If Half Moon Bay isn’t on your radar screen, it should be, and for more than just the annual Pumpkin Festival. A recent weekend getaway revealed a bustling seaside village that is both quaint and modern. The first thing that strikes you upon entering its downtown core is how clean it is, as if elves come out at night to do a once-over spit and polish, right down to the meticulous flower pots and baskets. Locally owned shops line the streets: boutiques, galleries and independent bookstores and coffee shops.
The shop, stroll and coffee culture is not the only thing happening in HMB. There’s plenty to keep you busy—wine tasting, glass blowing demos, farm visits, kayaking, surfing, golf, horseback riding, tide pools, biking or a picnic at the beach are all part of the scene. And the food! Eating in HMB is sheer pleasure—locally sourced produce, cheese, meat and seafood are staples at many eateries. Lodging options range from budget-friendly hotels to the luxurious Ritz Carlton, and numerous bed and breakfast inns. We stayed at the Beach House Inn, a boutique hotel located on the beach just north of town. The spacious, upscale loft-style suites are quiet and well-appointed, with fireplaces, comfortable beds and a balcony or patio. Complimentary continental breakfast is included.
Prices to eat and sleep seem remarkably reasonable for the quality. The sea air, pretty downtown, impressive eateries and abundant activities make Half Moon Bay a great day trip or weekend escape for couples or families. For more information, see visithalfmoonbay.org.
What to do
The nooks and crannies of Pillar Point Harbor beg to be explored by kayak. The enthusiastic crew at Half Moon Bay Kayak Co. will set you up with a boat to suit your skill level.
La Nebbia Winery produces four whites, three reds and three desert wines, as well as gourmet food products. Peruse the lovely event gardens while you sip. Tasting Fees $8; $2 for port served in a chocolate cup. Open 10-5 daily.
Half Moon Bay Art Glass is a few steps away from La Nebbia. Stop in and watch glassblowing demonstrations M-F 10-5 and most weekends.
Harley Farms, a working goat dairy and retail store, is open for tours on weekends or by appointment. Learn the process of making Chevre from milking to packaging; and mingle with the goats and the llamas that protect them from predators.
Where to eat
Flavor “California comfort food” served in mid-century modern décor, sourced from “vendors with integrity.” Along with old favorites like mac ‘n cheese and pot pies are inspired burgers and salads, pastas and seafood dishes. Everything is made in-house, down to the Pinot Noir Sorbet. It’s a great spot near the harbor to satisfy post-kayak hunger.
Half Moon Bay Brewing Company More than a meal, HMB Brewing Company is a social and culinary experience. A large facility with indoor and outdoor dining, this brew pub makes seriously good craft beer, with seriously tasty grub to match. The menu features locally caught seafood, fresh oysters, flatiron steak and much more, with recommended beer pairings.
It’s Italia A family friendly trattoria with brick oven pizza, house Panini, pasta, salads and grilled fish. The incredibly fresh food can be enjoyed in the dining room, bar or on the terrace. The wine list is 150-bottles strong, a real plus if you want to try something different. Even after a hearty entrée, it’s hard to turn down appealing desserts served in a martini glass.
Sam’s Chowder House On a bluff above the Pacific, this local institution has garnered numerous awards for great seafood, served with a killer ocean view. The restaurant is large with many indoor and outdoor seating areas. The huge lobster roll sandwich is legendary; or try the fresh grilled catch of the day or the excellent raw bar.