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San Francisco - Coastside

 Whatever you think about the rest of this web site, San Francisco Bay Area is our home, so on this topic we do know what we are talking about.





A Drive down the coast from San Francisco Highway 1 takes you from the San Francisco (start at the Cliff House or SF Zoo) to the beautiful San Mateo coast - much of it well preserved and protected from growth. 


The Moss Beach Distillery (about 20 mi south of SF) is a very romantic place on along the way,  offering unsurpassed ocean view from the bar and dining room.  It also has a resident ghost.  The menu is steaks, ribs, and fish but the food preparation has never been great and recently (2003) reached such a low that we recommend forgoing the dinning room, and follow this plan instead: arrive two hours before sunset take a stroll in the nearby cliffs (see below).   Then take a seat in the MB Distillery bar for a sunset cocktail.  For dinner go for Mediterranean food at Cafe Gibraltar (**, $$$) in El Granda (2 miles South on Highway 1) or Mountain House (**, $$) at 13808 Skyline Blvd., Woodside, Telephone: 650.851.8541.  (Mountain House is another 30 minute drive from Moss Beach.)  


More Moss Beach  Karen Brown's, the creator of guide books to the best B&Bs around the world, operates her own  B&B just around the corner from the Moss Beach Distillery.   Also just around the corner is the trail head for a walk connecting Moss Beach and Fitzgerald Marine Preserve.  This is a nice area for strolling along a bluff (**) with fabulous ocean views along the stretch.  This is also a lovely place for a sunset watching picnic.  In colder weather, thought, you can catch the sunset just as well through the grand windows of the Moss Beach Distillery bar.



Redwoods Near SF Further south along the coastal highway, but well before Santa Cruz, are a string of extraordinary redwoods state and county parks:  Portola Redwoods, Butano, and Big Basin State Parks, and Pescadero Creek and McDonald country parks.  In these parks you can enjoy a peaceful encounter with redwoods without the crowds and tour buses in the more famous (but no more beautiful) Muir Woods.   Butano (near the town of Pescadero) is the most accessible from the coast highway, but never crowded (most locals don't even know of it).  It has one very nice and flat hike to see the grove of giant redwoods.


Portola Redwoods is more remote and the least accessible of the parks, but a very worthwhile detour if you can afford the time.  Directions from Interstate 280:  West on Page Mill Rd; continue straight past Skyline Blvd (Highway 35) on Alpine Road.  Take left on the Alpine-Portola fork, continue to the park visitor center.  It's a long and very curvy drive, about 1 hour.  From the coast highway (Highway 1) take Highway 84 to La Honda and ask locals for directions to Alpine Road and Portola Park.


Portola Park has some of the largest and oldest trees in this area.  One giant is believed to be 1200 years old.  It's accessible by a short trail near the park visitor center.  Portola also has plentiful mushrooms in Winter/Spring.  We saw numerous species on one 3 mile trail loop, Coyote, Slate Creek, and Summit Trails.  Here are photos of some... (click on photos to enlarge). 


Mushrooms along the Coyote and Summit Trails, Portola Redwoods State Park


Two very cute coast towns: San Gregorio and Pescadero. In San Gregorio :  visit the country store (**).  It's a great place for unusual books, (including unusual cooking books in the rear), a bar, and music on weekend afternoons.  The country store is virtually the entire town.


In Pescadero we always stop to purchase a fresh loafs of artichokes or garlic bread at Arcangeli Grocery Company & Norm's Market (***).  These are possibly the most tasteful breads in the world.  Get them warm.  We always buy two:  one for the road trip home and one to have later.   These famous loafs can also be purchased online!


Stage Road, connecting these towns is a lovely country lane road with two moderate hill climbs,  is ideal for biking and Sunday drives.  There is a cemetery on your left just before Pescadero ( if you are driving from San Gregorio to Pescadero) that's worth a short stop.  Here is where Jessica Dubroff is buried.  She was the 7-year old aviator who died in 1996 in an airplane crash while trying to set the world record for the youngest person to attempt flying across the USA.  There is an appropriate lovely stone and memorial.


San Gregorio is the gateway to Portola Redwoods State Park.  Pescadero is the gateway to Butano State Park and various interconnected country parks.



















The best urban area hiking in the world is in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, South of San Fransisco.  For more info see OpenSpace.org






















Our friend Ebba and her ex-boyfriend Stefan enjoying a Norm loaf.  They came all the way from Dusseldorf for this.  


2005 R. Abileah

Last updated February 27, 2008