Father’s day is just around the corner so before you scramble to buy another tie or “World’s Best Dad” coffee mug, get creative and treat him to an outdoor adventure! To parents, the ultimate present is that of time spent together and precious memories. So this year, plan to wake up dad with a home cooked breakfast (bacon, eggs and French toast please!) followed by an activity-packed day outdoors with the entire family.
Today I would like to introduce you to a very special place that has all the above and makes for the perfect Father’s Day gift. Northern California’s Half Moon Bay is home to sun drenched beaches ideal for sunbathing and picnicking, one of our nation’s most spectacular marine protected areas for tide pooling, marine mammal watching, long stretches of coastline trails for biking and hiking, a protected harbor for sea kayaking and a great fishing destination.
Half Moon Bay’s Coastside Trail runs parallel to the Pacific Coast and is truly a fun destination. It’s a family-grade flat ride with sweeping views of the coast, the ocean, picturesque bluffs, views of the world-famous Mavericks, a surfing spot near Pillar Point that’s visible from the trail and wildlife viewing.
It has access to several beaches so make sure you take your bike locks if you plan to make stops to visit the beaches.
This ride is an overall easy one with the most difficult part being where to choose to stop! Insider Tip: Stop at El Granada for a delicious cup of clam chowder and finish your ride at the ice cream parlor.
Roosevelt, Dunes, Venice and Francis beaches line up along the Half Moon Bay coast to form two miles of white sand that makes up Half Moon Bay State Beach (see the map above). A fifth beach, Cowell Ranch Beach, is also part of the state beach and is three miles further to the south.
Venice beach is between two creeks (Pilarcitos and Frenchmans) and makes a great wading area for kids. It has outdoor showers and flushable toilets, which is a nice luxury. Birds are also common users of the freshwater of Pilarcitos creek so be sure to pack your binoculars.
Francis Beach has a nice grassy park with picnic tables and barbecues on the bluff above the ocean. It also has a campground for tents and trailers. Word of caution: These beaches are not suitable for swimming but they are great for sunbathing and picnicking.
Located only 15 minutes north of Half Moon Bay in Moss Beach is Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, which is home to dozens of colorful, unique sea creatures. If you visit the reserve at low tide (one foot or less), you’ll be able to see a multitude of sea-life. The reserve hosts a living community of seaweed, crabs, sea-stars, octopus, sponges, mollusks, fish, and even harbor seals. It’s Full of natural marine wildlife splashing in the Pacific Ocean which makes it an ideal spot for your little marine biologist. Watch the introductory video created by Fitzgerald Marine Reserve.
Kayaking, Stand Up Paddle Boarding, Boating and Fishing
Pillar Point Harbor is one of area’s most protected harbors. This location is ideal for sea kayaking as well as stand up paddle boarding (SUP) since the area is shielded from wind. There are kayak and SUP rentals available at the harbor to enjoy an afternoon paddle amongst the seals, birds and other marine life.
Pillar Point Harbor is also a prime location along the California coast for commercial and sport fishing. There are several sport fishing charters operating at Johnson Pier. If your family has no luck with active biters, you can purchase fresh fish from commercial fishermen that sell their catch of the day right off their boats! Food doesn’t get any fresher. Insider Tip: As with any other Northern California coast, Half Moon Bay can get foggy in the mornings and cold in the evenings so dress in layers.
Mavericks Cliffs Trail is a 1.5 mile (easy) hiking trek that places you in one of the most famous surfing locations in the world, where the annual Mavericks competition is held. You can supplement the excursion with a climb to a bluff with ocean views, and scramble down a hillside for a walk on the beach. Inside Tip: The Mavericks Cliff Trail is dog friendly.
GPS Coordinates for the Trailhead: 37 30’06.5”N 122 29’47.9”W
Another fun activity to consider – boulder hopping! My kids and I had a lot of fun watching the seals and looking for other marine life while hopping along a 1.4 mile long jetty of big rocks. This is however a potentially dangerous activity since the rocks are large and sometimes big waves may come unexpectedly so please proceed with caution.
Outdoor enthusiast Holly Motaghi created Power Travelers to help families plan and execute their next outdoor adventures with ease -- including hiking, biking, camping and water activities. Power Travelers can also be found on Facebook.