LouLou’s Griddle in the Middle in Monterey

LouLou’s is a fun little cafe, right on Municipal Wharf 2 in Monterey, that is a fantastic spot for a home-cooked meal for the whole family, assuming you can find a spot at the counter. Come hungry as the pancakes are bigger than the plate and you will leave full. I got a chance to check it out a few weeks ago, here is all the information.

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Details

  • Cost: $8-$10
  • Location: Municipal Wharf 2, Monterey, CA 93940
  • Come as early as you can on the weekends as it is popular

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The restaurant itself has eight seats at the bar and four small tables. During the summer they have outdoor seating as well, but when it is colder the seating shrinks. This adds to the atmosphere and fun of this restaurant though as everyone seems to be joking with each other and just enjoying their time.

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The wait was about 25 minutes when I got there at 8:30 AM on a Sunday, but you can sit in your car and wait or just enjoy walking the pier. Parking is available on the pier itself for $1.50 an hour if you are able to find a spot.

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The menu has a lot of fun items on it such “calamari and eggs,” but I went with the pancake and seasonal fruit. The fruit when I went was strawberries, and the waiter told me to add chocolate chips as well, which I happily did.

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The first thing they brought out was syrup in a to-go coffee cup as you would need that to take the pancake down. The pancake arrived overflowing the plate, and it was full of strawberries and chocolate chips. You can see the photo below with my hand for comparison.

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 It was a good fluffy pancake with lots of toppings and more food than one person could eat. I didn’t even get half way though as it was so much food and I wished I had a second person to eat it with. It was a fun experience though and I was even encouraged on by the friendly couple that sat next to me, before throwing in the towel and admitting defeat.

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I enjoyed my time at LouLou’s, the staff was friendly, the food was good, and the location was hard to beat. Be sure to get there early if you go on a weekend, and let me know in the comments if you can eat the entire pancake!

Point Reyes National Seashore Guide: Beaches, Elk, Seals & a Lighthouse

Point Reyes National Seashore is one of the most beautiful spots near San Francisco for outdoor adventurers to explore. It is full of breathtaking views, history and trails that always leave you wanting more. While I have not explored it as much as others, I have been a couple of times and every time I leave wishing I could stay longer. This guide will expand as I visit more, but here some images and information about what you can expect when you visit this magical spot.

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Animals

One of the unique things about Point Reyes is the sheer amount of animals you can see when driving Sir Francis Drake Blvd through the park. Here are a few I have seen:

Coyotes

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Since the park is meant to be driven slow, I have seen coyotes multiple times while exploring. While they can be skittish a good zoom lens will bring you close for a photo.

Elephant Seals

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Elephant seals are one of my favorite animals, and I always try to see them when I can throughout the state. In Point Reyes, you can view them from the elephant seal overlook at the end of Sir Francis Drake Blvd, read more about that here.

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If you are lucky, you may also see them at Drake’s Beach, which is where I got the close-up shot at the beginning of this section.

Elk

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The Tule Elk are one of the main animals in the park and in the North section there is a whole area dedicated to seeing them. While it is not guaranteed, more often than not you will see one of these fantastic creatures while exploring the park.

Beaches

Point Reyes National Seashore is full of excellent beaches that you can see while driving or park at to explore. Here are some of the main ones on Sir Francis Drake Blvd.

Drake’s Beach

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Drake’s Beach is my favorite of the beaches in the park. It feels remote when you walk out from the parking lot onto the sand that is littered with branches and other debris.

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Plus, this beach frequently has elephant seals on it, which makes it an excellent way to see these animals up close (not more than 25 feet though, they move faster then they look like they do).

North Beach

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North and South Beach are both on the outer section of Point Reyes, which faces the Pacific Ocean. Because of this, they both are prone to bigger waves and more wind. They both also have sand dunes that surround them which make for a fun spot to explore with the whole family. I love coming here after a storm and just watching the massive waves crash on the shoreline.

South Beach

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Historical Structures

Cypress Tree Tunnel

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While not a structure per say, the Cypress Tree Tunnel has become an incredibly famous spot to visit in the park. It is easy to see why when you drive up to it as the trees form a makeshift tunnel and provide a view that you would expect to see in the plantations of the South instead of along the California coast. Read more about visiting it here.

