History



Excerpt from: “Images of America: Morro Bay” (Arcadia Publishing 2006) by Roger Castle and Gary Ream for the Historical Society of Morro Bay:

Morro Bay, along California’s Central Coast, is among the most visually spectacular communities in America. It has a rich early history that stretches back to the adventures of the Chumash and Salinian Native Americans and visits by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and the Manila Galleons of the 16th Century.

Its modern history begins with the tragic story of one of the town’s founding fathers, Reverend Alden B. Spooner. During the midst of a heavy arctic storm, on the night of February 5, 1877, the Reverend Spooner heard the call of duty. The steamboat Mary Taylor was overdue. Rev. Spooner wasn’t feeling well, but he rowed out into the squall in his small boat. He was in the North Channel, near Pilot Rock, when his craft capsized. His body was never found.

Prohibition stories of Canadian whiskey on the Rock abound as economically hard-pressed farmers, fishermen, and tugboat operators facilitated the landing of Canadian distillates near Morro Bay.

Miles Castle and other refugees from a failed land settlement for English immigrants in the Central Valley joined with Neil Moses, a colorful newspaper editor, Dorothy Gates, a college librarian and Dr. Jack Levitt, a physician from Minnesota, to form a literary society and journal and bring high culture to Morro Bay in the 1930s.

In the beginning this history was passed on from family to family during the evenings in this then remote fishing village. Much of this oral tradition was later gathered together by Dorothy Gates, Jane Horton Bailey, and others and preserved in print. As the community at large grew conscious of its rich past, community-based groups were formed. They continue today, gathering both artifacts and images to preserve Morro Bay’s history.

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Our City

Where Is Morro Bay? Morro Bay is located along the coast of California, midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

View Map to Morro Bay from Google Maps.

Traveling SOUTH from San Francisco: Take U.S. Highway 101 south to Atascadero. Exit on State Highway 41 west, then head south on Highway 1. Exit at Main Street in Morro Bay. Total drive time: about 4 hours. For an alternate, even more scenic route take Highway 280 south to Cupertino. Connect to Highway 85 south, and then take Highway 17 south to Santa Cruz, exiting to Highway 1 south. Total drive time: about 6 hours.

Traveling NORTH from Los Angeles: Take U.S. Highway 101 north to San Luis Obispo, exit north on Highway 1 to Morro Bay, take Morro Bay Blvd. exit. Total driving time: about 4 hours.

Morro Bay Trolley Enjoy our trolley ride along the Embarcadero out to Morro Rock, to our State Park and out to North Morro Bay. The Trolley begins running on Memorial Day weekend and will run through the 1st weekend in October.

View Trolley Route Map from Morro Bay Public Services.

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Morro Rock

In 1542, Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo named Morro Bay’s magnificent landmark “El Morro” (Spanish for crown shaped hill). Morro Rock is also sometimes called the “Gibraltar of the Pacific.” It is the last of a line of long-extinct volcanoes formed about 23 million years ago, which include nine peaks ranging from San Luis Obispo to Morro Bay. These peaks are aptly named the Nine Sisters because they are all in a row, and in close proximity.

Morro Rock is a State Historic Landmark, a bird sanctuary and home to nesting Peregrine Falcons. It is therefore closed to any climbing or disturbance.

At a height of 576 feet, Morro Rock has been an important marine navigational aid for over 300 years. It is likely the most photographed of all the Nine Sisters, and serves as Morro Bay’s gateway to the Pacific Ocean.

For more information on Morro Rock, visit slostateparks.com.

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About Morro Bay

Morro Bay, California is a place to discover your better nature. Located on the Central Coast midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, this historic fishing village has much to offer visitors. It’s most distinctive and recognizable landmark is the famous Morro Rock, but there is so much more to see and explore in and around Morro Bay. For nature lovers and bird watchers, Morro Bay Estuary provides a nourishing habitat to more than 250 species of birds and over two dozen endangered and threatened species.

The Morro Bay Natural History Museum located in Morro Bay State Park has engaging exhibits, informative lectures, nature walks, and a discovery area for children offering hands-on exploration.

You can browse boutiques and shops, or play golf on the world-champion ocean front Morro Bay Golf Course. Discover a coastline of dunes, paddle down a silent estuary to spy on beautiful and rare birds, or sail into the wild Pacific just beyond the breakwater.

