Morro Strand State Beach Campground + Montano de Oro State Park
Montana de Oro, Mountain of Gold, was the first park we thought of when there was a threat to the funding for State Parks. It, truly, is a treasure on California’s Central Coast. Montana de Oro is closest (seven miles) to the outlying community of Los Osos, a part of the city of San Luis Obispo. It’s name, translated from Spanish, is “Mountain of Gold.” Some say it is named for the flowers in the spring, but, in addition, during dry times of year, the surrounding coastal hills are dry, golden grasses.
Morro Strand is next to the city of Morro Bay. Morro Rock sits at the entrance to Morro Bay and is referred to by locals as the Gibraltar of the Pacific. “The Stacks” to the left of the rock are from an abandoned power plant, too expensive to remove. Although these man-made eyesores remain, Morro Bay has two marine protected areas.
Weather in the coastal areas of Montano de Oro and Morro Bay can be variable. When the fog rolls in, it may be very hot in San Luis Obispo, but damp and cool in either of these locations. If there is no fog, and temperatures are high, these places can be hot, as well.
Montano de Oro State Park
Camping at Montano de Oro State Park
Campsites are primitive in Montano de Oro’s one campground, Islay Creek Campground. Translation, pit toilets and no cell service. (We did get a signal once out on the bluff trail, but not in the campsite.). There are water spigots, tables, and firepits. Note that camping at Montana de Oro requires reservations that can be made six months in advance.
The Beach + Bluffs at Montano de Oro State Park
Spooner’s Cove is the easiest beach to access, and can be seen as you drive into the park. Day use parking is right next to the beach. Keep in mind that Yelp is full of five star reviews for this beach area, so it does fill up on a sunny Saturday.
Although the beach is accessible in only a few spots in the park, the bluff walk is equally as spectacular. Make a stop in the Visitor’s Center as you drive in for park maps and beach access beta. We noticed that horses and mountain bikes use these bluff trails, as well. It’s, also, worth mentioning that certain times of year, I can attest that January is one of them, whales can be spotted off the shore here.
Morro Strand State Beach Campground
Camping at Morro Strand State Beach Campground
Morro Strand State Beach Campground (not to be confused with Morro Bay State Park Campground, only because we didn’t visit there this trip, and it’s easy to mix them up, given their names) campsites are extremely close to each other in a long parking lot, leaving little room for a tent. There are flush toilets and water spigots, but no showers available. The beach dune access is roped off from most campsites, but the view of the ocean and sound of the waves are close. A short walk through the campground parking lot will lead to a dune trail and the “strand.” This large stretch of beach is covered with sand dollars, shells, and an occasional giant sand crab. Overall, this campground is worth a visit (if you have a small tent or sleep in your vehicle) (agreed by many on Yelp), if only to sleep to the sound of ocean waves and to see the locals ride horses bareback through the surf in the morning.
The Beach at Morro Strand
The beach here is wide, beautiful, and covered in sand dollars. The sand stretches far and wide, making it feel empty and far away from busy Southern California. Locals ride their horses in the surf and their bikes along the sand. Surfers and paddleboarders enjoy the ocean, right along with pods of dolphins seen moving through the water. You can’t help but have a peaceful experience on this beach.
Three Stacks & a Rock Brewery, Morro Bay
This new nano brewery sits just across the main road, Main Street, from Morro Strand State Beach Campground. Opened in October, the owner served us an excellent American Strong Ale called Floyd, named after his dog. The pretzels with warm cheese dip and mustard were a tasty bite, and this place was well worth a visit.
Industrial Eats, Buellton
Located in the town of Buellton, Industrial Eats is our all time favorite. Bonus, it is located just up the street from Figueroa Mountain Brewery. The brewery will allow customers to bring food over from Industrial Eats to enjoy with their beer. Industrial Eats has a spectacular mushroom garlic pizza, with a hint of lemon juice, that is mouthwatering and hard to stop eating, I speak from experience. That happens to be my favorite, but order anything on the menu, you can’t go wrong.
Enjoy Euro Deli Market, Arroyo Grande
Enjoy Euro Deli Market is a newer find. After researching something to replace our old favorite, Bell Street Farm in Los Alamos, Enjoy Euro Deli Market came up on Yelp. With consistent five star reviews, multiple comments about the homemade food, outstanding customer service, and international flair, we pulled over for a meal there. We received a warm welcome and nourishing food that was truly delicious, and authentically Eastern European. This place lived up to it’s five star reviews, and I wrote one of my own. We will be back.