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Half Moon Bay – Ideal For California Coastal Retreat
There is no need to drive for hours from the Big City to experience rural charm and stunning coastal beauty. Half Moon Bay is half an hour from San Francisco.
It is in this small village that you will find good shops and a little more speed than the bay towns that are less than a half-hour drive to the northeast. There are nearby lighthouses and farms, flower markets, stunning freshwater lakes, and a harbor with fresh crab, salmon and halibut that find their way to the tables of some of the best local restaurants. .
Half Moon Bay is truly special, and it’s probably all because of its name – how can a place called Half Moon Bay be anything but a dreamy little area with almost fairytale views of the ocean?
Our recent visit to Half Moon Bay was enhanced by our accommodations – a place called the Beach House that offers 54 colorful bedrooms perched on a cliff overlooking the beach. The suites are spacious and inviting, designed like open studios to take advantage of the ocean views. Each unit includes a private patio or balcony as well as separate bedroom and living areas. All the conveniences are there: wood burning fireplaces, cold bars, microwaves, refrigerators, goose down comforters – you name it.
With its Cape Cod styling, the Beach House blends perfectly with the windy beach below the hotel and the dozens of yachts docked in the breakwater. You can walk wide trails down to the ocean or beach and realize it’s a long way from the Big City.
The hotel’s spa services will certainly remind you that you are not exactly in Kansas – the entire menu of spa treatments includes the signature Parisian Lavender Wrap, Reiki Massage and Aromatherapy.
Just a five minute drive from the hotel is the central shopping area of Half Moon Bay, a place to interpret and explore while looking for that special something to bring back to friends and family. There are many boutiques, restaurants and cafes along the main Historic Street, not to mention more restaurants per capita than any small town we’ve visited.
A restaurant called Cetrella was recommended to us and described as a “nice Mediterranean bistro” with perhaps the newest and most impressive building in the downtown shopping area. The menu is amazing in its variety, yet it also offers simple options between seafood, beef, pork, lamb and even rabbit. Among our favorites are the mesquite dry aged Creekstone Farms Black Angus ribeye and the Cypress Island salmon – both cooked to perfection. The vegetables, served in many different dishes, are the freshest we can remember – which should not be surprising considering that the farms are within walking distance of the restaurant. All and all, Cetrella was a hit with our family and apparently with everyone else in town, too – this great restaurant was close to capacity even on a weekday night.
Another fun place to eat in Half Moon Bay is Sam’s Chowder House, our choice for lunch the next day. This fairly new restaurant is just a short walk from the hotel and offers a spectacular view of the bay. Our favorite item: clam chowder.
Once you’ve shopped and eaten to your heart’s content, the next step is exploring and that starts with the beaches right at Half Moon Bay. There are some 55 miles of beaches in this part of the coastal area – the area that is located on the western side of the mountains from the cities of San Francisco Bay – and it seems like a good number. of those right in Half Moon Bay. We took a trail along the bluffs and then took another road to the beach level where we had miles and miles of beaches to ourselves. Undoubtedly on the days of less wind more visitors are enjoying these great beaches, which seem endless.
Many state parks and coastal trails of all kinds are found in all areas along Highway 1. McNee Ranch State Park is a 700-acre preserve near Mount Montara that offers picture-perfect and top view San Pedro Valley County Park is a 1,150-acre park in Pacifica that offers several short, scenic trails.
Hiking is great in this area just minutes from downtown San Francisco and among the activities to keep you at home are visits to local wildlife preserves and farms. Pillar Point Harbor, near the Beach House, is a working fishing port where you can interact with the fishermen and women and learn how they make a living from the sea. In fact you can go fishing yourself on one of the local boats, or take a boat to see the whales that travel along the Pacific coast, December to April.
And how interesting this option is: Use part of your visit to stay on a local family farm where you’ll get a close-up look at how farmers make a living from domestic or animal products. You can also visit a farm if you don’t have time to stay. Phipp’s Ranch in Pescadero features more than 100 varieties of organic vegetables, plants and herbs, while Harley Farms Goat Dairy features an edible flower garden and tours of their cheese making room.
In addition to coastal activities such as beach reclamation and streamlining, there are two bird sanctuaries in the area. Pescadero Marsh is where 200 species of birds rest and feed each year and the trail that leads alongside the old boathouse offers some great views. At Pillar Point, bird watchers have seen about 20 percent of all North American bird species including herons, snowy egrets, loons and grebes.
Finally, be sure to visit the two historic lighthouses located on this beach. The Montara Lighthouse is located in Montara and is just off Highway 1 – though be careful or you’ll miss the turn off. It was built for sailors approaching the fog-shrouded San Francisco Coast and dates back as far as 1875. The current 30-foot guard and lens have been in operation since 1928. The site is currently dedicated to American Youth Hostel, Inc. is open from 7:30 to 9:30 am and 5 to 9:30 pm
Pigeon Point Lighthouse State Historic Park is located south of Pescadero on Santa Cruz Road. The lighthouse lens was lit for the first time in 1872 and this particular lighthouse is one of the two tallest on the West Coast. The grounds are open daily from dawn to dusk with guided tours and docents available from 10 am to 4 pm on weekends. There is also a lodge in this lighthouse.
AT THE BEGINNING
Where: Half Moon Bay is about 25 miles from San Francisco and accessible using the two-coast highway from Pacifica or by driving Interstate 280 south from San Francisco and then driving the last few miles west on Highway 92 , a two-way street. Half Moon Bay feels very rural, perhaps because it has some coastal mountains separating it from San Francisco.
WHAT: Half Moon Bay is an excellent choice for a short vacation that offers a variety of accommodations, good local restaurants, quaint shops, beaches and a variety of boating activities such as diving and sea kayak
WHEN: Anytime of the year. Bundle up for those winter trips, and sometimes even the summer months are nice to the beach.
WHY: There are many natural beauties that can be combined with visits to the city.
HOW: For more information on the Beach House, phone 800-315-9366 or visit the beach house. For more information on Half Moon Bay and area tours, visit visithalfmoonbay or phone 866-558-6823.
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