Hometown Tourist Travel

Half Moon Bay: A Delightful Day Trip

I got a new camera and couldn’t wait to use it. After poking around,  I had to test it out on the natural beauty of Half Moon Bay, a small beach town about a half hour outside of San Francisco. I dragged my sister over the hill and enjoyed a gorgeous drive through the beautiful Crystal Springs Reservoir to Half Moon Bay. Of course, we caught a gray day in the middle of what should be a sunny season in California, but, I’m happy to report that it was still gorgeous and well worth the trip!

Our first stop was Dad’s Luncheonette, located in an old train car, this burger joint packs an unexpected punch. The chef, formerly at a three-star Michelin joint, up and left the game, opting to open a mellow burger joint in a surf town. And, it feels like it. You can’t make a reservation at this place, but the burgers are well worth the wait. My sister and I split a traditional burger and a mushroom sandwich and literally gobbled them within minutes.

Pro Tip: Dad’s will sell out of items, so when it’s gone it’s gone. We got there a little after 1pm, and the chips were already sold out. If you really have your heart set on something on the menu, arrive early.

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We then popped over to the adorable Main Street in downtown Half Moon Bay. Packed with little shops, Main Street is worth a wander. There are a number of cute boutiques, wine shops and bookstores for you to browse, all while feeling like you are exploring the set of a small town TV show. Also, close by are a number of old landmarks, including the city’s first jail, if pretending you are in the Gilmore Girls doesn’t appeal to you (Admittedly, I never watched the show. I know. Judge away!).

But, we weren’t there for the cute stuff, we were there for the good stuff. The sweet stuff. Basically, we were there to eat baked goods at Half Moon Bay Bakery. Don’t let the little shop fool you, packed inside of roughly 10-square feet is every kind of unexpected cookie or pastry you could wish for. Including a Yo-Yo. Imagine if a cupcake and cream cheese frosting met and married a Whoopie Pie at a sugar festival. And, managed not to be too sweet. Yes, that is possible.

Pro Tip: The bakery does not have seating inside, however, there are benches directly outside, and all along Main, if you are like us and want to nom on your sweets right away. Although, they are good enough that maybe it is better not to be seen wearing eating the sweets in public.

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There are a couple of distillery tours in Half Moon Bay. I opted for the one less traveled and we visited Half Moon Bay Distillery. Turns out tour is a strong word. I had imagined something like the bourbon stills in Kentucky. This one a mom and pop, one room operation and I loved it. The make two spirits, gin and vodka, all locally done. The production is small enough that they are still hand bottling and labeling. If you are a gin or vodka drinker, both spirits are nice and smooth and I can’t recommend the spot enough.

After getting a few tastes in, we walked over to Pillar Point Bluff for a small hike. (The distillery is within walking distance of the cliffs, so added bonus there.) The hike is super easy and very family friendly. If you are new to hiking or just looking for something you can take grandma and the kids on, this is the place to do it. The trails are well maintained and marked. It is also a small park, so your odds of getting turned around a pretty slim (as long as you stay on the trails and practice good hiking safety, which I will NEVER stop repeating). Utterly stunning vistas await you at the top of the first (and only) hill, and, for the majority of the hike, these trails follow the cliff so you can enjoy the view unbroken for a mile or so. Better still, towards the end of the hike, you can see a whole bunch of elephant seals sunning themselves. The whole thing is a 1.5-mile treat!

Pro Tip: Bring bug spray if you are gonna hike Pillar Point Bluff. This seems obvious when hiking near water, but I forgot and my left shoulder has regrets.

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