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Things to do in Half Moon Bay, California

ocean views
ocean views

If you haven't visited the lovely Bay Area coastal City of Half Moon Bay, you are missing out! Half Moon Bay has a charming downtown along Main Street with several blocks of unique shops and restaurants. They also have beautiful beaches and activities galore. It is a short drive from San Francisco and most Bay Area locations.

Discover San Mateo County's Coastside with spectacular beaches, charming coastal towns and restaurants serving fresh seafood; it was the subject of my previous article. 

Half Moon Bay was originally called Spanishtown and is the oldest settlement in San Mateo County, dating back to the 1840's. History is evident in many of the historic buildings seen throughout the Coastside towns. Many of which are still operating businesses such as general stores and converted stage coach stops into boutiques.

The San Mateo Coast was famous during Prohibition for smuggling operations. With their large commercial fishing boats they were able to operate rum-runners going to/from Canada. The small beaches and coves were perfect places to land their contraband.

The Coastside is nestled between the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Pacific Ocean providing a wealth of natural resources and food supplies. The commercial fishing industry is still going strong today. There are also agricultural crops and farms located here. Food crops include: pumpkins, artichokes, brussel sprouts, leeks, and mushrooms, as well as cattle and dairy farming. The flower industry operates green houses for their commerical sales and there are ornamental plants and nurseries located here too. Agriculture represents a significant part of the local economy. Each Fall there are numerous pumpkin events and pumpkin patches to visit.

A visit to Half Moon Bay offers so many things to do, many of which will be discussed here. Experience Cool Harbor Nights - a free car and motorcycle show from 4 - 7 pm every first Thursday at Pillar Point Harbor in nearby Princeton.


There are several wineries in San Mateo County including La Nebbia Winery, formerly Obester, from a local wine-making family with a selection of whites and reds, located in Half Moon Bay. They also offer glass blowing classes, for $40 and in 15 minutes you can create a colorful paperweight. Thomas Fogarty Winery is located in Woodside, with spectacular views and selection of whites, reds and dessert wines. There is also a wine shop on Main Street in downtown, Half Moon Bay Wine & Cheese Company.

In the charming downtown area, visit Barterra Winery. They have a selection of white, red and sparkling wines for tasting and to purchase. The tasting room is beautifully decorated and they have an outdoor courtyard where you can enjoy your wine. In their first wine competition they received a bronze medal for their chardonnay at the 2008 Fingerlakes International Wine Competition of over 3,000 entries. Next door is an art gallery where you will be sorely tempted. Join them on May 22, 2010, for a Wine Room Opening Party from 3 - 6 pm at 643 Main Street in Half Moon Bay to celebrate their relocated wine room. See above photo.


Downtown Half Moon Bay has a wide variety of charming shops to choose from including antiques, floral boutiques, furniture, jewlery, sundry items and more. Click here for a listing of stores.

Half to Have It - sells antiques in a quirky indoor/outdoor shop for home and garden. See above photo.


Visit the historic James Johnston House, a classic New England Salt-box style house built in 1855. They are open for tours from 11-3 the third Saturday of each month from January through September.

Lemos Farms - offers a range of children's activities including pony rides, train rides, pumpkin patch and laser tag.

Farmer John's Pumpkin Farm - enjoy being outdoors on a working farm, enjoying the sights, smells, and pumpkins! They grow their own "Atlantic Giant" pumpkins which are perfect for your fund-raising activities.

Harley Farms Goat Dairy - raises goats and makes goat cheese. They offer two-hour farm tours, as well as a cheese-making classes and farm dinners.

Eco-tours: a variety of tours from Coastal Elegance Tours including a Beach-Eco Cycling Tour, Redwood Eco-Cycling Tour, Inter-tidal Adventure Nature Hike, and Beach Lighthouse Eco-Cycling Tour.


Horseback riding:

There are a number of stables, so if you have a desire to ride horses on the beach, this is the place. Sea Horse Ranch has over 150 horses and ponies and miles of coastal equestrian trails to explore. You may be lucky enough to see dolphins, whales or sea lions on the ride.


Hiking trails are everywhere with beautiful coastal views. For a trail guide, click here.


Some of the best beaches exist here and they are rarely very crowded. The beaches stretch for miles from Miramar all the way South to Ano Nuevo Reserve (where the elephant seals roam) and beyond. Click here for a listing of local beaches. If you enjoy marine tidepools, then visit Fitzgerald Marine Reserve or visit Coastal Elegance Tours for organized tidepool tours.


Go golfing in Half Moon Bay on beautiful courses including: Half Moon Bay Golf Links, with two 18-hole championship courses, book either the "Old Course" or the "Ocean Course." Travel + Leisure Golf Magazine describes Half Moon Bay Golf Links as a "World's Best Golf Resort", but don't take their word for it.

Kayak rentals:

Half Moon Bay Kayak Company, located in Pillar Point Harbor in Princeton. Kayak among seals, birds, and other marine life in protected Pillar Point Harbor or the wild waters of the open Pacific near Half Moon Bay.


Since Half Moon Bay has commerical fishing operations it is only natural that there would be a selection of companies offering sportfishing and whale watching tours, click each link for more information about their rentals:

Huck Finn Center - located in Princeton Harbor and offering charters and sportfishing.

Queen of Hearts - located in Pillar Point Harbor, Princeton and providing sportfishing on a 50-foot boat.

Riptide Charters - also located in Pillar Point Harbor, Princeton; providing sport fishing, whale watching and recreational tours.


Half Moon Bay Yacht Club - in Princeton Harbor offers sailing classes.


Bay Arerial Helicopter Tours will put together the perfect tour just for you. Soar over the coastline, farms, lighthouses, etc.


Ol' Fashioned 4th of July Parade & Fireworks on July 4, 2010 with parade at noon and fireworks.

19th Annual Tour des Fleurs on Saturday July 17, 2010: to get a behind the scenes tour of local nurseries, wineries and farms. Many participants are not normally open to the public.

10th Annual Rodeo at Driscoll Ranches on July 24 - 25, 2010, located in La Honda.

40th Annual Half Moon Bay Pumpkin & Art Festival held October16-17, 2010.

Maverick's Surf Competition called 24 hours in advance, held between December and March.

Pacific Coast Dream Machines in April featuring 2,000 magnificent driving, flying and working machines from the 20th and 21st centuries. There are vintage cars from every decade in remarkable condition held at the Half Moon Bay Airport.

Tune in next time for Places to Stay and Dine in Half Moon Bay.

Don't miss the slideshow for additional photos of Half Moon Bay. Click on "View Slideshow" at the article's conclusion to see more images.

Feel free to leave a comment here or email me at

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