MOSS BEACH | FITZGERALD MARINE RESERVE
After about an hour and a half drive, we’re finally here at the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in Moss Beach, California. The weather is oh so lovely; I could live here. It’s a great place to visit with kids both big and small to explore animals of the sea in their natural habitat. It’s all free – no parking fee, no admission to pay and the crowds are not bad at all. Surprisingly, there were empty parking spots on a Sunday afternoon. Here’s big brother Chris helping lil Noah with his laces.
This is the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve Visitor Center, a little shack filled with objects that have washed ashore: animal bones, sea turtle shells, baleen, mollusks, chiton, a shark head and an octopus among other creatures in jars, sea stars and more. They also sell a small assortment of buttons, note cards, post cards, pencils, t-shirts and books. You’ll also find informative brochures and a handy mini tide book. The super friendly park ranger that we met informed us that they’ll be tearing down the little structure and will be expanding the visitor center and parking lot in a couple of years.
An elephant seal skull on display.
Eli and our lil buddy Xan balancing on a log.
In Marine Biology class, the professor once asked us what we thought was the most dangerous animal in the ocean. Many answered sharks but I believe humans are; we’re the ones that don’t live in the ocean yet cause the most damage. The plants and animals in the intertidal zone have no protection against people so be careful where you step. Click here for guidelines when visiting the tidepools and remember, visit with care.
What do you see Noah? I LOVE his pouty lips.
At this time of the year, the tide is high so we didn’t get to see as much as we would if the tide was low. The kids still had a lot of fun looking at the little sculpin fish, hermit crabs, kelp and sea anemones.
Eli hopping back. Don’t turn your back on the ocean. The tide can rise quicker than you expect.
Xan came prepared with some water shoes. I don’t know if you can tell, but he’s way out there. He’s one brave little guy!
Meta in her sling. Augie and Noah in the background with Paul and Neca.
Brothers observing the tide pool.
I love this picture of Xan and his daddy, one with nature.
Noah, deep in his thoughts. When am I going to get some juice?
Check out the view.
A bone Augie found. I wonder from what type of animal.
Oh my gosh, there are harbor seals!!! There was a whole group of seals hauled out on the rocky shore. Flicked a pic of this one swimming towards land.
Now we’re headed back to the parking lot and on our way to Montara, where the sand is much finer and the kids can build sand castles. After our visit we went back towards Highway 1 and picked up shrimp burritos from El Guan Amigo Taqueria – only two minutes away from the marine reserve!
We then drove up Highway 1 for another two minutes to Montara State Beach. That beach is awesome!!! I guess Montara is not as frequented as other nearby beaches like Surfer’s Beach, Venice Beach or the popular Half Moon Bay State Beach, because unlike the others it was not littered nor crowded. Plus, parking is free! There was only about 20 people on the beach, our group of 10 included. The waves lulled baby Meta to sleep in the tent instantly. If you plan on visiting a nearby beach after the reserve, it’s a good idea to bring a tent and blankies if you got little ones so they’ll be warm and comfy. It can get quite foggy and misty.
If you know me I have a favorite everything and Montara is my new favorite beach. An aerial view of the coastline off Montara is pictured above. If you decide to visit Montara State Beach, which is a little north of Half Moon Bay, there’s two ways to get down to the beach, a steep path near the restrooms and stairs which can be accessed from the northern parking lot. Being it our first time there we didn’t know there was a set of stairs and descended the steep path towards the beach with an infant, toddler, preschooler and 3 older children as well as a cooler, tent, chairs, diaper bags, heavy blankets and bags of food in tow. When we set up the tent and unfolded the chairs and got ourselves settled we turned around and all looked at each other and said, “Why didn’t we take the stairs?”
Be extremely vigilant whenever your children are near any type of water, no matter the depth. Always be within arms reach, if not carrying them or holding their hands when near water. Never turn your back on the ocean. Recently, a mother and her young daughter tragically drowned at Montara when they were pulled out to sea by a powerful riptide. They were only shin-deep in the water. The current is strong, the undertow is heavy and the drop off is steep at Montara so if you want to get your feet wet there be VERY alert. If you have young children it’s advised to keep them out of the water. I had my feet in only an inch of water and when a wave came in I was running away from it and got my pants wet up to my knees. The ocean waves are extremely unpredictable.
Click here to read up on how to survive a riptide. Beaches offer beautiful views but can be extremely treacherous and their dangers may not always be apparent. Have fun, but always respect nature, use common sense, follow safety precautions and know what to do in case of an emergency.
Back to the reserve, here’s some animals and plants that are commonly found in the tide pools. Click to enlarge the image and print it out so you know what to say when you’re little one asks, “What is this animal called?” Click here if you’d like to plan a visit and see the route we took from the South Bay. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, but just in case, be sure to take along sweaters and extra pants, socks and shoes. There’s bathrooms but no soap so keep the antibacterial gel handy. Also I like to keep a roll of toilet paper in the vehicle, just in case. Bring snacks and drinks for the ride to keep the kids happy.
It’s best to visit when the tide is low. Low tides are distinguished as negative numbers. Check the tide predictions here and select Princeton, Half Moon Bay under “Santa Barbara Islands”. Pick a date and press the “Get Tides” button at the bottom of the page. The lower the tide, the more you’ll get to see. At the marine reserve, there’s a lovely grove of trees to wander through to access another part of the beach.
Please share; what are some good outdoor destinations for families that you know of?