I TAKE TO THE OPEN ROAD, HEALTHY,
FREE, THE WORLD BEFORE ME.”
– WALT WHITMAN
Your guide to the back roads connecting Beautiful Cayucos to Montana De Oro State Park (Website). The hurry less, live more, way to travel when visiting this gorgeous coastal retreat.
The sunrise is bouncing across black hill mountain in shades of pinks and orange, today is a good day. If you are lucky enough to wake up with the waves in your ear and sand in your shoes, you may very well be on the central coast of California. To the East; 15 million year old sleeping volcanic mountains covered in dark greens and golden yellows, rest peacefully. To the West the Pacific Ocean; dressed in shades of blue and kissed by the sun. If you are only here for a short time, take that time to saunter about the beach towns that us locals love the most.
Your drive starts off in Cayucos(Cayucos Map), heading South on Ocean Ave toward 12th street. Ocean will eventually turn into the on ramp to the winding Pacific Coast Highway 1 (also referred to as Cabrillo Highway) this highway will take you along to Morro Bay. Exit on 279A (the Main St. exit) and turn right onto Main. Main Street in Morro Bay is a metropolis all on its own. Somewhat separate from the famous Embarcadero, Main Street offers a wealth of locally owned shops, antiques dealers, restaurants and a Saturday Morning (2-5 pm) Farmers Market where you can purchase in season fruits and vegetables, fresh homemade salsa, tamales, pressed juices and hot soups. Farmers only sell what they grow, most of which is grown locally right here on the central coast. Off of Main, a right onto Beach St. will lead you down to the Embarcadero, a favorite spot for tourists and locals alike. The Embarcadero is home to a wonderful array of restaurants, gift shops and galleries filled with the works of local artists and crafters. It goes without mention that Morro Bay’s “The Rock” is not only an integral part of the city’s geographical history but a prominent gathering spot for surfers and beach goers.
Now for the really good stuff! Beach, Harbor, Pacific or Marina streets will all get you back up to Main. A right hand turn onto Main from any one of these streets will take you along to the next gorgeous leg of our journey. Main St. will take you by State Park Road, it will be a left up a steep hill and straight through Morro Bay Golf Course (Website). State Park road (also referred to as Park View Dr.) can be somewhat tricky to navigate as the road itself is not well marked and is also extremely tight. It does offer some really beautiful views of the marshes and foothills along the coast but nothing too extraordinary that you won’t see by following Main St. all the way through. Keeping on Main and to your right you will come to Fairbank Point, a small beach like turnout that has only a few parking spots and an incredible View. The sunset in this particular spot is glorious, probably because the area is so small that the sun set wraps everything up in warm golds and pinks. In October and November it looks like the sky is a puddle of sherbert ice cream that has dribbled all over everything, it’s really stunning.
Past Fairbank point will be the Museum of Natural History(website) on your right. The Museum overlooks Morro Bay which is both a State and National Estuary. Entry fees to the museum are $3 for adults and free to children 16 and under. The Museum is open from 10 am to 5 pm every day of the year except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Morro Bay Campground is a little further down and on your left. The campground is a mixed forest originally planted by Civilian Conservation Corps crews during the 1930’s and shades 135 campsites. There are also picnic facilities including tables and BBQ pits for folks who wish to visit the park for just a day.
Follow Main st. around the bend with the swampy marshes to your right, eventually you will end up at a crossroads. The road you are met with is South Bay Boulevard, you’ll want to turn right. South Bay Boulevard is one of only two ways into and out of a pair of the small towns; Los Osos and it’s suburb Baywood. South Bay, as the locals call it, will run you into Los Osos Valley Road or LOVR for short.
Taking a right at LOVR will set you on a course for some really exquisite scenery. Los Osos Valley Road will lead you through the town of Los Osos and will turn into Pecho Valley Road. Trust the road and follow it boldly, 3 or so miles out from sleepy Los Osos and hidden in the eucalyptus filled dunes is Montana De Oro, or “Mountain of Gold”. Proving time and again to be the most tranquil and fascinating landscape between here and there, Montana De Oro has become the quintessential ‘go to’ for those trying to escape the hustle.
The beach is covered in shell and jade, this striking park features rugged cliffs, secluded sandy beaches, coastal plains, streams, canyons, and hills, including the 1,347-foot Valencia Peak. Montana De Oro also has Caves! If the tide is low enough you can climb in, on and around the natural cave formations and play in the rocky tide pools. I am warning you now; the moss is real and the potential to slip and bonk your noggin is a serious one so walk with care.
I’ve spent some of the best days of my life on these backroads, learning every twist and turn, nook and cranny. Windows down, music up, soaking in all the beauty that is my hometown. These roads lead to adventure and have the potential to create undeniable memories for you and your family. I hope you love and cherish them as much as we locals do!