Photo Credit Walter Bunning
Kayaking Morro Bay, “The Gibraltar of the Pacific"
Kayaking on Morro Bay can be one of the most rewarding outdoor activities you can do! It allows you to see the harbor seals, sea lions and otters, as well as literally hundreds of species of birds, including several rare and endangered species. Two dozen threatened or endangered species live in the area including the Peregrine Falcon, Brandt Goose and Brown Pelican. The bay is a wintering area for over one hundred species of birds, providing excellent bird watching opportunities.
Morro Bay is composed of 2300 acres of eel grass beds, mud flats, tidal wetlands and open water. The bay’s most prominent landmark is Morro Rock, also called "the Gibraltar of the Pacific" and is probably the most famous peak. Quarrying was responsible for its shape, and rock from it supplied the breakwater for Morro Bay. The bay lies protected from the ocean by a four mile long sandspit. After paddling the bay, you can pull ashore onto the sandspit and enjoy a pleasant walk while you take in unparalleled views along miles of isolated beach.
Morro Bay is an extraordinary paddling destination. Although it offers year round paddling, the bay is most popular in the summer. The spring, fall, and winter seasons offer a quieter pace. The moderate year-round weather at Morro Bay creates an ideal place for kayaking, canoeing and kayak fishing, as well as SUP boarding. (During summer days the bay is much cooler than inland areas. The mild daytime air temperature lingers around the 60s with most days having highs somewhere in the 60s. Spring days are often breezy and in summer there is often fog for at least part of the day. Fall tends to have the warmest and clearest weather. In winter you may encounter rain, but a significant number of winter days on the bay are crystal clear. Winter is also the best time to see the incredible diversity of migrating birds.
Morro Bay can be very calm, but be prepared for windy conditions. In late winter and spring, the wind can become quite gusty here. Keep in mind the wind can easily change to 15-25 knots within minutes, at which time the water can become extremely choppy. The wind is usually calm, and it’s often so foggy in the bay that you can't see the shore. Kayaks sit low in the water and are difficult to see by other watercraft during foggy conditions.
Throughout the year, extreme high and low tides result in swift currents inside the harbor. A fast outgoing tide may present a challenge when returning to the inner bay via the main channel near the ocean mouth, especially if the winds are also working against you. During stormy winter months, waves up to 18 feet batter the breakwater, causing hazardous boating conditions at the harbor entrance.
The best put-in is at the Morro Bay State Park marina by the museum across from the golf course. This gives you quick access to the back bay nature areas without encountering a lot of boat traffic. Or you can launch at the marina if there is one and a half feet of water.