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11 Fun Things to Do in Moss Landing that Locals Recommend [2024]

Last Updated on May 13, 2024 by Jess Grigsby

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things to do moss landing

Moss Landing, CA, is known for its beautiful natural landscape, calming harbor full of abundant marine life, and ample shopping, dining, and attractions. 

A unique blend of coastal charms and world-class amenities, Moss Landing is one of the best places you can visit in The Golden State.

If you’re planning a trip, though, you may find yourself a little overwhelmed. 

What are the best things to do in Moss Landing, and what should you not leave without doing?

In this blog, we’re sharing our favorite activities and how to experience this beautiful area like a local.

A Brief History of Moss Landing, CA

Moss Landing is the homeland of the Ohlone Indians, who have lived in the area for more than 4,000 years.

In the 1700s, Spanish missionaries began to settle in the area, grazing their cattle in the nearby hills and cultivating much of the region as cropland. 

By the mid-1800s, American settlers (including the area’s namesake – Captain Charles Moss) had entered Moss Landing. By 1866, Charles Moss built a 200-foot wharf in the area for whaling, and Moss Landing was officially on the map.

During the Gold Rush in California, Moss Landing became a boomtown, supplying miners with potatoes, sugar beets, lumber, and other critical products. It also became the primary shipping point for crops from the Salinas and Pajaro valleys until the railroad arrived in 1871. 

Today, Moss Landing is a well-known fishing port and popular tourist destination. 

Visitors come to experience the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve and to take advantage of the area’s many fresh fish markets, galleries, beaches, and more. 

11 Fun Things to Do in Moss Landing

Whether you want to get outside and enjoy the fresh air or fill your belly with a delicious meal, there’s something for everyone in Moss Landing. 

As locals to the area, here are a few of our top recommendations:

1. Rent a kayak and paddle through Elkhorn Slough

paddle through elkhorn slough

Moss Landing is known for its natural beauty, and there’s no better way to experience it than to paddle a kayak through the serene waters of Elkhorn Slough

A 7-mile-long estuary located in the heart of Moss Landing, Elkhorn Slough is nationally renowned as a pristine ecological environment. 

The area is so crucial to local wildlife that 5,000 of its 45,000 acres are protected by The Nature Conservancy as essential habitat for marine birds, animals (including sea otters), and plants. 

Elkhorn Slough is one of the country’s top 10 wildlife viewing destinations, thanks to its ecological diversity. 

If you love to get outdoors, rent a kayak from Kayak Connection and enjoy paddling through the six miles of navigable waterway that lead inland from Monterey Bay. 

Thanks to its protected location, the waters of the Slough are calm and peaceful, and this is an excellent destination for even beginning kayakers.

Want a more immersive experience? Book a guided kayak tour in Elkhorn Slough, during which our guides will point out animals and exciting features in the area and help you understand what makes the Slough such a national treasurer. 

2. Book a birdwatching tour

birdwatching tour moss landing

Moss Landing is one of the best birding destinations in the country. In fact, Elkhorn Slough holds the record for the highest number of bird species (116) observed from a single point in one day. 

In the fall and winter, the Slough is home to migratory shorebirds like dunlins, sandpipers, dowitchers, and more. During the summer season, the area is home to thousands of different birds, nesting, breeding, and hunting in the Slough’s extensive salt marshes. 

Whether you’re an avid birder or interested in trying the sport for the first time, we strongly recommend booking a bird-watching tour while you’re in Moss Landing. 

At Kayak Connection, we offer “paddle-birding” tours that get you out on the water in a kayak, provide access to more secluded areas, and make it easy to enjoy world-class bird sightings. 

3. Go for a hike

hiking in elkhorn slough
Image: Lisa Suender via Flickr / CC by SA 2.0

Elkhorn Slough is great to see by water and land. 

Once you’ve finished your kayak excursion, explore the area on foot by hiking one of the Slough’s numerous trails

All trails begin at the Visitor Center and then wind through the Reserve, offering views of the grasslands, salt marsh, tidal flats, and oak woodlands. 

Each trail surface is grass, dirt, or gravel, with easy hiking and minimal inclines suitable for all ages and athletic abilities. 

4. Stay at the Captain’s Inn

Are you looking for a place to stay while you explore Moss Landing? Check out Captain’s Inn at Moss Landing

Situated halfway between Monterey and Santa Cruz and a stone’s throw from Highway 1 on the Old Salinas River Tidal Channel, the inn is the perfect place to relax, recharge, and enjoy many of the sights and sounds of Moss Harbor, including shorebirds, harbor seals, sea otters, and waterfront views. 

