Fitzgerald Marine Reserve
Just 20 miles south of San Francisco in the town of Moss Beach, Fitzgerald Marine Reserve sits placidly on the fog-dappled coast. Renowned for its rugged beaches, tidepools, sea lions, the occasional sea otter, pelicans and other sea birds, the reserve has been identified by marine biologists as “one of the most biodiverse intertidal zones in California.” It is also a vantage point for whale watchers. Humpback, blue, and gray whales can been seen periodically from a high promontory, and a look downward reveals a beach full of harbor seal moms and their pups, who are protected by the park.
You can descend a long stairway to see them at beach level, but visitors are cautioned to stay 300 feet away so as not to interfere with seal family business. Along the trail at the top of the cliff, you walk through carefully planted rows of aging pines on the grounds of what was once the expansive Smith-Doelger residence in the early 20th century. Farther down, you walk on parts of the foundations, faced by massive palm trees that once graced an elegant entrance.
Walking south from the reserve, the road winds alongside residences perched on the cliff, with beautiful gardens and huge plate-glass windows facing the ocean.
You can walk right up to the Moss Beach Distillery, a historic restaurant where liquor was smuggled in from offshore during Prohibition in the 30s, and where the fabled phantom “Blue Lady” is still seen occasionally by visitors. You can read more about her and the Moss Beach Distillery by clicking here.
If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, this is one of those “so close, yet so far away” types of day trips. It is well worth the hike to feel that you’re at the end of the earth–in another world and another time. If you’re visiting California, this is an opportunity to experience the best of what the coast has to offer: diverse marine life, natural beauty, and a bit of California history.