Recently, Norm Goldman, Editor of the travel site sketchandtravel.com had the pleasure of interviewing Margi Grant Publications Manager San Mateo County Convention and Visitors Bureau. One of the questions Norm posed to Margi pertained to the beaches in and around San Mateo County, California.
Margi provided the following useful information.
Traveling southward along Coast Highway One from San Francisco, past the several beaches of Pacifica, you will find:
*** GRAY WHALE COVE STATE BEACH: A small, isolated, clothing-optional and adults-only beach that involves walking down a steep trail and stairs to get to the sand. Parking is difficult. Gray Whales are often seen quite close to the shore here from mid-April to mid-May.
***MONTARA STATE BEACH: On the north end of Montara is the beach, a popular spot that attracts surfers, picnickers, frisbee throwers and sunbathers. There is parking available, but the paths down to the beach are quite steep. The lighthouse, on the south side of town, is a sure way for visitors to know they are in Montara. American Youth Hostel Association has one of their facilities beside the historic Point Montara Lighthouse and can accommodate groups up to 25 people.
***MOSS BEACH'S FITZGERALD MARINE RESERVE: This beach is one of the best spots on California's coast to study intertidal ecology at the James V. Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. At low tide, the tide pools serve up sea urchins, crabs, sea anemones, starfish and other aquatic life for viewing. Naturalists are on hand to point out interesting facts, lead hikes, and focus on understanding the ways of the reserve. Information booklets are available at the reserve.
***HALF MOON BAY BEACHES: On a hot day the coastline in Half Moon Bay is packed with sunbathers, hikers, kite flyers, surfers, and picnickers. Half Moon Bay has several miles of good beaches, such as Surfers Beach, Dunes Beach, Venice Beach, Francis Beach and Poplar Beach. There is also overnight camping available and, above the beaches for the adventurous, horseback riding on the plateaus.
Whale-watching boats depart Pillar Point Harbor during fall and winter. Kayaking rentals and lessons are also available at the harbor year round.
***COWELL STATE BEACH: Beach, contained in a cove surrounded by cliffs, can be accessed via staircase located a mile's walk from the parking lot.
***MARTINS BEACH: Bring the family for a visit to this private beach. Secluded area with surfing. A small general store offers food and beverages.
***SAN GREGORIO BEACH: Four miles north of San Gregorio is a clothing-optional beach which was, at one time, one of the most famous beaches in Northern California. Visitors must pay a fee to enter the beach.
***SAN GREGORIO STATE BEACH: A popular beach for sunbathing, picnicking, and strolling among the sandy hills and on the gently sloping, sandy shoreline at the foot of high sandstone bluffs. There are no lifeguards on duty and swimming can be dangerous, however, visitors (especially children) may enjoy swimming or wading in the lagoon that often forms at the mouth of San Gregorio Creek.
***POMPONIO STATE BEACH: A great beach for exploring cliffs and bluffs. Visitors enjoy walking and picnicking on the 1.5-mile-long sandy beach and surf fishing for Striped Bass and Surf Perch.
***PESCADERO STATE BEACH: Visitors driving to Pescadero will pass artichoke, bean and lettuce farms before they reach the area. The beach lies south of Half Moon Bay and is great for watching tide pools, fishing, strolling and sunbathing. East of Highway One is the 555-acre Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve with two large saltwater ponds and lush flowing creeks. The preserve provides sanctuary to migratory birds, waterfowl, and year-round resident birds such as Mallards, Coots, Kestrels and Marsh Hawks, as well as Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons. The quaint farming town of Pescadero, located about 2 miles east of Highway One on Pescadero Road, is a wonderful place to stop for lunch.
***PEBBLE BEACH: The rocks and flowers are the attractions of Pebble Beach. At one time, people would come from all around the Bay Area to collect the beautiful stones. Today, in order to preserve the beauty of the colorful pure quartz rocks, the only things to take home are memories and pictures. In springtime one can enjoy the self-guided nature trail that has lovely wild flowers, which brighten the landscape.
***BEAN HALLOW BEACH: This beach has wide patches of sand suitable for child's play and sunning, and wind protection from landforms on the north. The rocky intertidal zone along the shoreline is an excellent place to explore tidepools.