Point Reyes Lighthouse

The Point Reyes Lighthouse, out on the end of the point, is one of the most pristine and beautiful lighthouses along the California coast. It is only open on the weekends, but you can view it from the main viewpoint during the days it isn’t open. It is worth the visit just to see it alone, but I would recommend planning for when it is open so you can get the full experience.

Ranches

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Believe it or not, there is a lot of ranching history on Point Reyes, some of which still goes on to this day. When driving along the main road, you will pass a half dozen of these working ranches. Many of these ranches have been here for decades, which is why they are still active in the park. You will see lots of cattle as you drive through the park as well.

Visitors Center

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Towards the beginning of the park, there is a large visitors center which talks about the park history, the animals, and the ranches. I found it to be a great spot to talk with the docents who helped me plan my day in the park. There are also a few great hiking trails that leave from the visitors center area as well.

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All in all Point Reyes is somewhere you want to spend some time at. The area itself is incredibly beautiful, and there are so many trails and adventures you can have that you inevitably leave wishing you have more time. Let me know what your favorite spot is in Point Reyes in the comments.

Elephant Seal Overlook Trail in Point Reyes National Seashore

At the end of the road in Point Reyes National Seashore sits the beautiful Point Reyes Lighthouse and the short elephant sea overlook trail. When I was recently there it was incredibly foggy, and the lighthouse couldn’t be seen, but I was able to take the elephant seal overlook walk and marvel at the hundreds of animals that lined the coast in front of me. Here is all the information.

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Details

  • .5 miles round trip
  • 50 feet of elevation
  • Large viewing platform

Getting There

If you are driving on the main road through the park, you will want to turn left right before the road ends at the lighthouse parking area. From here the one lane road goes for about 2 miles before it ends at a small parking lot.

The Hike

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From the parking lot, you will head down the park road for 100 feet before setting off to the left on the elephant seal overlook trail.

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This trail hugs the coast for a short tenth of a mile before you reach the overlook itself.

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This overlook provides an excellent vista of the coastline extending off in front of you.

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Below you will see a bunch of elephant seals relaxing along the coast as it extends out. At this viewpoint you are pretty far away from the seals themselves, so you can’t get a great view unless you have binoculars or a zoom lens. You can see them, it’s just not like other viewing areas such as San Simeon or Ano Nuevo.

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I took about 10 minutes to watch and photograph the animals before heading back out to my car. I stumbled on a lot more elephant seals at Drake’s Beach, so if you are lucky you may get to see them much more up close if you visit that beautiful beach.

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All in all, this short hike is a nice way to see these fun animals from afar, and it is an easy recommendation for a quick stop in the park. To read more of my recommendations for what to do in Point Reyes, visit this post.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse in Pescadero

Located on historic Highway 1, the Pigeon Point Lighthouse has been guiding ships since the late 1800’s. Even though it is no longer able to be climbed, it is still a fun, quick stop along Highway 1. You can walk around the area, see the old lens, photograph the lighthouse from a distance and stay at a hostel located right on the property, here is all the info.

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Details

  • 115 feet
  • Built in 1872
  • Hostel Info
  • Location: 210 Pigeon Point Rd, Pescadero, CA 94060

History

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Pigeon Point lighthouse was built in 1872 with the first night it was lit up being November 15th. The lens weighed over 2,000 pounds and was capable of producing 500,000 candle power of illumination. The lens is still on display today in the small building next to the lighthouse. The lens was retired in 1972 in favor of a modern light assembly. In 2001 the tower was closed to visitors due to repairs that needed to be made, it is still closed to this day awaiting restoration efforts.

Visiting the Lighthouse

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Visiting the lighthouse is easy, it is right off Highway 1, only a mile from the main road. The lighthouse even has a small 20 car parking lot that you can park in for free and that turns over cars relatively fast since there is not a lot to see.

The Lighthouse

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The lighthouse is currently closed with a large gate on all sides; there are no plans to have it reopened until they have money for its restoration. It is still worth visiting though as it is beautiful and you can still get lots of good photos of it by walking around and taking in the different angles.

The Lens

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In the building on the back of the property, there is a lot of information about the lighthouse’s history and the lens that lit it. The lens is incredibly impressive on display there and something that I highly recommend you see.

