Morro Bay is a working fishing village located about half way between Los Angeles and San Francisco near Hearst Castle and the Big Sur Coast. Its famous landmark, Morro Rock, was named by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo when he first charted the coast during the 16th century. Sometimes referred to as “Gibraltar of the Pacific,” Morro Rock is the last of a line of long-extinct volcanoes formed about 23 million years ago, which include nine peaks ranging from San Luis Obispo to Morro Bay. These peaks are appropriately named the Nine Sisters because they are all in a row, and in close proximity.
A State Historic Landmark, Morro Rock is home to a bird sanctuary and to nesting Peregrine Falcons. At a height of 576 feet, Morro Rock has been an important marine navigational aid for over 300 years. It is the most photographed of all the Nine Sisters, and serves as Morro Bay’s gateway to the Pacific Ocean.
Morro Bay’s prime location on the Central Coast makes it a great base for exploring the many other wonderful nearby cities.
Cayucos is one of California’s “last original beach towns.” Just twenty minutes north of San Luis Obispo, it is a convenient stopover for visitors traveling to Hearst Castle or touring the San Louis Obispo County wineries. The seaside town began as a warehouse and wharf built in the 1870′s and to this day retains a distinctly Western flavor with a quaint main street, beaches perfect for surfing and a public pier that doubles as a popular fishing spot. Stop off at the old-fashioned ice cream soda shop, or the nationally famous Brown Butter Cookie Company, Cayucos has something for everyone!
Located just 6 miles south of Hearst Castle is the seaside village of Cambria. Once a pioneering settlement of farmers, miners and dock workers, Cambria eventually became a “destination” resort with art galleries, excellent restaurants, an old-fashioned saloon, and boutiques selling a variety of goods. Cambria is also home to the California Historical Landmark, Nitt Witt Ridge. (881 Hillcrest Dr · Cambria, (805) 927-2690)
Nitt Witt Ridge was conceived by the artist and recluse, Arthur Harold Beal who purchased the two-and-a-half acre property in 1928. He spent the next 50 years building terraces with only a pick and shovel creating his own “castle on a hill.”
Beal was a garbage collector for Cambria in the 40s and 50s and made good use of what was discarded by utilizing these items in the building of Nitt Witt Ridge. It is also reported that he used remnants from Hearst Castle where he worked for some time.
He died in 1992 and in 1999 Michael and Stacey O’Malley became the new owners. Michael offers guided tours of the property which are available only by reservation.
Combining these three towns into a day trip while traveling through the Central Coast can prove to be fun and rewarding. It is a journey through California’s past, a glimpse into a slower lifestyle that does not exist in Southern California.