Roaring cliff sides, sun filled skies, seaside flowers, golden hills, endless tide pools, road side fruit stands- it’s all just a little slice of heaven. The section of Highway 1 between San Francisco and Santa Cruz holds numerous must see stops along the way. McNee Ranch, Montara Beach, Moss Beach Distillery, and Pie Ranch are just a few of the hidden gems that definitely are worth stopping for.
Highway 1 is one of those journeys you could spend days exploring and heck- some people spend weeks soaking int he crashing waves along this stretch of the coast. With it’s countless state beaches, ocean side restaurants, scenic overlooks, it’s no wonder why California is my most treasured spot.
As you begin your journey from south from San Francisco, you’ll want to pay attention to Montara, California. This small town right outside of the Tom Lantos Tunnel will leave you breathless. The sandstone walls of Montara Beach are the most beautiful yellow and orange colors. This cove is definitely a place you’ll want to see.
Once you’ve finished exploring Montara, another great place to stop along the way before hitting Half Moon Bay is Moss Beach Distillery + Restaurant and the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. This reserve is one of the best tidepool viewing areas I’ve visited. Tip: be sure to check the tide guide here before you leave. The best viewing is when the tides are lower than 1 foot.
Once you’ve arrived in Half Moon Bay, you’ll want to head to Main Street which is were the restaurants, cafes and a few wine shops here and there. Another great place to explore is Oddyssea, a “interactive retail shop and outdoor garden focused on science, nature, and art products and experiences.” This spot is one of the most unique places I’ve been and hooray for DIY terrarium stations!
Your next stop along the coast will want to be Pescadero. Before heading to Pigeon Point Lighthouse, downtown Pescadero is definitely a cute area to grab a cup of coffee and explore the few shops and restaurants. If you’re in need for some coffee in an adorable setting, Downtown Local is the place to stop. With vintage decor and Sightglass coffee brewing fresh, the California cool vibe here will make you want to sit and stay a while.
Next stop in Pescadero is Pigeon Point Lighthouse. Standing tall on the ocean’s edge, this lighthouse is twice the size of Montara lighthouse and the sun shines a little brighter in this area of the coast. Bonus points for staying in the hostel and waking up to ocean waves!
Besides the state beaches dotted along the coast, the next destination spot to stop has got to be Pie Ranch located just south of Pescadero. This stop is super easy to pass, so when you see the signs stating “slow for pie” you really do need to slow for pie! Along with produce in a perfectly decorated rustic barn setting, their pies are amazing! If you can, try to arrive early because they are know to sell out quick.
As an alternate to a day visit, Pie Ranch offers an opportunity to work on the farm in the day and stay for a barn dance. To learn more, be sure to check out their website here!
“Pie Ranch cultivates a healthy and just food system from seed to table through food education, farmer training, and regional partnerships.”
If pie isn’t quite your thing but strawberries are you jam (pun very much intended) you must stop at Swanton Berry Farm in Davenport. This is probably my favorite stop along this stretch of the coast because of their “U-Pick” strawberries, implemented “honor pay system” and amazing jam! Large picnic tables are set up inside and there are plenty of board games to make you stay and really enjoy. Set up next to Swanton in Slowcoast (names after the the stretch between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz). Slowcoast is a vintage Airstream transformed into a shop selling local artisan goods on the same property as the berry shop at Swanton Berry Farm. This is also a great picnic spot with the ocean views!
Highway 1 is one of those journeys you could spend days exploring and heck- some people spend weeks soaking in the crashing waves along this stretch of the coast. With it’s countless state beaches, ocean side restaurants, scenic overlooks, it’s no wonder why the California coast is my most treasured spot. Once you’ve hit Santa Cruz, explore the town and if it’s your thing, a stop at Well Within Spa will be just what your need after a long day of exploring! Looking for more stuff to see in Santa Cruz? There’s is a great article published by 7×7 magazine which highlights a Modern Guide To Santa Cruz.