Morro Bay is also a wonderful starting point for visiting the rest of San Luis Obispo County. Montaña de Oro (Mountain of Gold) State Park is just southwest of Morro Bay. World famous Hearst Castle is just a short drive north of Morro Bay, past the charming villages of Harmony and Cambria. To the east, you will find local wineries offering tastings of the famous Central Coast varietals. Historic San Luis Obispo is one of the oldest cities in California, with a tree-lined, walk able downtown center full of shops and restaurants.

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Nearby Cities

Morro Bay’s prime location on the Central Coast makes it a great base for exploring the many other wonderful nearby cities.

To the North

Cayucos – A seaside town that began as a warehouse and wharf built in the 1870′s, Cayucos retains a distinctly Western flavor and offers a quaint main street, beaches perfect for surfing and a public pier that doubles as a popular fishing spot. From an old-fashioned ice cream soda shop, the nationally famous Brown Butter Cookie Company, to a three-story antique store and excellent surf shops, Cayucos has plenty to delight you!

Harmony – A tiny village of working artists, Harmony is worth a stop to look in the shops selling local artwork. Check out the population on the town sign—It will make you smile!

Cambria – Once a pioneering settlement of farmers, miners and dock workers, today Cambria is a magical seaside village tucked amongst towering pines. It is a “destination” resort with accommodations on the oceanfront and in the forest. Here, you will find art galleries, excellent restaurants, an old-fashioned saloon, and boutiques selling a variety of goods—from potpourri to antiques, specialty garden items to clothes, and soldier figures to animation art. San Simeon – It’s a fishing village, an old-time pioneering community, a Western beach town, and a working artists colony with its own castle! San Simeon is best known as the home of Hearst Castle, where nearly a million tourists visit annually. People from all over the world marvel at this sumptuous home and its elaborate gardens, set on a peak high over the Pacific. San Simeon also offers a walk on the area’s most beautiful beaches, known for their shells, moonstones and beautiful sunsets.

To the South Los Osos / Baywood Park – This quiet community is the perfect spot to have a cup of coffee or lunch overlooking the bay. It is the site of one of our favorite state parks—Montaña De Oro—where you can enjoy walking, hiking, wildlife viewing and beaches. San Luis Obispo – Our “big city” of the area has a delightful shopping district complete with wonderful shops, outdoor cafés, an 18th century Spanish mission and creekside strolling paths. San Luis Obispo is home to California Polytechnic State University and Cuesta College. San Luis Obispo began as the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, surrounded by a beautifully landscaped plaza and a babbling creek complete with ducks and fish.

Avila Beach – Beachgoers love perpetually sunny Avila Beach. It is often the warmest beach in the county, nestled beneath scenic Point San Luis. Home to the young at heart, this seaside town attracts families, college students, and water enthusiasts with its two piers, ocean-view restaurants, deep-sea fishing, mineral springs, tennis, golf, and original Victorian lighthouse.

Pismo Beach – One of the area’s truly unique features is found in this seaside beach town, Pismo State Beach. All-terrain vehicles can be rented to go four-wheel driving on the seemingly endless dunes of California’s only drivable beach—the Pismo Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area. Pismo Beach has a retro charm, with lively bars, restaurants, tattoo shops and even a psychic palm reader. Its outlet mall is perfect for shoppers seeking premium brands at excellent prices. The pier is perfect for strolling or fishing. Horseback riding, body boarding, surfing, tide pooling, kite flying and sand castle building are just a few of the other attractions in Pismo Beach.

Arroyo Grande – A delightful village of unique shops and restaurants–check out “Old Towne” for an afternoon snack and stroll. Nestled in green rolling hills in the shadow of the Santa Lucia Mountains, its wineries offer several tasting rooms.

Grover Beach – Here you will find the gateway to the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area—the only drivable beach in California, nestled just off Highway 1. Rent all-terrain vehicles to go four-wheel driving on the seemingly endless dunes or just experience driving directly on the coastline for miles. Other activities and festivals attract the entire family, including several community parks for fun, picnics and barbeques. To the East Atascadero – Come to the picturesque Atascadero Lake Park to feed the ducks and geese for a relaxing afternoon. The Charles Paddock Zoo is another favorite attraction. Atascadero City Hall, designated a historical landmark, is home not only to local government, but also to a museum displaying artifacts of Atascadero’s early days.

Paso Robles – A place of wide open spaces, thousands of acres of vineyards, prestigious wineries, thoroughbred and Arabian horse farms, almond orchards and unspoiled lakes. Visitors drive along scenic country roads, enjoy the rural atmosphere and stop to sample the locally produced wines.

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Contact

Morro Bay Visitor Center
255 Morro Bay Blvd, Morro Bay, California 93442
Phone 805-225-1633

To submit your Morro Bay business to this website, click here.

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