Central California Boardwalks – Your guide to the walkways along the coast

A wooden walkway leading to a grassy area with mountains in the background.

Central California Boardwalks

Central California boardwalks – a unique guide to those comfortable and special walkways that guide you along the scenic coastal areas. Just like the central coast itself, these boardwalks are different and inviting.

A section of the Morro Bay Marina Boardwalk with Morro Rock in the background

If your experience of boardwalks comes from the east coast or even the LA area, the walkways we will cover here are definitely not that sort.

The boardwalks of Central California are small, quiet and intimate paths that allow you to interact with nature in a special way.

The boardwalks of Santa Cruz or Venice Beach are interesting in their own regard, but are really showcases for those wishing to view the wide range of quirkiness that humanity can display.

The central coast boardwalks also allow accessibility to special places for those with impaired mobility.

Be sure to check out the links to my detailed pages on most of these boardwalks which will give you directions and other needful specifics.

The Morro Bay Marina Boardwalk

Looking east toward the back bay and the Morros on the Marina boardwalk

One of the newest of these “nature trails” is the Morro Bay Marina Boardwalk. Built during the summer of 2012, the focus of this boardwalk is the estuary and wetlands of Morro Bay. It is a favorite area for birding and observing the action of the tides in this part of the bay.

A view of Morro Bay and the sand spit from the Marina Boardwalk

The Los Osos Elfin Forest (El Moro Elfin Forest)

Boardwalk in The Elfin Forest


The Elfin Forest in Los Osos is just a mile across the bay from the Marina Boardwalk. While close in distance, it is another world in terms of the habitats and ecology that you can see.

There are eight different habitats here in a small area here and the boardwalk circuit allows you to enjoy them all.

The Sweet Springs Nature Preserve in Los Osos

A view to Morro Bay from the Sweet Springs Preserve

While not as long as the other Central California boardwalks, the Sweet Springs Nature Preserve in Los Osos is a fine example of the Central California boardwalks: close to nature; quiet and relaxing.

This place is at the southern end of Morro Bay and is a nice stop on your way to the better-known Montana de Oro State Park.

Cloisters Park, Morro Bay

The boardwalk from Cloisters Park leading to the beach

The boardwalk at Cloisters Park in Morro bay is hidden at the back of the park, toward the ocean.

The path leads through coastal dune scrub habitat and exits onto the sand at Morro Strand Beach. There is a small riparian area close to the road. The length of the boardwalk here is approximately 0.5 miles and is flat and easy to walk.

GPS location for Cloisters Park: 35.3883, -120.8597.

Moonstone Beach Boardwalk, Cambria

Looking south along the Moonstone Beach boardwalk

Perhaps the best-known and beloved of all the Central California boardwalks, the walkway along Moonstone Beach in Cambria extends for more than a mile.

The northern end extends almost to Leffingwell Landing and the southern end to Santa Rosa Creek by Shamel Park.

Native vegetation has been restored and there are several observation decks that allow good views of the coast. These platforms are also elevated enough to allow you to see a bit of the gray whale migrations up and down the coast.

Just like the boardwalks in the larger beach cities of California, there are those here looking for handouts. But they aren’t human – the ground squirrels seem to make a good living on the kindness of others here.

There is parking all along this stretch of road allowing you to make a quick stop, or take your time and walk the entire extent.

Either way, you’ll enjoy the boardwalk here.

Fiscalini Ranch Preserve, Cambria

Poppies alongside the boardwalk at the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve, Cambria

Not far to the south of Moonstone Beach is an undeveloped stretch of coastline that used to be a ranch. This is the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve in Cambria.

Boardwalks alternate with graveled pathways and take you along the bluffs overlooking the rocky coastline of this 430 acre site.

There are also trails along a ridge a bit to the east which allows you to view the ocean from a higher perspective.

A great place and now you can enjoy it just as the cattle once did.

Oso Flaco Lake, Oceano Dunes

Oso Flaco Lake boardwalk

The Oso Flaco Lake Natural Area is not a heavily traveled or well-known area. Located in the southern end of San Luis Obispo County, the part of the Oceano Dunes has several small lakes amid the dunes.

Boardwalks take you across the lake and then through the dunes most of which are host to salt and drought tolerant vegetation.

The pathway is wheelchair accessible, but be aware that there are several inclines which may test your motor or whomever is pushing.

The boardwalk ends about 50 yards from the surf at an elevated deck which has great views of the coast.

Oso Flaco lake scrub dune easterly view

On the way to the beach at Oso Flaco Lake

Interspersed along the boardwalk here are benches and interpretive boards which explain the fauna and flora seen along here. There are wheelchair accessible restrooms at the trailhead and about 1/4 mile inland from the beach.

Boardwalk allowing good views of elephant seals

The above boardwalk is found between San Simeon / Hearst Castle and Point Piedras Blancas and the lighthouse on Highway 1. This particular walkway allows viewing of the elephant seals on the beach below. There are various portions of the population of seals in view here year-round. The boardwalk and the parking areas have been added and enlarged since this is a very popular stop to or from the Big Sur area.

Other Central California Boardwalks…

The above paths aren’t the only boardwalks to be found here. There are some at Asilomar Beach on the Monterey Peninsula as well as at the Marina Dunes north of Monterey.

There is also a relatively new boardwalk in Morro Bay which is found at the north end of Embarcadero and which leads out to Morro Rock.

The setting sun over the Asilomar Beach boardwalk

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