Growing by the Bay

Category: coast

Pacific coastline north of Cambria

North of Cambria is a stretch of coastline accessed by Moonstone Drive. The drive is dotted with motels. As along much of California’s coast, highway 1 is all too near. But the coast itself is scenic, and sea otters may be seen. At this time of year whales migrant along the coast here, and they are often spotted surfacing and spouting offshore.
moonstone beach, cambria, ca

Further north is San Simeon and the Hearst Castle. A pier built by William Randolf Hearts still stands here. It is said to offer good fishing for mackeral, perch, and smelt.

hearst pier, cambria, ca

A few miles further up the coast is the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse. Unfortunately, it is not accessible to the public. Its original Fresnel beacon lens was removed and replaced by a more functional but less delightful modern device; the original is now in downtown Cambria.

piedras blanca lighthouse

On the shore near the lighthouse elephant seals laze. They mate in March and pups are born in February; in 2007, 4000 pups were born in this rapidly growing colony. After mating the males head north to Alaska, while the rest of the herd follows in a month or two. By midsummer, however, they will be back at Piedras Blancas, only, as I understand, to travel north again before fall and return once more in November — their comings and goings are complicated and confusing. What are these big lugs thinking?

These creatures resemble giant belicose (but slothful) mamalian slugs, or manatees without the charm. Despite this lack of a cuddly Bambi factor, there is something exciting about encountering these enormous (the males was up to 5000 pounds) residents of the Pacific coast.

elephant seals near cambria, ca

Lampton Cliffs County Park, Cambria, central California coast

Just down the road from the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve in Cambria on the central California coast is a small country park called Lampton Cliffs.

lampton cliffs county park, cambria

The park features a wooden stairway providing convenient access to a sheltered, rocky inlet.

Stairs to Pacific shore at Lampton Cliffs County Park, Cambria

Near the park is an open area that is marked as an ecological study zone. This is fenced and closed to the public.

ecological study area at cambria on the central California coast

I don’t know what kind of ecological study the University of California is doing here, but the ecology of the nature reserve seems imperfectly balanced — there were at least a couple dozen deer lounging in the meadow.

deer, cambria, ca


Fiscalini Ranch Preserve, Cambria, California

Mr. Vista is relaxing in Cambria on the Central California Coast — as well as I can considering the frigid weather.

Cambria is best known for the nearby Hearst Castle at San Simeon, and also for its cutesy downtown, but it has some nice natural areas as well. The Fiscalini Ranch preserve is a coastal area of 430 acres that was formerly a cattle ranch and dairy. The ranch was sold in 1993, and housing was planned, but a local group, working with the American Land Conservancy and other organizations, raised the money to preserve the space for public use. The preserve is managed by the Cambria Community Services District, which created number of wheelchair-accesible paths along the bluff overlooking the shore.

cambria coast

Cormorants nest on rocks offshore.

cormorants on rock at cambria coast

At this time of year the the Cambria Morning Glory (Calystegia subacaulis) blooms in the bluff meadows. Also known as Hill Morning Glory or Fall Bindweed, this low-growing herb is found nowhere but the California coast.

cambria morning glory

More to come. Stay tuned . . .


Flying Fish Grill, Half Moon Bay

Half Moon Bay is a foggy coastal community of about 17,000 people located about 30 miles south of San Francisco at the intersection of highways 1 and 92. (Since I live in the East Bay I usually get there from highway 92 across the San Mateo Bridge, but be aware that 92 is often very slow.)

The main shopping area is on Main Street, which triangulates the two highways toward the south. Just west of where Main Street meets 92 is a rustic little fish place called the Flying Fish Grill.

(Click images for larger views.)

flying fish grill

The restaurant is an adjunct to the fish market that is located next door.

fish market

The Flying Fish has a good range of fish dishes. The fish tacos — though maybe not quite as great as those at El Tio in Puerto Morelos — are the best I know in the Bay Area. A Taco Grande, which is pretty big, costs less than $4. The crabby cheese bread and clam chowder are popular, and the fish sandwiches shouldn’t be overlooked.

The kitchen staff is an agreeable crew (you’ll meet them if you visit the rest room, which is reached by way of the kitchen), and the chef clearly knows what he’s doing.

kitchen staff

Service is a little unpolished, and orders sometimes end up at the wrong table. But it doesn’t matter. Our waiter on our last visit was a likeable fellow, and everyone has a good time, and a good lunch.


There is outside seating if the weather is nice.


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