a power plant, which was closed in 2014.

Tourism is a large part of Morro Bay’s economy and there are many restaurants lined up all along the shoreline and touristy souvenir shops crowd the main street through town.

The whole town is themed around nature, boats, beaches, underwater life and surfing. Its fun to experience! There is a small Aquarium in Morro Bay with a Seal rehab center where they help hurt seals get stabilized. You can buy pieces of fish to feed them! And you can hear them from a mile away!  Unfortunately we found out on this trip that the seal rehab center and the small aquarium will close for good once the lease expires. Once its closed, the Central Coast Aquarium located in Avila Beach (20 minutes away) will rebuild a new and expanded aquarium in its place.

After Morro Bay you can take a scenic drive along the coast and past beautiful Los Osos to get to Avila Beach, which is another cute small beach town south of Morro Bay.

Avila Beach has a boardwalk, a pier and many restaurants which are fun. But why we really recommend Avila Beach is because they have a farm and petting zoo that kids really enjoy visiting. The farm is called Avila Valley Barn and kids can feed and pet goats, chickens are running around wildly and you can go on pony rides. Who wouldn’t love that!

They have fruit and vegetable stands and a creamery with vintage candy barrels and jars! It’s a great place to stock up on the freshest groceries directly from the farm, including locally made goods such as honey, jams, pastries and pies.

Another highlight at Avila Valley Barn is picking berries, apples and peaches straight from the vines and trees. Depending on the season, and due to fluctuation in weather or nature, its best to call ahead to confirm the U-pick schedule. A tractor will bring you to the berry patches and fruit orchards! So fun!

Avila Valley Barn has an online shop where they sell their own jams, honeys and syrups! What a great way to support local farming!

Morro Bay and Avila Beach are about 3 1/2 to 4 hours from Los Angeles by car (depending on where you live in Los Angeles and what time of day you are leaving the city!).

I would recommend staying somewhere in San Luis Obispo county since its too much to drive there and back in one day with kids. There are lovely hotels and Airbnb’s in either Morro Bay or Avila Beach,  but also in  San Luis Obispo, if you care for more of a small city and university city vibe. Wine tasting is a popular thing to do in San Luis Obispo county as well, and some of the vineyards offer lodging.


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