5. Head to the Moss Landing Street Fair

Are you looking for a little local flavor? Look no further than the Moss Landing Street Fair.

Held each year on the last Sunday in July, this street fair boasts over 200 booths full of artisan, antique, vintage, and collectible goods and food and drink from local vendors. 

A great place to pick up a unique local trinket or find an unforgettable souvenir for your home, this is a quirky local event you won’t soon forget. 

6. Visit Moss Landing State Beach

moss landing state beach
Image: Charlie Day via Flickr / CC by SA 2.0

Moss Landing State Beach is the heart of this area in many ways. People visit to enjoy some offshore fishing, go surfing or windsurfing, ride horses, or just set up for a family picnic. 

No matter what experience you’re looking for, this beach is the perfect place for a day of relaxation and adventure. 

Since dunes surround this beach, it’s protected from afternoon winds, which makes it the ideal spot to enjoy a day of sun, sand, and surf. 

The beach also offers panoramic views of the sweeping Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and the chance to spot passing marine wildlife. 

7. Visit Moss Landing Harbor

moss landing harbor
Image: Don DeBold via Flickr / CC by SA 2.0

Moss Landing Harbor is a great place to visit and spend a day. Stroll along the docks and check out the ocean research vessels and working fishing boats, or stop in at one of the harbor’s many galleries, antiques shops, or cafes. 

This is a great place to set out on a whale-watching or offshore fishing tour or simply find something delicious to eat at a local place like Phil’s Fish Market, which offers locally caught seafood and fresh fish. 

8. Get some fresh veggies at a local farmer’s market

Grab some artisanal bread and organic produce at the Power Plant Market in Moss Landing, which takes place in front of Power Plant Coffee + Store. 

While this is the market’s inaugural year and the vendor list is still small, new vendors attend every Saturday. 

This is a great place to find everything from fresh-cut flowers to gourmet foods and handmade jewelry. 

Don’t miss it!

9. Check out the Haute Enchilada Art Cafe

What’s better than a restaurant combined with a fine art establishment? Nothing! 

The Haute Enchilada Art Cafe offers a full espresso bar, beer and wine, an extensive breakfast and lunch menu, and unique folk art and furnishings. 

Eat inside or enjoy the fresh air outside in the “secret garden.” No matter your choice, this will surely be one of your favorite destinations in Moss Landing. 

10. Visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Immerse yourself in Moss Landing’s local marine environment by visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI). 

While this research center is private, they do host seminars, educational workshops, and an annual open house which is an excellent opportunity for the public to score a behind-the-scenes view into real, live science and oceanographic research. 

11. Head to Zmudowski State Beach

zmudowski state beach
Image: Carl Mueller via Flickr / CC by SA 2.0

Zmudowski State Beach offers world-class fishing for species like perch, kingfish, sole, flounder, halibut, salmon, steelhead, and even rockfish. 

The beach is also home to the Pajaro River estuary national preserve, which makes it an excellent place to go birdwatching – especially if you’re looking for Western Snowy Plovers, which use the beach as a nesting and breeding ground. 

While the water looks beautiful, swimming and marine sports are discouraged at this beach due to strong rip currents. 

When is the Best Time to Visit Moss Landing?

Moss Landing can be a pleasant destination any time of the year. 

The area experiences peak tourist activity between June and August when most of the region’s amenities and activities are open and available to the public. 

The weather is comfortably cool in spring and fall, and there are fewer crowds. This is still a great time to get outside, especially if you’re willing to dress for adventure and chance a little rain. 

Generally, we recommend planning your Moss Landing trip around what you want to do in the area. 

If you want to enjoy the farmer’s market, street fairs, and peak summer attractions, come between June and August.

If you want to get outside, book a guided kayak tour, or beak the crowds, though, the off-season may be a better bet. 

Kayak Connection: Helping Locals and Visitors Explore Moss Landing by Water!

Moss Landing is one of the most beautiful places in California. 

Known for its ample populations of marine life, shorebirds, and other wildlife, this region is a naturalist’s paradise and the perfect getaway for anyone who wants to be outside. 

Make the most of your trip to Moss Landing this year: book a guided tour with Kayak Connection

Our team of experienced local guides will help you explore and appreciate the local marine environment and enjoy a guided kayak tour you’ll never forget. 

Author: Jess Grigsby

Since 2012, Jess has co-owned and operated Kayak Connection together with her husband Dave. She is a lawyer, coach, avid kayak enthusiast and mother of two teenage girls. At Kayak Connection, Jess oversees a team of experienced kayak guides who are all CPR certified, with many holding advanced Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certifications. Our team is composed of environmental educators, naturalists and classroom teachers with experience working with all kinds of visitors, from school groups to large corporate teams.