Fitzgerald Marine Reserve (near Half Moon Bay)

*Last updated on August 22nd, 2017 at 08:34 am

We had plans to visit Pastorino Farms in Half Moon Bay this weekend and I obviously wasn’t going to drive out there without going to the beach! Specifically, I was excited to see the tide pools at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. Fortunately, my interpretation of the tide chart lined up perfectly with a couple hour visit followed by our trip to the farm. Unfortunately, my interpretation had no bearing on reality.

So our morning visit was wonderful and we got a chance to see the harbor seals and play at the beach, but we had to come back in the afternoon to explore tide pools.

The first thing we saw on both visits was this stump. I didn’t let the kids climb on it, but now I regret it because it was awesome.

White stumpOcean looking to townHigh tide


In the morning we gave this spot a cursory glance then backed up to the parking lot and started down the Bluff Trail to spot some harbor seals. We didn’t have to wait long since they were sunning below the first overlook. At first glance, they looked like rocks, but they were pretty active! We saw 3 pairs of mother and pup coming ashore after a swim, HJ loved how they “walked” by hopping across the sand.


Seals Sleeping at Fitzgerald Marine Preserve
When the tide goes down the seals move further out to sea. This photo was taken at low tide in August.

After the seals, we followed the trail along the fence into a hauntingly beautiful wood. Every tree was the exact same shade of gray and it looked to be frozen in time. Looking up you could see that the trees actually did have leaves, but they were so high you could hardly tell. I have no idea if this is seasonal or permanent, but it was enchanting.

Fence overlooking oceanGray forest

The fence kept us safe from the sheer drop off that was only a few feet from the path. We saw some incredible flowers and succulents growing right on the edge of the cliff, does anyone know if there is a reason for that?

Succulents on cliff


After the woods, we followed some stairs down to a sandy white beach where we played for an hour. By the time we were leaving, a huge group of sea kayaks had gathered and were surfing off shore.


We stopped to get one more good look at the seals before we headed out, and they were watching the kayakers!

Seals and kayakers

If I had stumbled upon this spot would have left perfectly content, but I’d come to see tide pools and I hadn’t seen any! So we left to spend a few hours at the farm and then we came back to explore the beach at low tide. My jaw just about hit the floor when I saw how far the tide had receded. This was definitely a time when my expectations were blown away.

Visiting again taught me that even the water level at low tide varies dramatically throughout the month.

We explored as much as we could without getting our feet wet and were eventually rewarded with two sea anemones! I was intent on finding them, but it still would have been worth the trip if I hadn’t. The seals had moved further out to sea and were sunning themselves close to where we were exploring, there were snails everywhere, and lots of some kind of sea creature that had such good camouflage it couldn’t even be seen except that the shells sticking to it drew attention to its perfectly round shape.

SnailsK tide pools

Kids and tidepools
“Put your arm around each other and smile.” Yeah right.


Two sea anemonesSea AnemoneTide poolsSeals and tide pools

Low tide at Fitzgerald Marine Preserve
Revisiting Fitzgerald Marine Preserve at low tide in August.

What do you think?