4-Hour Rule: Morro Bay

Back in the office? Good news: your next three-day weekend kicks off in exactly 15 days. (And if you make it a four-day weekend, we salute you.)

Forget getting on a plane. You’re heading for a coastal break with one of the most beautiful state (read: shutdown-proof) parks in California.

Morro Bay is a one-movie-theater town that rolls up early at night. (Er, at evening.) But if you want big-city amenities, stay in S.F. (Or keep going down to L.A.) If, on the other hand, you’re looking to get outside, walk a beach and spend under $100 a night (well under, if you like), this might be your place.

Airbnb (4 images)

Airbnb

WHERE TO STAY
If you want something fancy — well, here’s a sleeps-24 spread in nearby San Luis Obispo for $2,500 a night. Otherwise, you’re going to have a hard time spending more than $100 a night(!). Why not book into this beach cottage for $70? Or if you must spend over $100, this $109-a-night, sleeps-five cottage nine blocks from the beach path? Or try this a $100-a-night place with a view of the Pacific, which is basically the room-service charge for a cup of coffee and a Diet Coke at any hotel in S.F.


Docentjoy/Flickr

WHAT TO DO
Morro Bay’s big natural draw is namesake Morro Rock (get your Instagram ready). Frankly, it’s best in low light — sunrise, sunset. Know before you go that you can’t climb it, but you can park beneath and walk the beach. Be on the lookout for otters, who have moved wholesale into Morro Bay — and if you want to get a better look at them (anyone you’re traveling with under the age of 14 definitely will), you’ll need to get out into the bay — either via kayak or, equally agreeably, on a paddleboard. And swing by Morro Bay State Park for more trails, water access and bird watching.


James Byrum/Flickr

SURROUNDING POINTS
Morro Bay is an extremely low-key base from which to explore the Central Coast. Hearst Castle is a half-hour drive up Highway 1; consider this a reconnaissance mission if you’re looking for a super-luxe venue for your next office party. Cayucos is even closer — it’s a five-minute drive — with a half-dozen antique shops on its main drag and cute cafés. Also, now (the second half of January) is the best time of year to observe one of the animals’ best/most blatant reproductive experiences: the birthing of elephant seals at the rookery at Piedras Blancas.

The Galley (2 images)

The Galley

WHERE TO EAT
Our top pick is The Galley, a popular seafood spot with local wine and seafood, including pan-seared dungeness crab cakes and blackened Pacific rockfish. But just with the catch of the day. And then there’s the Libertine, for relaxed drinks: 37 beers on tap and $14 burgers. And Windows offers local dishes, an extensive wine list and killer views of the rock. Dinner service starts at 5 p.m.

Main image from Morro Bay/Facebook