Most visitors come to Morro Bay to ogle Morro Rock, the much-photographed Central Coast icon that anchors the mouth of the waterway. This ancient landmark, whose name comes from the Spanish word for a Moorish turban, is a volcanic remnant inhabited by the peregrine falcon and other migratory birds.

Beaches -- Popular Atascadero State Beach, just north of Morro Rock, has gentle waves and pretty views. Restrooms, showers, and dressing rooms are available. Just north of Atascadero is Morro Strand State Beach, a long, sandy stretch with normally gentle surf. Restrooms and picnic tables are available. Morro Strand has its own campgrounds; for information, call tel. 805/772-2560, or reserve through ReserveAmerica (tel. 800/444-7275;

On the Water -- You can rent sea kayaks or take a guided kayak tour around the bay with Kayak Horizons of Morro Bay, 551 Embarcadero (tel. 805/772-6444; Rentals start at $9 per hour and tours cost $55.

State Parks -- Cabrillo Peak, in the Morro Bay State Park (tel. 805/772-2560), makes a terrific day hike and offers 360-degree views from its summit. There's a zigzagging trail, but the best way to reach the top is by bushwhacking straight up the gentle slope -- a hike that takes about 2 hours round-trip. To reach the trail head, take Hwy. 1 south and turn left at the Morro Bay State Park/Montana de Oro State Park exit. Follow South Bay Boulevard for 3/4 mile, and then take the left fork another half-mile to the Cabrillo Peak dirt parking lot on your left. The park also offers camping and the oceanside Morro Bay Golf Course (also known as Poor Man's Pebble Beach), which charges only $51 for weekend greens fees (tel. 805/782-8060;

South of Morro Bay in Los Osos is Montana de Oro State Park ("Mountain of Gold"), known as "petite Big Sur" because of its stony cliffs and rugged terrain. There's great swimming at Spooner's Cove and lots of easy hiking trails, including some that lead to coastal vistas or forest streams. The Hazard Reef Trail will take you up on the Morro Bay Sandspit dunes. The park's campground is in the trees, across from the beach, and is worth the detour, if you have a reservation in summer. For information or to reserve a spot, contact ReserveAmerica (tel. 800/444-7275;

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.