Pillar Point is Poppin’

There is more than Mavericks for recreational boaters to enjoy in this hidden beach town.

   Pillar Point Harbor is nestled into the crook of California, just east of where Maverick’s Beach juts out. This area may be best known for the infamous surf spot Mavericks, but even folks who aren’t big-wave surfers will find plenty to see and do in Pillar Point Harbor.

Pillar Point Harbor is between Santa Cruz and San Francisco, at the northern tip of Half Moon Bay. Boaters can stop in and refuel before entering the hustle and bustle of San Francisco Bay. The outer jetty and inner harbor create calm wave conditions, which is ironic since some of the largest waves in the nation are barely a mile away.

The Pillar Point Harbormaster’s office is located in the middle of the harbor. The personnel monitor VHF Channel 16 and 74, and someone there will provide information about which slips are available for guest mooring, since there isn’t any designated guest mooring. Hotel options for anyone who’d like to spend a night on terra firma include the luxurious Oceano Hotel & Spa, which is a short walk from the harbor, and the Oceano Inn on the same campus, for a more low-key stay.

Just across the parking lot from the Oceano Hotel is Half Moon Bay Brewing Co. Stop in some craft beer and/or eat a great seafood-centric dinner with a beautiful view from the patio. A little farther northwest on Capistrano Road are a few more gems that will satisfy any hankering. Seville Tapas is a spot for an authentic Spanish meal, from paella to café con leche. It’s a small restaurant, so hungry boaters should call ahead to make sure the place is open. Right next door is the Old Princeton Landing: Public House and Grill.

Recently reopened, the bar has merged with the adjoining restaurant and features a full sports bar vibe with a menu of sustainable locally sourced meat, seafood and veggies.

If a white-tablecloth experience is preferred, Mezzaluna is the place to wine and dine, including all the classic Italian dishes and a chocolate lava cake for dessert. The lava cake takes 20 minutes to make, so chocoholics need to order it accordingly.

Just to the right as one walks the pier toward shore is the Half Moon Bay Kayak Co., which offers an extensive list of services and classes, including private instruction, kayaks for fishing, kayak repair, bike rentals and SUP rentals. Adventurers will surely spot an otter, a harbor seal or a California sea lion while they paddle in the bay. The world-famous Mavericks break is right outside the door, so it’s easy to visit one of the most legendary surfing spots in the world.

For folks who prefer not to swim with record-breaking waves, Marsh Beach and the Pillar Point Marsh Wetlands habitat are nearby. The water is calm here and visitors can enjoy the serenity of nature and trails that follow the shoreline. Right up the bluffs from Pillar Point Beach is the Pillar Point Bluff Trail, which offers spectacular views of the shoreline and sea. Tide pools are directly west of the harbor at the base of the peninsula with Pillar Point Air Force Station.

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Folks in the harbor have access to a unique service: Fishfone. They can call (650) 726-8724 and find out which boats in the harbor are selling their catch; plus, the service offers info about surf, tide and weather conditions for the day. A fun fact: All the Dungeness crab that diners eat in the Bay Area generally come from Half Moon Bay.

Aside from the brewery, there’s something available for imbibers who want a more spirited drink. Half Moon Distillery, which makes an ultra-premium Purissima Vodka and Harvard Avenue Gin, is a few blocks away from the base of the old pier. Interested visitors can go to the distillery’s website and book a distillery tour.

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