Sometimes, our schedules don’t allow us to spend as much time as we wish we could exploring a new place. Sometimes our schedules don’t give us a week, or even three days. Sometimes you only get one. One day. A short and sweet 24 hours of adventure. You’ll be surprised just how quickly those 1,440 minutes go by, and you’ll probably be surprised by how much you can do, and see, too—from floating alongside sea lions, to tacos by the bay, to feeling awestruck inside a shop dedicated solely to seashells (aka nirvana for my inner mermaid).
The quiet and quaint fishing town of Morro Bay easily deserved more than the 24 hours I had to give, but, true to my new nickname, I was determined to make the most of every minute. Side note: I do have to say, there is an undeniable benefit to having your day full of activities… You forget about your phone. It’s a blissful thing, especially when you’re someone who suffers from screen addiction.
Anyway. Let’s get to the fun stuff—how to get the most out of Morro Bay in just one day.
The Starting Point:
For such a small town, there’s a surprising amount of hotels to choose from. I stayed at Estero Inn and it did not disappoint. It’s a small hotel with an ideal location—a short walk from literally everything. It was a torrential downpour when I arrived, and cold, too (though, compared to winter in NY it wasn’t so bad), so walking in to find that my room had a fireplace was blissful.
I was fortunate enough to nab the Sunset Suite which offered me an amazing view of Morro Rock from my balcony.
6:00am Destination: Sunrise…then breakfast & coffee
Since I was making the most of 24 hours here I had to wake up pretty early—obviously early enough to be out of bed to see the sunrise. Because this town is so quiet I figured there might not be too many options available to me for breakfast at such an ungodly hour, thankfully Estero Inn offers breakfast. After some fresh fruit and some coffee to warm me up I was ready to rock.
8:30am — Destination: The Paddleboard Co.
There’s nothing better than starting your morning off with movement—and no, I’m not talking about the three minute walk from my hotel room to The Paddleboard Co… Though that did help get me going.
Disclaimer: I am very much NOT a paddleboarding pro. I was actually a little nervous to be doing this on just 4 ½ hours of sleep. I wasn’t exactly sure my brain had the capacity for paddling, nor was I confident that my body had the will to balance and keep me from going swimming. Only one way to find out, though.
I had the pleasure of a private paddle sesh with Sandi, a fellow yogi and the shop owner, and Nikki, a bad ass (she’s paddled through river rapids!) SUP pro.
Nikki, Sandi, and I walked down to the dock for a quick little intro session where Nikki walked me through some basics. If you’ve never stepped foot on a paddleboard before rest assured that you’re in good hands. You’ll get some pointers before your board even hits the water… And hopefully, you won’t wind up swimming in the bay.
We took off from the dock which meant that I had to drop down onto my board that was floating in the water waiting for me. I was certain that this was the end for me and my dry clothes, but, with Nikki’s guidance I remained dry and was up on my feet in just a few seconds. Albeit a little wobbly at first.
Your first instinct, or at least mine, was to look down in an attempt to stay focused and balanced. After all, it’s not everyday you stand on a board the size of a bar top in the middle of the water. Sandi and Nikki both explained to me that the direction you’re looking is the direction you’ll go. Down was not an option, and looking up offered a way better view anyway.
It was so awesome getting to share the water with the natives, too—pelicans and countless other birds, sea otters, harbor seals, and sea lions!
Most of the sea lions were totally zonked out layered on top of each other on this little dock, while a few barked at our presence. It’s important to remember this is their turf, and we’re just visiting—enjoy sharing the space, and the moment, with them, but keep a considerable distance so as not to disturb them!
We pulled up on shore for a breather. Peaceful and serene as it is, paddleboarding is also a really great workout. Taking a breather meant also taking in a new perspective of Morro Rock. Being this close was awe-inspiring, and both Nikki and Sandi gave me some ‘to-do’ ideas for the day—including a bike trip that would bring me even closer to the rock. It’s a nearly 600-foot volcanic plug, how rad is that!? I couldn’t wait to get a closer look.
11:30am — Destination: Estero Inn
Walking back to my room all I could think was: FOOD. PLEASE. ASAP. SO HUNGRY. SOS! I showered earlier that morning so felt a little less gross about running back, changing, and not showering before going to lunch. Hey, at least I changed my clothes!
12:00pm — Destination: Blue Sky Bistro
The area is teeming with bars and restaurants, so it can definitely be hard to choose. You can’t go wrong with Blue Sky Bistro, though. It’s on the bay-facing side of the Embarcadero, so you’ll have great views whether you’re sitting inside or out. The (dog-friendly!) patio is open all year round, but hours vary depending on the weather—it was raining, so through-the-window-views would have to suffice for me. After the views I had from my paddleboard I certainly wasn’t complaining.