The Lookout

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On the back side of the building that houses the lens, there is a small walkway with a few stairs that takes you down to a nice little lookout.

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It was cold and windy when I was here, but it still provided an excellent vista of the ocean below, the lighthouse behind and the coastline stretching out to the sides.

The Hostel

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I was not able to get a lot of information about the hostel while I was there, but I will say that it would be a unique place to stay for a night or two. It is an excellent location to explore the neighboring areas like Davenport and Ano Nuevo State Park, and how often do you get to spend the night at the base of an old lighthouse?

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All in all, this is a fun stop on Pacific Coast Highway. There are more interactive lighthouses up and down the coast such as Point Arena, Point Reyes, and Point Pinos but why not see all the lighthouses on your trip up PCH? Let me know what your favorite is in the comments or if you have stayed in the hostel and have any tips for us.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse in Pescadero

Located on historic Highway 1, the Pigeon Point Lighthouse has been guiding ships since the late 1800’s. Even though it is no longer able to be climbed, it is still a fun, quick stop along Highway 1. You can walk around the area, see the old lens, photograph the lighthouse from a distance and stay at a hostel located right on the property, here is all the info.

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Details

  • 115 feet
  • Built in 1872
  • Hostel Info
  • Location: 210 Pigeon Point Rd, Pescadero, CA 94060

History

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Pigeon Point lighthouse was built in 1872 with the first night it was lit up being November 15th. The lens weighed over 2,000 pounds and was capable of producing 500,000 candle power of illumination. The lens is still on display today in the small building next to the lighthouse. The lens was retired in 1972 in favor of a modern light assembly. In 2001 the tower was closed to visitors due to repairs that needed to be made, it is still closed to this day awaiting restoration efforts.

Visiting the Lighthouse

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Visiting the lighthouse is easy, it is right off Highway 1, only a mile from the main road. The lighthouse even has a small 20 car parking lot that you can park in for free and that turns over cars relatively fast since there is not a lot to see.

The Lighthouse

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The lighthouse is currently closed with a large gate on all sides; there are no plans to have it reopened until they have money for its restoration. It is still worth visiting though as it is beautiful and you can still get lots of good photos of it by walking around and taking in the different angles.

The Lens

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In the building on the back of the property, there is a lot of information about the lighthouse’s history and the lens that lit it. The lens is incredibly impressive on display there and something that I highly recommend you see.

The Lookout

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On the back side of the building that houses the lens, there is a small walkway with a few stairs that takes you down to a nice little lookout.

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It was cold and windy when I was here, but it still provided an excellent vista of the ocean below, the lighthouse behind and the coastline stretching out to the sides.

The Hostel

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I was not able to get a lot of information about the hostel while I was there, but I will say that it would be a unique place to stay for a night or two. It is an excellent location to explore the neighboring areas like Davenport and Ano Nuevo State Park, and how often do you get to spend the night at the base of an old lighthouse?

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All in all, this is a fun stop on Pacific Coast Highway. There are more interactive lighthouses up and down the coast such as Point Arena, Point Reyes, and Point Pinos but why not see all the lighthouses on your trip up PCH? Let me know what your favorite is in the comments or if you have stayed in the hostel and have any tips for us.

Point Pinos Lighthouse in Monterey: Oldest Lighthouse on the West Coast

While spending time in either Carmel or Monterey, be sure to add a visit to Point Pinos Lighthouse to your list. This lighthouse is the oldest of all of the lighthouses on the West Coast, is well preserved, and has excellent docents that tell you about its history and help you learn about house lighthouses work. While it is not tall like many of the others, it is still a fantastic historical lighthouse to visit, here is all the info.

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Details

  • Open Fri – Mon: 1 PM – 4 PM
  • Location: 80 Asilomar Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950

History

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Point Pinos Lighthouse was built and lit in 1855 to help guide ships along the rocky coastline. The original lens is still sitting in the lighthouse to this day. When the lighthouse began it used whale oil to keep the light lit. The light was eventually converted to electricity in 1919. The lighthouse was added to the National Historic Registry in 1977 and is still open to visitors to this day.

The Lighthouse

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When I arrived at about 1:30 PM on a Saturday there was only three other cars in the parking lot. During my time there I ran into a half dozen or so people but overall it was not a very busy attraction on the weekend.

