Coastal CA

Weekend Adventure: James V. Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

Thursday June 18, 2015


This may be one of the most wonderful places on Earth, and it’s only 25 minutes away from San Francisco.

Dave and I have traveled down Route 1 many many times, and so we were quite confused when we found out about this place — we’d never even noticed it.




“Are you sure it’s that close? There are the tide pools close to Pescadero, is that what you mean?”

“No, Google Maps says 25 minutes.”

“Between Pacifica and Half Moon Bay?”

“That’s what the map says.”



The confusion continued into the next day, when armed with GPS and eyes peeled for our turn off, we still sailed right past our turn and had to back track.


“I think that was the sign.”

“What sign?”

“There was a little tiny brown sign that said “Marine Reserve” under the street sign back there.”




And so it was that we finally found ourselves at James V. Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, a reclusive marine life sanctuary along Route 1.

An unexpectedly large parking lot hidden behind a charming neighborhood of beach bungalows provides plenty of parking and easy access to the beach. Climbing the small staircase to the beach, I was already awestruck.




The Marine Reserve covers several mile of rocky beach front, pockmarked with tide pools teeming with life. Make sure to come during low tide.

We haltingly stumbled onto the rocks, still in silent amazement. Below us, jumbles of seaweed, mussels and clams clung steadfast to the rocky outgrowth. In shallow pools, we could see skittering lobsters, shrimp, and crabs. Along one stretch, we gazed at waving Giant Green Anemones, practically piled on top of each other. Across an inlet, families of sea lions and sea lion pups stretched out on sand.

It is impossible to come here and not see dozens of marine animals.

The ground was slightly too unstable and slippery for 2-year-old Bean; she had to cling to our arms to get around. Older children skittered by, though, seemingly immune to the slippery conditions, shouting their discoveries to equally wide-eyed parents.




This is the kind of Bay Area discovery that reminds us what a magical place we live in. As we slowly made our way back to the parking lot, it was remarkable and wonderful to see kindergartners, preteens, teenagers, and parents all unabashedly geeking out over nature.

It may be the Bay Area’s ultimate free family adventure.




James V. Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

County of San Mateo Parks Department

200 Nevada Street, Moss Beach, CA

8AM to estimated sundown (changes by month, check site for hours)

Click here for brochure (pdf)

Check here for today’s tide table. Make sure to go during low tide.

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