With uncertainty continuing around COVID-19 risks and restrictions, it’s more challenging than usual to travel plan for this summer. At the time of this writing, California continued to urge residents to forego non-essential travel and not to venture more than 120 miles from home.
Luckily for Bay Area residents, there are plenty of places just short drive from home that can still make you feel like you’ve escaped your day-to-day routine and leave your family feeling refreshed.
First stop: Pescadero and the San Mateo Coast. Check this website frequently for more destinations.
California’s famed Highway 1 along the coast has long been a draw for visitors from around the world. A beachside drive with a few fun stops can be just the ticket to feel like a tourist close to home.
The charming rural town of Pescadero and its surroundings make a great destination, with a wide variety of things to do.
You can reach Pescadero by traveling 14 miles south on Highway 1 from Half Moon Bay. The drive west to Half Moon Bay on Highway 92 from inland locales is entertaining in itself – as you pass greenhouses offering carnivorous plants, giant metal dinosaur sculptures and the popular Lemos Farm with its petting zoo and pony rides. (Buy tickets in advance online). But be prepared for slow traffic, especially on summer weekends.
Highway 84 is often a good scenic alternative, but expect winding roadways which can be challenging for some drivers or any passengers susceptible to carsickness.
On the town’s small main drag, Arcangeli Grocery Co./Norm's Market is a great place to stop for picnic supplies. Founded as a bakery in 1929, Arcangeli is known for its Artichoke Garlic Herb Bread and also has a good selection of deli sandwiches and gourmet foods including cheese and local wine.
A couple of miles inland is Harley Farms Goat Dairy, where you can visit hundreds of goats, have a picnic and shop for farmstead cheeses, jams, desserts and more, plus goat milk soaps and lotions. The farm is open daily for drop-in visitors, or you can reserve a tour or prepared picnic.
If you’re looking for a beach day, head out to Pescadero State Beach, with its milelong shoreline with coves, cliffs and tide pools. Across the highway is the Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve, home to blue herons, foxes and other wildlife. (Check on beach parking closures before heading out.)
Continue south to reach Pigeon Point Light Station State Historic Park, where you can view the outside of the historic lighthouse, one of the tallest in the country. Adjacent tide pools make for fun exploring, and you can even stay in a rustic hostel on site, which is open for private vacation rentals (hiusa.org/find-hostels/california/pescadero-210-pigeonpoint-road).
Nearby is Costanoa, which bills itself as an eco-adventure resort. Throughout the serene and spacious property are a restaurant and general store and a wide range of lodging from cabins and tent bungalows to a lodge and KOA campground.
Still farther south is Año Nuevo State Park, the largest mainland breeding colony for the northern elephant seal. Every year up to 10,000 elephant seals return to the spot to breed, give birth and molt their skin. The elephant seal viewing area was closed and guided walks were on hold at the press time.
But if you’re in the vicinity, check out the farmstand for Pie Ranch, which offers farmer training, food education and, of course, tasty pies, breads, produce and other local products.
For more information on the area, check out visithalfmoonbay.org.