The bistro is cute, and small, and the staff is so nice. I don’t dine alone often, but I felt totally comfortable doing so here. I opted for vegetarian tacos because they offered corn tortillas—gluten free for the win! They were—and I really don’t use this term often—amazeballs. Also, their mango salsa is INSANE, order an extra side of it and thank me later.
1:30pm — Destination: Shops, shops, shops, shops
Oh, the shops. There are so many! I’m pretty sure I popped into nearly every single one along the Embarcadero. Each place was somehow cuter than the next and in every single store I fell in love with something. Traveling alone meant trying to muster up the will power to stop myself from spending every penny that I have…Not an easy feat!
…I bet my fellow mermaids are wondering about the seashell haven I mentioned earlier. I’m pretty sure when I walked in my jaw dropped. The wheels in my brain turned at a feverish pace trying to figure out how on earth I’d be able to bring home all of the contents of this store in just 1 carry on. The Shell Shop—which certainly lived up to its name—is without question worth a visit, even if for nothing more than to just marvel at all the seashells.
3:00pm — Destination: Farmer’s Kites & Surreys
The only thing better than exploring Morro Bay on two feet is exploring on two wheels. So, I made my way over to Farmer’s Kites & Surreys to rent a beach cruiser.
I love riding my bike at home—a standard 6-speed mountain bike—but this beach cruiser was like a whole new species of bicycle to me…peddling backwards to break!? I haven’t done that since I was 7. The wide handlebars were awkward and I almost ran over a lady because I couldn’t control my steering very well at first! Thankfully, for myself and for pedestrians in my path, I finally got a good groove going.
I cruised it out to to the beach and took a minute to just sit and be. Taking time to reflect is so important—of those 1,440 minutes I have in a day, I try to spend some of those just taking everything in. This was my second solo adventure in just 2 months—it’s something that makes me both incredibly grateful and incredibly proud. Traveling alone is definitely outside of my comfort zone, but I’ve found that most of the best things are.
After the beach I headed straight to the rock. Feeling confident in my beach-cruiser-riding abilities I decided to try and take a video whilst riding. I quickly learned that my abilities were nothing to brag about, and I fell right off my bike. It only left me with a bruised ego, but lesson learned—do not try to Instagram story and ride. Also, it was a solid reminder to just keep my phone away and stay present.
There’s something about the repetitive motion of pedaling that’s almost meditative… and that wind in your face—especially when gliding down hill—is almost euphoric. Riding down the bike path I noticed I was completely alone—and it was…awesome. So, you know that place beyond your comfort zone? You should go there. It’s incredible.
5:30pm — Destination: STAX Wine Bar
I was a little more apprehensive about heading to a wine bar alone than I was about heading to lunch alone. But, I was making the most of every minute, and I intended for a good chunk of those minutes to be spent wine tasting.
The ambiance at STAX is pretty much exactly what you’d want the ambiance at a wine bar to be. It’s an intimate and cozy space filled with art, the sounds of live music, and friendly chatter. It also, at the time when I walked in, was predominantly occupied by couples.
So I, solo-wino, party of 1 decided to post-up at the bar. The bartenders here are amazing (shout out to Erin and Andrew!). So friendly and so kind—I genuinely forgot that I was there alone. Rather than burying my head in my phone in an attempt to feel less alone, I kept it tucked away in my bag and interacted with the people around me. There’s nothing better than connecting with new people… Especially over phenomenal glasses of wine.
True story: I had a dinner reservation at 7:00 and skipped it because I was having that good of a time here. Cannot recommend this place enough.
8:30pm — Destination: Bed.
I was surprised by how quiet the town got at night, and surprised that STAX closed at 8:00…although, it was a weeknight. After an early morning and a jam-packed day I wasn’t exactly devastated to be turning in early. My 24 hours were almost up, and I still had to pack (oh, the dread!) and be ready to ship out early the following morning.
Morro Bay definitely proved itself to be a destination that has something for everyone—for shopping enthusiasts, outdoorists, beach bums, nature lovers, animal lovers, wine lovers, and taco lovers, too (really, though, who isn’t a taco lover?).
Heaps of gratitude to you, Morro. Thanks for the adventure, new experiences, and lessons—the #1 lesson being: keeping your phone away is the best way to make the most of a day (and, without question, the best way to avoid falling off a beach cruiser).