Nature Activities

Warm, sunny days, cool nights, mountains and beaches and friendly people are good enough reasons to visit San Luis Obispo County. But don't forget our flora and fauna! For starters, find the latest in whale watching, orchid shows, elephant seal watching, birding, dunes walks, and other activities, by consulting the comprehensive, regularly updated calendar of events in San Luis Obispo County.

Birding

The Audubon Society lists San Luis Obispo County as one of its top ten birding sites in the country. Morro Bay Estuary, one of the largest unspoiled coastal marshes in the state, is a major stopping point in bird migration and attracts over 200 species of native and migrating birds - waterfowl, shorebirds, birds of prey, and warblers. Impressive Peregrine Falcons, once on the verge of extinction, now nest and hunt from the cliffs of Morro Rock. The neighboring estuary attracts the graceful and elegant snowy egret.

A brochure listing local birds and birding sites can be obtained by phoning the Natural Resources Manager for San Luis Obispo County at 805-781-7211.

Other useful birding resources:
- Morro Coast Audubon Rare Bird Alert, 805-528-7182
- North Cuesta Audubon, 805-528-7182
- US Fish & Wildlife Service, Ventura Field Office, 805-644-1766

Marine Life

Elephant seals can be seen birthing, raising pups, and fighting for territory in California's largest mainland rookery on the northern edge of Morro Bay, a short walk from Highway 1 in San Simeon. These marine mammals are truly massive. They can weigh more than a small car. Threatened California sea otters also make Morro Bay home. Look beyond the breakers and you may spot a sea otter floating in a bed of kelp. The Great Gray Whale makes its passage up and down the coast twice a year.

Guided whale watching tours leave the San Luis Pier and Morro Bay on a daily basis in winter. For departure times and tickets, inquire at Virg's Landing, 1215 Embarcadero, Morro Bay, 805-772-1222.

Monarch Butterflies

Pismo Beach and the Central Coast play host to millions of migrating Monarch butterflies each winter. Visit the famous Pismo Monarch Grove to see the eucalyptus trees covered with these colorful butterflies.

Elfin Forest

One of the many jewels of Morro Bay is the Elfin Forest Natural Area, described in the Activities for Children page. The 1.5-mile boardwalk meanders through coastal sage and 500-year-old pygmy oaks and offers views of the Estuary as well.

Guided activities

Central Coast Outdoors offers a wealth of outdoor activities. Adventures with Nature, a program supported by the Central Coast Natural History Association, offers docent-led walks in Oceano Lagoon, Hazard Reef, and other nature spots. Scheduled trips are published in the Your Calendar section of the San Luis Obispo Tribune. More information is available by calling 805-772-2694.

The Environmental Center of San Luis Obispo (ECOSLO) offers free monthly docent-led weekend hikes in and around the city of San Luis Obispo. The ECOSLO website (www.ecoslo.org) lists these hikes several months in advance.

Museums

The Natural History Museum in Morro Bay the only museum of its kind in the State Parks system, offers a wealth of information about natural resources in this area. It is located in Morro Bay State Park, within minutes of the Heron Rookery, Montana de Oro State Park, the El Moro Elfin Forest and Audubon's Sweet Springs Nature Preserve. The museum overlooks Morro Bay which is both State and National Estuary. Entry fees are $2 for adults and free to children 16 and under. The Museum is open from 10:00 am to 5:00 p.m. every day of the year except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.

For Children

Traveling with the kids? Click here to access a page of children's activities.

Other Links

- Morro Coast Audubon Society
- Ventana Wilderness Society
- Los Padres National Forest
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Photo courtesy of San Luis Obispo County VCB/Dave Kastner