This last year we started exploring Half Moon Bay a little bit. One of the places we found and absolutely love is Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. It’s a beach but, not just a beach, it has tide pools! Really good, easily accessible tide pool that aren’t in a dangerous location. This place is gold, a trifecta of awesomeness. Let’s talk about it!
Fitzgerald Marine Reserve is located on the north side of Half Moon Bay, it might technically be in Moss Beach…but it’s all so close and smushed together it’s hard to tell. This beach is off of Highway 1 turn down California Ave. then turn right when the road dead ends, this is N. Lake St. this road ends at a parking lot…park there! Next to the parking lot is a little park with picnic tables and bathrooms! We love a place with bathrooms! In the park there is an informational booth of sorts. It had visuals and information on the tide pools and surrounding oceans. We stop here every time we visit. The kids love to look at the artifacts and freshen up their tide pool knowledge.
There are two main areas to visit at this beach. The areas are usually separated by a coned off section of beach that is protected for seals. You can tide pool at both areas but only enjoy a dip in the water/ play in the water at the second area.
Area one, from the parking lot head right towards the end of the street and down the dirt path, past the ‘Marine Fitzgerald Reserve’ sign. Getting down to the beach and subsequent tide pools is a bit tricky. There are rocks and a little river to cross. Erik and I handed each other the kids over the river and scrambled across the rocks and it wasn’t a huge deal. This beach area is small-ish but there are great tide pools and if you catch it at the right time you can go really far out on the rocks.
The second area is a short walk from the parking area. This time from the parking area turn left and cross the bridge that is on the right side of the street. From here you can take the path to the left straight to the beach or head up to the bluffs the right, to catch an amazing view and then back down the path towards the beach. The signs are pretty great, so just follow the little green arrows to the beach. Make sure to walk through the grove of trees on your way. The light in there is amazing and the trees make a perfect tunnel. It’s a great photo opportunity. There are two flights of stairs down to the beach, but the stairs are sturdy with good handrails. This beach is basically a lagoon. There are tide pooling rocks on the right and left and a sandy area for water play, in the middle. There ar very little waves so it’s a great place for younger kids to play. Just be careful to not get stuck out on the rocks when the tide comes in, it can sneak up on you a bit. We laid out our blanket, the baby played trucks and the big kids ran into the water. Erik and I just sat there declaring our love for California and the beach and this specific beach may just be our new favorite.
The parking lot closes promptly at 5pm during the winter so if you need to change kids out of wet clothes keep this in mind, we got back late and had to hold up towels for them to change under but it was no big deal. But the rangers frown on you being late out of the parking lot so, park on the street if you know you will be late. But from April to August the tide pools and parking lot are open until 8pm!
If you have never been to these tide pools before I recommend stopping by the information kiosk/booth thing near the parking lot and picking up a pamphlet on the local wild life. At first glance it might appear like nothing is in the puddles of water that you are looking at but, if you know what you are looking for it’s easier to identify all of the limpets, chitons, hermit crabs, anemones and sea stars. On top of those creatures we have seen gumboot chitons, red crabs and baby sculpins (little fish). On our list visit as we were walking back to our car we saw bats swoop from the trees, it was pretty awesome. There are creatures all over the place here, just keep a watchful eye out and you are bound to see something amazing!
Thanks for reading and remember to get up, get out and go create an adventure! Keep an eye out, we are putting together a blog post of our tide pool essentials, tips and things…very soon!