San Mateo Beaches

Filed under Special Places

The beach looked nice but not the way down.

The beach looked nice but not the way down.

The challenge we set for ourselves today was to investigate some of the coastal accesses south of Half Moon Bay on the San Mateo coast.  We normally head for our favorite spots like Franklin Point or Pigeon Point but there are many other places, some of which are private and some are unofficial.

(Click on the photos for larger versions)

We checked the weather before we set off and it looked like it was going to be a great day.  When we set off all seemed to be clear and no sign of fog.  Imagine our surprise when we heard on the radio that there was a fog advisory for the San Mateo coast.  We discussed whether going to the coast would be a good idea.  Maybe we should revise our plan and head east.  Eventually we decided to continue with our plans and if we ran into thick fog, we could turn around and go elsewhere.

There was a bit of low lying fog at the junction of Highways 280 and 92 but not bad enough to turn back.  Driving into Half Moon Bay was clear.  The weekend before the Half Moon Bay’s annual Pumpkin Festival was held and we passed many huge pumpkin patches still with lots of pumpkins exhibited for sale.  I expect there will be loads of families turned up later in the day looking  for the perfect pumpkin.

In Half Moon Bay, we stopped at a drive through coffee kiosk at the junction of Highway 92 and Main Street.  Although it was lit up and the ‘Open’ sign was flashing, we were dubious that it was actually open for business but we were pleased to discover it was.  A very courteous youth opened the window and sold us two strong cups of very hot coffee.

Through Half Moon Bay we headed south on Highway 1 looking out for signs which said ‘Coastal Access’.  We passed a road which was called

San Gregorio Beach along the San Mateo Coast

San Gregorio Beach along the San Mateo Coast

Redondo Beach Road.  Did that mean there was a beach at the end?  We didn’t want to take the risk.  The first brown ‘coastal access’ was at Miramontes Road so we turned right.  We passed a very small car park but doubted whether that led to the beach so we carried on.  What we didn’t realize was that at the end of the road was the very exclusive Ritz Carlton Hotel with it’s expensive golf course attached and there was no stopping unless we were headed to one or the other.  It was just after 7 and we were surprised how many people were not only out on the course but were still turning up.  We beat a hasty retreat and headed back to the one small car park we had passed earlier.

At one time all the headland would have been accessible but when the land was bought and the hotel built I guess they had to provide some public access to the beach.  The very small car park and one right of way to the beach, which cuts through the golf course, was their token of compliance.  We did not bother to investigate any further and carried on with our quest.

We passed two marked roads to the beach but they were closed off.  Our next stop was at an unmarked access.  To the right was a wide gravel shoulder with a couple of overnight camper vans parked.  The only point of reference was a blue San Mateo call box sign – telephone number SM001-205.  The access was downhill and very steep but we went for it.

The path was twisty and deeply rutted.  The recent heavy rains have gouged a deep crevice all the way down and the ground is still damp and slightly muddy.  The view were spectacular though.  Off to the right the sheer cliff extends into the ocean, probably the Ritz Carlton is on that peninsula.  Tom stopped to take photos so I clambered on down but could not make it all the way to the beach.  It is possible but the final stretch was via an unstable almost vertical drop with just a collection of tatty ropes tied to stunted bushes to prevent a headlong fall.  At my age, I don’t think so.  I intercepted Tom before he reached that point and we climbed back up the steep incline.  At least we know not to come here again.

We drove on to San Gregorio Beach.  This is a state managed beach with a proper car park right on the beach.  There is a fee to be  paid.  At 8.30 in the morning the kiosk was unmanned but there are envelopes available to post your fee.  The charges are $8 for day use ($7 for seniors) but if does allow you to use all the state beaches on the same day.