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After entering the lighthouse and paying my $2 fee, I spent 10 minutes talking about the area and its history with the docent who was manning the front desk. Every docent I spoke to here was fantastic and knowledgeable; I highly recommend you sit and talk with them as they provide a lot of great info.

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Next, I headed up the staircase to make my way up to the top of the lighthouse. Along the way, there are a few rooms that were used for watching the sea, or for living when someone stayed at the lighthouse.

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As you get to the top, you will enter a small room with a ladder; this is as far as you can go. Since the lighthouse still runs to this day and has the original lens you can only look up at it through the plexiglass but can’t actually go in.

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I took a few pictures then headed back down to the ground floor.

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The ground floor has a living area, bathroom, and kitchen. Each of which has been preserved well and are fun to explore.

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In the back of the ground floor, there is a set of steps that leads you down to the basement.

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In the basement, there was a bunch of different instruments and interactive exhibits that showed how a lighthouse worked. There was a docent down here who was happy to show me all around and explain how the lens worked.

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After spending some time down in the cellar I headed back up and out the backdoor to the small shop behind the lighthouse. The shop sold lots of small trinkets, including a passport where you could get stamps as you visited different lighthouses along the coast. I imagine this being a super cool thing to do if you have a family with young kids.

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All in all, this was a great little lighthouse that is fun for the whole family and really helps you understand how lighthouses work. I enjoyed my time here, and I highly recommend you visit if you are in the area. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Ano Nuevo State Park: Elephant Seal Viewing Up Close

While driving along Pacific Coast Highway you will have a lot of opportunities to see elephant seals, such as in San Simeon and Point Reyes, but for the best up close and personal viewing, I would recommend Ano Nuevo State Park. This park, located 30 minutes north of Santa Cruz, features miles of trails that let you see elephant seals in their natural habitat and not from a viewing platform. For me, it felt a little like a safari but for elephant seals, as you never knew what you would see when you crossed over the next dune. Here is all the information.

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Details

  • Cost: $10 to enter the park and $7 for the tour (winter)
  • Time: It takes about 2.5 hours
  • You can’t go without a tour in the winter since there are so many animals

Getting There

You can find Ano Nuevo State Park along Pacific Coast Highway; it has a sign, so it is hard to miss. Head north from Santa Cruz past Davenport and you will see it.

Visiting Seasons

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Summer – During the summer, you can hike the trail at your own pace and without a group. There are fewer seals to see, and there are docents that watch key areas so that you do not get too close to the seals. It is a fun place to bring a picnic lunch, hike out to the seals, then just enjoy watching them interact with each other.

Winter – During the winter, there are tons of seals here giving birth and nursing their young (it is closed for most of the month of December). Because of that, you are not able to go out to their area without being part of a tour. The tours are about 2.5 hours long and they take you on the 3-mile round-trip hike to the elephant seals. The tour is what I did, so the information in this post is based on being on a tour.

The Hike

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After arriving at the park, I was able to get on the last tour of the day, which was 2:45 PM. It cost $10 to enter the park and then $7 for the tour. I was early, so I headed over to Pie Ranch across the street for a slice of pie (excellent) then headed back into the park to wait for my tour.

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The tours start from the visitors center which is a great old farmhouse building and which has a lot of information about the elephant seals. In the visitors center, I learned that over 10,000 elephant seals come here during the year. They didn’t use to hang out here because of the grizzly bears but when the bears left they came back.

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After gathering for the tour, we set out on a mile hike to the small holding building where we met out guide.

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This hike was beautiful as it hugged the coast and took you over rolling hills and through a small forest.

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When we met up with our guide, he showed us the skulls of many different animals and how they compared to elephant seals. This lead to an interesting discussion that killed time while we waited for the rest of the group to catch up.

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Our guide then started us on the trail and stopped us many times on the way to tell people about the seals and their lives.

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I learned that the seals can swim all the way up to Alaska to feed then come back to this same beach every year to give birth, which is fascinating. The seals themselves can swim down to 2 miles below the surface of the ocean and can stay there for up to 2 hours.

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Our tour then finally took us into the elephant seal area, which was a section of sand dunes. The seals were spread out on all of the dunes, and you could easily see hundreds of them by just scanning the horizon.

