A Day in Half Moon Bay – The Family Friendly Beach Town

Seeking a change in scenery and a family outing after a rough week, we loaded up the car and drove over the iconic Bay Bridge, and down and through the hills of the San Francisco Bay Peninsula, to the quaint town of Half Moon Bay to spend a day enjoying small town life and some time on the beach. 

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Half Moon Bay has a Main Street filled with cute boutique shops, cafes, restaurants, and plenty of charm.  Being the age of COVID-19, many of the cafes had outdoor tables to accommodate the diners.  This was mid-July, so shops were opened with limited capacity and mask requirements.  We arrived a bit earlier than expected, so we spent some time walking up and down Main Street, window shopping.  There were several places with beautiful scarves I wanted to purchase, but my husband reminded me that I had a closet full at home.  (spoil sport 😐)

So many cute shops…

We also enjoyed looking at the beautiful architecture of the houses in town.  Settled in the 1840s, it was originally called Spanishtown before it was incorporated as Half Moon Bay.  Many of the wooden structures in the historic district date back to the 1800 and survived the 1906 earthquake.  We enjoyed admiring these large, elaborate wooden houses and structures, and the way the owners can maintain their beauty. 

..but the houses were gorgeous to look at as well*
Loved exploring this town with my littles*


Since it was chilly in the morning, we decided to do all our eating in town before going to the beach in the afternoon.  We grabbed some coffee at Half Moon Bay Coffee, and drank our coffee and smoothie treats while walking around town. 

Yummy treats from Half Moon Bay Coffee

But the food highlight of the trip was a visit to Flying Fish and Grill.  At the time, there was outdoor dining+.  We had a large lunch, appetizers, alcohol, and entrees.  We ordered some cheesy garlic bread for the kids, and my husband and I ate the Brussel Spouts with Parmesan.  My husband had some awesome clam chowder and a lobster roll for lunch.  I had melt in your mouth Alaskan Halibut with a lemon caper sauce.  But the kids both ordered off the kid menu because they liked the names so much!  My daughter had the “I’m Not Hungry” (Pasta marinara) and my son had the “I Don’t Want That” (Chicken Tenders) 🤣

We loved the food so much; we did not stop to photograph it


After getting stuffed to the brim, we waddled back to our car and made the short drive to the Half Moon Bay State Beach.  There are 6 miles of beaches in Half Moon Bay, but the state beach has parking, bathrooms, and calm enough surf for the kids to go in without too much worry.  It was a $10 per car entry fee, but we were able to find a spot quickly, and head down to the beach.  (Tip:  Be sure to pick the right entrance to the beach.  We did not and ended up having to go down a steep dune to get to the beach. )

The beachfront is not wide, but is surrounded by lovely dunes, so if you want to just have a view and not get sandy, you can head to the top of the dunes to sit and eat or watch the surf.  However, we love the water, so we hiked down to the beachfront, to set up our sun tent, and let the kids run into the waves.

The beach between the dunes and the water, on a weekend in the summer

We all love the beach, but for decidedly different reasons.  And we were all able to enjoy the beach our way at Half Moon Bay.  My son spent 3+ hours in the water, alternating between body boarding and swimming. The waves were big enough for him to ride, but small enough that more serious surfers stayed away.  My daughter spent some time in the water swimming, but she also sat in the sand burying herself, making castles, or imagining.  My husband took out his camera and enjoyed taking pictures, then sitting and relaxing with his audio book.  I sat and read a little, played with the kids a little, and just relaxed, letting the stress of the last few months wash away (for a little while).  Thankfully, even though it was a weekend, there were not too many people, and we were all able to effectively practice social distancing. 

My kids doing what they love at the beach*
Love to see my husband get involved with the water fun

After several hours in the sun, and when I noticed my son’s lips were blue, we decided it was time to start packing up and heading home.  We used the bathrooms and outdoor showers to get as much sand off as possible and change into dry clothing for the ride home.  As we pulled out of the parking lot, the two were already asleep, resting from the afternoon of non-stop fun they had.  As I watched them in the rear-view mirror, I hope that these are the memories that come out of this quarantine time.  The extra time mom and dad had to take them on unexpected vacations, the fun learning that the beach was so close, and we could come more often, and the new skills they learned along the way. 


Half Moon Bay Attractions

Check out other Bay Area Day Trips and Activities

*Starred Photos taken by Atma Photography

+At the time of publication, due to increases in caseloads, The Flying Fish Bar and Grill has outdoor tables without service, and are still making take out available.

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