Catherine Gaugh and her husband, Matt, with their dogs in Tidelands Park, at the south end of the Embarcadero in Morro Bay. (Photo by Doris Gaugh)
Morro Bay and Cambria: 240-270 miles
By Catherine Gaugh
We visit the wonderful Central Coast as often as we can, and this time we decided to share it with our dogs and see how pet-friendly our favorite place really is.
The “boys” — Cedric and Liberty — are both Welsh corgi mixes, each about 35 pounds. Their favorite thing to do on car rides is to bounce all over the back seat, taking turns sticking their noses out the windows. We weren’t having that for the 4.5-hour drive to the Central Coast. A pair of inexpensive individual booster seats from the Drs. Foster and Smith catalog solved that problem. A belt loops the booster around the rear car seat headrest and there is an interior hook to attach to their collars. They can see out the windows but can’t get out of the seat, so they spent most of the ride sleeping between the stretch-your-legs breaks on the way up and back.
Our first destination was Cambria Shores Inn on Moonstone Beach in Cambria, which is touted in many pet-friendly travel directories. The small, 24-room motel is nested on a small rise along the crowded little Moonstone Drive, and it offers a swell view of the beach. Our room was one of six in the center of a row of rooms, so it had an ocean view from the front window — except when a car parked in front of our door, which was just about all the time. No matter. A few steps outside and we had a choice of a center landscaped area or the front lawn; both offered an unobstructed view of this portion of lovely coastline.
The staff and the other guests were all very friendly from the time we drove up to check in, and everyone paid attention to our dogs, unusual mixed breeds that they are. We were happy with the pleasant and comfortable room with its soft white linens — yes, white linens. (A bed cover is provided for dogs that like to sleep on the people bed.) The bathroom had been updated and is done in cool marble. An alcove has a coffee maker, microwave oven, a small refrigerator and an ice bucket with a pair of wine glasses. There is a new flat screen TV and an electric fireplace: we could have an instant romantic fire with the touch of a button. The windows, front and back, open to let in fresh air.
A breakfast of fruit, orange juice and pastries is served in big picnic baskets delivered to each room around 8 a.m. The dogs get a welcome basket, too: plastic bowls for food and water, a placemat, towels and dog biscuits.
Those tasty little dog biscuits are in plentiful supply near the office, and there’s a special bathtub and hose on the grounds for post beach-walk cleanups (for the dogs, not you.)
There is a list of rules and regulations regarding the pets we had to sign when we checked in, including which lawn the dogs can pee on. The rules are quite reasonable, really. One of the no-nos was excessive barking. Our boys are “verbal,” especially when we’rehome andsomeone dares to walk by the front of our house, or if they are hungry for dinner or if they figure it is time to take our walk. And they “talk” to us when they want dinner or to take a walk. So this rule gave us pause:Would our dogs get us kicked out of this nice place because they bark too much?
It didn’t turn out to be a problem. Cedric and Liberty enjoyed the adventure of this new place and all the new smells. They weren’t sure what to think of all the other dogs, so there was a little barking and a lot of sniffing. Thankfully, all the guests seemed to be on their best behavior and under control, humans and dogs alike!
“Sit and stay” was the order of the day for dogs and people. Most guests hung around the inn all day long and their chief activity was gazing at the ocean. They’d stare out at the sea while they had coffee and breakfast. They might take a short walk and then a nap. In the afternoon, they would open a bottle of wine and sit outside to watch the ocean some more. Most sent out for dinner, so they could sit and stay and watch the sunset.
We preferred to take long walks. The Moonstone Beach boardwalk is just across the street. It offers easy walking and the antics of hundreds of squirrels provided the boys with a lot of entertainment and intrigue. Dogs aren’t allowed on the beach itself. (There is a beach where dogs are allowed, on a strip of sand south of the little community of Cayucos and north of Morro Bay city limits.)
It is too bad there isn’t a pet-friendly restaurant on Moonstone Drive. While the Moonstone Grill is a short walk from the inn, no pets are allowed there. The inn provided a short list of pet-friendly eateries in Cambria’s tourist area. We didn’t get excited about trying any of them. There are at least three dog sitters associated with the inn, but you have to call and make the arrangements yourself.
We drove south to Morro Bay to frequent two dog-friendly places we knew about.
Tognazzi’s Dockside 2 along the Embarcadero in Morro Bay is about 20 minutes south of Cambria. The outdoor patio is fenced and equipped with wall hooks for dog leashes, so the pups can’t wander off while you eat. Try the barbecued oysters ($1.25 each), the bisque and fresh catch of the day. It reminds me how Morro Bay used to be a vibrant, busy commercial fishing port, but it has fallen off the last several years for lots of reasons. Tognazzi’s is a holdover; it has its own fishing boat as well as a fish market.
After lunch, we walked a few feet to Morro Bay’s new boardwalk, which offers a path all the way to the rock.
You can take your dogs to dinner with you at DiStasio’s Italian Restaurant, on the south end of the Embarcadero. The space that houses DiStasio’s was for a long time the home of the Hofbrau, which has moved north, and then the Pacific Cafe, which was fitness guru and Morro Bay resident Jack LaLanne’s favorite dinner spot. (He orders wine with his fish.) There is a partially enclosed dining area downstairs with a great view of the harbor, and your dog is welcome. It filled up fast the night we were there. There aren’t any dog biscuits, but the traditional Italian fare and seafood menu is people-pleasing.
After dinner, you and your pet can walk along the boulevard, peeking in at shops. The Shell Shop, perhaps the only shop that hasn’t changed since it opened in 1955, stays open late so you can marvel at the range of kitschy shell art as well as some interesting true-life shells from seas all over the world. The Tidelands Park is also a nice stroll to the southernmost tip of the Embarcadero.
(626) 962-8811, Ext. 2479
DIRECTIONS: Head north on the 134 Freeway to the 101; take the Lake CachumaPass Road from the 101 in Santa Barbara, and rejoin 101 south of Santa Maria. The Highway 1 exit in San Luis Obispo takes you to Morro Bay and Cambria.
CAMBRIA SHORES INN
6276 Moonstone Beach Drive, Cambria
(805) 927-8644. Call for specials; $230-$290 per night; $15 additional per dog per night
TOGNAZZI’S DOCKSIDE 2
1245 Embarcadero, Morro Bay
(805) 772-8100. $1.25 barbecued oysters; $9 fish and chips, fresh catch of the day
DISTASIO’S ITALIAN RESTAURANT
571 Embarcadero, Morro Bay
(805) 771-8760. Italian food done nicely. Order something with cheese. Yum!
There also is a DiStasio’s in neighboring Los Osos.
590 Embarcadero, Morro Bay