***PIGEON POINT LIGHT STATION STATE HISTORIC PARK: Stop to look at the handsome white-painted brick lighthouse building at Pigeon Point. One of the tallest lighthouses in the U.S., it was built in 1872 following a string a shipwrecks and now serves as a youth hostel. The lighthouse itself is still in operation though it has now been largely automated and the foghorn was shut down in 1976.
***ANO NUEVO STATE RESERVE: One of the awesome human encounters with wildlife occurs each winter at Ano Nuevo. There is nothing on earth like the Elephant Seals found here during the months of December through April when as many as 3,000 seals breed and give birth. During one of many guided tours, one can see a 16-foot, 3-ton bull elephant seal guarding its harem, and maybe even a female giving birth to a baby seal. Other large marine mammals can also be seen at Ano Nuevo. Stellar and California Sea Lions spend time here during the summer months, Harbor Seals breed in this area during April and May and Fur Seals are occasionally spotted offshore. California Gray Whales are seen migrating southward between January and March. The reserve is closed during the months of December through April except for special guided tours to see the Elephant Seals. During the rest of the year, a hiking permit from the ranger is necessary if you wish to explore nature on your own.
As you take Highway 92 back to the Bay side of San Mateo County, you will discover several small beaches along the lagoons of both Foster City and Redwood Shores. The main beach on this side of the Peninsula is found by taking Coyote Point Drive off Highway 101 in San Mateo:
***COYOTE POINT RECREATION AREA: The area, which includes a beach, a marina breakwater and a saltwater marsh, provides picnicking, swimming, windsurfing, bicycling, jogging, fishing, boating and sailing. Visit the fascinating exhibits of the Bay Area's natural history and wildlife habitats at the Coyote Point Museum.
In addition Margi brought to my attention the following interesting venues to visit along the coast of the San Francisco Peninsula.
As you travel down the southern coast of the San Francisco Peninsula, you will find some of the finest beaches in San Mateo County with attractions you won't be able to find anywhere else in the world. The San Mateo County coastline has a rich history dating back to the Gold Rush era. Early Portuguese and Spanish settlers developed the coastal land into flourishing agricultural businesses which included vegetables, fruits, and flowers.
Because of the rich cultural influence, the San Mateo County Coastside draws many visitors to its fine restaurants, accommodations, picturesque scenery, and, especially, its beaches. To witness the incredible spectacle of thousands of elephant seals converging annually on Ano Nuevo State Reserve to mate and to breed their young is an experience of a lifetime.
The Reserve is the site of the largest mainland-breeding colony in the world for the northern elephant seal (along with sea lions and other marine mammals) that come ashore in staggering numbers from December through April each year for their annual mating/calving ritual and remain in smaller colonies throughout the year. Along with this natural phenomenon, the Coastside is also home to the James Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, established in 1969 to protect hundreds of marine plant and animal species.
This rich and complex marine habitat, where scientists have discovered 25 new marine invertebrate and plant species (several that live nowhere else but at the preserve), exposes a gorgeous array of colors and textures during low tides that would delight any nature lover and photographer. Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve is a habitat where a total of 230 species of birds have been recorded (of these, 66 species have been found nesting here) along with a wide variety of mammals, amphibians and plants. One of the largest and most important marshes in California, the 500-acre wildlife sanctuary is a favorite of birdwatchers and other animal lovers.
The California Gray Whale can be observed as it travels along the San Mateo County coast on its annual migration from Alaska to Mexico and back. This natural occurrence may be witnessed from shore, as well as from boats that conduct whale-watching tours from Pillar Point Harbor. Mavericks, a yearly phenomenon anticipated by the best and most intrepid surfers around the globe, is a world-renowned 50-foot wave surf spot located off Pillar Point on the San Mateo County coast where a surfing contest considered to be the Super Bowl of Surfing takes place. The monstrous waves are featured in Stacy Peralta's acclaimed film Riding Giants which opened the 2004 Sundance Film Festival. (see attached description of San Mateo County beaches)
To read more about what Margi had to share with Norm about San Mateo County, California as a romantic destination CLICK HERE
Additional information pertaining to lodging, food, attractions etc can be found HERE