The Times Travel section's favorite California beaches
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( Elaine with Grey Cats via Flickr )
James V. Fitzgerald Marine Reserve
North of Half Moon Bay
About a mile north of Mavericks, one of the world's most dangerous surf breaks, the scene is much more subdued and nurturing. James V. Fitzgerald Marine Reserve is a fog-shrouded strip of beach, about six miles north of Half Moon Bay, where you can explore one of the state's best tide pools. Kids, especially, love visiting the reserve to see the purple coralline algae, rock crabs, sea stars, hermit crabs and anemones, all displayed in dazzling colors. During a visit about two years ago, I was so transfixed on the sea life at my feet that I nearly walked headfirst into a group of harbor seals sunning themselves on the reef. Check the newspaper tide tables to visit during low tide. Parking is free at a sandy lot in the shade of a cypress grove, behind a quiet beach neighborhood. Restrooms and picnic tables are near the parking lot. Take Highway 1 north from Half Moon Bay. Turn left on Cypress Avenue and continue until it becomes Ocean Avenue. The parking lot is at cean and Benal avenues.
Moss Beach; (605) 728-3584, www.fitzgeraldreserve.org.