Egret at Pomponio Beach

Egret at Pomponio Beach

Tom and I have been to this beach several times and each time it is different.  For some reason a lot of driftwood is washed up here – mostly huge logs.  I wonder where they all come from?  There are always temporary structures built with this driftwood and today was no exception.  One looked like a log cabin.  Maybe somebody was sleeping inside.  The beach itself is sandy with a large lagoon.  Of course, the lagoon is always a different shape each time we come.  There are notices up telling anglers not to breach the lagoon because it will kill the fish.  I took a short walk along the beach and then found a convenient log to sit on and write.  The sun was beginning to warm everything up.

The next state beach is Pomponio.  This is very much like San Gregorio but here both the lagoon and the amount and size of the driftwood is on a smaller scale.  No driftwood structures here but what was man made were a couple of huge forts made out of sand.  They had obviously been made yesterday and beyond reach of high tide.  I also noticed washed up on the bach lots of tiny dead white crabs.  The cliffs here are interesting as well because they are high and studded with rows of small stones.

We by-passed Pescadero State Beach, which has three access pooints, due not only to lack of time but it deserves an entry all to itself at a later date.   It was here we took a breakfast break – see next entry.

Our next and last beach stop was at Bean Hollow State Beach.  There is a car park at each end and we used the sourthern end.  This is one of our

Strange rocks at Bean Hollow State Beach

Strange rocks at Bean Hollow State Beach

favorite beaches as it has everything that we look for in a beach – scenic views, lots of wave action, sandy and little used.  Once again the rocks were interesting but completely different from Pomponio.  Here they are sandstone (I think) but with lots of holes in them which made them look like honeycomb.  One of the taller rocks, looking at it from a distance, reminds me of a man made town on a mountainside.  Tom and I both have different interpretations as to how the holes are formed.  Tom thinks they are caused by wave action whilst I believe the holes were made by burrowing shellfish of some kind.  If anybody out there knows the answer, we would be interested to hear from you.

I walked to the end of the beach to see if there was any way through to the northern end.  The tide was fairly high so could not make much progress along the beach although it may be possible to clamber over the rocks.  At the top of the beach I noticed a footpath which heads over the bluffs so ventured along it a little way.  Indeed there is a trail alongside the road which goes to the other end.  I discovered a secluded little cove where a couple were enjoying a picnic.  It was a perfect location protected from the wind, unless the breeze was coming off the ocean.

The weather turned out to be glorious in the end.  The slight early morning haze had completely disappeared with tempretures up in the 70’s.  Thank goodness we did not change our plans.

Although we checked out quite a few coastal access locations, there are several we did not have the time to do today.  Apart from Pescadero State Beach, there is also Gazos Creek, Pigeon Point and one other place between Bean Hollow and Pigeon Point.  We’ll have to save those for another day.

Nice scene in Pescadero

Nice scene in Pescadero

We decided to take another route home past Butano State Park and along Pescadero Creek Road to cross Skyline Blvd.  But first of all a short stop in Pescadero.  It is always a pleasure to revisit this special place.  Duartes Tavern was bustling.  I noticed that the signs for ‘The Rock Guy’ were not on the telegraph posts in the street.  When I got home I checked online and found one small reference to the fact that he died this past winter.   Another local ‘character’ that will be missed.

We had a look round Made in Pescadero.  We love their hand made furniture and the smell of wood but the prices are a little out of our budget.  In Arcangeli’s Country Bakery we bought some sourdough garlic bread, just out of the oven, and half a pound of mild cheddar cheese.  Just right for a little picnic.  There were signs in the store to say they now had a picnic area at the back of the store next to the Pescadero Creek.  So we went to have a look.  It is always interesting to check out buildings from the back.  The picnic area is nice and quiet and there was nobody else around.  On our stroll back to the street, Tom pointed out some flowering artichokes in the garden next door.  I had never seen those huge thistle like flowers before.

After finishing our stroll around Pescadero, we made our way back to the car and the very pleasant drive home.  The end of another perfect day.

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2 Responses to “San Mateo Beaches”

  1. David July says:

    Those strange rocks look like Tafoni, formed by biological, chemical and physical weathering.

  2. Thanks, David, that’s very interesting. So they weren’t caused by wave action or little critters. Margaret and I were both wrong and that keeps the peace in the Husband household.



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