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For the next 45 minutes, the tour took us around plants, up and over dunes while we searched for these unique creatures. It was a lot of fun as it was a safari-like experience where we paused to see seals and tried not to disturb them.

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The young seals were even practicing their swimming in some of the small ponds around the area as well which was fun to see. After exploring for a while with our guide, we headed back out of the dunes and made our way back to the visitors center.

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I do wish I would have been able to go in the summer when I could have explored at my own pace, but the winter is still a fantastic time to visit this park and see these animals. I highly recommend you carve out some time to visit Ano Nuevo; it is truly a unique California experience and one that you will not forget.

Shark Fin Cove: One of Northern California’s Best Beaches

If you have never seen Shark Fin Cove, then you are missing out on one of the best beaches in all of California. This beach, south of Davenport, is easy to get to, but you have to know where to look. When you see the fin coming out of the water, you will quickly realize where it got its name and will be transported into a magical world where things like this actually exist. If you want to check it out for yourself then read on for all the information.

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Details

  • .3 mile walk
  • 75 feet of elevation

Getting There

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Heading south from the small city of Davenport, on Pacific Coast Highway about a mile south of the city, is the turn out for the beach. The turn out is on the right, and there are a lot of spaces for people to park in the dirt, but there are no signs. If you are paying attention and you still miss it, you can briefly see the fin from the road as you drive past and can go back. Above is a picture of what the parking area looks like.

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After exiting the car, you will take the path away from the road and down to the train tracks. From here you can head right to go up to the overlook for the cove or left to go down the small path to the beach.

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I would recommend going right first so you can see the area from above then heading down the trail to the water after you have taken photos.

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The trail down is a little steep so take your time and be careful, but it is not a challenging walk if you take your time. The views on the way down are fantastic as well.

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When you hit the beach, you will notice that the cove is actually pretty small, with a large sea cave on the left and an area of sand on the right.

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I went to the cave first, and it was a stormy day so the water was rushing through it and I didn’t go in very far.

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After that, I headed around to the right and jumped up on the rocks to see a view of the shark fin. It is less defined when you are right in front of it, but still incredibly impressive.

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This is one of those places where you want to have time as you will surely want to explore it and just sit and relax in its beauty.

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I stumbled upon it while it was storming rain, so I didn’t stay long, but I can’t wait to go back and see it again when I have more time. It is a beautiful spot, especially for photographers and I recommend you add it to your list. Let me know if you have been in the comments and head up to the old Davenport Pier if you are in the area.

12 Unique Places/Shops/Museums to Visit in Half Moon Bay

Half Moon Bay is located right on Pacific Coast Highway, about 45 minutes South of San Francisco. It is a beautiful town with a fantastic location on the coast and lots of fun activities and shops to keep you interested. There are many great places to visit for food such as Via Uno, It’s Italia and Sam’s Chowders House, but for the unique stops consider this list of 12 shops/restaurants/museums that will help you make the most of your time in Half Moon Bay.

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Downtown

The main downtown stretch in Half Moon Bay, aptly called Main Street, only has a few blocks of shops, but a whole lot of charm. Of course, they have the traditional boutique clothing shops and restaurants but if you are looking for some of the unique places to check out consider the shops below.

Half Moon Bay Wine and Cheese

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Nothing goes together like cheese and wine, so a shop that has a lot of both of them is an easy recommendation. This small shop has a large selection of fresh cheeses in a cooled display and a row of fantastic wines that goes about 25 feet back into the store. It is a fun spot for trying both, with lots of different wine and cheese flights set up that you can purchase.

Odyssey

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My favorite store in Half Moon Bay, Odyssey has a whole bunch of random things. The stores displays include fantastic items like marbles with real bugs in them, air plants made to look like jellyfish and even touch activated lights. Outside on the weekends, they also have a fun area of amusements that includes the world’s largest marble race, with the marbles being bowling balls and a sunken pirate ship. It’s a great place so explore in the city.

Torche Blanche

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If you are into cooking or kitchen accessories, then you should not skip Torche Blanche. This store has more kitchen items in a small space than I have ever seen. It was overwhelming, but I imagine if cooking is your thing then it would be an exciting store to shop.

