Early on a Sunday morning, my husband and I cruised south down Route 1 past San Pedro Point in Pacifica where surfers were hitting their mark, through Eucalyptus trees into the massive new tunnel at Devil’s Slide, down Cabrillo Highway, past the Point Montara Lighthouse, and on to Pillar Point Harbor. Usually, Pillar Point Harbor bustles with returning fishing boats eager to sell their catch. But not on a Sunday morning — it’s quiet and sleepy — with only the signs from yesterday’s sales to indicate what was jumping. Take in the fresh sea air and enjoy a quick coastside stop on the way to Half Moon Bay.
Dating to the 1840s, “Spanishtown” was first inhabited by Costanoan Indians, then an increasingly racially diverse population. In 1874, the name was officially changed to Half Moon Bay. Nestled between the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, it is the perfect place to unwind and forget about the daily grind.
Main Street is the center of the action, and that’s where you’ll find the cozy Half Moon Bay Inn. This historic inn, built in 1932, maintained its original charm and Spanish Revival architecture during a recent renovation.
With most rooms and suites located on the second floor overlooking downtown, this unique property combines Old World appeal (period furniture) with modern amenities (flat screen TV, organic coffee, terry robes). There’s plenty of free parking, pets are welcome, and some say there’s even a ghost. (650-726-1177, halfmoonbayinn.com/).
PLAY & SHOP
Half Moon Bay has a bit of everything — bluffs and beaches, antique shops and galleries, restaurants and cafes, B&Bs, and bookstores. Strolling along Main Street is a great way to take in the local scene. Oddyssea is a collector’s dream with all kinds ofunique items for home and garden that are designed for “exploration, creation and discovery.” There’s even Oddyssea Outside that offers hands-on experiences every weekend (650-440-4555, oddyssea.com/).
Cottage Industries is a great place to find handcrafted furniture and interesting home accessories (650-712-8078, myhandmadehome.com/).
Barterra Winery is a fun place to taste wines — relax on the patio, in their casual living room, or at the bar. We started with the 2006 sparkling wine from Carneros, then the 2012 Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast, and the 2010 Bart’s Red (a blend of Barbera, Petite Sirah, Alicante Bouschet, Carignane) from Amador County. The winery also sells their olive oil from the Central Valley (650-712-1635, barterrawines.com/).
Located on Highway 92 not far from downtown sits La Nebbia Winery alongside Half Moon Bay Art Glass. Opt for a glass-blowing class, and then taste some wine. The property includes a bocce ball court, a beautiful garden, a fountain, and multiple outdoor seating places. Try the NV Sparkling wine, the 2011 Pinot Noir from A mador County, the 2010 Merlot from Paso Robles, among others. (650-726-9463, lanebbiawinery.com/)
Time to leave Main Street: I headed to the Oceano Coastal Spa, and my husband went to play the Ocean Course at the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay.
The Oceano Coastal Spa is nestled in a small shopping area across from Pillar Point Harbor. Pampering is the name of the game at this intimate spa that uses products with all natural ingredients. Don’t be overwhelmed by the array of choices; there’s something on the menu for every body and face. I opted for the deep tissue treatment and let the masseuse go after tight muscles (650-263-2008, oceanocoastalspa.com/).
After his round of golf at The Ritz, my husband raved about the rolling dunes, the pristine greens, the Scottish feel, and the stunning views of the Pacific. (The course is spectacularly situated atop a coastal bluff.) The course was in perfect condition. He called the 17th hole, a par three set on a cliff overlooking the pounding surf, one of the most exciting holes he’s ever played(650-726-1800, halfmoonbaygolf.com/).
If golf isn’t for you, the Half Moon Bay Coastside Trail (traillink.com/trail/half-moon-bay-coastside-trail.aspx) hugs the Pacific, and offers great views, wildlife, and inviting beaches. Or try the Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve, which covers more than 4,400 acres and overlooks Half Moon Bay on the western edge of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Both trails have equestrian paths (650-691-1200, openspace.org).
Brunch at Navio in the Ritz-Carlton is an amazing experience with its all-you-can-eat cornucopia of dishes. From dim sum and sushi to oysters and grilled meats, caviar and smoked salmon to fresh fruit and salads, eggs and crepes to pastries and sumptuous desserts, you can’t miss. The restaurant design is unique — “navio” is Portuguese for “ship” and diners are transported to the 1800s and the master craftsmanship of Portuguese boat builders. The ceiling is shaped like the underside of a ship’s hull (650-712 -7040, ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/HalfMoonBay/Dining/Navio/Default.htm#).
Via Uno is a mecca for Southern Italian food, owned by two passionate Calabrian friends who deliver the goods at this popular local hangout. We started with the Mulingiani Chini (baked stuffed eggplant with tomato sauce and mozzarella), and then shared the gnocchi served in a black truffle and Gorgonzola sauce and a delicious thin-crusted Pizza con Ficchi.
One of the owners is so skilled at making pizzas, he holds a Licencia Verace Pizzeria Napoletana. We paired our dishes with a 2008 Gaglioppo Statti from Calabria. Save room for the heavenly Tiramisu for dessert (650-560-8858, viaunorestaurant.com/).
Upcoming Events: Coastside Farmers’ Market (Saturdays until December; coastsidefarmersmarkets.org/); Johnston House Foundation’s Holiday Boutique & Historic House Tour (Nov. 7 – 8, & 14 – 15; johnstonhouse.org/holiday-boutique); 143rd Anniversary Celebration of the Pigeon Point Light Station (Nov. 14; parks.ca.gov/?page_id=28020); Open Studios (Nov. 21 – 22; colonyofcoastsideartists.com/)
Half Moon Bay Visitors Bureau: visithalfmoonbay.org