AAA Inspectors Select 14 Favorite Places for Enchanting Valentine Escapes
Mill Rose Inn, Half Moon Bay, Calif., AAA Four Diamond Bed and Breakfast Just the drive to get here along Highway 1, a scenic coastal drive, is romantic. It's located within walking distance to the Old Town district and a nice hike to the beach. The beautiful rose garden is perfect for a wedding, according to the local inspector. Each guestroom has different décor with distinctive wallpaper, antique furniture, claw foot tubs and a fireplace to complete the picture.
Double Gold Again
Barterra Winery has a lot to brag about after bringing home its second double gold medal for its Barterra 2009 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon at the San Francisco International Wine Competition. Wine lovers throughout the US will get to try this award wining wine as Barterra Winery represents Half Moon Bay as they take part in a nationwide tasting tour. No need to follow them on tour, as Bay Area wine lovers can visit Barterra Winery on Main Street and experience this delectable wine right at home. 643 Main Street, (650) 712-1635, www.barterrawines.com.
The annual migration of the gray whale is currently underway, and Half Moon Bay is the perfect spot for witnessing the journey of these spectacular creatures. Beginning in early December through the end of March, approximately 15,000 gray whales swim south from the icy waters of the Arctic to mate and nurse their young in the warm, shallow lagoons along Magdalena Bay in Baja, California. The full round-trip migration from the Bering Sea to the Baja calving lagoons is approximately 10,000 miles, the longest known migration for any mammal. Gray whales move at a steady speed of about five miles per hour, and most can be spotted in an area that extends from the kelp beds (about 3/4 miles from the shoreline) out to the horizon. For those who like to plan ahead, March through early April is a great time to spot humpback whales as they begin moving closer to shore.
Several local companies offer whale watching excursions:
Bait & Switch Sportfishing, (650) 726-7133
Half Moon Bay Sportfishing & Tackle, (650) 728-3377
Huli Cat Sportfishing, (650) 726-2926
Riptide Sportfishing, (888) 747-8433
Devil's Slide Tunnel Opening
The highly anticipated Devil's Slide Tunnel will open in early 2013. The City of Half Moon Bay is excited to celebrate the completion of this project of over five years in the making. This new tunnel will serve to make an unstable and problematic stretch of Highway 1 between Pacifica and Montara, known as Devil's Slide, a safer and more efficient place to drive on an otherwise beautiful and leisurely drive up the scenic California coast. For more information on the Devil's Slide Tunnel project, visit www.dot.ca.gov/dist4/dslide/.
Elephant Seal Mating Season
One of the most spectacular animal attractions on the entire California Coast is the Northern Elephant Seal breeding grounds at Año Nuevo State Park, located 55 miles south of San Francisco off Highway 1 along the southern San Mateo County Coast.You can spot massive elephant seals sunning themselves on the beaches here year-round, but from December through March, people reserve tickets weeks in advance for a chance to witness a fearsome clash between the 4000-pound bulls over mating privileges among the ladies (talk about tough love). And if you’re really lucky you’ll get to witness pregnant seals coming ashore to have their pups, which begins in mid-December and peaks by late January.
The docent-led tours consist of a 3-mile walk over rolling sand dunes, last about 2-1/2 hours, and take place daily from early morning to mid-afternoon. Reservations are required for the $7 tours, which are held rain or shine December 15 through March 31. Thousands of people visit each year, so you’ll want to make reservations as far in advance as possible by calling 800/444-4445 or logging onto anonuevo.reserveamerica.com. Parking is $10 per vehicle. You’ll want to dress warm and bring binoculars and a camera with a long lens. No pets are allowed.
Even if it’s not mating season, you can still see the elephant seals lolling around the shore almost year-round, particularly between April and August when they come ashore to molt.
For more info about Año Nuevo State Park’s guided elephant seal walks, log onto www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=523. (TIP: From this webpage you can also click on the “Elephant Seal Camera” link on the right side and watch a live video stream of the seals.)
The Douglas Beach House
The non-profit Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society has been a major contributor to the San Francisco live music scene since 1964. Sunday concerts are presented at the oceanfront Douglas Beach House located off Hwy. 1 in Half Moon Bay, 40 minutes from San Francisco and Silicon Valley. Doors open at 3 pm for claiming seats, enjoying the buffet and ocean views. Two one-hour sets begin at 4:30 with intermission.