Half Moon Bay Bakery

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When you research what to see and eat in the area, you will no doubt come to recommendations for Hot Cross Buns at Half Moon Bay Bakery. These English inspired treats often sell out quickly and are worth a try for the current price of $.95. I wouldn’t say they were my favorite, but I know people that swear by them.

Old Jail

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The old Half Moon Bay Jail (or Spanish Town as it was called back then) was built in 1911 and still stands today as a museum dedicated to the area’s history. It is a tiny little place but it is fun to see, and it is only a block off Main St.

Outside of Downtown

Spanish Town

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Located on Highway 92, the main drive that leads from Silicon Valley to Half Moon Bay, Spanish Town is a fun stop. The store is an art gallery that sells mostly outdoor related items, but the main attractions are the massive metal dinosaurs that you can see from the road. It is a fun place to walk around and just imagine having these statues in your yard.

AJ Coffee

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One of my favorite things about Northern California is these small drive-thru coffee shops; they are sorely lacking in most of Southern California. AJ’s is a quick stop for good coffee in the area.

Carnivorous Plants

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Also on Highway 92 like Spanish Town, how can you resist a visit to a store that has a massive carnivorous plants sign? I had to pull off the road to see it and was glad I did; the owner Phil was great to talk to, not to mention his shop was well laid out and had a lot of really unique plants. I wanted to take one home with me, but I was in the middle of a road trip so it wouldn’t last. It’s a neat shop even if you aren’t buying anything.

Daddy-O’s

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Interested in Mac and Cheese or a Hot Dog? Want to eat inside of an old railroad car? Check out Daddy O’s. Daddy O’s is an excellent, well-priced place to stop for lunch in the city, and one that has enough character and charm to keep you coming back. I recommend the “Hog’s Breath.”

Cameron’s Pub

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Described as the “Disneyland of Pubs,” Cameron’s is a fun spot for a good pub meal or drink. The exterior is where it shines though with a full double decker bus sitting parked outside and an old English phone booth as well. What’s not to like about an eclectic spot like this?

So there you have it, some of my favorite non-traditional stops in Half Moon Bay. Check out Visit Half Moon Bay for more recommendations I am sure I left something off, so what would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments.

Glass Blowing Classes at Half Moon Bay Art Glass

I have always found glass blowing to be a fascinating type of art. Basically, you are manipulating glass with fire to melt it into a shape you want it to be in, and doing something like that is just impressive. I didn’t ever think I would do glass blowing myself, but on a recent trip to Half Moon Bay, I got connected with Half Moon Bay Art Glass to take one of the classes offered by the owner Doug. It was a ton of fun, and I really enjoyed myself, here is all of the information so you can do it as well, plus a coupon code for a discount.

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Details

  • Book here and use coupon code “CaThroughML40” (case sensitive) for a 40% discount when you book online (good until Dec 2016).

Upon arriving for the start of my class, I was with a half dozen other people. Doug gave us a breakdown of the process and safety instructions, before jumping right into the creation of a pumpkin, which we would be making.

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I enjoyed being able to watch him go through the process first as it made doing it a little less intense when I did it myself. After about 15 minutes of watching Doug, the process was complete, and the pumpkin was sitting in the oven to bake overnight and harden up.

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I was next to do the process, and I got my gloves and glasses on before getting ready to make my creation.

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The next 15 minutes was a fast process of pulling the glass in and out of the fire, rolling it and blowing on it. It was a rush to do as it all happens really fast and you have to be listening for the orders so you can do the next thing.

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When I was done, I was shocked by how beautiful my pumpkin came out. It had a rich blue color and looked like something I would buy in a shop.

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I can easily say that I would not be able to replicate this again without Doug’s instruction, but I did feel like I was enough a part of the process that I could say I made it.

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The next morning I picked up my pumpkin on the way out of town and took the opportunity to take some photos of it with the coast line in the background.

Glass Blowing Class-10

It is a fun souvenir to have and to remember my time on Pacific Coast Highway with. I recommend you check it out and take a class if you have some time in the area. Be sure to use the coupon code above so that you can get a 40% discount on the class, and stop by the winery, that Doug rents his space from after the class is over to sample wines. Let me know your glass blowing stories in the comments as well.