Half Moon Bay & San Mateo Coast | Exploring Cali

Half Moon Bay & San Mateo Coast | Exploring Cali

When we first realized we would be relocating to the USA, W and I sat down to write a list of all the places we wanted to visit. Hawaii, Florida, Austin, Seattle, Mexico City to name a few. Much to my shame, I didn’t consider places closer to home. We soon realized that we needed to focus our travel efforts on exploring Northern California.

The wild fires of November 2018 were truly devastating for the people of Northern California. The fires destroyed the town of Paradise and left thousands homeless. Thick forest fire smoke across San Francisco {250 miles to the south!} was an unintended consequence. For a week the air quality in San Francisco was the worst in the world. With no sign of the air quality improving, we decided to head out of San Francisco to explore Half Moon Bay and the San Mateo Coast.

We headed out of the city along the freeway that goes into Silicon Valley. We soon switched onto route 1 which runs up the coast of California {and beyond}. Almost immediately the scenery became breathtaking. I kept saying to W I couldn’t believe we were only 10 miles or so from San Francisco but felt like we were 1,000 miles away. We trundled through the small town of Pacifica which is in reality a suburb of San Francisco given how close it is. Being a Sunday, the locals were all out surfing or walking their dogs along the beach. Pick up trucks with surf boards in the back were as common as black cabs are in London.

Having discovered Ashley Muirbruhn’s amazing Hither & Tither blog, I had a rough idea of where we wanted to end up, Sam’s Chowder House on the edge of Half Moon Bay, where the lobster rolls were apparently to die for! W’s colleagues had also suggested Half Moon Bay would be a great place to visit.

Devil’s Slide

Devil's Slide

As we drove up the hills south of Pacifica it wasn’t long before we stumbled upon Devil’s Slide. Here route 1 used to hug the cliff tops. A couple of years ago they created a tunnel through the hill so that the cars could bypass the twisty cliff side route. The state of California have turned the old route 1 into a state park. At either end of the tunnel is a large car park, you can park up and walk along the road and admire the views.


We ended up parking at the south car park and walking north up the old road. The coastal scenery was stunning. The best bit, being an old road, this short hike was completely accessible with a buggy/stroller. It was amazing how deserted and peaceful the park was, granted due to the air quality it might have been less popular, but it was just beautiful being able to wander along the cliff side and hear the Pacific waves crashing against the cliffs below us. I will let the pictures do the talking!

The old coastal road clearly visible as we start the stroller friendly walk along Devil’s Slide. November 2018.

After an hour or two wandering along the old cliffside road we jumped back in the car and continued heading south. But not before we did a quick stride by shot {above}! I am not sure the local sheriff who found my husband stood in the middle of the road taking the shot was too impressed!

Half Moon Bay

Ten or so minutes later we slowly ground to a halt as we moved past Half Moon Bay airfield. It soon become clear that the traffic jam was being caused by people all wanting to visit Sam’s Chowder House- wow those lobster rolls must be really good. We make a quick divert off the main drag and parked up by the Half Moon Bay yacht club and went for a wander around Pilar Point Harbor. There was a small beach around the harbor so we stretched our legs and allowed Bump to have a run around.

We jumped back in the car and made the two minute drive to Sams. We parked on the main road as the car park was full. It didn’t seem to matter as everyone was doing that. To my surprise we walked in and got a table right away. As it was a beautiful day we decided to sit out on the terrace to have lunch.

The service was so, so but it was great to be able to sit outside, soak up the sun and relax.

Maine v Connecticut Lobster Rolls!

My husband, W, isn’t, shock, a big fan of lobster rolls. People overrate them apparently! What we both didn’t realise is that there are two types of lobster roll and which is best is subject to much debate in New England.

W selected the Connecticut style roll. where the lobster is served ‘naked’ and warm. Given he is not a fan of Lobster Rolls I was amazed when he said it was fantastic.

I went for the Maine style roll. The lobster is served chilled and dressed with a to die for mixture of lemon aioli, celery and chives. And OMG it was amazing!!! Granted we haven’t yet visited New England but this was, by a country mile, the best lobster roll I have ever had.

The whole afternoon was lovely. It was one of those Sunday afternoons that you don’t want to end. We had to keep pinching ourselves. It was October, we were having lunch outside in the sun in t-shirts and we were eating seafood that was amazing.

After lunch, we had planned to explore Half Moon Bay. I wanted to head to the Ritz-Carlton hotel to walk along the beach there. However, we were approaching Bump’s nap time and I was keen that he sleep in the car. We decided to change our plan slightly and head off in hunt of some baby Redwoods.

Skyline Boulevard & baby Redwoods

We headed south down Route 1 and cut across in land on the 84 towards La Honda.

La Honda sits up in the hills that separate the Pacific coast and Silicon Valley. There are some amazing views from the hills down onto Silicon Valley. It is quite amazing to stand up there looking at and thinking about how much of our lives today has been shaped by people working in the valley.

It was an odd juxtaposition, we were driving along country roads surrounding by absoutely stunning nature. And down there was a world of computers, smart phones, data and apps.

The roads were fantastic and the couple of places we stopped to take a mini hike at were beautifully peaceful. I will let the pictures do the talking.

And within a mile or so of leaving the Skyline Boulevard we were back on the 280 and heading back into San Francisco. We had a truly fantastic first experience of life outside of San Francisco in Northern California.

Have any of you visited this area of the US? Do you have any tips of other places we should check out? Do follow me over on Instagram, as I am storying my adventures months ahead of posting about them.

Penny x

1 Comment

  1. Virginie
    17 February 2019 / 6:11 am

    Amazing to see you , W and bump around these amazing landscapes. looks surreal ! Great post 🙂 thanks for taking us on your travel adventure !

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