Vacation inspiration: Moss Beach (not Moss Landing)

Thanks to Jennifer Saranow Schultz, a Bay Area mom and writer of HintMama.com, for this piece about Moss Beach, a super close and toddler-friendly getaway. If you would like to share your Bay Area road trip ideas with us, please send them to info@510families.com.

Aerial view of Moss Beach, Half Moon Bay Airport, and the Seal Cove Fault, California

As my husband and I learned last year on a three-hour road trip during which our daughter cried for much of the ride, long drives and toddlers don’t mix.

So, for a recent weekend getaway with my 18-month-old daughter and her 16-month-old Palo Alto-based cousin, as well as other members of our extended family, we stayed much closer to home. We rented a home in Montara, Calif., just outside Moss Beach (yes, the actual Moss Beach) and not far from Half Moon Bay.

While we were only 30 minutes from our San Francisco home, we felt like we were on vacation, and we’ll likely return again soon given the great, not-to-be missed kid-friendly spots we discovered in the area. Here’s a quick weekend getaway travel guide inspired by my trip.

What to Do:

Check out the great scenery and rocky shore at the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. (If you go during low tide, you may see seals, sea stars and other creatures – we went too early in the morning to see any animals, but it still was a pretty spot).

Explore the best playground near Half Moon Bay: Moss Beach Park. At this community-built playground, you’ll find wooden structures resembling castles and forts, play areas designed for different ages, and a blacktop full of all the Little Tike ride-on toys a tot could dream of.

 Moss Beach Playground

Note: This playground doesn’t come up when you search online for great playgrounds near Half Moon Bay, as I learned firsthand. Instead, I discovered it the old-fashioned way: I asked a park ranger at the Marine Reserve to recommend a nearby playground. So file away this tip for finding a great playground wherever you go: Ask a local.

Hit the shore at Montara State Beach, a huge kid-friendly beach, and if you have time, be sure to stroll along the main drag, Main St., in Half Moon Bay and check out the cute shops.

Where to Eat: If you’re a fish taco fan like I am, the kid-friendly Flying Fish Bar and Grill serves great ones. In addition, any trip to the Half Moon Bay area isn’t complete without afternoon or sunset drinks at the Ocean Terrace at the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay. There, you’ll find plenty of green space for the little ones to run around, while you and your significant other alternate watching the kids and relaxing with a drink. The terrace closes at sunset, so I suggest getting there in the late afternoon and enjoying a dinner of light bites off of the Ocean Terrace menu.

Finally, one restaurant to skip if you’re dining with a toddler is La Costanera in Montara. My husband and I learned this the hard way when we had to leave dinner at the restaurant early due to our tantrum-throwing daughter. In short, save this restaurant, which has beautiful views, for a date night, a date afternoon or a romantic getaway weekend.

Where to Stay: When you’re traveling with a little one, it’s always nice to have your own kitchen and lots of space, so that’s why I suggest renting a condo or a house like my family did. There’s no shortage of Half Moon Bay area rentals available on sites like VRBO, and if you go with a group and or plan to make your own food, staying at a rental is generally a lot cheaper than staying at a hotel.

Can’t take a whole weekend away? The spots above work just as great for day trips, and here are some other ideas for toddler-friendly Bay Area day trips and some more of my local picks.

Read more from Jenny on or her blog, HintMama, where she’s reporting daily hints to help make parenting easier and or cheaper.

(aerial photo of moss beach | playground photo by J. Schultz)