Located along scenic Route 1 between the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, Half Moon Bay is a small coastal community set amidst redwood forests and agricultural fields, and also the oldest settlement in San Mateo.
No need to fork over big bucks for an amazing meal with ocean views. Open for lunch and dinner, Sam’s Chowder House (4210 N. Cabrillo Hwy.; 650-712-0245; www.samschowderhouse.com) is a great place to catch a sunset. The laid-back waterfront restaurant is known for lobster rolls and authentic New England Clam Chowder. The children’s menu includes grilled salmon, chicken tenders and pasta. Save room for Sam’s authentic key lime pie.
You’ll also find locally owned cafes serving fresh catch of the day at nearby Pillar Point Harbor (1 Johnson Way; 650-726-5727; www.smharbor.com/pillarpoint).
Spacious guest rooms with patios overlooking the ocean make the Beach House Hotel (4100 N. Cabrillo Hwy.; 650-712-0245; www.beach-house.com) an ideal home away from home. The unpretentious New England-style boutique hotel features microwaves and mini fridges for convenient family snacks in the room, a heated swimming pool, a Jacuzzi and complimentary breakfast and parking. For $25 each, kids ages 3-8 get beach toys, games and snacks. The pool and Jacuzzi are equipped with chair lifts for special-needs guests.
Half Moon Bay is rich with sandy beaches, rocky shorelines and redwood forests. Visit Main Street’s charming boutiques, antique shops and art galleries, and working farms open to the public. The town celebrates harvest season big time with its annual pumpkin festival (www.pumpkinfest.miramarevents.com) Oct. 18 and 19 .
At Sea Horse Ranch (1828 N. Cabrillo Hwy.; 650-726-9903; www.seahorseranch.org), riders of all abilities are matched with gentle horses to ensure a fun two-hour guided outing on trails that lead to the beach. Save money and book a two-hour 8 a.m. ride for $50. So that riders are not distracted, cameras are not allowed. However, you can hand over your phone or camera to guides who will take photos for you.
Explore tide pools at the 32-acre Fitzgerald Marine Reserve (200 Nevada Ave.; 650-728-3584) at Moss Beach. Time your visit between low and high tides and you’re more apt to see abundant marine life such as urchins, sea stars, crabs, sponges and fish. The reserve is also home to harbor seals. Friendly rangers offer good information about the tide pools and seals.
Nearby is the recently opened Devil’s Slide Trail (off Hwy. 1; 650-355-8289), a 1.3-mile paved path along cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Benches and observation scopes offer places to rest and look for marine life. Interpretive panels along the way detail area history, geology and plants. Parking lots are located at each end of the Devil’s Slide Tunnel.
For maps and additional information, visit the Half Moon Bay Coastside Chamber of Commerce (235 Main St.; 650-726-8380; www.halfmoonbaychamber.org).
Let’s Go columnist Mimi Slawoff is a mother of three who writes about family fun.