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Kayaking, biking, or hiking around Morro Bay.

Any beach resort worth its saltwater taffy has them-the seashell ash trays, the starfish key rings, postcards recounting in doggerel the Legend of the Sand Dollar.

The San Luis Obispo County beach town of Morro Bay has these things, too. That's part of its charm. But in Morro Bay, human diversions never overshadow the natural setting-an estuary that for wildlife, especially waterfowl, is one of the most important on the Pacific Coast.

Now there's a new way to enjoy Morro Bay's waters: by kayak. Ashore, you can explore on bike or on foot. Clear, sunny October is an ideal time to try either. A kayaker's view of the bay

Morro Bay is a 400-acre aquatic garden. Otters dive and resurface, sea lions loll and bark. And it is permanent or temporary home to some 200 species of birdsincluding herons and egrets that roost in the eucalyptus rookery on the east shore. Morro Rock stands guard to the north, and, to the west, the bay is sheltered from open ocean by a 3-mile spit of sand.

These protected waters make an ideal schoolroom for beginning kayakers. Two companies offer lessons and tours. Lost Horizons, Box 333, Avila Beach 93424; (805) 595-7447. Hours are 10 to 6 Tuesdays through Saturdays. Two-hour tours run $20; four-hour tours are $35, including lunch. All tours include 20 minutes of instruction. Introductory classes cost $45, and a basic skills class is $75. Equipment is included.

Lost Horizons also offers two-night camping trips at Morro Bay State Park, with kayaking and guided hikes during the day. Cost is $139, including meals.

Morro Bay Outfitters, 844 Main St., Morro Bay 93442; 772-1119. Open 10 to 5:30 weekdays (except Tuesdays), 9 to 5 Saturdays, 10 to 4 Sundays. Tours include trips to the back bay to see birds and seals, to the north bay for views of Morro Rock, and to the sandspit to watch the sunset. Cost is $15. Picnic tours to the sandspit run $25.

A two-day kayaking class costs $115, and beginning surf zone and eskimo roll classes cost $45 each (all include boat and lunch). Kayak rentals run $20 per halfday, $25 for a full day; basic kayaking skills and a wet suit are required. Scuppers rent for $15 per half-day, $20 for a full day; no previous lessons are required.

Off the water: biking, hiking, museum

One way to explore shoreside Morro Bay is by bicycle, Morro Bay Bike Rentals offers beach cruisers and other models for $4 an hour or $25 a day. It's downtown, at 1002 Main Street; 772-8804. Hours are 9 to 4 weekdays, 9 to 5 weekends. Kites Galore rents two-person quadricycles for $10 an hour. It's near the water, at 1108 Front Street; 772-8322. Hours are 9 to 9 Fridays and Saturdays, 9 to 6 other days. The drawback to biking here is a scarcity of designated bike routes. But traffic is normally unthreatening. One popular trip takes you north from downtown on the Embarcadero to Morro Rock a 581-foot volcanic plug that serves in springtime as a nesting site for the endangered peregrine falcon. (This time of year, you're

more likely to see seagulls.)

Another route runs south along Main Street to State Park Road. About 1 1/4 miles south of downtown, you'll see the eucalyptus grove that serves as a heron rookery; though most thickly populated between February and June, it should host a fair number of birds this month.

Just beyond the rookery, the Morro Bay Museum of Natural History perches on White Point. Inside, exhibits explain Morro Bay marine life and bay industries such as oyster farming. The museum also sponsors a good program of guided walks check for a schedule. It's open from 10 to 5 daily; admission is $1. For information, call 772-2694.

For a view, ambitious bicyclists (or lazy drivers) can double back from the museum and head up State Park Road almost 1/2 mile, Turn east on Park View Drive, then fork left on Black Hill Road and climb I mile, through the Morro Bay State Park golf course and up 665-foot Black Mountain. From the mountain (a small trail climbs to the very top), a Pacific vista sweeps north from Montana de Oro across Morro Bay toward Cayucos.

Surfers, sandspits, camping, a festival

Three other attractions also deserve mention. The first is downtown, at 218 Pacific Street; there, Morro Bay Surfing Heritage honors the glory days of the sport, displaying boards from the '40s, '5Os, and '60s. It's open noon to 3 Sundays; admission is free.

Another noteworthy destination is the sandspit that lies across Morro Bay. This 3-mile stretch of dunes can be reached by water on kayak tours or aboard the Clam Taxi. The taxi leaves from 699 Embarcadero weekends between 9 and 4:30; service was tentatively scheduled to continue into October, but call 772-8085 in order to confirm.

To tour the spit by foot, start at its south end. From Morro Bay State Park, drive three miles south on South Bay Boulevard to Los Osos Valley Road; turn west and continue 2 1/2 miles through Los Osos to an unmarked dirt road 1/2 mile past Monarch Drive. Park on the dirt road (not too far from the highway, or risk sinking your car in sand). Then walk 1/2 mile to the south end of the spit. From here, you can stroll north among the dunes.

The state park's attractive campground lies just to the southeast of the natural history museum. To reserve, call MISTIX at(800) 444-7275. Try for a weekday visit; on weekends, even in October, the campground may well be full.

Finally, if you're in Morro Bay October 7 and 8 you can take in the Morro Bay Harbor Festival's art shows, fishing derby, and music. The festival takes place on the Embarcadero from 10 to 5 each day; admission is $2. For more information, call the Morro Bay Chamber of Commerce at 772-1155.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Sunset Publishing Corp.
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Morro Bay, California
Date:Oct 1, 1989
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