Time to hit the road. Hit the deck. Hit the beach. Time, in fact, for Uncle Pete’s Most Excellent Seaside Adventure!
"What's that?" you say.
"Sounds exciting!" you add.
"Pray, do tell..."
Uncle Pete's Most Excellent Seaside Adventure (UPMESA) is an epic, adventure-filled day out on the road and on the water. Assuming you're starting in San Francisco—or Oakland or somewhere else North Bay—the idea is to freeway south in the AM to get where you're going fast, spend a few awesome hours on a boat in search of aquatic wildlife, and then mosey back up the slower, more scenic coast road in the PM.
So...with our eyes on the prize of Moss Landing, that krill-sized speck of a town on the edge of Monterey Bay, halfway between Santa Cruz and Monterey proper, let's begin with a basic outline of the round-trip road trip and follow up with some details.
Start - San Francisco
504 Bay Ave, Capitola, CA
Stop here for to-go breakfast bites and/or snack provisions to tide you over until lunch after the whale watch.
7881 Sandholdt Rd, Moss Landing, CA
7881 Sandholdt Rd, Moss Landing, CA
7600 Sandholdt Rd, Moss Landing, CA
25 Swanton Rd, Davenport, CA
202 Stage Road, Pescadero, CA
1 Miramontes Point Rd, Half Moon Bay, CA
225 Cabrillo Hwy S, Half Moon Bay, CA
Next...Enjoy your whale watch on Monterey Bay!
Putt-puttering from the slip, cruise down the harbor channel toward the big briny, toward the beautiful Monterey Bay and the mighty Pacific, passing cormorants and sea lions and western grebes and those cuddly California sea otters while your naturalist for the day points out the different boats, the various buildings, the wildlife, and what to expect once we leave the harbor behind.
And what should you expect?
Well, don't expect. Hope...that's better. You're bound to see something out there, but one never knows what that might be, exactly. Definitely some whales—humpback whales mostly—but also, depending the time of year, big blue whales, fin whales and/or gray whales, maybe orca (!), plus dolphins and porpoises of several different species (in groups that number in the thousands, at times), sluggish mola mola, sea turtles, jellyfish, sharks if you're lucky (great whites are out there and are being seen more often!). Albatross. Pelicans and shearwaters. Tufted puffins? Yup. There's no guarantee. Every trip is supremely different. I adore it out there!
Once back on land, drive or walk over to Phil’s Fish Market for lunch. The menu is large, but there's really no reason to not try the halibut fish and chips. Make the queue, order and pay, and take a number to your table (they deliver the food when it's ready); while you wait, grab a beverage at the bar (you pay separately). There's a quality retail fish market on sight, too, if you're hankering to cook up something for dinner at home.
After Half Moon Bay I'm usually ready to hightail it back to SF, but should you desire there's a few more potential stops along the way.
Further north find Moss Beach Distillery, a local favorite for casual eats and drinks and jazz on selected days/dates, and Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, a state-protected area of rocky seashore with an expansive intertidal zone perfect for exploring during low tide (naturally).
140 Beach Way, Moss Beach, CA
A seaside patio, fire pits, more food and refreshment, and a ghost?
Fitzgerald Marine Reserve - Tide Pools
200 Nevada Avenue, Moss Beach, CA
Great place for kids and adults alike to explore an expanse of protected, healthy tide pools. In addition to the official park website listed above, use the following for more info and to check local low tide times/days: Friends of Fitzgerald Reserve.
There’s so much to see and do on UPMESA, on the big day out, especially during the late spring and summer when daylight lasts and lasts and lasts. Enjoy sunset from the road or back in SF, then, if you're still even remotely hungry, head out for dinner!
Peter J. Palmer