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Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

See life scuttle, dart, and bark in some of the state’s best tide pools

The Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, located in Moss Beach, some 20 miles south of San Francisco, is one of the most bio-diverse inter-tidal regions in the state, and as a result has some of the best tide pooling in California. At low tide, look down and scan the natural rocky reefs just offshore to discover a vibrant world of crabs, sea stars, swaying anemones, and bat stars. In shallow pools, look for bright-yellow sea lemons, algae-hoovering chitons, turban snails, and the darting movements of tiny camouflaged fish called a sculpin. Then there are the birds that see it all as an endless smorgasbord, like the strikingly red-billed black oyster-catcher. And you can’t miss the resident population of hundreds of harbor seals that haul up on the rocks or bob in the waves.

Friends of Fitzgerald Marine Reserve offers docent-led tours, or wander on your own—green-jacketed docents are happy to answer questions even if you’re not part of a guided group, and the reserve’s site offers a self-guided tour map. Time your visit when the tide is out (zero or negative tides are best). If the tide is up, take a walk through the nearby grove of wind-carved Monterey cypress. Get great sunset views from surrounding ocean bluffs; December through March, scan the horizon for the spouts of migrating gray whales. At the end of the day, enjoy fresh-off-the-boat seafood at nearby Moss Beach Distillery, or head just down the road to kick back by the outdoor fire pits at Half Moon Bay Brewing Company. For a splurge, spend the night at Moss Beach’s garden-wrapped Seal Cove Inn.

Know before you go: As a marine protected area (MPA), visitors to Fitzgerald Marine Reserve can look, but not touch. Picking up things and turning over rocks are not allowed.


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