San Francisco is just 15 minutes away from the Bay Area’s past and my own. Pacifica, which means peace, has a little brown church, an old train car, and restaurants where locals foxtrot and drink Manhattans. It’s also where my husband Rich and I bought our first house so it holds a special place in my heart. Wander with me as I return to Pacifica, California in beautiful San Mateo County.
Exploring Pedro Point
We lived in the Pedro Point area overlooking Linda Mar Beach when mountain biking was a brand new sport, the Taco Bell was just another fast food joint, and redwood hot tubs were all the rage.
Pedro Point is located right before the infamous Devil’s Slide, a treacherous section of Highway One that was frequently closed by landslides. Now a tunnel between Pacifica and Half Moon Bay has transformed that scary stretch of road into a wildflower meadow with a view of migrating whales. There’s a hiking trail—Devil’s Slide Trail—on the site of the old roadway.
That’s a big change, but not as surprising as the Taco Bell on the beach becoming a foodie destination. It’s an Internet phenomenon…partially due to the walk-up window for surfers…so popular that the chain plans to renovate and add alcohol to the menu.
Getting Outdoors in Pacifica
The Montara mountain range is just across the road so my trendy husband decided we should take up mountain biking. In the days before social media, we often had the trail to ourselves. Now word is out that Montara is one of the best Bay Area trails so be prepared to meet lots of other bikers and hikers.
The Pacifica Coastside Museum is quite possibly the only museum that sells fromage due to Pacifica’s cheesy history. Local historians say the Mori family, who owned a restaurant, created Jack cheese in 1880 and an employee who stole the recipe went to work at Jack Ranch in Monterey, hence the name Monterey Jack. The museum sells Pacifica Jack cheese and it tastes best eaten on the beach wrapped in tortillas from Taco Bell.
The museum is located in the little brown church, which is truly non-denominational…it’s a museum that preaches the city’s history. The museum’s most significant piece is a replica of the statue “Pacifica,” created for the 1939 World’s Fair by artist Ralph Stackpole.
This small town boasts another museum where you’ll be treated like royalty. A survivor of the 1906 earthquake constructed Sam’s Castle. Henry McCloskey was so spooked he built a medieval fortress impervious to disasters. Through the years the castle has been a speakeasy and a World War II Coast Guard station.
The Castle’s name came from the last owner, Sam Mazza, who purchased the estate in 1959 and filled it with artwork and antiques. Today Sam’s Castle is run by a foundation and open to the public one day a month and for private events.
Below the castle is Rockaway Beach where the Moonraker continues to shine searchlights on crashing waves and Nick’s still has a live band playing the oldies. The 1950’s Mad Men vibe is popular with San Francisco couples enjoying a getaway close to the city.
Three decades later, Pacifica has managed to preserve its personality while improving its attractions. As for my history, (no I don’t mean the hot tub stories), walking by my first home brought back so many wonderful memories this San Franciscan thinks she may have left her heart in Pacifica. Be sure to read more on Wander about the great things to do and see in San Mateo County, California.