Francis Beach

Camping and sunning at this gorgeous beach on the south end of Half Moon Bay.

Beyond the parking lot an almost awkwardly large picnic area, complete with regularly spaced grills, tables and wildlife-proof trashcans, sprawls across the bench overlooking Francis Beach, the southernmost of the four beaches that make up Half Moon Bay State Beach. A group of teenagers pack a few coolers over to a park bench and light up some coals. Families play catch on the beach, and campers fly kites on the bluff.

Later a group of teenagers will break it down by their thumping car in the parking lot. This is a pretty happening spot.

A short, steep drop down an eroded cliff gains the beach. It stretches straight south and north in a long, slow curve backed by vegetation-draped dunes; there isn’t much to complain about.

Well, maybe one thing: signs on the bluff warn of undertows, riptides and sneaker waves at Francis Beach, which drops at a steep angle into the frigid Pacific. According to the Half Moon Bay Review, one big-hearted surfer and some excellent timing are all that saved two kids pulled into the sea here in 2013. Unless you are a very experienced surfer with a love for unpredictable beach break, this is a great place to enjoy the Pacific from shore. And please don’t let the lifeguard stand fool you—no one is on duty.

A 52-site campground, shaded by some wind-buffered pines, offers excellent beach and mountain views for $35-50 a night. A Hike & Bike campsite at the northern end of the campground offers first-come, first-served primitive sites to those traveling through on foot or by wheel ($7/night).

PERFECT FOR group barbeque beach parties, sleepovers, kite-flying and kicking off long walks on the beach.

NOT ADVISED FOR swimming, wading or getting wet, really.

CREATURE COMFORTS include campgrounds (RVs and tents), toilets and warm showers. The rangers also have a beach wheelchair available to borrow at the entrance station.

FOUND at the west end of Kelly Ave, Half Moon Bay.


—L. Clark Tate

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