Do you love oysters, wine, beer and top notch entertainment? There is a place that you can indulge these passions and that is California’s Central Coast Oyster Festival located in the historic and lovely town of Morro Bay California. We had the great opportunity to attend the first annual Festival and it will continue on as one of the premier Oyster festival s in the country. Not only is this an outstanding event to attend, Morro Bay California offers sumptuous dining, breath taking scenery and many great outdoor activities for the entire family.
Famous for the 576 foot Morro Rock towering out of the ocean, the auspicious ancient landmark is home to nesting American peregrine falcons, and overlooks the bay that is teeming with sea life, sea otters, harbor seals and of course several oyster farms. Taking an evening cruise to get acquainted with this amazing area was a great way to start our festival weekend. The Chablis is a unique, 50 foot, two story riverboat that graces the lovely Morro Bay Harbor. As we made our way on the glass like blue waters of Morro Bay, we imbibed with local Laetitia Vineyard’s Sparkling wine as the golden California sun slipped behind the magnificent Morro Rock. On board we were given a brief history of the town and the bay itself. We also had a lesson on how oysters are grown and harvested in this unique area by Mr. Dwight Maloney of Morro Bay Oyster Company, a local family owned and operated business that has received national and local acclaim.
Receiving a cultural and epicurean history of the area, we now had a new appreciation for the efforts made to preserve this pristine area of California and the passion that is given to food and wines that are grown and harvested in this area. Engaged with the ambience, we now were able to sample several of the famous Morro Bay oysters as we continued to sip our sparkling wine and anticipate the festival that would bring many more visitors to this area for the first annual Central Coast Oyster Festival.
As we left the Chablis we walked up the hill to our spacious and lovely room at the Beach Bungalow Inn. These historic Bungalows are restored 1940 military apartments that were renovated to become warm and welcoming hotel rooms that are pet friendly. We often travel with our furry family that includes our golden retriever Houdini and our Maltese, Holly.
We are always looking for pet friendly accommodations and we highly recommend Beach Bungalow Inn and Suites www.morrobaybeachbungalow.com for their lovely rooms with daily breakfast at several of the local restaurants. We believe our pets our part of our family and we want to share a holiday with our canine family.
After a refreshing and relaxing stay at our hotel, we head to a Kayaking trip on the Morro Bay to learn more about this pristine area and the oyster farms. We drive a short distance to the Central Coast Outdoors Kayak Shack which offers guided kayaking trips. We meet with our energetic guide who gave us lessons on how to navigate a Kayak in and out of the water. As we were escorted through the waters, we were often made aware of the various aspects of the flora and fauna of the Morro Bay.
As we paddled, we were aware of the harbor seals playfully moving about between our Kayaks and we were guided to their “sun bathing area”, but warned not to get to close because Marine mammals are federally protected and human interaction is limited to certain distances for safety of the marine mammals. We also were told that at low tide various winged creatures migrate and use the estuary as a stopping over point.
The area is an alive with wildlife and is sanctuary for many types of birds and sea mammals. We continued on to the oyster beds for an up close look at how oysters are grown and harvested.
According to the Morro Bay oyster web site , “Morro Bay Oyster Company brings close to a million “baby” oysters into our farm each year when they are no bigger than a pencil eraser. Grown in strong mesh bags and constantly tended to by our staff, the oyster is given the safety to grow in a harsh ocean environment and finally reach its highest potential before being harvested. The intensive cultivation of our Pacific Gold oysters takes from twelve to twenty-four months. The farming methods we use help to create a beautiful, protective shell and rich flavored meat.
Oysters are responsible for many benefits to the bay. Filtering seawater allows more light to shine through the water helping marine plants such as endangered eel grass get the sunlight it needs to thrive. The bags and equipment used to grow our oysters offer an artificial reef for small organisms such as shrimp, fish, and crabs, which use this “reef” as a protective nursery for their young.”
As we approached these mesh bags we were in awe at the large oyster farm that we were able to glide our Kayaks next to for a up close look to where these Pacific Gold oysters are hand harvested and brought to our local markets and restaurants. The oysters have a meaty briny quality but also a hint of sweetness due to influx of fresh water that emerges with the bay. No wonder these oysters are called “gold” since they are the product of much care and dedication to the area’s natural abundance.
Continuing on to the shore we felt well prepared to experience the first ever Morro Bay Oyster Festival. With a true appreciation for what we were going to experience both culinary and culturally.
We made our way to “the Rock” where shuttle buses provided transportation to and from the festival. Located on the fairway of the Morro Bay Golf Course this event was truly a first in many ways. The instillations for the event, including a giant Pagoda and a bamboo stage were the creations of Do LaB,” known for their annual event Lightning in a Bottle and structure design at Coachella.”
As we made our way to the giant Pagoda, what came to our minds was “Love, Peace and Oysters.” The atmosphere was one of Woodstock meets Oysters.
Along the perimeter of the event where the local vendors and of course the many options to sample oysters along with local beers from Tap It Brewery, specialty cocktails, wines, and other local fare, along with all afternoon live entertainment including the You-Tube sensation, Walk Off The Earth.
Now all of this was available for a $20 admission fee, alcohol and food were extra. This event was a benefit for Options Family services.
Options Family of services was established in 1984 in San Luis Obispo County and now provides residential sites, day services and employments services to over 200 persons with developmental disabilities.
For a first time event, this was truly one that will attract thousands every year for its amazing venue, music, beers and wine and of course the oysters.
Morro Bay is a gem amongst many wonderful California beach towns. Family orientated activities and recreational opportunities abound within one of California’s most unique and lovely areas. While planning your next vacation, pencil in the Morro Bay Oyster Festival as a starting point to a memorable and unforgettable experience. Come experience the bounty of land and sea. For more information please visit www.Morrobay.org . See you next year in Morro Bay !