HALF MOON BAY, PACIFICA, SANTA CRUZ
Being right next to the planet’s biggest ocean has its advantages. Due south of The City, California Highway 1 links a string of beach towns, each with its own eco-system of surf shops, bait-and-tackle stands, restaurants-with-a-view, places to buy a wetsuit and spots to fill the cooler with ice. Seasonal whale-watching is a popular pastime and when the last wisps of summer fog burn off, the beaches fill with swimmers and surfers. At the northern end are Pacifica, Montara and Moss Beach. Half Moon Bay is a beloved artists colony with a renowned golf course and the town’s Pumpkin Festival enlivens every October. Santa Cruz anchors the southern end, with its century-old amusement park, complete with merry 1911 Looff carousel and thrilling 1924 Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster.
Directions: Take California 1 south from San Francisco for the most picturesque drive, or take Highway 101 and pick up a connector road west to the sea.