Go See Do: James V. Fitzgerald Marine Reserve



This rocky seashore hosts a living community of marine life that is of great interest to visitor and naturalist alike. A variety of seaweed, crabs, sponges, seastars, mollusks, and fish make their homes in the inter-tidal; that area between low and high tide. The Reserve is set aside to protect this complex but fragile community for us and future generations.


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About a month ago, my mom, my niece, and I took the kiddos and headed to the coast to escape the heat and experience some pretty awesome marine life.  James V. Fitzgerald Marine Reserve is located on the San Mateo coast 20 miles south of San Francisco or just over two hours from my house.  The drive wasn’t too long and the kids really enjoyed the long stretch of the San Mateo Bridge and the winding, Cypress-lined Highway 92.

Hi:Lo Tide

We arrived at high tide to double check the low tide time, then went North to Montara State Beach for a picnic and some body surfing.  You can check the high and low tide times here before you go to time your trip right.  The month with the lowest tide is November, apparently it’s not uncommon to find an octopus or jelly fish hanging out around that time.  I am totally planning to go back and see what lives in the deeper tidal zones.


There is a pretty awesome learning center with a very informative docent to answer all your questions.  They had tons of specimens for the kids to look at and explore.  There was even a magnifying glass – the kids didn’t want to leave!


James V. Fitzgerald Marine Reserve is also a Harbor Seal refuge area.  There were hundreds of them just laying on the beach in a gated off area for their protection.  The docents had these pelts for the kids to touch.


And this 30 year old taxidermy baby Harbor Seal.  The kids were able to pet it and check out the size of a typical baby .


However, this was strictly prohibited.  No riding the baby seals.


After learing about them, it was so awesome to see them in person on the beach.


The kids loved being able to climb around and explore the tidal pools.  It was like a game of “I spy” for them.


We were able to get up close and personal with fish, hermit crabs, regular crabs, anemones, and pretty iridescent sea weed. The reserve has serious rules about touching and removing any items, so that was a little tough for our little collector, Lyla.  But she enjoyed her time anyway.


Seriously, just climbing around was so fun for them!


This Sea Otter stopped by to say hello right before we left.  He came so close to Lyla!

water boy

Typically this time of year on this part of the coast is pretty cold, about 65° and the water is even colder.  So, my mom told me to bring rain boots for the kids for when they explore the pools to help keep them dry and warm.  Well, this was a genius idea, expect that this little water dog was in up to his waist!!!  His boots were completely full of water!  But it didn’t seem to bother him.

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Brady was really on a roll this day!  We went into downtown Half Moon Bay for dinner on the way home.  This was the dinner that I referenced in this post.

crazt kid

Then he asked me to take his picture in from of this bar because, “It’s going to be his home.”.  And lastly, he saw this creepy wooden statue of a server and yelled, “Mom!  It’s the dinner mens!  Oh, I love him.  He has food for me!  Take my picture!”.  How did I entertain myself before kids.  Too funny!

You can find out more about the James V. Fitzgerald Marine Reserve here and like them on Facebook here.  Here is an in-depth document to tell you all about the reserve.  This is truly a must do!





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